The name of the column is “Dating Today.” I get emails from those in their shanah rishonah asking for advice. The first year of marriage is the hardest because now two lives are blended into one. The “I” becomes “we” and all that other fun stuff. I can’t offer any advice to newlyweds, because the questions they ask are problem/shanah rishonah specific. They need to figure it out on their own, because there will be many more questions/issues/situations that need to be resolved and I won’t be there to help. The chasan and kallah learn the lessons together and grow while trying to navigate the ups and downs of the first year.
But I will write about something that singles and newlyweds ask me about. The question is worded similar to this: “Where’s the sweet guy/girl I fell in love with? I feel like I went from a prized possession to a regular old shoe lying on the floor. What happened?”
It’s been written many times and not just in this column, but I’ll type it again. Please be sure to pay close attention: Married life is nothing like dating. Even I suggested renting out apartments and children for an evening and have the date there: the kallah dealing with the kids, supper, and the laundry, while the chasan is on his phone either working, learning, or just scrolling, wondering why there’s so much chaos in his home. And let’s throw in a frantic call from a sister-in-law asking if you can FaceTime and look at the rash on her son’s back and try to diagnose if it’s an allergic reaction to something or poison ivy. That’s real life – not walks on the beach, carriage rides, dinner in fancy restaurants, and tours of museums every week. Don’t think that I gave the husband “nothing to do,” because he’s on his phone. Work and learning are important and maybe he doesn’t want to get in the way of his wife and doesn’t know where to offer help first.
Couples married a year or married 20 years schedule “date night” for a reason. Life gets busy. Between jobs, errands, extended family, school schedules, yamim tovim, etc., it may seem like you and your spouse only talk about picking up more laundry detergent or the kids. Date night is a way to reconnect and spend time with the person you fell in love with and chose to marry. Because many may think, “This person wasn’t the one I stood under the chupah with. I hardly know this person anymore...” But I’m not going to write about Date Night. Go look it up somewhere else. I’m here to write about something as important as date night: the way you express love to your spouse. Both spouses may think they have it mastered but haven’t if their spouse isn’t hearing or feeling the love. I recently attended a CE workshop about couples therapy, and love language was a main part of the program. Shanah rishonah couples and couples married 40 years can relate and learn a thing or two. There is lots to write about this topic, but I only have an allotted space, so I’ll give you the cliff notes.
Men and women communicate differently. We all know that. We’ve been told that since birth. Women like to think men know what they want, and men have no idea what women want unless they are specifically told. It’s not like the movies, where the man will surprise his partner with flowers or jewelry or trips to exotic vacations every week. He won’t know if you’re feeling down and need a shoulder to cry on unless you say it straight out. I was watching one of my favorite programs and a wife told her husband, “My love tank is empty.” The husband had no idea what she was talking about, “What? I tell you I love you every day.” The wife answered, “You say it, but you don’t do anything to show it.” The wife wanted small gestures from him to let her know he was still in love with her – no skywriting or sending a dozen roses to her at work. Apparently the “I love you’s” felt more like habit than a true declaration of love. She didn’t want to feel like part of the wallpaper or furniture.
Remember dating, when your husband held the door for you when you got into the car, or walked into a building, and remember he called when he said he was going to call, and the cute text messages he may have sent...? That may stop once the glass is broken, but it’s not because “I got her, so I don’t have to try anymore.” It’s because life really does take over.
I remember watching a video during the workshop where a husband and wife were interviewed. The wife complained because she cooks his favorite suppers, leaves love notes in his pants pocket some days, plans date nights...and she was upset that her husband wasn’t taking the time to do anything to make her feel special. The husband responded by saying he makes sure he takes care of his “Honey Do” list right away so there isn’t something that needs fixing. He remotely starts his wife’s car in the winter and summer, so the car isn’t too hot or cold when she gets in. He also said that when he sees his wife is tired at night, he won’t say anything about dishes in the sink, or laundry not being folded – he won’t wash the dishes or fold the laundry, but he won’t make a big deal about it. “I let her sleep, and when she’s awake, she’ll get to it. I don’t yell like other husbands.” The wife rolled her eyes regarding his way of communicating love and the husband took offense to it. He was doing the best he could, but she wanted him to try harder because she didn’t feel these were ways of expressing love. In this scenario, each was doing something to tell the other “I love you and you matter,” but the husband’ s messages were getting lost in translation. “Isn’t he supposed to fix stuff? I’m supposed to thank him for not asking me to wash the dishes when I’m tired from a whole day?” These weren’t ways of expressing love in her opinion. In his opinion, making sure things got done around the house right away and making sure her car was always ready for her was his way of communicating love. She said she didn’t need expensive presents, but even a little card with an “I love you” or a sweet message in it would be enough. Her husband said he wasn’t good at all the romantic “mushy” stuff. His wife had to realize that he is doing what he is able to do. If she wanted more, she should mention it. He’s feeling loved by her actions and thinks he is reciprocating, but she isn’t feeling loved. She’s feeling like a regular housewife.
No one is right or wrong in this scenario. The couple needs to talk and remind each other what they need to feel special or still loved. Yes, routine takes over, but we all have to make an adjustment in our daily routine to let our spouse know how much they mean to us. It can be filling up the gas tank or taking the car for an oil check or it can be making plans for date night. But you should let your spouse know that you are doing things because you want to help them out and want them to feel the love. A note, fixing a broken cabinet or picking up flowers or their favorite latte can go a very long way in filling up someone’s love tank. No one wants to think everything is fine when their spouse is feeling ignored and their love tank is empty.
The common thread I see in all of this is that open communication is necessary. You may think everything is okay and he/she “knows what I mean when I say _____,” but that’s not true. In most cases, the words must be said out loud, so the message is clear. Everyone knows what it takes for them to feel loved; it could be as simple as your spouse saying, “I love you.” Don’t just think that your spouse knows you love him/her. Some people need simple words, and others need presents/gestures. For you to know if your partner’s love tank is full or empty is by discussing what makes them feel loved. This isn’t a conversation you need to have every week or month, but at least once a year. You wouldn’t want your spouse hurt because you didn’t realize that you didn’t do something that would have meant the world to him/her. (But it can also be as simple as saying “I love you.”)
Hatzlachah to you all.
Goldy Krantz is an LMSW and a lifelong Queens resident, guest lecturer, and author of the shidduch dating book, The Best of My Worst and children’s book Where Has Zaidy Gone?