On Monday evening, April 27, Emet hosted an informative, inspiring, live-stream shiur by Rebbetzin Devorah Kigel attended by over 100 women. She shared practical hands-on ideas to help couples with shalom bayis while in quarantine. She called it practical tips for surviving and thriving. She began by stating that “the best way to deal with this challenge is to really live in the moment as much as possible.”
She first reviewed some key points from her previous Emet shiur, which included the following:
1) Get some movement every day. Do some sort of exercise. She noted that her gym is online so she can do exercise that way. Exercise is essential for our emotional well-being.
2) Get outside and drink in the fresh air and bask in the sunshine.
3) Don’t watch the news. There is too much doom and gloom. It’s really not healthy to be sucked into all of that. News channels are biased. Watching it can cause more fear and anxiety, and we know that fear and stress lower our immune system.
4) After experiencing this plague, we should be better than before. Our grandchildren will want to know what you did during the coronavirus. We should have something meaningful to tell them. Baruch Hashem, there are so many shiurim online and T’hilim conference calls, and it’s a time to work on bonding with family members. She noted that now she has family dinners every night, which is a novelty.
She encouraged the audience: “If you are holding yourself together right now, you are getting a big merit in Shamayim.” She imparted that it’s normal to get into little quarrels with your husband and children. We are all in such close quarters for such an extended period of time. Those of you in small apartments with little children win the lottery in Shamayim.” She shared how right now she has so much respect for mothers with young children. “Please give yourself credit.” She stated, “This is war with an unseen enemy.” We have never dealt with anything like this before. “The fact that we are parenting and getting through the day, these are great things.” She added, “Over 100 women learning Torah tonight – that’s awesome!”
She then continued with some ideas to help our shalom bayis during this challenging time. I want to feel that I used this opportunity to become a better person. Maybe I will focus more on t’filah or learning or parenting, etc. First, she taught to refrain from being too critical. Typically, you don’t spend so much time with your husband during the week. Now you are together all day unless your husband is (or you are) a medical responder. She added our gratitude – and our great respect – for the medical responders. “Right now, it’s very normal that you may grate on one another’s nerves.” It is not a sign of anything bad in your relationship. Give your husband a break. He is not used to being home so much. He is trying to do tasks at home that he usually performs out of the house. We are generally more used to doing more things at home. “It’s a challenge for a man to be home all day.” We want to verbalize this. You have to have compassion on him. “You must miss your shul, your yeshivah, your chavrusa in person, your job, etc.” Try not to be too critical. Try to compliment him for positives.
She emphasized that it is important to ask for help when you need it. “A man loves to feel needed by his wife.” Ask for help in a pleasant, sweet way. If you need to criticize, use the Oreo cookie method: Sandwich your request (said pleasantly, like the cream) between praise and thank you. It’s the same order when we make requests to Hashem. The davening order is praise, request, and thank you.
Don’t take him for granted. It is easier to do this when we see each other every day, all day long. She lamented how now it is difficult to do the usual date night activities. All restaurants are closed and hotels, etc., but we still need to set aside time to be together with our spouse. Daven for good weather, she quipped. Then you can go to a park and make a picnic or take a walk together or go on the porch or in the backyard to be with each other. “Make sure you have husband-and-wife time.” This is really challenging right now, but it’s important. It’s important for kids to see that Mommy and Daddy are more than just parents. The model of marriage that our children see is what they will bring to their own marriages. “Kids watch everything. It’s a great message for your kids that Mommy and Daddy need time alone with each other.” Go to the attic or backyard.
Next, she stressed that it’s important not to be dismissive or disrespectful. She quoted the work of a psychologist who shared that the most important criterion that indicates the couple will divorce is contempt. Never show contempt for your spouse in your facial expression or any other way. We need to think how we judge ourselves and judge our spouse accordingly. This is how you love your neighbor as yourself. “Judge your husband and your children as you judge yourself.” She emphasized, “Do not disrespect your husband in front of your children. This is a terrible model for your children.”
Also, don’t keep score. Don’t say I washed the dishes this many times and you did it this many, etc. “Ask directly and sweetly for what you need.” Don’t assume he is doing what he is doing on purpose. The average husband wants to make his wife happy. Sometimes he fails in the execution of his good intentions. We need to focus on his good intentions. Also, with children and with your spouse, it’s important to choose your battles. “Now, we need to be more sparing in battles because we are around each other so much.”
She then shared a teaching of the Chofetz Chaim. Whenever we are m’vater, we are forgiven for our sins, even those we did on purpose. She noted how, in a job, when we need to speak with a boss or colleague, we put a lot of thought into what we will say. This idea of thinking before speaking is so important, especially with our spouse and children. “Be careful how you speak to your husband.” Do not expect him to be a mind-reader. “Spell it out in a nice, sweet, direct way.” Also, nagging has never worked in the history of the world.” Davening is much more effective than nagging. On a daily basis, ask Hashem for what you need in your marriage. Davening was a main point that Rebbetzin Kigel stressed. Talk to Hashem: “You, Hashem, are the third partner in our shalom bayis. Please help me to say things respectfully. Please help us to have an awesome intimate life. Please help me not to criticize.” Daven for your husband’s health and hatzlachah.
When your husband does something, give him credit. “Most men just want a thank you. They don’t need a whole parade. They want a sign of appreciation that you noticed.”
She added, “More than coronavirus, gratitude is contagious. Work on creating a home based on gratitude.”
This beautiful shiur was followed with a question-and-answer session.
By Susie Garber