7 Critical Ideas to Foster a Healthy Marriage

Friday, 4 May, 2018 - 2:35 pm

 Lag B'Omer 5778

with Rabbi Mordechai Z. Hecht - (from everything life has ever taught me)

This article is not for the beginner. This article is not for someone who is not interested in making their relationship work. This article IS for partners who essentially love each other but are experiencing challenges. Perhaps, one of the seven ideas I share with you here can inspire you to make a move and a change in your marriage for the better.

Three married couples in the last month have contacted me to seek advice in their marriage. One of them was having a trust issue with her husband. Another was complaining that her husband always spends so much time with friends and not with her - and the third was feeling bored in his marriage.

We all know that obviously no two marriage are the same. But there are certain things that every married person needs to know. Consider, just consider perhaps one of the following 7 ideas in your relationship.

1)     Pursuing Different Hobbies and Passions

Everyone knows those couples that seem attached at the hip and seem to have perfectly overlapping interests. Perhaps they both love art and make it a priority to check out a new gallery exhibition every weekend. Perhaps they're outdoorsy types who go hiking or mountain biking at least once a month. Or perhaps the simple date night weekly or bi weekly – “just us– no kids”. However, just because you have vastly different interests than your partner doesn't mean your relationship won't work — in fact, pursuing different things might actually be good for your relationship. You definitely need to make time for your partner and find things that you can do together, but there's absolutely nothing wrong with both spending time doing certain activities that the other person just doesn't like to do — with one key caveat and that is, as long as your partner is supportive and doesn't make you feel bad about pursuing your own interests. Let us recall the wisdom of ours sages in almost unique circumstance like this, “Don’t do unto others what you don’t want done unto yourself” - Hillel the elder, Ethics

Which may include: Many people try to make it seem like you should only be hitting the town with your partner by your side, but truth be told — even if you're in a happy relationship, you still need to make time with your friends! Now, in certain situations, it makes sense to attend a social event with your partner — for example, a party for a mutual friend, a family get together or a holiday party etc. However, if you're invited to a party or an event that your partner doesn't really have any interest in attending, you definitely don't need to force your partner just because you're worried people will think there's trouble in paradise if you show up alone - as long as you-both are really ok with it.

Or you may want to consider: Unless you're going on a trip that's specifically gender appropriate, most people assume that you'll go on vacation with your partner. Sure, you may turn it into more of a group vacation by inviting a few friends along, but your partner will be there by your side, sharing the same hotel room with you every night. At least, that's what many people assume, which is why it's become a bit of a taboo to go on vacation solo. Truth be told, a little space after all, you had a life and went on vacations before you met him or her, so why ban yourself from enjoying solo travel ever again? The saying that absence makes the heart grow fonder exists for a reason. For millennia spouses (ok men) have traveled for long periods while one (the wife) stayed home. Even in modern times many people have to travel for work. It’s also, very common in NY state in the summer time. The main things is there should be a healthy dialogue and understanding between the two of you - exactly what the time and space separation may include. Perhaps the divide and conquer methods is applicable here. Each partnership needs to establish healthy, loving and sensitive ground rules and responsibilities for these times alone or apart from each other this way we foster trust, love and connection.

2)     Talking About Uncomfortable Subjects On The Regular

There are certain subjects that no one really loves talking about because they're just plain uncomfortable — and it can be easy to fall into the trap of just avoiding those subjects altogether because you don't want to spoil the bubble of your romance, or you just don’t know how to begin the conversation, or even worse your actually afraid to bring it up. In reality however, don't be afraid to approach those tricky subjects if you want a healthy, strong relationship. Conflict isn't always the most pleasant experience, you shouldn't have fear or reticence in bringing up something or someone in your relationship, and your partner shouldn't make you feel bad about doing so. You have a great opportunity to become closer when you realize anything can be on the table, and it's OK to put out there there is a freedom to that. Having a healthy conversation in a healthy dialogue can solves years of angst and anguish between partners. [Often a 3rd party can help you open or co-host these conversations so they are productive and not destructive]. I can’t think of a greater place to apply and own the teaching our sages: “A worry in “man’s” heart should be spoken of with others” – Proverbs 23.

