On Sunday evening, January 19, Dr. Jack Cohen, well-known speaker and dating and shalom bayis coach, spoke to a large crowd at Derech Etz HaChaim in Queens Village. The shiur was sponsored by Chazaq and Bat Melech.
He began by quoting his rebbe, Rav Avigdor Miller zt”l, who explained the teaching of Chazal that the way a person wants to go, Hashem will lead him. Basya had the desire to effect change in her life and go away from avodah zarah, so she merited to raise Moshe Rabbeinu. You have to go out of the way to get the education you need to become a better Jew. “We’re here tonight to learn how to be a better husband or wife.”
Rav Miller taught that your desire creates your reality. Every husband needs to decide: “I want to always honor my kallah, make her happy, and never hurt her.” This is desire.
Every wife should say: “I will try to make my husband happy, never be mean to him, or bother him for nothing, and won’t ask for too many things for me or the house.”
Dr. Cohen noted, “Marriage can be a source of life’s greatest joys and nachas, or it can be the root of much misery.”
Marriage provides constant opportunities to perform chesed, and to develop self-mastery and sensitivity. He taught: “Marriage is a laboratory to perfect yourself. Marriage teaches you how to deal with life.” He pointed out that a person becomes a tzadik by getting up after falling.
Dr. Cohen suggested that we should sit quietly for 30 seconds without saying anything. Many problems in marriage come when we snap at each other. We need the discipline to hold back and not talk. “Do this exercise. Train yourself not to react. Judaism is about training yourself.”
Most pain in marriage is caused by saying the wrong things, a negative look on your face, or doing things that are annoying or irritating. He explained that the 30-second quiet time will help with this. He pointed out that “we are in this world to deal with tests.”
He then posed a question. “Ask yourself: What I have done recently to give my husband (or wife) pleasure?” He taught that our job in this world is to give others pleasure, not pain.
He shared how a harmonious marriage is more valuable than the most beautiful furniture or paint job. “Harmony in the home makes the home beautiful.” He suggested to make a long list of things your husband or wife likes and to focus on doing those things.
Most pain that a husband or wife feels is caused because he or she wants or needs something and is not getting it, so they snap at each other. “We have to realize that no one in this world gets everything he wishes for. Stop thinking that the world owes you anything.”
Dr. Cohen shared that he trains people worldwide how to communicate. You have to ask for what you want in a way that your spouse will find it pleasant. People think that we should know instinctively what our spouse wants, but this is wrong. You have to communicate. He emphasized, “If you want something, ask for it in a gentle way.” We are a refined people. We need to act with dignity and speak politely to each other.
He went on to teach that negotiation plays a role in many areas of our lives. It is critical to have good negotiation skills. “Couples who don’t have good negotiation skills are likely to argue, fight, and cause each other pain.”
If a husband or wife has a stronger personality, this can lead to resentment and divorce. “If I calmly explain why I need something, and why it is important to me, this can lead to a yes.”
He noted how yelling is a terrible thing. It accomplishes nothing. It may bring immediate results, but it brings pain and a negative atmosphere. “We have to lower the volume.”
He shared the story of a man who, after two divorces, learned how to be a better spouse. He asked himself the question: How can I make my spouse feel good about complying with my request? He felt certain that if he had done this before, it would have prevented his divorces.
Dr. Cohen taught that if you want to change a pattern, you have to clarify the pattern you want to change. Determine what behavior I want to become. You have to practice and work on it. He tells people who are dating to practice smiling. He taught that if you didn’t have good role models in your own growing up, you can still find good role models in Shabbos hosts and rebbeim, and others in your life. It is a cop-out to say that you didn’t have good role models so that’s why you behave this way. Dr. Cohen shared that he loves to integrate other people’s good behavior into his behavior.
He told a story of how a man in a post office was able to convince a difficult person to stop smoking in the post office. He said to the smoker, “I’m sorry to inconvenience you. I’d greatly appreciate if you’d be so kind as to stop smoking…”
Speaking this way can be very effective in a marriage. The Torah prohibits causing pain with words. We are not allowed to insult others. We know that the tongue is more lethal than an atom bomb. “Spouses must be careful not to cause pain to each other with words.” People are sensitive. It is forbidden to put down or mock a spouse. Sarcasm is so evil that a sarcastic person has no place in the Next World. “Looking for faults and the negative is wrong.”
He added, “Don’t say, ‘I told you so.’” This is ego satisfaction at the expense of your spouse’s pain. Rushing someone is also hurtful. Criticism is bad. “Words can bring joy, gratitude, consolation, motivation, and inspiration. They can also cause pain, distress, or anger.”
He spoke about the role of the husband as giver of affection, money, etc., and the wife needs compliments from her husband. This is crucial. Find good ways to say things. Never tell someone that he or she is wrong. It puts the other person on the defensive. He shared that 99 percent of the divorces he sees are caused by the way spouses talk to each other. Patience is key. Do everything you can in order not to embarrass your spouse. Don’t publicize your spouse’s mistakes. Don’t criticize small mistakes. Let it go. For example, don’t criticize his or her grammar. Don’t say, “I’m not your father or your mother.” Don’t make them feel low. Don’t say everything that is in your mind.
Determine what is upsetting your spouse and work on eliminating bad habits. Don’t make comparisons. The worst thing you can do in life is to compare somebody to somebody else. All people are created in the image of Hashem with their own unique abilities and gifts. Dr. Cohen emphasized that “getting even doesn’t make you feel better. It makes you a low person.” We become worse people because this is anti-Torah behavior. You become elevated when you rise above embarrassment and shame. Dr. Cohen taught how to eliminate negative feelings. We have to realize that the person hurting us is not the one causing the pain. Hashem is doing this for our benefit. This strengthening of emunah will help us end anger. The cure for anger is knowing that Hashem is responsible for every event in our lives. All the people in our lives are messengers from Hashem. He spoke about the effect of your tone of voice on your spouse. “Tone of voice means a great deal to people.” We also communicate with facial expressions and the look in our eyes.
When he does dating coaching, Dr. Cohen focuses on micro-skills, which are nonverbal communication skills. He shared that you shouldn’t cross your hands against your chest and you should smile, for example.
Dr. Cohen recommended that people start learning books on emunah like The Garden of Emuna by Rabbi Shalom Arush or Living Emunah by Rabbi David Ashear.
This valuable shiur can be viewed on www.TorahAnytime.com.