1. Make yourself an easy person to apologize to. When your spouse says, “I’m sorry for being moody” or even “I’m sorry for driving 500 miles in the wrong direction,” do NOT take that as invitation to say anything other than, “Thank you for that apology,” or, if you’re feeling really big, “I forgive you.”
2. Remember that what you think is the “right” way is simply “the way you’re used to” and may, shockingly, even be “the wrong way.” So keep an open mind. Weird is simply when someone else’s mishugas is different from your mishugas.
3. Never diss your spouse’s family members. It’s wrong and pretty much never worth it.
4. Don’t keep anything important a secret. Besides the fact that secrets usually leak, this will most definitely build barriers and walls between you and your spouse. Whatever it is, it’s better off shared and dealt with honestly. (Ladies, whether you deem a $200 impulse purchase at Nordstrom Rack “important” or not… is up to you.)
5. Learn that you will never, ever change your spouse. If you married him/her, unconditional love means loving the faults. Strive to get to the point where you love even your spouse’s faults, because that’s what makes her exactly who she is. Weirdly, unconditional love often leads to people wanting to become their best them.
6. Never prioritize your kids over the marriage. If you haven’t been away without the kids, at least overnight, for longer than you can remember, you are prioritizing the kids over the marriage. Remember that a strong, close, and mutually supportive marriage is the best thing you can do for your kids. Take their therapy money and use it for your vacation. You’re welcome.
7. There’s nothing wrong if each of you eats something different for dinner. It’s far more important that you eat at the same time, even if one of you has a full-on meal and the other sips tea, even if your kids are making normal conversation, um, elusive. Hang out together over food and drink. (I am aware that kids often make this difficult… see #6.)
8. Keep a list of things you need to discuss over the week (examples may range from “the washing machine is making weird noises” to “I think our child is bullying others” or even “I’m scared of dying”). Then make regular time, at least half-hour once a week, whether in person or even on the phone, to discuss them. This will prevent throwing upsetting issues out there at the wrong time. And we all know when the wrong time is. Hungry, tired, stressed, you said it.
9. Find couples who are happy and pump them for info. Be on the lookout wherever you go. Elderly people in long-lasting marriages often have great nuggets to share. Maybe one day, you’ll be one of them.
10. My favorite: don’t each of you give 50%. Each of you give 100%. Then you will have not only a marriage, but a loving one. Let no task be beneath you so that your spouse understands that giving is the most important thing to you.
Wonderful! Thank you for sharing your wisdom! And 500 miles in the wrong direction – oy! Did that really happen?
Not 500… 🙂
Congrats on 20 years! This is beautiful. I'm so glad I found your blog.
Wise words from a wise woman. Thank you!
I especially appreciate the #8!!! After hearing an entire week a polite "It's not a good time to talk about it", one day (when I am hungry, moody, stressed and tired..))) I just explode, starting with "It's NEVER a good time to talk. So whether you want it or nor – here I come"..
I know it's wrong, I feel wrong, and I am completely unfair to him.. I'll definitely use your advice, Ruchi! THANK YOU!!!!
P.S. The healthy way to approach it when IT IS a good time to talk is to extablish the purpose of whatever I am about to say:
1. "Honey, I need you to listen to me, I DO NOT need an advice, I simply need your attention and you empathy"
2. "I need you advice / solution / help to figure out…."
3. "There's been something troubling me recently, and I can't decide if it's just my emotions, or I need you help. Here it is…"
Thanks Natalia, for this great comment. welcome to OOTOB!
Natalia, I love your suggestions!
I know this is for the general population, but please add a disclaimer for women in unhealthy relationships. If your spouse is abusive, 1,2, 5, 6, and 10 do not apply.
This is important. Thank you.
Lovely! For us, #4 has always been top priority. It's so much better to face the hard stuff together. My addition: Learn from your spouse. It's fun on both sides.
Thanks savtav 🙂
Questions on #6 and #7.
#6: NEVER prioritize kids over marriage? I want to hear more about that since you have seven kids and I have just a few. Isn't daily life more absorbed with kids than marriage in a way, since kids have urgent needs and marriage can wait (not saying that is good for the marriage or a good thing in general, but is it not so?)? Please say more. Trips ok, yes if you get away then the marriage has priority for that time. But in everyday life?
