BUILDING BRIDGES OF LOVE
Rabbi Noach Orlowek
The basic building block for marriage is love. The love you create will affect the health of your children, too.
You will love someone whom you feel loves you. A child feels love when his parents care for him, and he'll naturally love them back. We feel love when someone demonstrates his or her care and gives to us.
How does one give love? Make an extra effort to listen and to understand. Concentrate and give feedback. For example, a husband should give his wife 15 minutes of headspace each day -- without solutions. Just attentive listening. A wife needs to know that you trust her. Just gently saying, "It's okay, you don't have to explain, I trust you," will create a warmer bond.
Accepting the feelings of a partner doesn't necessarily imply you agree with them. When they sense you are paying attention to their feelings, then your caring allows you to speak up and disagree, if need be. In such a case, your own feelings and needs will be better heard. And perhaps, if you allow your partner to talk, they may have a change of mind. It's a healthy exchange which will help you both.
Not everyone finds it so easy to talk, as one therapist in Jerusalem calls it, "constipation of the mouth". Men frequently have a more difficult time expressing their feelings, and women sometimes understand a man's condition is chronic. My advice to women on how to overcome this malady is: capture a feeling or memory of what he said in appreciation once before. And when you need to jog that feeling in him again, pull it out of the freezer and remind him of it!
Above all, there has to be respect for your partner, and respect for their feelings. Respect can be defined as: "What you say is important to me." (Or... "You have permanent space on my hard-drive!")
Tell your spouse you love him/her, show him/her that you care. Love feeds on love, and the more love you give, the more it bounces back.
WHAT IS A HOME?
Jewish tradition understands that love creates a home. In Hebrew, the word for "home" is "bayit," which is closely related to the letter "bet." This letter is shaped in the form of two parallel lines, joined by a third perpendicular line. Symbolically, this teaches that a home is formed by two people, each with their own individuality, who join together on mutual terrain. Their goal is to spend the rest of their lives together, creating a warm, happy, safe environment.
Of course, they are still two individuals, with different tastes and different attitudes. Trying to make your partner be more like you is a recipe for a bitter dish. Those very differences are what make a marriage strong. One person may be shy, and has a hard time connecting with others, while the partner may be the outgoing, gregarious type. One may be a good in business, while the other is more of a people-person. Each one brings to the marriage what the other lacks, and the marriage grows on the strengths of each.
That's why it is important to constantly acknowledge your spouse. Tell him or her (and tell it to others): "I couldn't do what I'm doing without your love, help and support."
If you can love yourself, and recognize your own goodness, then you can turn that focus on someone else's goodness as well.
BUILDING BRIDGES WITH CHILDREN
We have so many problems with children today. They're unhappy, defensive, and argue with their parents. Why?
One answer is because children are growing up in an unhappy world.
There is tension and stress everywhere, and more often than not it manifests itself in the home.
The center of a child's world is the home. He is acutely focused on how his parents communicate, and how they treat each other. This observation forms the basis of his interpersonal skills. Have you ever noticed how a child repeats his parents' words in exactly the same tone?
The lesson is simple and profound: By building a better relationship with your spouse, you can make the world a happier place for your children.
In a more direct way, you can connect with your children with small gestures of attention, affection and appreciation. You can touch their heart by simply saying, "I love you," and "thank you."
Use precise language, and say exactly what you mean to say. The child will sense that he must listen carefully, it's serious, and you mean it.
Another important rule: Never make a promise you may not be able to keep. A child learns to distrust by broken promises. If you agreed to do something, be true to it. And if a conflict of needs arises, compromise.
THE THREE A'S
One more lesson: Though our spouse and children may not be perfect, we have to focus on the positive. It is easy to appreciate the luxuries in life, but not the necessities. When someone gives you something you feel entitled to -- food, salary, etc. -- it doesn't engender a sense of love. "I'm supposed to get those things."
But when someone gives you books, flowers, or his wholehearted attention, you feel loved. The more things in life you consider to be luxuries, the more opportunities you have to feel loved.
Bottom line is the Three-A's of marital harmony: Attention, Affection, and Appreciation.
- Attention means respect and listening: "I care about what you think and feel. It's very important to me."
- Affection is caring with unconditional love. After all, marrying someone is basically trusting them with your life.
- Appreciation is noticing what's good, what's right -- and verbalizing it.
Practice the Three-A's daily, and you are guaranteed a closer marriage, a more stable home, and happier, healthier children.