18 Tishrei 5782 / Friday, September 24, 2021 | Torah Reading: Sukkot
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Your Marriage – Meant to Be?    

Your Marriage – Meant to Be?

It's crucial to understand that you and your spouse are on the same side. So often competition sets in early and power struggles can become a terrible habit that is hard to break…


I once worked at a day-care center for the elderly and one of the best parts was talking to the members who had lived through so much.


One morning I arrived in a bad mood. I had just had an argument with my husband and wasn't feeling very chipper. I began helping a woman take off her coat and said, “Ida, how good does a marriage have to be?”


Ida, who had worked as a psychologist laughed, “As good as you can stand it.”


How good can we stand our marriages to be? What would it look like if we had the relationship we always wanted?


Here are a few things I've learned in forty years of marriage, through working with other couples and by learning the principles of faith:


The first thing you need to have is the emuna that you married the right person.


After a nasty argument or a major disappointment, a person can start thinking that they made a huge mistake, that they should have married someone else. That is the voice of the evil inclination. Even if you married out of blind infatuation, desperation, parental pressure or on the rebound, it still means you were meant to be together. If despite great efforts to make it work, a difficult marriage does end in divorce, it still wasn't a mistake to have married that person. There was major spiritual work to do that was facilitated by that relationship. If you would not have been meant to be together then Hashem would have prevented it from happening.


Now, providing that your marital issues don't involve violence or emotional abuse and that you both work on becoming more mature, your problems really will get better with time. There is real beauty in creating a shared history of raising a happy family, becoming grand-parents and bearing witness to all the challenges you have overcome. Wouldn't you prefer to make good memories rather than painful ones? Who wants to collect regrets?


If you accept that you are the author of your marital story, you will strive to recognize how much each of you has accomplished and how much you've helped one another to grow. You can take pride in the person your spouse has become and take credit for it as well. For couples without children, the bond can be even stronger and the devotion a sight to behold.


Most newly married couples are strangers who haven't done much for each other yet. In certain cases, they didn't even have to find each other, their parents did that too.  All the couple has to do is agree to get married and others provide the rest. Real love builds gradually and after the wedding, each day should be a deposit into your personal bank of gratitude. Focus on the things that your spouse does for you and never assign malicious intent where it does not exist.


It's crucial to understand that you and your spouse are on the same side. So often competition sets in early and power struggles can become a terrible habit that is hard to break. It's cruel to try to control one another and criticism is never effective at fostering change. Acceptance, patience, humility and humor work better and faster than complaining, nagging and insulting. So much of what we argue about is really a cry for attention, appreciation and understanding. But people are often ashamed to ask for what they want.


You need to do hisbodedus to get in touch with what you're really after, what's at the bottom of your frustration. You need a hug?  A night out?  A nap? A birthday present? Do you feel lonely, unappreciated, overworked or bored? Say so, don't be embarrassed! Don't make your spouse read your mind or decode your peculiar behavior. Cut out the games and take responsibility for your emotional needs.  Don't play the victim. Victims always become persecutors in the end.


Remember that the way you say things has enormous repercussions. Speak respectfully and affectionately. And for heaven's sake don't lose your sense of humor! If you can't laugh at yourself, call someone who will.


The next time you feel annoyed at the mess your spouse leaves on the table or with the checkbook, the next time you have an argument over the kids or feel annoyed by your in-laws, imagine your life as a bereaved spouse. I've worked with the newly bereft and it's a loss so devastating that research claims it can take up to ten years to complete the task of mourning. So imagine for a moment that your life with your spouse has ended. You will certainly regret the times you spent arguing over nothing, the harsh words you uttered or the times you chose to give the cold shoulder instead of talking it out. We so often take being married for granted. We can be so cavalier.


No couple knows how long God will give them to be together in this world. People can die suddenly at any stage of life. Don't fool yourself into thinking you have forever. Make your marriage as good as you can stand it. And then multiply that by ten.



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