After receiving the comment that I did on Shidduchim, Part 1, which wished me better mazel with my second marriage than my first, I figured it was prime time to briefly discuss my perspective on marriage and its associated challenges.
I'm sure that everyone has heard the joke that the reason why our families can push our buttons so well is that they installed the buttons! I believe that marriage is two separate people coming together and creating a new entity, and in turn, a life together. In the course of our pre-marriage incarnations, we experienced different childhoods, different family structures, different life events. Those incarnations consequently resulted in each person entering the marriage with differing ways of reacting and processing experiences. Call them patterns, call them "issues", call them filters for dealing with various situations. But we all have them. I know I certainly do.
The main challenge then is finding a way to merge with someone who is not only completely separate from you (and who is the opposite gender and therefore possesses different priorities and coping mechanisms) but also has different expectations. Each person enters marriage expecting marriage to be a certain way, for each situation that arises to be handled a particular way, for each conversation to go a particular way. And those expectations need to be adjusted because the other person almost never possesses expectations identical to ours. We need to learn, if you will, to accommodate and respect these differences, to each of us adjust our preexisting patterns so that we can co-exist.
I also firmly believe, as unpopular a view as it is, that a woman's role in marriage is to help her husband. That does not mean acting as a shmata, tolerating abuse (has ve'shaom), or in any other way being subordinate to him. Rather, it means that as a wife, the primary focus in my life is my marriage, and my primary objective is to support and help my husband in any way that he requires it. I try, in other words, to give my husband what he needs. I will admit to occasionally overextending myself in order to fulfill this objective. But I know that he does the same. Moreover, I am diligent to not lose myself; by retaining my identity, I further our marriage, since you need two complete halves in order to make a whole.
I'd like to note that while we need to modify ourselves in order to accommodate the other person, this does not give us license to try to force the other person to fundamentally change themselves. We married someone, we chose them from millions of potential spouses, and we knew very well who they were before we married them. Why try then to change the essence of their personality after marriage?
So, in my humble opinion, we should cultivate in our marriage the sense that our spouse is our primary responsibility, and that their happiness is our goal and our privilege. As a wife, I try to create a supportive environment, a comfortable and tranquil home imbued with respect in order to protect my husband from the ills of his day. And by doing so, I believe that I am furthering him, myself, and our combined relationship with Hashem.