Tuesday, January 16, 2007
How I was Taught to Treat My Wife in our Chassidic Marriage
Okay, Knished asked me to write about MARRIED LIFE...
Married life. Well, in my case, my wife and I have agreed to live a chassidic lifestyle which means no television in the home, whereas the home environment is centered around us spending time with each other, doing the laundry, the dishes and anything else that needs to get done, meals (sometimes with guests) and Torah learning.
[We are still watching movies, albeit outside the home because our Rav told us that it is a lesser evil to watch movies outside the home than it is to bring movies into the home and ruin the atmosphere we have chosen to have in our home.]
Generally, (and I'll try to stick to it even now,) I've made it a point NOT to speak about my wife or our relationship on this blog because even though she knows about it, I actually don't think she's been on here lately. However, I feel that it is inevitable that she one day WILL read every word I write here, and I don't want any of it to make her do anything but smile.
Yes, there are complications sometimes with our relationship. Often it is me who has the rule or the belief as to how couples in a chassidic marriage are supposed to treat each other (e.g. with respect, always remembering who we are speaking to, and NEVER cursing or raising our voice to the point of yelling with one another, cleaning after one's self, etc.) and often it is my wife who goes through life not aware of my rules until she notices that I am highly upset and often it is me who for whatever reason has let the issue build up until I'm more upset about the issue than I should be.
FORGIVENESS OF INADEQUACIES:
On my end, the trick to a happy marriage is always understanding that (B"H) I have a wonderful wife with a GOOD HEART who loves me deeply AND WHO DEALS WITH MY IMPERFECTIONS. Trust me -- I am FAR from perfect. But she deals with my ups and my downs, my messes and my idiosyncrasies, and thus since she is SO FORGIVING of my inadequacies, I have the unshakable duty to be as forgiving of hers. Plus, she is a human being just like I am; she burps, bloats, gets tired, moody, and hungry like anyone would. She is as disciplined as she wants to be in whatever areas she chooses to be, and I need to respect that about her.
GENEROSITY (ABOVE AND BEYOND WHAT IS EXPECTED):
Regarding our daily lives, I feel that it is important for me to be sensitive to her needs, and I often go out of my way to do things that I don't need to do, and I try to seek out what she needs and I get it for her or do it for her before she even asks me for it (even if she would never even think of me doing it for her). If I find that she doesn't acknowledge it after a while and I start to feel taken advantage of, I tell her. If she still doesn't acknowledge it, we'll fight.
I learned from my Rabbi that it is very important to always keep a line of communication open with your wife. Always, even if it is something totally embarrassing, such as me getting a 3rd parking ticket in a one-week period because I get distracted and I forget to move the car or when it is something very difficult, such as confronting her on something she did that hurt my feelings, or carefully advising her on a better way to handle a touchy subject while being very sensitive to her feelings.
I learned this lesson of having complete and open communication when I received my diagnosis and I went on medication -- I told my Rabbi and I made him promise not to tell anyone -- not even his wife -- about it and he promised. Weeks later, he told me, "You know Zoe, I have never held anything back from my wife. This has been the first thing that I have ever hidden from her since we've been married." Firstly, I felt terrible that I put a separation between them, namely my dirty little secret. Secondly, this was a big lesson for my own marriage.
MOVE YOUR ANGER OUT OF HER WAY:
There are times where I get angry, frustrated, enraged at anything or anyone -- even my wife. However, during those times, I make sure I am NOT AROUND MY WIFE when I am in those states of being. She doesn't need to deal with these, and under NO condition should I take out my frustrations on her. I certainly don't hide anything from her, but I don't take my anger out on her.
When we have an argument and I see that it is escalating to the point where I am about to lose my temper or say something that I will regret, I have learned from my Rabbi that I should do WHATEVER IT TAKES to get out of that situation before I explode -- "jump out of a window if you must, as long as you get out of there before it is too late" my Rabbi says. The goal here is NEVER TO LOSE YOUR TEMPER AROUND THE OTHER PERSON. Fights are healthy, but they should stay healthy. There is no reason to be calling each other names or using the F word or belittling the other person. Maintaining RESPECT and INTEGRITY is what is needed to keep the shalom bayis (peace in the house).
EXPRESSING LOVE, APPRECIATION, AND RESPECT:
This is also super important. You should always love and respect your wife, even when you are not feeling like it. Love isn't something you have or are "in," but rather, it is something you DO. Sometimes it is difficult, especially if she is not living up to your expectations at that moment, but it doesn't matter. She is your wife and she deserves your love ALWAYS, even when you are in the middle of a fight.
Other than these tidbits of wisdom that I have learned, my wife and I (B"H) are doing well. We are learning each other's patterns and we are learning how to help the other person stay happy. We let each other be who we are, and we don't force our views of what we would like our partners to be on the other. We don't hang out 24/7, and there are times that we completely do our own thing, but at least we communicate with each other and make sure that the other person isn't feeling slighted or left out.
Most of all, it is important to appreciate who you have for the rest of your life. There will be only one person who will be there from now until the day you die (you hope) -- that is your wife. Treat her well, love her like no other, and treat her with respect.