Walking away is not an option... dialogue must prevail.

"A good listener tries to understand what the other person is saying. In the end he may disagree sharply, but because he disagrees, he wants to know exactly what it is he is disagreeing with."
- Kenneth A. Wells

"I do not want the peace that passeth understanding. I want the understanding which bringeth peace."
- Helen Keller

Friday, September 25, 2009

The more things change... accidental thoughts

So... I was watching “Fiddler on the Roof”. It’s one of those “have to watch" movies for me. You know, you flip channels and it doesn’t matter where it’s at in the storyline, you still "have to watch" it.

I love this movie. I love the songs, and the characters. I love the story… Tevye the milkman, the patriarch of a poor Jewish family in pre-Revolutionary Russia, explains traditions and is faced with marrying off his three oldest daughters.

During a commercial break, I went over to the computer to check e-mails and I figured I’d empty the spam folder on my e-mail account. I empty it every day. I check it just to make sure actual “for real” non-spam e-mails don't end up in there. As I quickly scanned the “FROM” field, I saw that one of them was from a dating website and this lead to one of my "thinking" episodes... you know, the accidental kind.

At least three times a week, there's an offer from some online dating service... the “Fiddler on the Roof” Yentes (the Matchmaker) of the 21st century.

There are many different kinds of them, these dating services. There are some that make you answer questionnaires in 26 parts and then run match algorithms to find the most compatible candidate. There are some with pictures and short profiles that talk of loves (walks on the beach, whiskers on kittens, snowflakes on eyelashes, blah blah blah) where you browse and pick from the profiles of men/women whose faces are appealing, and so on...

Bottom line is, on some of these, people get “matched” based on what we think of as dimensions of compatibility. Just like the matchmakers of yore. Actually, matchmakers are still a part of Orthodox traditions, and they’re found in many cultures to this day.

It’s interesting really, which factors are considered to determine the best matches. The stuff that will determine whether the relationship will evolve towards a commitment and have a shot at surviving.
Compatibility… Possible life mates picked based on personality traits. The Matchmakers based themselves on things like education, family history, degree of religious observance, financials…

“What counts in making a happy marriage is not so much how
compatible you are, but how you deal with incompatibility.”

-Leo Tolstoy

Then there’s the notion of romantic love. Flies in the face of traditional matchmaking, it does… imagine, picking your spouse by the butterflies in your stomach.

But it’s what Tevye’s daughters do. They marry for love.

This is my favourite song of the movie… Tevye has just told Golde, his wife, that their daughter Hodel is marrying a man she has fallen in love with and chosen for herself, not a man chosen for her following the long-established tradition of matchmaking and arranged marriages as they themselves were thrown together.
Tevye has two daughters who have picked spouses for love... and it prompts him to ask himself something he's never considered.
In this moment, Tevye, after 25 years of marriage, asks Golde if she loves him...

And so I thought. It doesn’t matter how people find their way to their life mates… but that the commitment survives what life throws at us and that love is given a chance to grow, and flourish.

Some time ago, Ann Meara had this to say of her decades old marriage in an interview in The New York Times:
"Was it love at first sight? It wasn't then - but it sure is now."

Lately, I've tried to help some friends struggling with the survival of their marriage, witnessed friends embarking on a journey, rejoiced over another anniversary with people I love like family.

No matter how it starts (a slap behind the head, a glance across a room, a questionnaire, the matchmaker...), I guess it's whether or not we love the one we're with and commit to a life together, to each other and to surviving the obstacles we face along the way that determines the best matches. What do you think?

"I knew couples who’d been married almost forever – forty, fifty, sixty years. Seventy-two, in one case. They’d be tending each other’s illnesses, filling in each other’s faulty memories, dealing with the money troubles or the daughter’s suicide, or the grandson’s drug addiction. And I was beginning to suspect that it made no difference whether they’d married the right person. Finally, you’re just with who you’re with. You’ve signed on with her, put in a half century with her, grown to know her as well as you know yourself or even better, and she’s become the right person. Or the only person, might be more to the point. I wish someone had told me that earlier. I’d have hung on then; I swear I would."
Anne Tyler, "A Patchwork Planet"


Starrlight said...