3)     Being Super Open About Money And Everything To Do With Personal Finance

Building trust is the most important component to a healthy and productive marriage. Money becomes a huge issue in countless relationships because so many people grow up with it as a bit of a taboo subject. Sure, you know it's an important part of life, but it's not something you feel comfortable bringing up and discussing ad nauseum. So, you avoid it, because it's taboo — and that's the worst possible thing you could do.

Couples who have a clear knowledge and understanding of income, amicable spending practices, and spending according to each other’s agreement become closer, gain trust and are plain out happier. When one is in the know and the other has no idea - major challenges become a reality and major road block for a happy marriage.

After all, how are you going to plan your future and make big life decisions if you're not willing to approach the subject of money and deal with it responsibly and fairly? Don’t need to be be frugile, but spend wisely – within budget; a healthy balance is the greatest idea.

4)     Not Everything Needs To Be Shared

Okay, we're definitely not saying that you should be lying to your partner EVER, on the regular or keeping major secrets from them. That level of deception is not cool. Actually it’s strictly forbidden on every level. However, don't let yourself be shamed by the thought that your partner needs to know absolutely everything about you. There are many people who are total open books with their partner, and that's great. However, if there's a particular situation in your past or issue you have, that you're just not quite comfortable sharing with your partner (yet), that is absolutely okay. Perhaps you'll tell them one day, perhaps you never will, but the point is, at the end of the day it's your decision about what you want to share with the person you're sharing your life with. If this knowledge has no consequence to the marriage, it’s ok not to be shared.

5)     Your Physical Needs & Health:

When it comes to the bedroom or physical needs and the like, everyone is a little different. Some people are totally in command of their sensuality and have no qualms about telling their partner exactly what they need in explicit terms. However, the vast majority of people find the topic a bit uncomfortable to approach — even if you're doing the most intimate thing you possibly could with a person! No one is saying you need to be a drill sergeant or insult your partner in any way ever, but you should absolutely be open with your partner about sensuality — after all, physical intimacy is a huge part of your relationship, and staying silent about things that are bothering you in that arena is definitely not the way to build a strong relationship. It's not always easy, but it's important. The Holy Torah is all about health and appropriate intimacy. From Maimonides to Rebbe Moshe Isserles, there are many detailed laws and much philosophy about the physical component to marriage. Practically speaking - in many marriages it’s the key to the survival of the partnership itself. Many marriages end simply because there was no communication in the area, and it was left in the Taboo pile to ever discuss and never sorted out as needed.

Not talking about it is against our holy Torah. A competent sensitive and halachic Rabbi can always be consulted with any questions in this regard to decipher the appropriate behavior in this arena - according to law and tradition. Don’t be a statistic - be a loving and caring partner.

6)     Showing Your Emotions Freely In Front Of Your Partner

Your partner should be the person you can totally be yourself in front of, and be vulnerable in front of — but unfortunately, many people (guys in particular) still feel that they need to keep their emotions hidden to some extent. You can't have a strong relationship if you're afraid to open up to your partner, but that's exactly what being reluctant to share your emotions does! So, shake off that non sense and get comfortable.

Relationships in which one person closes themselves off to their partner result in break-ups far more often than relationships where both people are open and honest with one another.

Forget what society tells you about women always crying or men not being allowed to cry and just express yourself in front of your partner without worrying about all those taboos and societal restrictions.

7)     Learn Your love Language

Are you serious? Are you youthful? Are you one who needs to be told how special and beautiful you are? Are you one that just needs a hug or a kiss and you’re good to go? Are you one that needs respect and professionalism from your spouse? Are you one who needs to spend a lot of time with someone to feel the love or just smile at me and show me you got my back and I’m good?

We need to ask ourselves and our spouses - what powers your clock what powers your engine. We need to ask our spouses what they need to maintain a sense of joy and youthfulness in their life. Service them in what they need - not what you need always. After all the root word of Ahava – love is Hav – to give. Love is ultimately about sharing and giving to others – and in this case both physically and mentally, not just food or credit cards.

When spouses understand the underlying personality and character of their spouse they end up in much more successful relationships, a happier marriage, and end up as healthier people all around.

Review these ideas and consider which can perhaps serve you best. And talk about it with your partner – it may do you wonders.

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