Marriage

What is the Most Important Principle in Building Marital Harmony?

"If couples would only put as much effort into working on their relationship after the wedding as they do before the wedding, there would be no more divorces"

marriage
Let’s start with a common question: What is the natural state of a married couple — happy, or not so happy?

When we raised this question in front of an audience, as expected, answers varied. Half the group cried out “Not!” while the other half responded positively.

Now let’s ask another question: What is the natural state of a car — moving or stationary?

Most people will say moving, but the correct answer is two-fold: if you start the engine and give it gas, its natural state is moving. But if you don’t start the engine, its natural state is stationary.

This simple analogy, clear and comprehensible when referring to a car, is that much more relevant when it comes to describing married life. If couples would only put as much effort into working on their relationship after the wedding as they do before the wedding, there would be no more divorces!

Couples make a tremendous effort before they wedding because they want to do everything in their power to ensure a happy and successful marriage. But if that’s the case, why not protect the most important investment a person will ever make by giving it some attention afterwards as well? If a person spends thousands of dollars on constructing a beautiful garden but neglects to water and weed it once in a while, we would call him a fool. Surely your marriage is more valuable than a garden!

And yet…
We could very easily provide the most important elements and guidance to married couples, and all they would have to do is “feed and water” the marriage with basic maintenance.

But that would ignore a very important question that inevitably arises among married couples: What happens if we are doing everything right, caring for and giving our spouse whatever they need, and problems still arise as a result of the tremendous differences that exist between them? Each side is coming from a completely different place in terms of their opinions, their way of running a house and family, the way they think, the way they eat…everything is different. How is it possible to reconcile the differences and still be happy together, especially when each side thinks the other one is mistaken?

The real mistake is viewing these differences of opinion and lifestyle as a negative thing that needs to be changed or even eradicated.
There is a good reason why God said, when He created Eve, the wife of Adam (Genesis 2:18): “I shall make him a helpmate opposite him.” At first it’s hard to understand: what kind of helper can she be if she is against him? But there is a very deep idea hidden in these words.

“I will make for him a helpmate,” says God, and she will help him because of this very opposition. She will have a completely different perspective and mindset than he, because the only way to achieve the necessary balance between men and women, and husbands and wives, is when one person is able to see two sides of the coin, weigh every matter. But if a man gets insulted by his wife’s differing opinion, and if she feels hurt because her husband doesn’t agree with her immediately, the two of them will be missing out on the entire purpose and value of the differences between them, until their marriage will eventually go up in smoke and be destroyed.

Therefore, the most basic and important principle in building marital harmony is the understanding that what looks like a real deficit is actually a tremendous asset. For example, the female tendency towards patience and restraint will be her guide when she is making a big decision, such as buying a home or opening a business. She will check everything out, research, and go backwards and forwards until she finally makes a decision. This is a perfect complement to the male tendency to act quickly and sometimes even irresponsibly.

This difference works perfectly for them. If he signs on the lease or the purchase before adding his wife’s requirements and reservations into his calculations, he is bound to make a mistake. And if she were left to make decisions on her own, it is very likely that the decisions would never actually happen, and she would miss out on important opportunities.

With this in mind, we can now understand the words of God: “I will make for him a helpmate opposite him” — and set off on the right path towards a happy marriage.

Adapted from 'The Complete Guide to a Happy Marriage' by Rabbi Zamir Cohen. Coming to you soon in English
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