Passover begins this Monday night. It is the commemoration of Jewish liberation from slavery in ancient Egypt. Some call it the season of freedom; many believe that, with the thawing of winter and transition into spring, it is a time to reevaluate the direction of our lives and have our own personal exodus from those people or experiences that are no longer healthy or beneficial.
For many readers of the blog, that means transitioning from marriage to single life; from stability to shaky footing; and from loving your partner to…well…not.
However, just as you may take a page out of the Jewish tradition in this season of rebirth to finally shed those unwanted relationships, you may want to plod a little further on in history to learn another thing or two from traditional populations: arranged marriages.
A study conducted by the Harvard-educated Senior Research Psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology, Dr. Robert Epstein (no relation to our very own esteemed colleague and blogger), found that feelings of love in arranged marriages tend to gradually increase as time goes on in the relationship, surpassing in intensity at the five year mark. This is compared to the typical modern-day “love marriage” where attraction is based on passionate emotions, and a couple’s feelings of affection diminish by as much as 50% after only 18-24 months of marriage. In fact, arranged marriages are twice as strong as “love marriages” after 10 years.
Epstein attributed this almost counter-intuitive (by modern standards) phenomenon, to unrealistic media portrayals that present love as an uncontrollable, spur of the moment force. “We grow up on fairy tales and movies in which magical forces help people find their soul mates, with whom they effortlessly live happily ever after,” Epstein stated in an article in a 2010 edition of Scientific American MIND. “The fairy tales leave us powerless, putting our love lives into the hands of the Fates.” Epstein theorizes that this unrealistic concept of marriage cause many “love marriages” to eventually fizzle.
But not all hope is lost. Epstein theorizes that relationships are organic. They can be infused at will with positive and loving feelings. This can simply be accomplished by mimicking the concept of the arranged marriage, shedding the fairytale notions of riding off into the sunset and developing a more realistic concept of a lasting relationship.
“But what do warm feelings have to do with my divorce?” you may ask. Well, in many situations, you can become lost in a concept of what you think that their feelings are supposed to be for your former partner. You can forget all the good times and experiences you once shared together or the deep loving commitment you may have had. This could be the result of the modern portrayal of divorce: a contentious, awful experience that leaves one party downtrodden and the other victorious.
But it does not have to be that way. Epstein says relationships are organic. Positive feelings can be created and learned. People need not adopt an unrealistic and, frankly, incorrect concept of divorce. I’ve seen it. It is in fact possible for both parties to behave amicably, settle their differences and move on; all while keeping their somewhat positive relationship intact.
So perhaps the lesson from the Jewish season of redemption is to redefine your exodus. Note the positive action required. YOU need to be the one to shift your paradigm, to redefine your own notions of your divorce and your relationship with your former partner. According to Epstein, you are the key to your own success.
Eliana T. Baer is a frequent contributor to the New Jersey Family Legal Blog and a member of the Family Law Practice Group of Fox Rothschild LLP. Eliana practices in Fox Rothschild’s Princeton, New Jersey office and focuses her state-wide practice on representing clients on issues relating to divorce, equitable distribution, support, custody, adoption, domestic violence, premarital agreements and Appellate Practice. You can reach Eliana at (609) 895-3344, or firstname.lastname@example.org.