A number of years ago, I wrote a book called Kosher Parenting, in which I pointed out that parenting is never finished. As one of my mentors once told me, “when you have small children, you have small problems and when you have big children, you have big problems.” The difference between parenting young children and parenting older children, however, is that small children generally listen to you and big children think for themselves. Older children will not simply follow your recommendations. They need to discover their own truth, their own path, not necessarily the one that well-meaning adults choose.
Nowhere is this more relevant than when children are choosing someone to marry. Jewish law wisely tells us that final decisions about marriage partners should be left to the principals, not to parents. Parents and elders can only provide guidance; children have to make the ultimate choice.
This dynamic is in evidence in The Young Victoria. Elders and wise men are ubiquitous, constantly theorizing about possible marriage choices for the young Queen Victoria. However, she thinks for herself and chooses a companion not based on political gain, but on emotional compatibility. Prince Albert, her chosen one, understands her origins, her aloneness, and her desire to be a good monarch and work for the welfare of her people. Their minds are on the same frequency, and it is instructive to observe their growing attachment to one another. They are honest with one another, they respect one another, they do not take advantage of one another, and they share common aspirations.
But their journey is not a smooth one. They have to learn to complement one another to achieve their goals and dreams. Victoria is a queen and initially expects obedience from her husband. Albert, however, does not see himself as a tourist or subject in the Queen’s palace but rather as her husband and life partner. It takes time for Victoria to appreciate this aspect of her married life; but once she does, she fulfills herself both as monarch and as loving wife. One of her trusted advisors counsels her: “The Prince is able, clever, faithful. Let him share your work.” She recognizes his wisdom and in a private moment with her husband tells him: “I hope you don’t mind. I had your desk brought in.”When she finally invites Albert to bring his desk into her office, it signals an understanding that they are in this together, that they willingly share their destinies, that they both want the best for England.
In a coda at the end of the film, we learn that Albert and Victoria championed reform in education, welfare, industry, and the arts, and that she reigned over England for almost the entire century, a remarkable feat for a monarch. Moreover, she was a mother to nine children.
The story of Albert and Victoria reminds us that enduring love is based not only on physical attraction but on shared goals and dreams, the feeling that a common destiny unites a couple. This is a Jewish approach to marriage. When I speak to my children about marriage, I remind them that when two people are ideologically on the same page, when they share a common goal, then all problems are solvable.
Albert and Victoria’s love represented the ideal synthesis of physical attraction and common purpose. As such it was the kind of love about which the Talmud writes: “when our love was strong, we lay on the edge of a knife.” No matter what adversities they faced, they were confident they could be overcome because they shared one another’s goals and dreams. This is a key component of a successful marriage.