This week’s Parsha gives us a front-row seat to an institution that is extraordinarily complex. It can range anywhere from incredibly joyous to unpleasant and painful. I am referring, of course, to the institution of marriage. It can be said that as a society, this institution is increasingly beleaguered. With divorce rates rising and hovering at around 50% in America, the failure rates of marriage within our Jewish Community on the national level continue to climb. Almost as disturbing are couples that, although married, merely coexist with one another. Many times, the necessary foundational blocks that are necessary for a couple to have a successful and thriving marriage are absent. The couple may continue to go through the various phases of life, merely sharing a home but not much else. As we reflect on this ever-important issue and as we read about the matrimony of our ancestors in this week’s Parsha, I will take the liberty sharing some timeless wisdom from Rabbi Zelig Pliskin on this topic.
1. Keep your mind on your primary goal, which is to have a happy marriage. Say and do what will enable you and your spouse to have a happy marriage. Avoid the opposite. Everything else is commentary.
2. Keep asking yourselves, “What can we do to have a happy, loving atmosphere in our home?”
3. Focus on giving rather than taking. Say and do as many things as possible to meet your spouse’s needs.
4. Keep doing and saying things that will give your spouse a sense of importance.
5. Frequently ask yourself, “What positive things can I say and do to put my (husband or wife) in a positive emotional state?”
6. Before speaking, clarify the outcome you want. The meaning of your communication is the response you actually get. If the first thing you say is not achieving your goal, change your approach. Remember that mutual respect and happiness is your real goal.
7. Show appreciation and gratitude in as many ways as possible. Say something appreciative a few times a day
8. Be a good listener. Understand your spouse from his or her point of view.
9. Be considerate of the feelings and needs of your spouse. Think of ways that you have lacked consideration and be resolved to increase your level of consideration.
10. Instead of blaming and complaining, think of positive ways to motivate your spouse. If your first strategies aren’t effective, think of creative ways.
11. Give up unrealistic expectations. Don’t expect your spouse to be perfect and don’t make comparisons.
12. Don’t cause pain with words. If your spouse speaks to you in ways that cause you pain, choose outcome wording, “Let’s speak to each other in ways that are mutually respectful.”
13. Be willing to compromise. Be willing to do something you would rather not do in return for similar behavior from your spouse.
14. Write a list of ways that you have benefited from being married to your spouse. Keep adding to the list and reread it frequently.
15. Write a list of your spouse’s positive patterns and qualities. Keep adding to the list and read it frequently.
16. Keep thinking about what you can do to bring out the best qualities of your spouse. Reinforce those qualities with words and actions.
17. Focus on finding solutions to any problems that arise. Be solution-oriented. Don’t just blame and complain. Don’t focus on who is more wrong. For a happy marriage, work together to find mutually acceptable solutions.
18. Remember your finest moments. What did you say and do when you felt best about each other? Increase them.
19. Look for positive activities you can do together.
20. Live in the present. What went wrong in the past is the past. You create the present and future with your thoughts, words, and actions right now. Choose them wisely.
Have a Great Shabbos,
Rabbi Yaakov Fisch
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