The Secret to Being a Successful Wife and Husband
On the corner of main street
Just trying to keep it in line
You say you wanna move on and
You say I’m falling behind…
In this week’s Torah portion Jacob flees from his brother Esau, who is understandably upset over losing both his birthright and blessing to Jacob in a most unkind manner. Jacob takes up residence with his uncle, Laban. Before meeting his uncle, Jacob chances upon Laban’s daughter, Rachel and straight away falls in love with her. Jacob works for Laban and when asked what he would like for his wage, Jacob requests Rachel’s hand in marriage. Laban tricks Jacob and he ends up with Rachel’s older sister, Leah. He works for another term of seven years for Rachel.
The Torah makes it clear who wins the beauty contest between these two sisters. “Leah had weak eyes, but Rachel had a beautiful figure and appearance.” Rachel isn’t just another pretty face, but as the Torah mentions, she is at the top of her Orange Theoryfitness class as well. But everyone has their strengths and talents, so even though Rachel has the looks, Leah is the wife that provides Jacob with six strapping sons – half of whom will become the twelve tribes of Israel. On the other hand, Rachel is barren for years until she finally gives birth to Joseph and then again to Benjamin.
Clearly these two women have more differences than similarities and in fact they can be viewed as symbolizing two very different qualities that a man looks for in a woman.
One the one hand, there is the Rachel-wife who epitomizes youth and beauty, romance and “chemistry”. She is the beshert, the true soulmate that every man longs for; the woman of his dreams and youth. She retains her sense of mystery for she knows that is crucial to keeping her man a little bit guessing and hence interested in her. The Rachel-wife is the type of relationship that grows deeper and deeper with time, as new layers of one another are discovered during their journey through life. She doesn’t become boring or predictable but always keeps her eye on their early romance, knowing that she must regularly visit and remind her man of it.
Then there is the Leah-wife. She creates a future with the children she bears and is a pragmatic go-getter and homemaker who can balance a myriad of details. She is the pillar of strength who nurtures every subtle aspect of the lives of her children, husband, guests and home life. She may be less inclined to spend time at Asian Nails or at Anthropologie, but she can sure get the job done. You can rely on her to keep kids and home, clean and happy. As time passes and age begins to set in, the romance of youth with its dreams and ambitions begins to give way to the realities of what indeed was and will be accomplished in life. When that happens, those squinty little eyes of Leah that penetrate life’s little details become so much more piercing and beautiful.
Although each type of wife serves a very different function and role, the truth is that a marriage needs both for a complete relationship. All the Rachel-like romance and laughter in the world will disappear into frustration and resentment if everyday needs are not met. When that happens, the walks on the beach and the romantic dinners become silly exercises of hollow Hollywood scenes where plastic smiles cannot mask the pain of disappointment and animosity.
On the other hand, if marriage is only the Leah-like pragmatics, then the relationship becomes flat, colourless and stale. A wife is not about being a good cleaning lady, nanny or car-pooler. He will lose interest, she will mirror that indifference and they will settle into a bland routine where they stay together for the sake of the kids – or maybe not – as each offers platitudes of how they grew apart.
Needless to say, this duality similarly applies to hubby as well. Mr. Provider, mortgage and car payment-maker is equally flat, meaningless and boring if the highlight of his week is balancing the check-book and cleaning out the garage. On the other hand, Mr. Sensitive who understands her feelings, smells nice and looks like he just walked out of the latest GQ mag, all the while discovering his feminine side and wanting to spend endless hours exploring the details of her day, will get tiresome after a while. Her reaction to his over-interest might result in, “Uh, no thanks, I have girlfriends for that. Why don’t you go run along and fix something. Isn’t there a football game on?”
Guys need to make sure that just like they want their wives to be the Leah/Rachel combo pack, they need to embody some of that pragmatic, wise, future-looking Jacob along with the hairy, ruddy, testosterone, passionate Esau personas. And let’s not forget that Jacob dressed up and hence took on the personality of his brother Esau, didn’t he? He was both.
When husband and wife become Jacob/Esau and Rachel/Leah – each recognizing that they need to have a proper balance of both parts of their personalities, then Happiness, Love and a marriage that will last and remain fresh and exciting is bound to follow.
Slippin’ in my faith until I fall
You never returned that call
Woman, open the door, don’t let it sting
I wanna breathe that fire again
‘Cause I don’t shine if you don’t shine