There is an interesting discussion going on over at One Frum Skeptic. She was speaking with a kollel wife who delineated her husband's daily schedule (Shabbos and Yom Tov aside). In short, he goes to kollel early in the morning, comes home late at night (11PM) and is home during the day for a brief period during breakfast and for an hour or so during dinner. Other than that, he's out learning at kollel all day. As OFS puts it:
This lady who was telling me, has spent her entire married life, seeing her husband with these teeny amount of hours... meaning their first year of marraige.
I cannot fathom how a marraige can possibly function properly, if the couple sees each other soooo seldomly. Especially the first year of marraige... how in the hell can they possibly get to know each other, with hours like that? Can one even say they're living with each other, or just AROUND each other like roommates?
I responded in the comments section that it is important to discern if the woman was telling OFS about her husband's schedule or if she was *complaining* about it. The difference, I think, is critical, because if she's not complaining, and assuming she's happy (or at least content) with the arrangement, then who cares how many hours he's away from home?
I've learned that not all marriages are equal. For example, Eeees and I are very "touchy-feely" in our marriage. We openly hold hands in public. We don't have a problem expressing intimacy (within limits, of course) in front of our children or even others. And personally, I can't imagine a marriage that doesn't have that.
And yet, I have relatives whose marriage is NOT like that. They are far more reserved in their conduct. They would never hold hands in public. They would never kiss each other in front of their kids (let alone me). And you know what? They're fine with that. Their marriage seems to be working for them. Do I find it a bit odd? Yeah, but so what? It's not *my* marriage -- it's theirs.
The same could apply here. Assuming that the wife that OFS was talking to is happy/content with the situation, then what's the big deal? Yeah, I might not want my marriage to run that way, but it's not *my* marriage that we're talking about here -- it's theirs --- and if they're happy with it, then so be it.
Interestingly enough, I got a bit of flack for that over at OFS. One person accused me of going for an "ignorance is bliss" attitude. My response is that in some cases, ignorance may, indeed, be bliss.
Mlevin, who sometimes comments here, said:
I really hate "If they are happy" excuse. It has been used to defend the ignorant lifestyle of chassidim/ultra frum who do not know anything about outside world and therefor don't know what they are missing. I heard this excuse used to justify poverty in Bangladesh, if these people are happy without getting electricity on regular basis or good food or regular health care who are we to judge. They are happy after all.
I think we could use the same excuse about slavery. If slaves are happy with their lot, because they don't know any better, why do we need to outlaw it, especially since others benefit from it?
Aside from the fact that I think making the comparison to slavery (where human rights are violated) is unfair, I think that this, too, is wrong. Take the statement:
It has been used to defend the ignorant lifestyle of chassidim/ultra frum who do not know anything about outside world and therefor don't know what they are missing.
Well, guess what? The same could be said about the swinger lifestyle. Eeees and I have only slept with one person each -- each other. Neither of us have had any other partners. Perhaps we should start swinging? After all, what do we know from the swinger lifestyle? Perhaps we're missing something?
Maybe we are. Perhaps we're missing the most exciting sexual experiences of our lives. But so what? That's what we want* out of our marriage. We *want* to be faithful to each other and if it means sacrificing some other pleasures, then so be it. That's our choice and that's what makes us happy.
The same could be said with regard to OFS's friend. It's not a marriage I would select for myself. But as long as she isn't complaining and is happy/content, then who are we to interfere? Who are we to say that because we're incapable of imaging a successful marriage that way that we're going to legislate that couples must spend X hours together every day?
* Halachic considerations aside. Even if we did not keep halacha, I can't imagine being with someone else.