Building a happy marriage

A valuable manual for those pre-marriage, long-marrieds to find help

THE WEDDING is great, but in real life getting to ‘happily ever after’ is not always easy.  (Pictured: A newly wed couple outside a Moscow marriage registration palace) (photo credit: REUTERS)
THE WEDDING is great, but in real life getting to ‘happily ever after’ is not always easy. (Pictured: A newly wed couple outside a Moscow marriage registration palace)
(photo credit: REUTERS)
With the divorce rate in the Western world close to 50% and marriage rates dropping – and divorces expected to spike with all the coronavirus togetherness – this book is indeed timely and of the utmost value.
The relationship of marriage is unique, and therefore requires a set of skills different from those we employ in other aspects of our life.
Rabbi Moshe Berliner, who lives in Jerusalem, co-founded the Netivot Institute for Family Therapy in 1986 and is still its director. He has had over 30 years experience in marital counseling, and this remarkable book seems to cover all the challenges couples face, with solutions to improve and enrich married life.
There are 13 chapters which embrace marital responsibility, loyalty and power; harmful and constructive approaches to the conflicts in marriage; decisions that can make or break the relationship; emotions; intimacy; disappointments; criticism; actions and reactions – the whole gamut of what all couples face at some time. It is both a preparation for marriage for singles and a source of wisdom and knowledge for those who may be facing crises after years of living together. For it is only in fairy tales that the ending is: “they married and lived happily ever after.”
It would be impossible in this book review to cover the scope of Berliner’s suggestions and expertise for enriching one’s marriage, but I learned something on virtually every page. It is written from the Jewish and religious perspective, but the advice is also relevant to secular couples.
In Chapter 10 “On Love and Loving,” the elements are described that weaken the bond between the couple. The most devastating element is indifference, taking your partner for granted. “Indifference is the antithesis of love because the essence of love is to feel a deep, affectionate connection.” It destroys the foundation of marriage. A second element is misuse of power – love cannot exist where there is coercion, where one spouse continually exerts control over their partner. The third element is judging, which creates alienation and implies that he/she is superior, leaving the partner vulnerable and exposed.
In the chapter on “Criticism,” there is very helpful advice on how to turn a complaint into a request for change.
A marriage is described as being in crisis when both spouses experience grievous pain and a sense of failure. Yet the author states that at precisely such a time, a unique opportunity exists to rebuild the relationship on the basis of readjusting their dreams to their new reality and learning to express their aspirations within the realistic content of the marriage.
Somewhere in this book, I believe, every couple will find a reference to difficulties they have experienced at some time in their own marriage, and a different way of handling them to heal, instead of further hurt, the relationship.
This is a very valuable manual wherein those contemplating marriage, and even those long married, will find help and consolation in the day-to-day problems that beset us all.
The writer, who has lived in Jerusalem for 48 years, is the author of 14 books. [email protected]
TO BUILD AND TO BOND
By Rabbi Moshe Berliner
Mizrachi World Movement
257 pages; NIS 100