Jewish Valentine tips: How to speak kindness with your spouse

According to Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, many women feel their husbands are shutting them out of their lives.

Tel Aviv City Hall on a special display for Jewish Holiday of Love  (photo credit: KOBI RICHTER/TPS)
Tel Aviv City Hall on a special display for Jewish Holiday of Love
(photo credit: KOBI RICHTER/TPS)
What destroys a relationship? According to John Gottman’s 1999 book The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, contempt can destroy a relationship in the blink of an eye. Contempt, he explains, is something a person simply cannot bear. One way in which people show contempt, he suggests, is when they correct the grammar or word-choices of the other person during a fight, which rarely brings about a positive ending to the argument.
Gottman based his book on videotaping couples over decades, assuming (correctly) some would separate and so watching their tapes would provide clues as to what not to do. 
 
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach thinks that silence is just as bad as contempt. When men don’t speak with their wives, he claims, that causes their wives a great deal of pain.

But why don’t men talk? Well, the Rabbi lists 10 possible reasons.
The men might feel like they are not making enough money or lack in other ways, which makes them feel like failures. Some men, upon reaching their middle years and realising they have not become as successful as, for example, actor George Clooney, feel a great deal of pain as a result.
Sadly, these men might flee to a fantasy world of porn watching or endlessly discussing sports or business. Much like the fictional character Tevye the Dairyman by Sholem Aleichem, who often exclaims to the writer with whom he tells his tales: “Tevye isn’t a woman!’
Even when his wife wishes to discuss with him her approaching death, he retracts under this banner to speak about other things.
Some men, the Rabbi claims, are trained not to feel. Others view their manhood only in terms of being able to provide, to fix things around the house, or hand our grocery money to their spouses.
Other men might feel more comfortable with watching things or doing things, such as fishing or playing cards, and expect their wife to function as a sort of fishing buddy. When they talk, he suggests in his seventh reason, they like to talk about things that can be mastered and agreed upon. Sports and politics are good topics, not how they felt last week.
Some men feel so bad about who they are, they think their wives must be “loser squared,” for having married them. And who wants to speak with an even bigger loser?
The desire for action and so called “objective” fixes can also mean a man will see sexuality as a solution to a problem. Meaning, if sex was had after a disagreement, the problem, whatever it was, had been solved.
Reason nine might seem surprising: it is the cardinal sin of laziness.
And the final reason hands some of the blame to the wife: the conversations are predictable, boring. Two adults who shared so much woke up after years of living together to find they have nothing to say to each other.
What then, can be done?
Gottman suggests the concept of a Love Map, an ever changing effort to discover where you and your partner agree, and disagree, and are willing to change and revise as the years go by. 
Boteach says that, sadly, there are no easy fixes. Just like you can't solve a deep relationship issue by hopping into bed, you can’t really fix a faulty pavement by pouring cement into the crack. It’s best to dig it out and redo the whole thing correctly.
He advises men try to look at their wives with fresh eyes. “Wives are surrounded by men who flirt with them at work,” he says, “if only he [the husband] were to engage her as a woman and not as a wife, the sparks would fly.”
Boteach wrote the 1999 best selling book Kosher Sex. Since then, he has attempted to bring the insights of Jewish civilization into love and family life to the greater world. His values network is just such an attempt to bring Jewish information to the larger, non-Jewish world.
He wrote 30 books after Kosher Sex, including the 2012 book Kosher Jesus about the Jewish legacy of the figure which shaped Western Civilization, and two books about his friendship with the late singer and pop-star Michael Jackson.


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