You are now at the beginning of a wonderful marriage. You have the opportunity to start off properly. It is much easier for a kallah to initially learn the right attitudes and interaction skills than to relearn and retrain herself after she has grown accustomed to various nonproductive patterns. There are many factors to consider when entering a marriage. Listed below are a few of these factors.
This is your marriage for the rest of your life, God willing, and you are going to invest the effort and make the adjustments necessary to keep it flourishing. Hashem has sent you your life’s partner, one who is predestined for you. This partner is the completions of your neshama. Your mission is to maintain shalom bayis and build a true bayis ne’eman. As time passes, these goals must be remembered and reexamined.
Hashem has sent me my life’s partner, and I am committed to make our marriage grow
Until marriage, an individual attends to him or herself and works on personal growth. After marriage, another person must be considered at all times. Whereas any kallah knows, on an intellectual level, that sensitivity toward her chasan is a high priority, conscious effort is necessary to translate this conviction into practice. The kallah has to train herself repeatedly to keep a spouse’s feelings in mind. Naturally, people seldom intentionally do things to hurt their spouses, but many inadvertent slights could be avoided with some thought. A wife can try to anticipate what makes her husband comfortable, even if he doesn’t verbalize his feelings.
Devorah looks forward to a day of shopping with her husband. Her plans include a visit to a favorite aunt of hers. Devorah should take the time to consider how comfortable her husband will be with this plan.
Am I considering my husband’s feelings?
Everyone walks into marriage with expectations, based upon their upbringing. When expectations are not met, disappointment results. These expectations are often subconscious, and neither the chasan nor the kallah can identify the root of a disagreement until the underlying expectations are clarified.
Yehudis has been married for just two weeks. She assumes that her husband will buy the challahs for Shabbos since that is what her father does. Her husband is unaware that she made that assumption. If she greets him erev Shabbos at 2 p.m. with “Why didn’t you buy the challahs?”, he will feel hurt and perplexed. If Yehudis wants her husband to assume the responsibility of buying challahs and tells him politely, he probably will be very agreeable to do so.
The above example of challahs is rather simple and easy to rectify. People come into marriage with many varied expectations, and are disappointed when these expectations are not met. One woman may expect her husband to sit and converse with her for two hours every night. Analysis of expectations is the first step to establishing mutually acceptable routines. Communication and compromise are the next steps. Sometimes people set up unrealistic expectations, and demands. People date with imaginary mental lists of what they expect to find in a mate. A wise kallah puts her list aside as soon as she becomes engaged.
Am I reacting on the basis of my unwritten assumptions? Did I clarify all my expectations with my husband?
Creating An Island – with Bridges
Right after your wedding there is a new household in existence. It is similar to an island with bridges. A couple interacts with the rest of the world, but at the same time maintains seclusion and privacy.
There are many well meaning relatives who wish to be involved in the life of a newly married couple. Indeed, their interest is appreciated and they can be very supportive, but the couple must create an independent life that revolves around the two of them exclusively. Although a girl may have a close relationship with her mother, after marriage certain issues must be left on this private island.
Parents do make assumptions and requests. These requests should be assessed by the husband and wife together, so that decisions that are mutually acceptable will be reached.
Yaffa’s parents expect her and her husband, Asher, to visit them every Sunday. Yaffa loves her parents, but she realizes that this schedule is not practical. She and Asher sit down to discuss the situation, and decide that they will visit every other week, and call twice a week. Although Yaffa wishes that she could comply with her parents’ request, she understands that her main focus should be on building her home with Asher.
Although a husband and wife should envision themselves on their private island, they need not imagine that they are isolated. Extended families provide a beautiful support system to a newly married couple. In addition, at times it is very helpful and proper to reach out for guidance to a Rav or mentor on any number of matters. The Rav can steer a couple in the right direction. Occasionally, adherence to certain halachos will cause strain in a relationship. A Rav must be consulted. The halachah cannot be changed, of course, but a Rav will have the expertise to guide a couple in how to integrate the halachos into the situation at hand in the most appropriate manner.
Good friends are very important, and it is not necessary to distance yourself from them after your wedding. However, discretion is necessary when deciding which topics you will not discuss with others. Also remember, if you tell people negative things about your marriage, they will be remembered by others long after they have been forgotten by you.
As this island is fortified, a woman’s relationship with men other than her husband is curtailed (with the exception of close family members).
It is proper to act in a way that will create a positive impression on friends and relatives. However, the major consideration when making a decision is what is best for our island and our home and not what others will think
Sara, a young kallah, is perfectly content to forgo a dining room set so that the money can be sued elsewhere. But she wonders what her friends and relatives will think. Concentrate on your island, Sara!
Am I creating a proper balance between independence and good relationships with others?
Every Husband Is Unique – Avoid Comparisons
People are constantly making comparisons. Little children stand back-to-back to see who is taller. It takes a conscious effort to outgrow the urge to compare yourself and your family to others. Comparison of your husband to someone else’s husband is unproductive and is to be avoided at all times. Just as it does not matter is one husband is taller that another husband, other comparisons are also irrelevant.
There are two reasons why it is unwise to compare. Firstly, one cannot be sure what someone else’s husband is really like. A friend’s husband may seem kind or helpful, whereas the facts could be very different. Secondly, no two people can be compared. People possess so many qualities; one person has one strength and another has a different one. No person is in the position to decide who is better and who is worse.
