Huffpost Divorce
THE BLOG

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach Headshot

The Centrality of Marriage in a Cynical Age

Posted: Updated:
Print

So forty percent of Americans in a Pew Research and Time magazine poll think that marriage is caput. And who can blame them? Marriage in our time is such a bore that eighty percent of married couples use their one date night a week, usually a Saturday, to go to a movie. Here they have an evening to finally get to know each other again as man and woman rather than Mom and Dad and the silence is so deafening that they require Hollywood noise to fill the empty spaces.

Then there's marital sex, which has become so pathetic that, as I reported in my book The Kosher Sutra, one out of three American married couples are entirely platonic while the remaining seventy percent have sex once a week for seven minutes at a time, which includes the time he spends begging.

Passion in marriage is plummeting while divorce is skyrocketing. Visit the average American master bedroom and you'll see a giant, cathedral-like TV. Husband and wives have exchanged erotic desire for HBO because at least the people on the screen are doing it.

Does it matter that marriage is dying? Isn't it enough for people just to commit and love each other outside the framework of any institution?

I could spend a month answering that question in the positive, but here let me use just a few lines.

Sigmund Freud famously wrote, "The great question that has never been answered, and which I have not yet been able to answer, despite my thirty years of research into the feminine soul, is 'What does a woman want?"

Nearly a century later, I, Rabbi Shmuley, a man deeply in touch with his feminine side, will now provide the response.

What does a woman want? To be chosen. There, it's settled. Now let me explain.

Everyone thinks that women want to be loved. True, but woefully shortsighted. If they wanted to be loved they would never move out of their parents' home. No one will ever love with you with as much unconditional affection and acceptance as your Mom and Dad. So why do women seek the love of a complete stranger?

Your parents can do many things for you. They can adore you and cherish you. But they can't choose you. If your Mom tells you you're the most beautiful girl in the whole class you roll your eyes. You know she has a genetic shotgun to her head compelling her to say it. She has no choice. Her words therefore don't make you feel special.

But when a boy who could have said the same thing to fifty girls in class tells you you're the most beautiful you feel special. It must be true.

When you think of it, even without the modern marital problems of passionlessness and divorce I detailed above, marriage is a really bad deal for a woman. She has to give up her name, literally. She has kids and compromises her figure. She gets saddled with eighty percent of the housework. She often gives up her career as she becomes a Mom. Who would be stupid enough to accept this lousy offer?

Yet, every Hollywood romance, the vast majority of whose viewers are women, ends in a wedding. The audience demands it. Why? Because marriage provides the one thing that a woman most wants, namely, to be chosen. To have her uniqueness validated by a man making her his one and only. Every woman wants to be the sun with a man placing her at the center of his universe where he will remain permanently in orbit, basking in her light.

Only marriage -- rather than living together or going out -- provides for a true act of chosenness. In essence, a man makes a public declaration to a woman, "I am choosing you. There are many beautiful women. But you are the most beautiful. There are many special women. But you are the most special. And with you I have so found what I have been looking for that I am prepared to de-select three billion other women by publicly taking myself off the market, right here, in front of everyone. Before you I had a house but with you I have a home. You are my soul mate."

Wow. When a man makes that declaration, you feel mighty special. So why are so many women souring on marriage? Because they witness many of their friends being neglected in marriage, even after the declaration is made. They see husbands becoming couch potatoes, TV connoisseurs, and porn addicts. They hear about quickie sex lasting a couple of minutes that leaves women utterly unsatisfied. And they wonder why they should make all the sacrifices of marriage if they won't be chosen in return.

We can fix this, of course, by men becoming gentlemen again and prioritizing their wives and families above all else.

And that's my perspective on why marriage, even in this deeply cynical age, is so important and deeply accords with the innermost desires of human nature. Admittedly, it's a feminine perspective, explaining why marriage is so important to women.

So why didn't I explain it from a male perspective as well? Because the only men who still want to get married in America are gay. While the gay guys are petitioning the Supreme Court for the right to tie the knot, the straight guys are running to the hills begging their gay brothers not to ruin the party.

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is the international best-selling author of 24 books, most recently Renewal: A Guide to the Values-Filled Life. He has hosted TLC's award-winning family repair show Shalom in the Home and served as the marriage, parenting, and relationship expert on Oprah and Friends. Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.