Our Divine Project
It’s often helpful to think of marriage as a 3rd entity: An idealistic joint project where each member commits,not to the other, as much as to the divine enterprise they are creating together. Before saying or doing something the question is always: “Will this enhance or harm what we are creating together?” Each partner holds him or herself accountable to the project’s health and success. The thought – “Our marriage is bigger than both of us and deserves to be priority #1 in each of our lives” – is helpful. It’s the only way to milk this thing for all it’s worth.
Avoiding or Preserving?
Some people have a hard time forming a secure, safe bond in a relationship. They seem to avoid and distance themselves whenever things get too close and intimate. Know that these people crave intimacy just like anyone else (perhaps even more so) and keeping their distance is actually a (unconscious) strategy to PROTECT whatever connection is there. The way to draw these people closer is to gently cherish the moves they make towards intimacy (comment on and appreciate it – it’s scary for them) without “pushing” for more. As intimacy becomes safer and more familiar they will definitely seek more of it.
From Iniquity to Intimacy
The Jewish month on Tishri tells a love story. On Rosh Hashana we whole heartedly committed to the relationship. On Yom Kippur we acknowledged that the relationship has lofty goals and standards and is strong enough to survive, heal and thrive even after those goals are not met and the standards are ignored. The bond is that deep.
It is the recognition of that bond that brings us to the highest levels of joy and celebration on sukot. In the sukah we enjoy the intimacy with our beloved that can only be expressed after the resilience of the connection is tried and tested.
May every challenge and difficulty only serve to reveal the depth of our commitment to our beloved, Above and certainly down here, below.
Heard the idea that your spouse “completes” you? This does not mean that he/she adds what’s missing, helping you become “whole”. This is egocentric. Rather, by contracting ourselves and creating space for another human being we leave the dimension of merely existing and enter the elevated dimension of LIVING.
This is not the completion of our being but something else entirely.
That’s why it requires concentrated, deliberate and maybe even joyous effort.
The Art of Receiving
In a relationship we learn to give; generously and with loving kindness.
Just as important, we learn how to truly RECEIVE. Much different than taking (as in “give and take”) the art of receiving is to allow the compliment, sentiment or gift to enter deeply into our heart. To allow it to penetrate all of the defense layers that keep us safe….and ultimately unloveable. It’s challenging and humbling work.
Next time your spouse shares a gift with you, in whatever form; hold it gently and place it in your heart, allowing yourself to feel that you are deeply loved and cherished.
This is a nourishing joy for both the receiver AND the giver.
What Are We Fighting For?
Arguments, disagreements, fights naturally ensue throughout the course of marriage. These discussions are the result of each individual’s conditioning, one’s “comfort zone”.
Granted, it’s really challenging to step outside the familiar, but you jumped into that sea the minute you committed yourself to a stranger.
So why not continue the process? Think about your recurring argument and ask: “How is this argument serving my comfort zone agenda? What is this argument keeping me “safe” from experiencing with my spouse? How is it “protecting” me?”
The more honestly you can answer those questions the greater your opportunity for growth and deep connection in the relationship.
How Many Times Have You Been Married?
You should get married at least 2,3,4 and even 5 times………to the same person! Marriage is often thought of as a “status” (or condition :)) The truth is, marriage is an ongoing process of 2 people sharing deeper and more vulnerable dimensions of themselves with each other. Discomfort and dissatisfaction in the relationship is often a sign that you have to take things to a deeper lever. Seize the opportunity.
Argue Like A PRO
All couples argue. Happy couples argue well. Research shows that satisfied couples have a ratio of 4:1 positive interactions DURING their conflicts. This means that even when they argue, they feel safe. They trust each other knowing that they can manage the issue without damaging the relationship. Where do they get this from? From the daily deposits of connection and friendship that are developed OUTSIDE of the conflict. Every day there are hundreds of opportunities to connect with your spouse (more on that next time). Consider what they might be and capitalize on some of them daily. The result will be that the health and vitality of your relationship will enable you to argue like pros.
Insights from Rabbi Elazar Bloom, LMFT, Marriage Therapist