These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

Matching a Couple is as Difficult as Splitting the Sea

Posted on January 23, 2017 by Jonah P.

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We are taught: “Matching a couple is as difficult as splitting the sea.”

And we are also taught: “At the moment of each person’s conception, a Heavenly Echo calls out and decrees their future partner.”

Which is it?

Two weeks after becoming engaged to Rebecca, as we enter our 4th year as a couple, I feel some truth in both of these contradictory statements.

On the one hand, coming to this point—a time in my life where I stand ready and capable to give and to receive love—has been no smooth path, and though I was not there at the splitting of the sea, I cannot imagine that passage as any more miraculous than my own.

On the other hand, I think about all the geographical distances, lifestyle changes, and personality drifts that our relationship has not weathered but thrived in since we first met in an ice cream store 4 years ago, and I must conclude that this kind of compatibility must have been innate—decreed from birth, as it were.

Upon closer examination, however, the truth, as it always seems to, falls a little outside both of these stances.

If I am honest, I know that no Heavenly Echo decreed my “right” to partnership with Rebecca. Relationships require emotional work, vulnerable communication, and unflinching self-awareness. Faltering is possible, and with major missteps comes the risk of loss.

And if I am honest further, it was not a miracle that made me capable of love, but many, many selfless acts by the people in my life–people who have cared for me, tended to my hurts, challenged me to take responsibility for my feelings, reproached me when I deserved it, parented me though I was neither theirs nor a child, left me when they needed to, and ultimately taught me the interpersonal skills that I lacked for a long time. Many of these undeserved acts went without thanks at the time, but they were not unnoticed, and I am grateful now for the guidance, patience, and sometimes sharp words of my current and former friends, chosen family, ex partners, and a few enemies–all of whom, in small and big ways, have made me a better person today than I ever was in my past, and capable–I hope–of being the partner that Rebecca deserves.

So it is with many emotions–gratitude, wonder, trepidation, humility, and joy–that I make it “Facebook official”: we’re engaged! I get to marry this generous, open-hearted, and fiercely smart woman. I get to spend a lifetime sharing in her salty humor, cerebral and complicated running commentary on life, and neurotic concern for everyone’s safety.

As someone who has read many similar announcements in unhappier times of my life, I also hold dear in my heart anyone reading this who is: single but doesn’t want to be; single and not looking for a partner but struggling to be a priority in anyone’s life in a society which privileges the monogamous romantic relationship above all other connections; grieving the loss of love; struggling in an unhappy relationship; struggling to love themselves; carrying any other kind of baggage which makes announcements like these painful reminders of something amiss in the world.

Jonah Peretz