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Balancing Act

Bracha Stein

Experts share how to keep your marriage at the center of your life, no matter how full it may get

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

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ALL FOR ONE To Adam it was perfectly clear that a husband and wife are two parts of one neshamah that Hashem separated into two bodies. Hashem then stood Adam and Chavah under a chuppah in Gan Eden and married them, saying ‘Now do it again. Recreate that sense of oneness that you experienced in Gan Eden.’ That’s the goal of married life”

"Y our husband will be your best friend,” every kallah hears. “He should come before everything else.” But concepts that seem so obvious during engagement take on levels of complexity in the real world, which features confusing overlays of friends, family, work, and OTHER obligations. Experts share how to keep your marriage at the center of your life, no matter how full it may get


Avi knew, even before he started dating Miriam, that she was exceptionally close with her sister Shani. That never bothered him — it was nice for families to be close, he thought — and for the first year or two of their marriage, he shrugged off the late-night phone calls and incessant barrage of text messages between the two.

But as the years passed, his irritation mounted. It bothered him that Shani knew as much about his kids as he did, and he was livid when she showed up at the lawyer’s office when they were closing on their new home. The straw that broke the husband’s back was when Miriam met with the caterer for their son’s bar mitzvah with Shani.

“He’s my son, not Shani’s!” he protested to Miriam.

She looked at him blankly. “But you don’t care about menus!” she replied, confused.

“But you don’t care about me!” he shot back. When Miriam pointed out that he hadn’t had the patience to debate shades of teal when she tried asking him about tablecloths, Avi suggested that Shani take his place at the head table. For the next week, the couple barely spoke.

When Avi heard Miriam tearfully discussing their fight with her sister he was furious — but he managed to keep his mouth closed. That night, he suggested they go speak to their rav together.

The Friendship Factor

It’s natural for people to have confidants or close friends other than their spouses. Many women find their friends to be the most sympathetic ear when it’s time to vent; men often prefer to chow cholent and talk Trump with the guys. And for most marriages, that’s vital. Time spent with a good friend can leave a woman invigorated and upbeat — and the husband reaps the benefits.

“If one spouse feels like they’re second in their spouse’s life, it’s time to ask: What’s not right in this relationship? Why isn’t the marriage the primary focus for both of us?”

“Back in my day, I was given the message that you don’t need anything else after marriage, your husband will be everything for you,” says Rebbetzin Michal Cohen, LCSW, rebbetzin at Chicago’s Congregation Adas Yeshurun, and a therapist at a family service agency. “Poor guy! Who can live up to all that? Some couples are best friends who like the same things and do everything together, but most aren’t — and we all still need our friends.”

Baila had been valedictorian in high school and was a star third-grade teacher; she was used to giving every challenge her all, and she planned to tackle marriage with the same commitment she gave her lesson planning. Supper would be on the table the minute her husband walked through the door, she resolved, and she’d certainly never ignore him to talk on the phone.

Her mornings were spent teaching, her afternoons spent ironing and cooking, and her evenings were spent with her new husband. After a week of marriage, she decided she’d keep her cell phone turned off unless she was out; her friends’ calls were too distracting.

At first, she listened to her voice mails and scrolled through the text messages from her close friends with a vague sense of guilt, but that feeling soon faded and was replaced by indifference, even annoyance. But then the calls and texts stopped. Good, Baila thought. She didn’t have time for all that now; she was a married woman. She had a good job and a wonderful husband… so why did she feel so dispirited?

“I don’t expect my husband to sip coffee with me at a café — he hates coffee,” Rebbetzin Cohen notes wryly. “But he’ll tell me, ‘When was the last time you went out with so-and-so, I know how much you love to do that.’” (Excerpted from Family First, Issue 571)

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