How can I become more sensitive to what my spouse is
A good start in cultivating emotional sensitivity is by
listening to what your spouse is saying. If he claims to be feeling overwhelmed,
nervous, excited or upset, you can safely trust him to be expressing true
emotions. If your spouse doesn't easily share feelings then check his behavior
to see if he might be sending nonverbal messages. Has he suddenly been coldly
withdrawn? Does he look for reasons to call home during the day? All these
behaviors signal feelings.
When words dont tell the entire story, watch
for such nonverbal cues. If you cant figure out what your husband is feeling,
ask. Say, You seem very quiet lately. Is something wrong? With genuine caring,
and gentle persistence, you will usually succeed in getting through to your
spouse, thereby strengthening the relationship.
What can I do to create an atmosphere of happiness both in my
marriage and in our home?
Contrary to popular belief, happiness is
not a natural state of being. If it were, Hashem wouldnt have had to keep
reminding us to be happy! Vesamachta bechal hatov asher nasan lecha Hashem
Elokecha. Rejoice in all the good Hashem has given you (Devarim
26:11) Ivdu es Hashem besimcha. Serve Hashem joyously
(Tehillim 100:2) Vesamachta bechagecha. Be happy on your
holiday (Devarim: 16:14)
Most people are actually aware of what is
wrong, when they feel uncomfortable, why they feel upset. Seeing the bright side
of things, searching for the silver lining behind the cloud, rejoicing in our
wondrous position as children of Hashem that should lead us to sing out:
Ashrainu ma tov chelkainu, fortunate are we and how good is our lot
(Tanna Debei Eliyahu Rabba 21), doesnt come naturally. It is up to us
to work on being happy day by day, experience by experience.
Begin cultivating this skill by acting happy, smiling more often, humming a
lively tune. You will be pleasantly surprised to see how acting happy effects
your feelings. Keep a happiness notebook in which you jot down the good things
that happened to you each day, the good news you heard, or an uplifting thought
that made you smile.
In fact, if you are already blessed with a family, encourage every member of
your family to keep a happiness notebook that can be shared at mealtimes, or at
least every Shabbos. Volunteer in the closest hospital or nursing home and feel
the joy that engulfs you when you leave. After visiting such an institution it
is impossible not to feel happy while you revel in your good health.
In general, if your goal is to be doing for others, to be making others happy
(although not at too great a personal price), you will find that you were so
busy doing meaningful things that you didnt notice that you were
happy! Remember that passively sitting at home waiting for happiness to
strike is not a recipe for success. Become active, join the ranks of ovdei
Hashem, of Hashems servants, and before long you will feel happy and it
will spill over into your home and into your marriage.
Emotional intelligence can be inborn, intrinsic. However, most often it is
acquired by being worked on, by being honed to greatness through determination
and foresight. It is the essence of harmony in your marriage, it is the essence
of the Torah.When Hillel was asked to teach the Torah while standing on one
foot, he succinctly stated, Ma dlach sani, lchavercha lo saavid.
What is abhorrent to you, do not do to your friend
(Shabbos:31a). What is that statement if not the cornerstone, the
foundation, of emotional intelligence? Be aware of what bothers you, but also be
empathetic to what bothers others. At first glance, this might appear to be
deceptively simple, a too-basic formula for happiness in marriage. In reality,
acquiring this vital key to marital happiness is our lifes work. Every hour of
every day during marriage challenges us anew by presenting various difficult
situations that will test our emotional intelligence.Will you lose control
and reply sarcastically? Will you give in to temptation and, convincing
yourself that it will do no damage, repeat a confidence? Sometimes we dont
realize the amount of pain our thoughtlessness can cause. Being aware of the
importance of sensitivity in the marriage relationship is one of the
cornerstones of happiness.Will you once again fall into your habit of
denigrating your spouse instead of offering encouragement and respect? These
are the dilemmas we deal with constantly. They are also constant opportunities
to work on our midos and to model behavior that will inspire those
around us. Use the knowledge and skills you have internalized to make each
experience and each day one of closeness and growth. The choice is ours, but it
is made much easier now that we more fully understand emotional intelligence
another pivotal key to a happier marriage.