We take it as a given that in the course of interactions between any two people, each acts out of self-interest. So, too, within the family circle, is each individual motivated by self-interest when interacting with the others. If one spouse is upset that the other entered the marriage only in order to satisfy his own personal interests, let him examine closely just what brought him or her to take the same step. Each one entered the marriage because it appeared to be worth his while. Before choosing a life-mate, a person asks himself: “Is this an individual who can meet my emotional and physical needs? Can he or she provide the atmosphere I need in my home? ”
When a person is about to marry, he does not ask himself what his potential mate will gain from the match, but rather, what he himself will gain. If he does consider what the other side stands to gain from the marriage, it is not out of pure altruism. Rather, he is motivated by an awareness of the fact that he will not be comfortable in a marriage in which he has nothing to offer his mate.
There is no denying that this is the thought pattern of each of us when looking for a mate. If we are honest with ourselves, we will discover that, ultimately, all of our actions are determined by self-interest. It should come as no surprise, then, to discover that the same is true of our spouse's decision when choosing a mate.
This established, let us stop a minute and imagine that we need to ask the clerk in the bank to do us a favor. How would we approach the gentleman sitting behind the counter? Surely we would word our request as just that – a request – and not as a demand. It would be totally out of place to step forward and say: “Do this!” or “Don't forget to do that!” Instead, we might open with something like: “Could I ask you to do me a favor?”or “Do you think you could help me with something?”
Why should there be any difference when we ask a favor of our spouse? In this case, no less than in the bank, we need to motivate the other person to want to come to our assistance. If we do so, the chances are that most of the time, our requests will be met with willing acquiescence. Many couples make a serious mistake in this matter. When one of them needs to borrow something from a neighbor, or to ask a favor, his request will be politely couched in gentler terms than when making a similar request from his spouse.
Let us consider the next step. When a wife complies with her husband's request, he takes it as a matter of course.“That's what I married her for!” he will tell you. Similarly, the wife may view her husband's efforts to meet his obligations toward her in a similar vein, and fail to express her appreciation.
The journalist, Dorthy Dix, summed up the prevailing situation succinctly: “It is interesting that we tend to say the most insulting things to those who are closest to us.”
There are three levels on which a person interacts socially with others. As a child, his primary interactions are with his parents. When he is somewhat older, his world expands to include siblings, the extended family, school mates and, eventually, the world at large. Finally, when he marries, his world expands to include his wife and his children.
From the moment he is born, a child's parents look after all his needs. The newborn does not submit a request for a diaper change or a feeding. His parents are on call, day and night, anxiously anticipating his needs and to meeting them fully. Even when it is difficult for them, when they are weary, or when they are struggling to make ends meet, they take pleasure in giving to their child.
When the child grows up and matures, he becomes a member of society. Now he must work for a living. Only by the sweat of his brow can he meet his needs and fill his desires. For the adult, there are no hand-outs
The first stage, that of the child in the care of his parents, is far more influential in molding the person's character. It is this period which will leave its stamp on his personality and determine to a large degree how he or she will relate to the spouse in marriage. It will also deeply affect this idea of what to expect from marriage when he establishes his own home. He anticipates that the relationship between himself and his wife will approximate what he observed between his own parents, and not his own relationship to those who populate his environment as an adult. He would like to revert to the period of his childhood, when, as a matter of course, all his needs were met by loving parents who made no demands on him.
The fact of the matter is that marriage resembles his later situation, that vis-a-vis society, far more than the situation of a child in a warm, loving home. A husband or wife who is not aware of the distinction is likely to be sorely disappointed in marriage. When his spouse fails to meet the standards established years ago by his parents, he will consider the match a failure.
In many homes, husband and wife do not address each other with respect. Their tone resembles a command more than a request. If they were to keep in mind that their spouse is no less self-centered than they themselves, they would be more likely to preface each request appropriately: “Maybe you can... “or “It would be a big favor to me if you could...” In the same vein, after the spouse fills the request, it is important to express one's appreciation of the service rendered.
Unfortunately, most couples fall short in this area. They fail to take into account that it is only natural for a husband or wife to be concerned primarily with his or her own needs. If we do not meet our spouse's needs, we diminish substantially the chance that the spouse will be happy to meet our needs.
