Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The secret of a good marriage

I was just reading a great book by Rav Shalom Arush - The Garden of Peace. It is for all men who want the secret of a good marriage and relationship. Skeptical at first, I was impressed with what I read in this book. The basic point he makes, at the beginning of the book, is that a man should never, ever, level any criticism whatsoever, however soft and cushioned, against his partner. This may sound extreme to some, and in fact when I married my wife, we made a pact that if anything ever bothered us, we would be sure to let each other know. Otherwise, how can you have a good relationship? Surely you need to tell you partner everything that bothers you?!

After being married for 21 years I can tell all you out there, that this is simply not a good policy, at least not when its leveled as a criticism. Lets say your beloved wife/partner served you with a burnt offering one night for supper. You are forbidden to say anything negative. Eat whatever you can, but not one single word should pass your lips hinting of displeasure (body language included). When she complains that she is sorry and burnt the supper because she was on the phone to a friend...... politely say that you understand and that it must have been so frustrating. Not a word more!!!

I always used to think that if I didn't tell her that she should be careful not to make mistake abc, and she should not do xyz like that, I was actually helping. What I noticed myself, and what I couldn't understand is that a woman is so sensitive to criticism and can't take it. Even to admit and say "yes darling, I made a mistake and I'll do it the way you say next time" is almost absolutely impossible for a woman (this is not a criticism of women - men don't take criticism any better).

A woman is extra sensitive to any criticism in a marriage/partnership. As Rav Shalom Arush explains, what a woman needs in a relationship from her husband, is to feel that she is the perfect wife. Any criticism you level at you wife/partner is saying "You are not the perfect wife for me" and nothing could be a bigger insult. If your partner is not perfect, then you are just as imperfect, because she is your spouse! You are insulting yourself.

Now I'm not saying that you should never tell your spouse what is bothering you. That is necessary when one is in a good relationship. Just cut out criticism in whatever form. For example, you spouse makes you some boiled cabbage and you don't like it, simply leave it on your plate and compliment her for all the other food (it would be better to eat it even if you don't like it). If she asks why didn't you eat the cabbage, blame yourself. Thank her for making it and for giving you a chance to try a new dish (you should eat at least a spoonful), then tell her that you apologize but "cabbage is not something that I ate as a child" or make some other excuse. Resist the urge to say "You know I don't like cabbage, why did you make it"

The book goes on the explain that your spouse is a mirror of your character traits. If you see something to criticize in your partner, chances are that you suffer from the same bad character trait. If you work on fixing it, the problem will go away by itself. This is similar to the talmud dictum that someone who sees bad character traits in someone else is guilty as charged. If the person criticizing couldn't imagine doing what he is saying - he could never even begin to level such a criticism - it simply would not occur to him.

Get the book!

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