Accepting that Your Spouse is Different Than You Thought
Many of us struggle in marriage when we eventually “discover” negative things about our spouse we never knew before. How we wish we would have known these things before marrying! How could we have been so “blinded” by what we thought to be true love? This even leads some to consider the critical question: Should we remain married to them even though we now feel deceived?
“The following insightful article about marriage appeared on a Jewish email list. If you aren’t Jewish or a person who studies the Bible, there might be a few words you won’t understand, but trust me, this applies to all marriages, Jewish, Christian, or other!” (Azriela Jaffe)
Here is what was written:
It’s difficult not to sympathize with our patriarch, Jacob, who becomes the victim of a last minute switch by his father-in-law, who tricks him into marrying the wrong woman. The Torah relates that Laban had two daughters, Leah and Rachel. “Leah had weak eyes, while Rachel was shapely and beautiful.” Jacob loved Rachel and he offered to work seven years for her.
When the seven years were up, Laban substituted Leah for Rachel on the night of the wedding. Jacob discovered the deception only after he’d consummated the marriage with Leah. Jacob accepted his fate and remained with Leah. But he later also married Rachel, the bride of his choice, “and he loved Rachel more than Leah.”
Yet, at the end, it was Leah who became Jacob’s primary wife. Rachel died at a young age; so that most of Jacob’s married life was actually spent with Leah. In addition to this, it was Leah who mothered most of Jacob’s children, the future tribes of Israel and it was she, not Rachel, who ultimately was buried with Jacob in the Machpelah cave in Hebron.
Why did this marriage—the marriage that formed the foundation of the Jewish nation, the marriage that produced every single Jew living since, come about in such an appalling manner? And why did Jacob have to go through this absurd experience?
The Secret Behind the Veil: There’s a custom practiced during Jewish weddings known as the “bedeken,” or the veiling. Before the wedding ceremony, the groom goes to the room where his bride is sitting on a throne and he covers her face with a veil. Her face remains covered during the entire chupah ceremony.
One of the traditional explanations for this custom is that it commemorates the event that occurred during Jacob’s wedding ceremony. Since Jacob’s bride was veiled, he didn’t realize that he was marrying the wrong woman. But if that’s the reason, shouldn’t the custom be that the groom uncovers his bride’s face to make sure that he’s marrying the bride of his choice? Why are we commemorating at each of our weddings this terrible episode that occurred to poor Jacob?
The War that Can Break or Make Us: In the writings of kabbalah, Leah and Rachel represent two dimensions existing in each of our spouses, women and men alike. Rachel, “the shapely and beautiful sister,” embodies the attractive, charming and romantic features of our spouse. In fact, in Hebrew Rachel means “ewe,” an animal characterized by its bright white color and its gentle and lovable nature.
Also, the numerology of the Hebrew name Rachel is the same as the numerology of the Hebrew words “and there was light.”
Leah, a name that literally means “one, who is weary,” represents those elements in our spouse that are more complicated and disturbing. Leah, the weak-eyed sister, weakened from tears and anxiety, embodies our continuous and exhausting struggle with the dark demons and ugly impulses in our lives.
Thus, in Chassidic writings Rachel is associated with the tzaddik-personality, while Leah is associated with the baal-teshuvah (the penitent) figure. The tzaddik is the pure and sacred human being, reflecting the harmony and goodness of his creator. The baal-teshuvah, on the other hand, embodies the individual who must continuously battle the negative urges and destructive habits rooted in his or her psyche.
The drama that occurred at the wedding of the father of the Jewish people occurs at almost every wedding. When you get married, you may think that you’re marrying Rachel: the comely, perfect and fictitious spouse that you chose in your dreams. But in reality, you’re bound to discover that you ended up with Leah, a human being possessing layers of unresolved wounds and tension.
Initially you may love and appreciate only the Rachel dimension of your marriage partner and despise the Leah part of that individual. Yet as life progresses you’ll come to discover that it’s precisely the Leah dimension of your spouse, more than anything else, that was always meant for your soul. It’s the shortcomings and imperfections of your spouse that can challenge you to transcend your ego and become the person you are capable of being.
Creating a Space for That Which Emerges: That’s the secret behind the veiling. When the groom veils his bride, he’s essentially stating that “I will love and respect not only the ‘you’ who is presently visible to me, but also the ‘you’ that is still concealed from me and might emerge only later. I’m committed not just to the ‘Rachel’ in you, but also to the ‘Leah’ in you.
“As I bond with you in marriage,” the groom is saying, “I’m creating a space within me to accept and nurture the totality of your being.”
Marriage Missions editor’s note: You probably never thought when you entered into marriage with a simple “I do” that there would be hidden sides to your spouse that would bring into your lives together such conflict. Making the vow to “love, honor, and cherish” each other for the rest of your lives is a lot easier to say than to live out. Most of us eventually learn this to be true.
We pray that the article you read above will inspire you to ask the Lord to help you to mature in your innermost character to reflect the love of God in holy matrimony. As author Gary Thomas (who wrote the book, Sacred Marriage) said:
“Knowing why we are married and should stay married is crucial. The key question is this: Will we approach marriage from a God-centered view or a man-centered view? In a man-centered view, we will maintain our marriage as long as our earthly comforts, desires, and expectations are met. In a God-centered view, we preserve our marriage because it brings glory to God and points a sinful world to a reconciling Creator. Allow your marriage relationship to stretch your love and to enlarge your capacity for love —to teach you to be a Christian.”
The above edited (shortened) article, written by Yosef Y. Jacobson (featured before the Marriage Missions editor’s note) on the Leah and Rachel Deception, is from Azriel Jaffe’s FREE e-newsletter “The Entrepreneurial Couples Success Letter” —to subscribe, mail firstname.lastname@example.org with the following in the body of your email message: subscribe entcouples-list.