Adina wants her husband to take her on a vacation. Will this question motivate him t o do it: “Why can’t you take me on a vacation like Shani’s husband does?”
Am I reacting on the basis of my unwritten assumptions?
The following message should be repeated whenever one starts to make mental comparisons:
Comparisons are unproductive
Hashem, in His infinite wisdom, made men and women different from each other in many ways. It is important for a woman to be aware of these differences so that she can better understand her husband. Women tend to be more verbal, more sensitive and more emotional than men. They are more intuitive and more attentive to physical details than their husbands. Not all women fit these generalizations, but it is valuable for both husband and wife to take the time to understand their spouse’s nature.
Chava and Moshe went to pick out a wedding band. Moshe’s parents had recommended one specific store, which was owned by friends of theirs. Chava could not decide which ring she liked best and sat deliberating for a long time. Moshe couldn’t comprehend why someone had to be so particular about a ring, and he began to pressure Chava to make her choice quickly. Moshe did not appreciate that jewelry is important to most women, and that Chava was determined to put much thought into the choice of a ring. If he had realized that Chava was not being unreasonable, he would have been more understanding. If Chava had realized that, as a man, Moshe could not be expected automatically to understand how important this was to her, she might not have felt hurt by his lack of sensitivity and rushing her.
If a husband seems baffled by his wife’s nature, the wife should not respond with an attempt to give up her femininity. A man wants to be married to a woman who has feminine characteristics, not to one who acts like a male colleague.
There can be many differences between two spouses, based on each one’s background and upbringing. What is acceptable in one family may not be acceptable in another. The ability to recognize and accept these differences is important in making a smooth adjustment. Also, the way people go about doing things often cannot be labeled as right or wrong, but people are more comfortable with the patterns familiar to them.
Etti’s family has always been very health-conscious. Hot dogs and lunch meats have never been on the menu. Yitzchak is accustomed to those foods and does not feel a need to modify his diet when he marries Etti. Yitzchak should resist the urge to mock Etti for her adherence to this healthful regime. Etti, too, should be careful not to ridicule Yitzchak for his habits. Although she may wish to convince Yitzchak of the benefits of her eating habits, she should not mount an aggressive campaign to reform him. Hopefully, if Etti gradually introduces alternative food choices without belittling Yitzchak, changes will occur over a period of time.
Still other differences can be attributed to one’s personality and temperament. One person will leave everything to the last minute; another will be ready far in advance. One person will enjoy spending Yom Tov at home; another will enjoy going to relatives. The list is endless. In all cases, equitable compromises can be achieved if both partners begin with the attitude of accepting their spouse’s differences.
Ahuva got sick shortly after the wedding. Her husband Michael politely inquired if she needed anything. He brought her Kleenex and tea, and then left her alone for several hours. Ahuva was perplexed and hurt. She would have appreciated her husband’s company. Why did he disappear? Ahuva recovered after a day or tow, and she chose not to bring up Michael’s so-called strange behavior.
Several months later, Michael didn’t feel well. Ahuva attended to his needs and the pulled up a chair to keep him company. She wanted to demonstrate how to attend a sick spouse. Ahuva was further perplexed when Michael requested that she leave him alone. It took her a while to realize that, although she appreciated company when she was ill, her husband preferred peace and quiet.
My husband and I are different in some ways and we will work to make the appropriate adjustments.
Honesty and Trust
A marriage must be based on trust. People who trust one another have a positive feeling toward each other. If someone feels that he has been deceived, he will find it hard to maintain his trust. Once trust has been broken, it is difficult to reestablish it. It is simpler to begin with a commitment to honesty. Honesty does not imply that a person must disclose every derogatory thought that crosses his mind. Discretion is necessary to decide which things are better left unsaid, but what is said should be the truth.
Tova had just turned twenty. Her parents told the shadchan that she was nineteen, so the shadchan told Meir that Tova was nineteen. Several months later Tova and Meir became engaged. Tova felt that the time had come to tell Meir her real age, but she couldn’t bring herself to do so. What an uncofrotable feeling for a young kallah, to enter marriage with some measure of dishonesty! And when Meir eventually discovers the discrepancy on his own, will he not feel that his trust has been misplaced?
Trust and honesty are vital to a marriage
Marriage requires effort. This is a concept that some find difficult to fully comprehend because the society we live in is devoted to making everything in life as effortless as possible. It also leads us to expect instant results. Consider the calculator, the microwave and the computer; these are just a few of the inventions that discourage effort and encourage us to expect results immediately.
In addition to not recognizing the value of effort, a young person is influence by today’s society to consider many things in life as disposable. After all, we through out paper plates, aluminum baking pans and broken tape recorders.
Previous generations were taught the value of repairing an item when necessary in order to make it serviceable as new. Today it is far more expedient to replace the item. So in essence, we are not accustomed to preserving things.
Since we subconsciously treat many things as disposable, it is important to stress that there are certain things in life that are too precious to throw out. Greater effort is required to maintain something than to discard it, and as we said, we live in a society where effort is also discouraged, so we must be careful not to be lulled into underestimating the need for effort in many situations. You should always keep your marriage foremost in your mind as something permanent and valuable, something certainly worth the investment of constant effort in order to improve it. Results may not be instantaneous, but the rewards will be great.
This article is reprinted from Dear Kallah published by Feldheim Publishers. Click here to purchase.