Interesting concept that last quote. Your timing on this Anndi is eerie :P

I think my whole thing with love is that I don't want to be grateful at the end that I am with someone just because they are the ONLY one there. If anything, if I felt like that in a relationship I'd probably ask myself what I was doing still in it.

See for me I'd rather be buy myself than with someone simply to not be alone. I have to want to be with someone for them, not for me. If that makes any sense at all.

Brian o vretanos said...

I wonder whether relationships are like careers. People often fall into doing something, or working for someone on the basis of luck or a short interview, and yet that career can be something they devote at least as many hours of their lives to as they do their families, and as many years too.

So I agree with you t's all about whether you get lucky or not, and how you live rather than how you met.

To provide a counter-example to your Anne Tyler quote: my grandparents married during WWII and are still together. They don't really get on (last year one of them lashed out and inadvertantly hospitalised the other during an argument), and their 60-odd years of unhappiness makes me glad to be of a generation where divorce is much more acceptable.

Anndi said...

Starrlight, makes perfect sense. I think the quote is interesting because of what it doesn't say... there are two types of couples that last: happy ones and miserable one. The happy ones are the couples who have managed to grow with each other and keep the love and respect alive.

Brian, there are so many interesting stories about how people end up together.

I've known couples like that, it usually happens when the marriage and the spouse are taken for granted and they stop nurturing the commitment.

People, like your grandparents, used to go into marriages taking "til death us do part" seriously, but that doesn't mean they understood the cherishing part. So the marriage withers but they don't believe in the option of divorce. Thing is, the marriage failed anyway.... whether they still wear the bands is incidental.

Ron said...

First, I gotta tell ya, coming from a background in theater...I LOVE THIS MOVIE/BROADWAY SHOW.

It's wonderful!

Second, I believe that if two people are meant to meet, they will meet. And whether it's through a matchmaking service or through the butterflies in our stomach...what's meant to be, is meant to be.

And like you, I believe what really matters is...

"That the commitment survives what life throws at us and that love is given a chance to flourish."


Charles Gramlich said...

I'm afraid I've never met a musical I liked. Never have seen this.

Akelamalu said...

I believe in love at first sight, I've experienced it when I was 14 years old and met MWM who was then 15. We were together about 6 months then split up and didn't see each other for 8 years. We then met again in 1972 and have been together ever since. I believe each and every one of us has a soul mate somewhere and I found mine. :)

Bond said...

Most excellent post my friend...I of course used one of those modern day matchmakers to find the woman I dearly love...

How many times have people asked us "how did you meet" and when we say match.com, the looks are so different...some are shocked, some not so shocked.

I have heard from others how many met their mate through a dating service.

For you it was easy...all you had to do was go to a work related seminar!

The Anne Tyler quote is perfect.

Kay said...


I also love that movie... and I have also thought about how we end up with who we end up with. I thought about it A LOT while getting divorced.

I am with Matthew now, and I am soooo happy sometimes it takes away my breath. Will we get married? Who knows. Right now, it is enough that we are together.

(Love the quotes btw)

Travis said...

Gotta love those thought rambles.

coopernicus said...

Hmmmmm....once again Anne Tyler manages to depress the hell out of me...not that it's a tough task. I've never been able to grasp the concept of 'forever'...I have enough trouble with here and now. I guess that makes me demonic in a relationship sense...

Prefers Her Fantasy Life said...

I love the Tyler quote. But being in the process of getting divorce, the jury is out as to whether I should have hung in there.

Wouldn't it be cool to have a blogger match-making service? You could read someone's blog archives and get a feel for whether the person may be a possible mate.