For the last 60 years, the big word has been equality. In a Jewish marriage, though, equality is the wrong measure. The measure is shalom. That's Hashem's measure.
There is such so much focus on equality that we think, “What am I getting?” instead of “what can I give?” The more time you spend looking for things to be equal, the more petty life becomes.
A woman asks her husband to help her with the dishes after dinner. Not because she needs help, but, after all, she had prepared dinner and she works, too; things should be equal, and he should help clean up! When the kitchen had been cleaned up and everything was put away, her husband went to his home office to finish some work. As she listened to him tap on the keyboard, she longed for his companionship and wished she hadn't asked him to help with the dishes.
If she hadn't been so concerned about “equal,” he would have finished his work while she was cleaning up, and she would have been able to enjoy the rest of a relaxing evening with her husband … and they both would have been happier!
2. Your Husband is your number-one priority
What is absolutely clear in the Torah is that a woman's first priority is her husband. Everything else is far down the list. The Talmud in Kiddushin 30b says, “Honoring her husband takes precedence even over honoring her parents.”
In a letter to someone experiencing shalom bayis (marital harmony) issues, Rabbi Eliezer Shlomo Shick wrote, “Since you are unique in hachnasas orchim (bringing in guests), why don't you start fulfilling hachnasas orchim with your husband … because l that has to be your first priority. A woman must know that her husband takes priority over her children and other people”.
At this point, the women start protesting, “What about the kids?” There are many sources saying that we spend Olam Haba (the world to come) with our husbands. But I couldn't find anyone saying that we spend Olam Haba with our children. Yet most of our time and energy goes into our children.
That doesn't mean we should neglect our children, G-d forbid, but if your husband and your child both ask a question, you answer your husband first. If you’re doing an errand, do the one for your husband before the one for your child (even if no one will know when you did what). If he walks in the door and you're helping a kid with homework, unless it's terribly disruptive, greet your husband. If your husband doesn't feel like the number-one priority in your life, he will never gain the confidence and strength you need or be the kind of husband you've always hoped for.
This isn't just about being a good wife. If a woman makes her husband her top priority, he will treat her with the reverence she may deeply crave. Yes, she's doing it for him, but she will reap all the rewards! The fruits of that labor are very sweet.
3. Men are appreciation-challenged. You need to fill your own appreciation bucket
Women who feel appreciated, feel like they have the energy to accomplish anything. But when they don't feel appreciated, they don't have the energy to do anything. Showing appreciation is inherently a challenge for men.
This can be a tall order because women are energized when their husbands appreciate the effort they put into something. In the book ‘Naaseh Adam’ it says, “Naturally, people don't like to listen to someone else's opinion. The exception is that women naturally want to listen to their husbands, but only if the husband shows appreciation and recognizes and displays his feelings about the importance of what she's doing” (ch. 7, p. 89).
We learn from this that if we don't get the appreciation we need, we will listen to our husbands less, and blessing will decrease in the home. So how do we get it? The Talmud in Sotah (47b) says, “A woman has a special chein, a charm, in her husband's eyes.”
The Pele Yoetz adds, “This sweetness endears her to her husband.” It's good to know this, but it's no guarantee that he will express appreciation openly. And when a woman doesn't get that feedback, she tends to take it out on him in subtle or obvious ways because she's painfully starved for it. When she doesn't feel appreciated, she's operating on fumes. She gets short-tempered with her husband or children; she may think, “Woe is me” or full into a depression.
The best news on the planet is that a woman can actually make a difference in this for herself, and she's forever changed. As soon as she realizes that she must take responsibility for being appreciated and that her husband is not purposely withholding it, it is the biggest relief in the world. The solution is beyond simple. Rather than feeling you are a victim because no one is recognizing your efforts, you need to solicit appreciation.
For example, “Did I do a good job on that Shabbos meal?” or “Isn't the soup delicious today?” or “Isn't it amazing how much I accomplished with all the things on my plate?”' Then he'll say, “Yes, you did a good job.” Let that sink in. Okay, he didn't think of it himself. But how often is he going to say out of the blue, “The house looks beautiful” or “That was the best brisket I ever had”? If you wait for the A+ comments, you'll be waiting for two months between them and you won't be able to function. But if you are satisfied with B+ comments, you can get them every day. Each individual B+ drop in your bucket might be small, but you'll have lots more of them to fill you up.
Don't expect that if you do this for ten or 20 years, he'll learn to appreciate. You're not doing this to train him. You're doing this for yourself so that you can have a blessedly full bucket and feel more contented man you may ever have felt in your life-seriously! As with most of these secrets, you have to try them at home to see how powerful they can be.
4. Let him have all the control. (Psst… you’ll have all the influence.)
Control seems to be the ultimate prize. We look up on who is in control, who has power. Money and power are glorified in Western society, and we aspire to it. But when we get it, it's all an illusion because Hashem has control.
When we want control in a marriage, we’re actually robbing our husbands of something they need. For a man, a sense of power is very important. Women think they need power, but they do not. It's far more important for them to have influence.
The Shelah Hakadosh writes, “A woman should follow her husband's will over her own will, even when in her eyes it seems baffling”(Shaar Habsiyos, Derech Eretz). The Talmud states that when a woman does this, even when it is difficult for her, she will merit to have children who are talmidei chachamim (Nedarim 66b).
