You Make Sense and Yet You’re Wrong

He says: “You’re closing me up; you don’t let me talk to my friends freely”.

She says: “He’s forgetting he has a wife and children.”

What is correct and what is wrong here?

Many men especially if they’re young, enjoy a relaxing talk with their (male) peers which they find helps release life’s pressures whereas at the same time the wife feels that she should be the sole address for an enjoyable and relaxing chat. A wife’s outright opposition to her husband’s conversations with his friends or showing embittered emotions because of these conversations though they are neutral and harmless to the family are just a ‘talk with me not with them’ request. But they actually push the husband away and cause more harm than benefit. On the other hand perhaps the husband does need to watch how much time he is spending on these conversations and thing that perhaps he needs to be more focused on the house, his wife, his family and their needs. In such a case the woman feels she can’t ignore what’s going on and must comment on it. Good communication between the husband and wife will help bring things back to balance to help fulfill each other’s needs.

Give him/her what they need

People are wont to say; “I get along fine without this so can he/she!” Why do I need to give him/her what I myself don’t need?”

This seems a logical question but let’s investigate what the Torah says about this.

In Deuteronomy it says: “When you will have someone poor from among your brothers in the land that your G-d will give you, don’t harden your heart and don’t hold back your hand from your poor brother, for you shall surely open your hand to him, lend him what he lacks.” (15, 7-8)

In the Tractate Ketubot (67b) it says: “What he lacks, even a horse to ride on and a slave to run before him. It was said about Hillel the Elder that he got for a poor man formerly from a wealthy family a horse to ride on and a slave to run in front of this man. Once he couldn’t get the slave to run in front of this man so he himself ran in front of the man for 3 mil (a Talmudic measurement; each mil is 4/5 of a mile so 3 mil is approximately 2.4 miles)”

This needs explanation; it may be that a horse to ride on is a real need but why should Hillel provide a slave to run in front of him which is only a matter of honor from charity funds? And when there wasn’t a slave he ran in front of the man himself, isn’t that too much?

The answer is, since this man was once prominent and accustomed to it, for him the need for the slave was genuine and we are obligated to supply him with this as best as we can!

This is why Maimonides says “a wife should honor her husband to the utmost”. For it is common that a wife could think: “He doesn’t deserve that much honor! I’ll do what I can.” But she misunderstood that as a woman doesn’t feel the need for honor in the same way a man does. Honor is a male need.

For example: a woman made a meal he dislikes and she knew about it before she even started cooking the meal. He expresses his displeasure and she says “for this he needs to fight? What, is he an infant? Isn’t it enough that I haven’t prepared this meal for 2 years and now I finally made a dish I loved as a child… is that so bad? Once in 2 years… isn’t he exaggerating?” But she misunderstood that it’s not at all about the food which he could probably overlook or even force down. His honor was hurt: she didn’t think about his needs.

The message he got was that she took his needs lightly and this is important to men. His wife judged him according to criteria of food but to the man it almost wouldn’t matter because the underlying question he asks after this episode is: “am I at all important in this house? She knows I don’t like this and she made it any way; this is proof I am despised in her eyes!”

The wife will say; but didn’t I cook for 2 years? Don’t I get one time for me?” Yes you do, but do it in a different pot or make his food in a different pot but don’t hurt him. Like Maimonides says: “She walks in the desire of his heart and distances herself from all that he dislikes.”


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