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  KD MAGAZINE! 
Posted:
March 6, 2006 - ו' באדר, תשס"ו
 
 

Benjamin Franklin Was A Wise Fellow
Rabbi Shea Hecht
About the Author

 
It was Benjamin Franklin who said, “Keep your eyes wide open before marriage, half shut afterwards.” Though many clever comments are attributed to Benjamin Franklin, in my opinion this one is the best.
How can the yet-to-be-married and already-married turn this comment into practical advice?

The yet-to-be-married have to go into marriage with their eyes wide open. Marriage is a lifetime commitment. Things that look charming and attractive while dating, don’t necessarily stay that way after marriage. The girl that was so harried that she always had that “lost look” that seemed so cute, will probably continue to always be overwhelmed. After a few years and a couple of children the “lost look” will start to appear a lot less cute. The boy that seemed so mature cause he was very distant during courtship, may continue to be distant after marriage as well. If a wife is then looking for  a closer and warmer relationship, she will spend the rest of her married life feeling cheated of that closeness.
 
Despite all the outside influences that affect us, most people end up with character traits that take after their own family; checking into what a family of a prospective marriage partner is like is step number one and it shouldn’t be taken lightly. One woman who sat in my office crying that her husband wasn’t a father to her sons told me, “I should have known better. His father was so distant and unavailable for his children, but I didn’t realize it was important for a man to have a father as a role model.” On the other hand the man who expects his wife to be devoted to him because that is the model he grew up with - and devotion from a wife is important to men - will be surprised and struggle with a very needy wife. Usually, all he had to do is look into his mother-in-law’s behavior before marriage and he “could’ve known.”

There are exceptions to every rule and I know many people who have overcome a difficult background, but I found that most who were successful “kept their eyes wide open” about their own childhood and recognized that they were wronged. Many people that grew up in a “dysfunctional” home don’t recognize the dysfunction and therefore perpetuate it.

Most important of all is that a young dating or engaged couple should trust their instinct. In the whirlwind of courting and dating things get overlooked. In the ensuing weeks of the engagement things that were just niggling sensations in the back of the mind can become full-fledged worries. Those worries should be discussed with a competent authority. Some of them may be “engagement blues,” but sometimes the subconscious is trying to point out a real problem, that the young adult is trying to ignore in an effort to make this be the “right one.”
 
Premarital counseling can help resolve a lot of issues. The marriage counselor has seen many of the problems and recognizes many of the cues that an in-love couple doesn’t. Using the guidance of a counselor may help to draw some issues out and find a practical strategy of how to deal with it.

What Mr. Franklin meant to the already-married is clear. Once married one should overlook, be tolerant and forget. Overlooking means that not every small thing has to be pointed out and fought about. The old joke about a married couple fighting over how to squeeze the toothpaste - from the bottom or the middle of the tube - isn’t such a big joke. People fight and argue about trivial matters all the time. What a silly waste of time and energy!
 
One must be tolerant of all our spouses’ foibles unless they are harmful - really. Just because your mother/father/friend etc. doesn’t understand why your spouse does x,y or z or how you tolerate it doesn’t mean that it’s harmful to you or your marriage.
 
One must forget things their spouse did which they didn’t like and remember the good - and do it religiously. Something that is a perpetual problem must be dealt with, but that which isn’t important enough to deal with a professional is not important enough to be harped on and brought up each time there is an argument.
 
Benjamin Franklin was not a silly man. He was married and he knew. If a couple wants the blessing of a happy home they should keep both eyes open before marriage and one eye closed after.
 

 

 
     
 
 
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