Outside the home, when Tom's interests conflict with Jerry's, the relationship can merely be terminated; each one will then look for someone else to meet his needs. If Tom can no longer provide shopping bags that meet Jerry's specifications and price, Jerry will look for another supplier. The market is wide open. There are no emotional repercussions, neither for Tom nor for Jerry.
Within the home, the situation is very different. When such a conflict of interests occurs, one family member will be left with a feeling of disappointment and emptiness. Even so, he or she must continue to cook dinner or take out the garbage or pay the monthly bills, even if he or she resents the demands being made of him or her, because of the lack of commensurate cooperation in meeting his or her own requests.
The discussion above leads us to the conclusion that in order to achieve a warm, harmonious relationship between them, a couple should persist in working toward the spiritual values upon which they wish to base their home. A shared goal will point the way to the right path in life and imbue the otherwise mundane tasks in life with purpose and significance.
A couple with a system of values will conduct their lives on a higher plane. A burnt omelet won't become a major issue, nor a glass that falls and breaks. What is important to them? Matters on a higher plane. The common bond that they share touches the essence of their life and endows it with meaning that permeates even the routine actions of day-to-day living. They will discover spiritual significance which infuses their home with refinement and warmth, sweetness and a desire to achieve more and more. It takes only a small grain of spirituality to make the buds sprout and blossom into beautiful flowers whose delightful fragrance permeates every room of their home. It is this small, potent seed of moral values which lends the home a touch of eternity and defines the path to a state of true happiness.
In Judaism, the bond between husband and wife is called “nissu'in”, a term which derives from the word for elevating, or lifting on high. The significance of this concept is that entering into marriage elevates both husband and wife to a higher status in life. The marriage ceremony itself is called “Kiddushin” or “Sanctification.” This, too, alludes to elevation to a more lofty role in life as husband and wife.
Entering into marriage is the most noble step a man can take in life. It is a moment of truth for the bride, as well. Within the parameters of their new home, the bride and groom are given a “territory” of their own, a territory they are challenged to sanctify by implementing within its walls the values and ideals they hold in common. A sure matrimony encapsulates the entire range of human relationships: patience, kindness, politeness, understanding, resourcefulness, consideration for each other, restraint and self-control. Each of these is an essential foundation stone on which the couple build a happy and successful home.
Freedom is the epitome of the life shared between husband and wife. In the ideal marriage, both husband and wife enjoy the maximum freedom to grow and achieve their full potential together. The home they build together shelters them both from outside interference or restrictions. They are granted the opportunity to advance, to develop one's character and to channel one's talents in the right direction. Together with the blessing of opportunity, comes the obligation to make use of the new potential for spiritual advancement.
The marriage ceremony is only the first step toward matrimony. It allows the couple to begin their new, joint enterprise together, as husband and wife. Together they set out to build a bond between them, and, hand in hand, march forward in life.
Singing, dancing, and celebrating the wedding ceremony apart, it is important for the new couple to keep in mind that they are now only starting out on their joint project of constructing their new identity as a “We”, rather than two “I's”. As they advance toward their destination, they will gain maturity and new insights into human nature.
The marriage ceremony has transformed two separate identities into a single new unit, the family. They now must learn to consider themselves one, and to act in unison, if they hope to reach their goal of achieving a happy marriage. Only in this manner will their happiness continue to grow and to produce rich fruits.
Marriage is the supreme test for both husband and wife. Their interdependence and intimacy demand a speedy and stable adjustment to their new situation in life. To successfully meet the many challenges of marriage, the couple must efficiently harness all their energies and talents, both intellectual and emotional, to realize their goal of building a new home together. One essential ingredient of a successful marriage is the contribution of each spouse's unique personality. Nothing depresses a person so much as the blurring or loss of his identity as a unique individual, which dulls a person's inherent creativity. The new bond must incorporate the talents of both husband and wife. In this way, each will complement the other in building their home and family.
It is not healthy for the wife to become masculinized any more than it is wise for the husband to become feminine in character. In a healthy marriage, each member develops those talents which are unique to him, whether physical, emotional, or intellectual, and uses them to contribute to building an ideal home.