For a woman, influence is much more effective than control. The Ben Ish Chai writes that our Sages say, “You should bend down and listen to your wife”- but if she acts like an equal, he interprets the Mishnah (Avos 1 :5) as saying that the husband shouldn't take her advice. However, if she understands that her husband is the king, then he should bend down to take her advice.
When a wife gives her husband control, he's more likely to listen to her voice. And in the end, she's more likely to get what she wants.
5. Whatever “picture” you have in your mind about what marriage is like is guaranteed to be wrong
Imagination is a wonderful thing. It enables us to feel empathy for others, to visualize how we'd like to grow, and to plan for the future. Bur it also has the effect of planting “pictures” in our minds that can get in the way of closeness in marriage.
We all have a picture of what we want our husband to be like and how we want him to behave. The problem comes when these pictures turn into expectations, and we end up terribly disappointed that reality doesn't match our expectations (which it rarely does). We then find ourselves terribly disappointed in our husbands, and they end up feeling like they can never please us. It's so sad; we dawned so hard for our bashert, and then we spend all of our time wanting him to be more like the picture in our heads.
This way of thinking causes a great deal of suffering, and it is completely avoidable if we simply recognize our “pictures” and get clear about, what our true needs are.
Western society has convinced everyone that getting what you want and shopping till you drop will make you happy. But here's the brutal truth: Getting what you want will never make you happy. The only thing that will truly make you happy is getting a few of your deepest needs met.
The secret is to figure out what those needs are, and having “pictures,” expectations, and a long list of “wants” are the major obstacles to understanding our needs.
Many women complain to me that their husbands just don't meet their needs, and my question to them is “Do you even know what your own deep needs are?” They usually don't have a clue.
Husbands want the satisfaction of giving to us and making us happy. Rav Dessler writes, “Hashem is the Giver par excellence … Man has been granted this sublime power of giving, for G-d created man in His own image. Our endless list of demands just gets overwhelming for our husbands. Once we separate needs from wants, it becomes easier for them to fulfill our needs, and they want to.
To begin understanding our needs better, we can try writing down everything we want from our husbands, which will give us clarity about the vast array of irrational pictures we have in our minds. And then, as we brutally cross items off that list, leaving only true needs, we can gain insight into what is crucial to our happiness. This remarkable exercise can leave us feeling invigorated about our lives and our future. And more importantly, it gives our husbands a chance robe able to meet our needs- flly and with gusto!
6. A husband wants to give; become an expert at receiving
The husband's role is the giver. The wife is die receiver. The Talmud says, “The blessing that a woman has is from her husband” (Brachos 51 b) and “The blessing in the home is because of the wife” (Bava Metzia 59a).
These statements do not contradict each other. Rav Yaakov Meir Schechter explains, “The way to continue receiving blessing is by giving it to another person. When a husband gives to his wife, he causes more blessing to be provided by Hashem.” When the woman has the capacity to receive, she contains the blessing for the home, but she's not the source of it.
This is our mesorah, our tradition from Mount Sinai. And yet, in our modem world, it seems to be so politically incorrect. In a world where being powerful is lauded as the ultimate goal, being the giver would seem to be the superior role. But in the real world, Hashem's world, where we know definitively that shalom, peace, is the ultimate goal (in fact, Midrash Rabbah Bamidbar teaches us that shalom is so great that it is equal to everything in creation), the giver and receiver roles have the same status.
When I teach women how to be receivers and they actually go home and try it, they race back to class asking for more. Why? Because G-d Himself created us, and he knows exactly what we need to feel content. And when a woman fulfills her G-d-given role as a receiver, she flourishes. The amazing result is that when the wife receives more, her husband begins naturally to give more, just as he was created to do, and he becomes the husband she's always longed for.
Rav Moshe Cordovero teaches that all brachah (blessing) comes from heaven, through the husband to the wife. And the more the wife can receive from her husband, the more brachah Hashem showers on the husband to give to her. As he gives, Hashem replenishes the brachah for the husband.
Our job in life is to become the biggest receivers we can be. So how do we become better receivers? Start by saying, “Thank you” every time your husband does something for you. Saying “thank you” is his tip-off that you fully received his gift. 'That keeps brachah flowing into your home. The bottom line is that by embracing this long-lost role of receiver to the greatest extent we can, we will, Bezras Hashem, witness abundant brachah flowing into our homes!
7. A woman must respect her husband exceedingly
These are the words of the Rambam. When I say this, there are always women in the room who cross their arms and glare. One will say, “When he respects I'll respect him.” So I say, “You're 100 percent right. It's just as important for him to respect you. But your husband will respect you if you respect him.”
Do you think it's unfair that a woman has to step up to the plate first? Hashem gave women the binah yeseirah (additional insight) to know that this is what must be done. Once a woman puts this into action, she sees miracles. I tell my students, “I can't explain why our Sages' insights work- I just see that they do!”
Reprinted from AMI Magazine
Leah Richeimer is the author of Artscrolls, “Marriage Secrets,” and the host of, “The Ladies Talkshow,” a weekly FaceBook, Instagram, and YouTube Live video & teleconference on Wednesdays at 11PST. www.ladiestalkshow.com / Live Call-in #: 515-604-9516 (code: 601500) / Playback #: 515-604-9691 (code: 601500)