On Monday evening, July 21, Rebbetzin Devorah Kigel, well-known speaker, shared a life-changing virtual shiur on behalf of Emet Outreach.
She pointed out that “just because you picked the right person, that doesn’t mean you will live a life of constant bliss. Marriage is a lot of work, even when you married the right person!”
We want our marriage to be filled with love, appreciation, and respect. Some of the many books on marriage that she recommends include those by Alison Armstrong and John Gottman, and The Committed Marriage by Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis. She pointed out that life is about growth. The reason we are here is to fix our character traits. “Marriage is the best Petri dish for working on your negative traits.”
She shared John Gottman’s love lab concept. He can observe a couple and then, with very high accuracy, predict if they will divorce. He listed some signs that things are not going well. If someone ignores a bid for connection, fails to accept influence from a mentor or someone else, displays the Four Horsemen communication behaviors (Criticism, Contempt, Defensiveness, and Stonewalling) – which means total shutdown, blocking the other person out – these are the things we want to avoid in any relationship.
When looking for a marriage partner, there are two important characteristics to look for, and they are a good heart and someone who is growth-oriented. You want to marry someone who is willing to seek advice from his/her rabbi, mentor, or spouse.
We see the danger of not taking responsibility in the beginning of the Torah, when Adam blames “the woman You gave me.” It was his responsibility to be a good influence on his wife. He blamed his wife and didn’t take responsibility and, in addition, he showed a lack of gratitude to Hashem for the gift He had given him. If a person is unwilling to take responsibility for what he or she did, then this is a big problem.
She noted that from Tish’ah B’Av until Rosh HaShanah is the time to fix relationships. She shared how it is a great thing to be embarrassed between now and Rosh HaShanah if you don’t answer back. According to the Gemara in Rosh HaShanah, when we forgive others, Hashem forgives us.
You need to say to yourself that this person is doing the best that she can with the limited tools she possesses. I am fortunate that I don’t have that problem. I am going to let it go and forgive her. Then you have power with your words to give a blessing to someone and this is particularly in the area of fertility. You refrained from destruction, so the reward is creation.
Rebbetzin Kigel noted that you want most of your statements to your children to be positive. Telling your child to put his shoes away is not a positive statement. “We want to make the ratio of positive interactions with our spouse far outweigh negative ones.” There should be a four-to-one ratio of positive statements to negatives for our children, says Rebbetzin Spetner, a famous parenting expert in Israel. We should be careful to have an even higher ratio of positive statements for our spouse.
She spoke about the shalom bayis bank account, which begins the first year of marriage. You want to make many deposits before you make withdrawals. Deposits are statements of affection and appreciation and date nights. Constructive criticism is a withdrawal. We need to make regular deposits into our shalom bayis account with few withdrawals. We need to be very sparing with criticism.
We need to view our marriage as a team. We are one neshamah as our souls were sewed together. We repent before our wedding, and we are forgiven for all our sins because now we are going to be a brand-new creation.
She pointed out how business success depends on work as a team. The same thing applies to marriage. In marriage, the goal is shalom bayis, peace, and oneness. We need to think together as a team when there is a problem, and work on solving it together. The secular idea is each of us needs to give 50 percent. This means counting how many diapers you changed, etc. The Jewish idea is that you don’t count things like that. Each spouse gives100 percent. I need to look at myself and see what I can do better.
Before giving constructive criticism, you need to think the following: Do I need to say this? Will this thing bother me in a week or a month? Before doing it, go for a run or a walk. Maybe wait until the next day to see if it’s worth it still.
We can’t make an issue over everything. We have to choose our battles, so to speak. Before saying something, we need to think ahead, just as we would think carefully before addressing our boss at work. The Jewish idea is that the person you owe the most to, your husband, deserves the best treatment.
Also, before speaking to your spouse about something you want changed, always ask if this is a good time to speak. Watch your tone of voice and your facial expression. She shared the Oreo cookie idea. Start with praise, phrase your request in a sweet way like the sweet cream in the cookie, and then end with thank you. This is actually the way we daven to Hashem, she noted.
She gave some examples of how to phrase a request. “Is there any way that… It would make me so happy if…”
“We owe our husband so much!”
Rav Eliyahu Lopian taught that a woman holds the soul of her husband in the palm of her hand. She can lift him up. Think to yourself about your husband’s intentions when something happened. He has a good heart and he wasn’t plotting against you. It was an accident. He didn’t realize or he got distracted. Remember that he wants to make you happy. Judge him favorably.
“When we make our husband feel good about himself and constantly hold the vision of why we married him in the first place, this is an ayin tovah.”
We date with both eyes wide open in order to catch any red flags, etc. Under the chupah, we close one eye – to the minor flaws. We need to admit to ourselves that we have flaws, too, and that he is putting up with those. He has his eyes focused on my good qualities. I need to have gratitude for his putting up with me, and that is a ticket for shalom bayis.
There is no excuse for speaking disrespectfully to my husband. She gave a brachah to everyone to always be able to keep front and center the qualities that endeared this person to you in the first place.
She can be reached for dating and marriage coaching at www.devorahkigel.com.
Thank you, Rebbetzin Kigel, for this beautiful, useful shiur.
By Susie Garber