IS THIS RELATIONSHIP FOR ME?
by Rabbi Michoel Gourarie
Uncertainty in relationships is very common. Over time people date and build relationships with apparent compatibility, common values and love. But making the final decision becomes very difficult with the nagging question: "How can I know without a doubt that this relationship is for me?"
The answer to this complex issue is to understand that there is a problem with the question. Perhaps the focus should not be on "is this relationship for me" but rather "am I for this relationship."
It is no secret that relationship breakdown has reached epidemic proportions. Many statistics report that close to fifty percent of marriages end in divorce. The cause of this sad reality is puzzling. It is difficult to accept that half the population are such bad judges of character that they get it wrong and cannot tell that the person they are dating is the wrong one.
Compatibility, chemistry and shared values are critical for a lasting relationship. But even when all these ingredients are present, there are much deeper and more fundamental questions to explore: Am I really ready for a relationship? Am I coming into this relationship with the tools and an understanding of what a real human relationship is about? Am I ready to constantly put in the effort to nurture this relationship and make it work?
The Mystics tell us that before the creation of the world G-d's infinite presence filled all of existence and there was no room or space for a finite physical world. So G-d chose to withdraw his infinite light to make space for a more finite existence - the universe.
Making space for something else is therefore a G-dly power, a trait which He then invested into the human being. Animals cannot make room for others. They can only protect themselves and behave in accordance with their natural instincts. They cannot put their needs or desires to a side to accommodate another perspective or appreciate the needs of a different animal.
The great Rabbi Mendel of Kotzk observed a disciple eating fish. "Why are you eating fish?" he asked. "I love fish," the student replied. "If you really loved fish," Reb Mendel replied, "you wouldn't be eating it. It is yourself that you love, not the fish."
This is the core of the issue. Many relationships today are "I love fish" relationships. People enter into them purely to satisfy their own needs and enhance their own pleasure and gratification. They are there to serve their own existence and not to welcome that of another. An ego-based relationship is on very weak ground. As soon as any issue arises that threatens the self-centred goals of the relationship, it begins to breakdown and disintegrate. A relationship based on true love is one where both partners have the ability to give, understand the needs of the other, compromise and make room for each other with mutual respect.
When you are ready to make room for another, then you can ask if that other is for you.