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GIVING IN MARRIAGE
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GIVING IN MARRIAGE
Question - - 02/28/2013
Our marriage is going through a deep crisis. What can I do to save it?
Answer by Arachim
No two people are the same, and no two families are identical. Consequently, it's not possible to provide an answer specifically tailored to your circumstances, but there are a few general guidelines that may be of help to get you back on the right track.
I'd like to discuss one point in particular. In Judaism we call it "giving to others." Bringing benefit to others is of prime importance, together with helping others and kindness to one's fellow man. In Hebrew, we sum these up as acts of chessed. These values are the indication of a healthy, thriving society with high moral standards. The more stress a society places on giving to others, the higher its spiritual standard of living.
This principle applies to the individual as well. The more he is devoted to performing acts of chessed, to benefiting others, the higher his spiritual level of living.
Each day, life presents us with many opportunities to give to others, but none is so intense as the give-and-take that exists in a good marriage. Here, the quality of chessed is the basis for everything else. It determines the atmosphere in the home, the children's upbringing, and it weaves the fabric of the bond between husband and wife.
Many people mistakenly view marriage as a means to finding a more comfortable mode of living for themselves. They think that having a spouse means moving a notch or two up the social ladder, and knowing that someone will look after their needs.
While there is some truth in all these assumptions on a practical level, a successful marriage must be motivated not by the hope to gain, but by the wish to give. In order to develop their personalities to the fullest, both a husband and a wife need the opportunities for giving that marriage provides.
It is much more popular to look at marriage as a way of meeting one's needs than as a vehicle for giving, but this is a delusion. The Creator imbued man with the need to marry and to establish a family in order to perfect his character, not in order to make him comfortable in this world. In contrast to modern philosophy, Judaism does not lay prime stress on the rights of the woman or of the husband, although it does deal with these questions within the larger framework of the structure of the Jewish home.
However, a man's duties toward his wife, and her duties to him, are discussed in great detail.
Clearly, the fact that a husband has duties towards his wife necessarily implies that the wife is entitled to certain benefits, but the principle behind family life is similar to that of a business or a company in which each individual contributes according to his capabilities and in keeping with his responsibilities. This is the primary purpose of marriage, to give to one's spouse, to help him or her, and make his or her life more pleasant.
Difficulties arise in married life when each partner begins to place demands on the other spouse, and to measure whether he or she is receiving what he or she "has coming" to him or her. This leads to alienation, which often develops in a direction that places growing stress on the bond between husband and wife.
When either partner starts to look around outside the home and make comparisons, he inevitably concludes that the grass is greener elsewhere. This attitude is bound to place a blight on the harmony of the home.
With regard to your personal question, we cannot possibly determine the precise difficulties in your individual case, but we can make a suggestion which is universal advantageous:
If you are both sincerely interested in continuing your marriage, try to turn over a new leaf. A joint, determined decision to try to change the direction your marriage is heading can do wonders. Try to be more giving, more devoted to each other. Stop making comparisons as to who gives whom more, stop trying to determine who is at fault for the present situation. A new leaf means crossing out past "accounts due" and "debts." In short, you both must agree to erase the shadows cast on your lives by the past events.
Turning over a new leaf means looking toward the future, a future of giving, of getting up in the morning in order to make the life of your spouse sweeter and more pleasant, because your main goal in life is to give to him or her.
The happiness this attitude brings in its wake will bring harmony into your life and create a family unit that is united, and will bring you happiness for a length of days and years.
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