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Dear Rabby: The secret to a long marriage

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(Pixabay photo)

“I’ve been wondering this for years. Our grandparents … some of them were married for 50, 60, 70 years. What’s the secret to a marriage that lasts 60 years?”

The above question is from the final scene of Kosher Love, a documentary I was featured in that first aired on the CBC in 2017.

(Thanks to the excellent work of Oscar-winner Fred Bohbot, Bunbury Films and director Evan Beloff, it’s since been aired many times on multiple networks and was even nominated for best documentary at the 2018 Canadian Screen Awards. If you haven’t seen it yet, just Google “CBC Kosher Love” – it’s free to watch online in Canada.)

My answer at the time was, “I can’t answer that.… I’m not married 60 years. But I’d love to know; I’d love to find out. I’d love to dig deeper and find out what it’s all about.”

Now, two years down the line, I’ve decided to finally tackle the question, thanks to Beloff, who, along with myself and his team, have created a video with some answers.

This is, after all, the million-dollar question, and the sacred guardians of these answers are the most marginalized people in our society, the people we see on social media the least – our bubbes and zaydes.

I invite you to watch the video, which can be found at facebook.com/
TheLoveRabbi/videos.

When I visited Avrohom and Sara Teitlebaum of Montreal, who I believe have been married for over 60 years, I was pretty nervous. Would our search for the secret to a long marriage be fruitful? What if we didn’t get any ideas from them?

Luckily, the experience proved extremely enlightening. The first thing they said that really shocked me was that in their time, “divorce wasn’t really an option.” I always knew that, intellectually, but it was different to think about it in the context of real people.

In the past, divorce settlement was truly unfair to women, and as in the Catholic tradition, frowned upon in Quebec society and much of the Western world. That’s all changed – people can safely exit toxic and abusive marriages if they choose to, and it’s no longer stigmatized. But the disadvantage of that societal change is that many people, especially if they have divorced parents, are thinking about divorce before they even get married.

Despite the freedoms society grants us, maybe we should enter marriage thinking that divorce isn’t really an option. If people are constantly questioning their marriages, it doesn’t afford them the opportunity to work on themselves. As Sara Teitlebaum said, there are good times and bad times, and you have to go through it – that’s the only way to grow.

Avrohom Teitlebaum’s most mind-blowing moment was when he said that if you’re looking for someone to make you happy, it won’t last very long. If you’re looking for someone whom you can make happy, then you’re in business for life.

Their nugget of advice for singles was: don’t get stuck on detailed demands of who you think you need to marry; be open to the unexpected.

And then there were the things they didn’t say, such as how Avrohom Teitlebaum still knew how to make his wife laugh after all those years.

One thing that didn’t make it into the video was that, in the pre-video interview, it came out that Sara Teitlebaum had noticed her future husband in a public place before they were dating, and she had a deep intuition that she would marry the man she saw. Eventually, they got set up by mutual friends and the rest is history.

The most amazing thing was that Avrohom Teitlebaum had never heard that part of the story until our interview. After 60-plus years, may we all have new things to learn from each other.

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