From time to time I read about the problem of the increase in divorce in the frum community, but I didn’t pay much attention to it until it hit home. My niece is a wonderful young woman, and she married a fine ben- Torah. It was the ideal couple, and we danced all night at their wedding. Six months later, Boom! They are separated and going for divorce. What in the world is happening?
In the past, the social climate was such that divorce was not an option. Realizing this, the couple often made the adjustments to have a workable marriage. Sometimes they remained in discord and they kept a very unhappy relationship b’ein brera (there was no other option). Today the social climate is much different. The whole attitude is that you don’t fix things. In earlier days, you fixed radios, cameras and appliances. Today, if something goes wrong, you discard it and get a new one. That attitude has carried over to marriage. We live in a culture of “disposables,” and that may include spouses.
Given this cultural attitude, it is crucial that young men and women be much better prepared for marriage. We would not allow someone to be a shochet unless he was adequately trained, yet we allow young people to become spouses and parents without preparation. If an inadequately trained shochet makes a chicken treife, that is indeed terrible. It is much worse when inadequately trained people become parents. The Satmar Rebbe z”l said that there can beteshuvah for letting a treife chicken out on the market. There is no teshuvah for a child whose chances for a happy life have been impaired by parents who did not have preparation to be competent parents.
The fact both the young man and young woman are wonderful people does not necessarily assure a happy relationship. The Steipler Gaon z”l once commented, “What do you expect of someone whose only relationship for years has been with his shtender?”
Many young people have unrealistic expectations about marriage. I’ve tried to alert people to the facts-of-life about marriage in my books, The First Year of Marriage and In-Laws—it’s all relative.
I know that in some other religions, the clergy will not perform a marriage unless the couple produces a certificate that they completed a satisfactory course on marriage and parenting. If we wish to stem the tide of divorces and avoid children being affected by poor parenting, our rabbonim should establish a similar rule. If this is not done, there will continue to be, G-d forbid, much unhappiness in failed marriages and problematic children.