#7: Does "each of you" include the kids? I'm curious in a big family if everyone falls more into line and just eats what is there, and competition might even help get people to fill and consume a plate's worth–or if someone who doesn't like the meal is free to go make pbj or something else. How hardline are you about "this is dinner, eat it or not" and is this a Jewish issue for you or just a managerial one for the large family?
Congratulations on 20 great yrs together!
I'm not Ruchi, but of course we prioritize kids over marriage. Kids are needy. When we have infants and we aren't sleeping through the night, sometimes we tell our spouse we don't have time for, um, intimacy. If my choice is go to an appointment with a kid or run errands for my husband, the appointment is more important. Just two examples. I think of my husband as an adult who can do most things for himself, and my kids as children who need help learning how to do things for themselves. Ruchi, either you lead a totally different lifestyle than I do, or your statement means something else.
Yes, even in daily life (isn't that what speaks most loudly about priorities?). Tesyaa, you can't really compare an appointment (not flexible) with an errand (flexible). And of course both my husband and I are emotionally astute enough to comprehend when the kids needs are urgent or time-sensitive. But all other things being equal, I stand my ground. Example: both husband and kid are trying to talk to me simultaneously. Husband comes first. Besides for being good for my marriage, I think it's a fabulous lesson in respect and unspoiled living to my kids.
Not saying I've never slipped. It's sort if default mode. But I maintain that it's not a good practice.
Sbw, re dinner. I cook whatever I cook. I try to have relatively popular options. Whoever doesn't want it can reheat leftovers or fix themselves a sandwich or cereal. No hard feelings. But I like to eat together whenever possible.
Ah. Jewish or managerial 🙂 Both. The Talmud discusses how shared meals draw hearts closer. Fighting about WHAT you're eating totally kills that. And from a managerial perspective, why does it matter? As long as they don't make themselves pizza bagels. That's just a reward for not liking my food. Cereal or a sandwich are just boring enough to fit the bill.
Not just the kids. Husband too. I used to feel all offended if I cooked something delicious and my husband went rooting through the fridge for some hot sauce a la leftover. Until finally I realized it was my ego destroying our shared meal.
Tesyaa. Marriages are just as needy as kids.
Do you always agree on when your kids' needs have to come first? The example of listening to your husband first seems to me not a matter of prioritizing but of teaching the kids to honor their father.
Usually we do agree on this. Yes, the lesson of teaching kids to honor their parents is definitely intertwined. When kids see that their parents put them (the kids) before themselves, they subliminally learn that children's needs are selfishly more important. Here are some more examples:
This morning I was driving my 19 yo to work and was on the phone with my husband. I hung up with my husband so I could have that one-on-one time with my daughter (a time-sensitive value that my husband was totally on board with). Conversely, my husband I will go out for a drive at night even if my kids are annoyed that we're stepping out. It's not time-sensitive and it's not urgent. Our marriage comes first.
Is this putting your marriage first? It sounds like setting aside time for both. It's just that your husband, being more mature, understands and values the need to give time to your kids at his expense, whereas your kids might not value your giving time to your husband at their expense.
Ruchi: What happens if you and your husband disagree on a childrearing issue? Do you get your way as mom? Do you discuss–no matter how small and time-sensitive the decision is or just someone says "no, it's going to be this way"?
Also, I am very interested in your concern that the kids NOT see the parents putting the kids' needs first and possibly becoming selfish as a result of seeing parents putting their needs first. It sounds like your concern is for kids to learn to put their own needs not as their priority–is that right? I mean, we all do that in teaching our kids to wait their turn, be polite, not hurt each other. But your style sounds more insistent than that. Can you say more?
I am currently living with the fall-out of not following this advice. My ex-husband made it clear from day one that the children were more important than me/ the marriage. Not only did this lead to the end of the marriage, I am now single-parenting a child who has been told by her father throughout her life that she was right and I was wrong. He undermined me in every way, and she now (at 13 y.o.) thinks I "have no right" to do what I think is best for her. She thinks she is more important than I am, and that I should be merely a supporting character (providing shelter, food, and transportation) in her life. She thinks all of her needs are urgent, even when they aren't, and her father always gave in to this. She is wrong, but I have an uphill battle teaching this to her at this point.
P.S. I avoided reading this entry for several days, because I knew that my failed marriage could serve as a counter-point to whatever advice Ruchi offered. And I was right. #2,3,6, 8, and 10 were all factors in the destruction of my marriage.
