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Helpful Tips for Married Men - Rabbi Zamir Cohen

A wise husband is attentive and finely attuned to his wife’s interests and needs

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When the first argument crops up between a couple, both become alarmed and feel pressured, and sometimes, even shocked and bewildered. We’re fighting? Can it be that I have reached the stage where I exchange angry words with the person supposed to be closest to me?

But one can use the disagreement, be it the first or one later on, as a tool to reinforce marital harmony. It is an opportunity to recognize and learn what is so important to the spouse that s/he is willing to argue about it. It is an opportunity to make a switch in how to act towards your spouse so as to avoid stepping on toes or landmines that caused that argument.

Envision cars traveling on a highway, some passing others without engaging in conversation or either one paying any attention to the other. Under which circumstances will they notice one another? If one car happens to scratch the other, both drivers will pull over to the side of the road, exchange names and phone numbers, and talk. What brought them to this exchange of words? A collision.

A piece of good advice, especially during the first year of marriage, when both sides are tense and have begun arguing, is to wait until you are alone, perhaps at work or outside the house, and review exactly what happened. Let the husband say to himself, “This argument is pointless.

Indeed, if this issue meant so much to my wife, I apparently wasn’t aware of how important it was to her to bring her to argue over it. If that’s the case, I have to try harder in that area so as not to provoke another clash. I must try to avoid hurting her and focus on making her happy.”

He can then decide to call her up and say, “I think it would be a good idea for us to go out tonight to a quiet place, to a park or the seashore, and have a good talk. I think we should turn off our cellphones as well.” Such an overture already serves to ignite a spark of hope in the wife’s heart. She is surely upset about the argument. She will be thrilled over his invitation, and her mood will already have taken a turn for the better as she goes about the rest of her day’s tasks.

When he enters the house, he may still feel a bit of tension in the air, but getting organized to go out will make them both feel better, and improve the mood in the house. We find them having settled themselves in some quiet, pleasant place, and beginning to talk.

A relaxed conversation in a serene setting, with the husband according his wife his undivided attention accompanied with a mild apology for the argument and a promise to try harder to avoid reaching the point of disagreement, can actually transform the crisis into a platform for strengthening their bond.

One other important detail: towards the end of the evening, turn to your wife and say: “I have a request to make. Tell me how you would like me to relate to you in a similar future situation, when something bothers you.” A candid reply will enlighten the husband for their entire married life, but certainly during the first year of marriage. This is the time to discuss their contrasting natures, to analyze what happened, and arrive at constructive conclusions for dealing effectively in the future.

ALWAYS WITH YOU

A wise husband who is attentive and finely attuned to his wife’s interests and needs, will discover a wife who relies on him completely in every area, is willing to join her destiny with his, is prepared to forego her own plans in favor of his. She’ll do everything in her power to fulfill his needs and make him happy.

A true story: several months after his wedding, a young man came to us for counseling. He told us from the beginning that he had no choice but to divorce his wife. “Up until now,” he said, “she treated me nicely. But now she has revealed her true face.” She had always tried to comply with his requests, even those that may have been extreme, like spending Shabbat after Shabbat with his parents, without batting an eyelash. Suddenly, she not only started refusing him even his small requests, but began making selfish demands of her own.

I said to him: “You are mistaken. The side of her coming out now is not her true face. Her real desire is to please you and always have your welfare in mind. She relied on you to take care of her, and she did everything for your sake. But when she started to realize how selfish you are and how you only have your own interests in mind, she said to herself: If he is not going to think about me, then I have to take care of myself. That’s when she began behaving altogether differently, even going against her nature in order to protect herself. 

What you must do is to return home, banish all thoughts of divorce, and go to the opposite extreme, doing everything for her sake and benefit. Hold back any personal requests from her for a while, and think only of how to make her happy. This is the only way you can mend what you have damaged.”

LISTEN CAREFULLY TO YOUR WIFE’S ACCUSATIONS

Even if you are certain that your wife is at fault and her claims against you are unjustified, listen to what she has to say. Perhaps you will discover to your surprise that she is right.

ADMIT A MISTAKE AND APOLOGIZE

A man’s moral stature can be measured, among other things, by his readiness to admit a mistake and apologize. Ego and fear of public censure make it difficult to admit one’s fault and say, “I made a mistake and I apologize. I’ll try to improve in the future.” The more you repeat the words, the easier it will be to say them. Admitting one’s error dissolves hard feelings and promotes an atmosphere of contrition.

Don’t be afraid of being looked down upon by your spouse — we are all human and prone to err. On the contrary, one who admits his mistake truthfully is regarded more highly by his fellow man. 

ARE YOU BEING BELITTLED? EXAMINE YOURSELF!

If you find that your requests, overtures, demands, and needs are being disparaged and ignored, examine your deeds and your conduct towards your spouse. Maybe you yourself are the cause of this ongoing treatment.

WHAT IS IMPORTANT TO THE OTHER SIDE

Some time has elapsed since you got married. By now you already know what is most important to your spouse as well as her sensitive points. Instead of trying to change her, why not adapt yourself to them and take them in stride?

Begin with those points that mean a lot to her and continue with those that are not as crucial but can still spark an argument. The resulting tranquility will prove that an all-out effort is worthwhile, especially since once she realizes it, your wife will come towards you in those matters that are very important to you.

UTILIZING INFORMATION

Never use information your spouse has revealed to you against her.

UNDER CONSTRUCTION — NO ENTRY TO STRANGERS

Don’t involve other members of the family or outsiders in your difficulties and problems in general, and certainly not in the first years of marriage. Don’t let them intrude on your marriage. Entry to a construction site is permitted only to professionals; in this case, only a Torah sage or a Torah-trained marriage counselor.

SET TIMES FOR TORAH STUDY

A husband who attends a Torah lecture every day acquires knowledge, tools, and spiritual strength to deal with the difficult situations and crises that commonly crop up in married life. This is besides the Torah obligation for every Jew to establish set daily times for Torah study and the importance of doing so. Torah study on a scheduled daily basis not only illuminates the soul and purifies it, but it makes him a partner in the continued existence of the world (See Keys to Life, on the hidden treasure that we can uncover in a moment of Torah study).

It also incorporates the advantage of providing emotional equilibrium from all the pressures of one’s day and is one of the central contributors to marital harmony. Torah is likened to a builder’s balance tool [indicating the even keel] since it evens out divergences that can build up in a man’s life in the course of the day as he deals with matters of the material world.

As a result of his daily immersion in Torah texts, the mind of a Torah student maintains a correct perspective and clear guidance in his achieving a healthy balance in his character makeup. He suddenly discovers in himself powers he never knew he possessed and marvelous tools for dealing with various situations that surface in one’s daily life. Simply as an outcome of setting fixed times for learning Torah, he can build himself a truly blissful marriage, and a contented life.

Adapted from 'Happily Married - The Complete Guide to a Successful Jewish Marriage' For Men, by Rabbi Zamir Cohen. Click Here to Buy Now