SBW, sometimes, in the spur of the moment, each of us will have to make game-time decisions about these things. But always, the priority of marriage is right up there as a huge value in weighing those split-second decisions. Since we each know that the other is considering that, it's easier to forgive each other when we feel ignored, because we know that each is not actually ignoring, but rather doing the best we can in the moment. And we make it up to each other.
As far as disagreeing on child issues in general… ahem, it happens all the time. We are always going into our "chambers" to "discuss it privately" (cue kids' eye-rolling). We try our best to work it out respectfully. Sometimes I give in and sometimes he gives in. Where we really can't come to a mutual decision, we agree to talk it over (either separately or together) with a third, trusted person (rabbi, wise person, friend, parent).
You write: "we all do that in teaching our kids to wait their turn, be polite, not hurt each other" – yes, I AM more insistent than that, because I think most parents are pretty good at this (teaching kids to be nice to peers), but NOT as good as insisting on respect to parents and members of the older generation. We sort of just throw up our hands in despair and figure it's normal. Well, it may be normal, but it's not OK.
Anonymous, thank for your sad and meaningful words. I am really sorry for what you had to go through and I hope my post didn't deepen that pain.
YES! What and excellent, thoughtful list. I'll be sharing this tomorrow when there are more eyes to see it. I especially love #6, which I think I say with some of my posts. I have one coming out Wed that sort of focuses on exact that.
Thanks, Nina! Looking forward to seeing it.
Thank you, Ruchi, this is a wonderful list and very wise. My husband and I will soon be celebrating 21 years.
I agree wholeheartedly that a strong marriage is the heart of the family. If parents don't prioritize each other, the kids actually can end up paying the price. Distance in a marriage doesn't appear overnight; it's often years in the making.
The same thing applies to single parents: that you have to put yourself on the priority list; that a stable parent (marriage) is critical to the child.
Remember that taking an action or saying something to hurt your spouse is pretty much the same as whacking your own thumb with a hammer.
Well put. Thanks Chana!
Love it! We're about to have baby #2, and I'm starting to feel the need for alone time more and more–maybe even an alone vacation one day (although I think we have awhile until that's a reality!). Don't get me wrong, I LOVE my little, one, just want to make sure I'm not directing my love to her and my frustrations to my hubby:)
Exactly, and I think that awareness will steer you in a great direction!
So, this post has been published on Aish.com, and here is a comment from that thread:
"No.5 is ridiculous.
Does every human being have his character graven in stone? OF COURSE NOT!! The Torah teaches us that we have to grow. We have to learn self control, patience, how to love, how to speak to eachother with kind words. how to be careful not to bring up touchy subjects when the other is obviously nervous.
To say "you will never ever change your spouse", means YOU ARE MARRIED TO A BABY. YOU HEARD RIGHT. A husband or wife who does not notice that the other one is suffering or upset or angry is self centered and childish.
I have been able to change SO MANY THINGS in my husband – it all depends on how you speak to him- do you whine, or do you talk to him like an adult? DO YOU LISTEN AND KEEP QUIET WHEN HE/SHE SPEAKS???
there is no reason to tolerate such behavior. That's not a life."
What do you all think about that?
You will never change your spouse. That doesn't mean your spouse will never change, but if he/she does — even if it's in response to your request — it's his/her decision. Isn't that what you meant when you said this, Ruchi?
Yes, and you can influence change by being your best self, which includes unconditional acceptance.
I'm not sure about unconditional acceptance. Sometimes being one's best self is also setting reasonable limits, with kindness. I can't imagine loving someone's faults if they are tied to behaviors that hurt me (like quick-temperedness that produces shouting). I can imagine accepting them to some degree, but not loving them and not unconditionally.
I found the one most useful that when everyone is talking, the spouse gets listened to first. I like that concrete principle!
If a spouse is being continually treated with anger, that is a problem that absolutely needs to be addressed and should NOT be "unconditionally accepted." I am thinking of faults where there isn't a victim getting constantly victimized, you know, normal faults: messiness, punctuality problems, lousy sense of humor, can't budget. Big problems need to be addressed. I have learned to love my husband's messiness because it also means he is so chilled. Usually normal faults come along with their positive side. If my husband would suddenly become neat, I wouldn't know who he is. He HAS gotten neater over the years, but I do not take credit for that.