Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Rambam on Marraige

When we think about parenting, we don't always think about marriage.  But I believe that at the core of every new human being are the two people who created that life.  Does it always have to be that way, absolutely not.  Sometimes it's just not to be that the people who created life will raise up that child.  But I still think that one of the most important things that we can do for our children is prioritize our marriages.

It's interesting to me, because one of the core beliefs in Judaism is that it's critical to have children (the first of the 613 mitzvot: Be fruitful and multiply) but, as we all know, first comes love then comes marriage then comes the baby in the baby carriage.

After I shared last week about how difficult it's been to be a solo parent I don't think I gave enough voice to how hard it is to be without your spouse.  I got married because I wanted to be with my husband.  To form a bond with him of the highest sense- to fuse our souls together as one.  But it's not always easy.

Rambam gives us some interesting thoughts on marriage:

Our Sages commanded that a man honor his wife more than his own person, and love her as he loves his own person. If he has financial resources, he should offer her benefits in accordance with his resources. He should not cast a superfluous measure of fear over her. He should talk with her gently, being neither sad nor angry.
And similarly, they commanded a woman to honor her husband exceedingly and to be in awe of him. She should carry out all her deeds according to his directives, considering him to be an officer or a king. She should follow the desires of his heart and shun everything that he disdains.

This is the custom of holy and pure Jewish women and men in their marriages. And these ways will make their marriage pleasant and praiseworthy.

Now, these phrases are caught up in  a lot of text about having babies, getting divorced, and letting your husband have his way with you, but I think these portions have a place in everyone's life. 

It can often seem a burden to relate to your spouse in the best way possible. To give them the respect you know they deserve, because you also know that their job is to love you anyways. That you have been nice to the gardener, the mail man, the grocer, the co-worker and your boss today and you don't have any niceness in you left for your kids let alone for your husband. 

But then we remember Shalom Bayit (peace in the home) and we remember that we alone can change our fate.  We are in charge of our own actions and our own happiness.  I can choose to see the glass half empty or half full.  Heck, I can just add more water!

It's giving our spouses respect that can add water to the well. 

My mom used to tell me about the Well of Goodwill that each person has for another.  Ironically your well of goodwill is most full with an absolute stranger you see on the street.  You've just drilled a new hole in the ground for them and they've yet to do anything to take the water out.  With your spouses, however, your well is a constantly shifting experience. 

Today he brought you flowers and added some water.  But later he left his dirty socks on the clean laundry and dropped that bucket of water all over the floor. 

If we think of filling our well by showing respect to our spouses we need not worry about love.  Through our respectful actions, thoughts and care we will inherently add both water in our well and love in our hearts.

Rambam gives us a foundation for understanding that love is not the end all be all of a relationship.  We all know that there are moments in our lives when we don't feel love at all- we feel disappointment, anger, resentment and a whole host of other feelings.  But honor and respect are more than just feelings- they are actions.  They are the way we honestly and truly love our spouse for them self.

What is love at it's base?  A feeling that I have for you.  It has nothing to do with you.  How often have we seen people in love with someone who doesn't feel the same for them?  My classic example right now is Sheldon and Amy from the Big Bang Theory.  She loves him, but he barely thinks about his emotions at all.  When I love you I'm feeling something inside of me, not really something about you.

But honor and respect are ways that I interact with valuing you.  They show you that I care about you on a deeper and more fundamental level than my self-love. 

Beyond respect and honor Rambam gives us some truth about me being from Mars and Women from Venus.  He clearly tells us that a woman wants to be shown her love through actions (accordance to his means) and words (talk with her gently).  She wants to think that she is the most important thing in the world (honor her more, love him as himself)

While a man needs to be shown his respect by being seen as competent and capable of making decisions (according to his directives) and that he needs to be validated in her world (shun everything he disdains). 

While Working Dad and are in this separation and in this melting pot of stress and trouble I can see only to clearly how much Rambam knows.  I am constantly telling him that I want him to prioritize us over the weekends, that I want to see his love and hear his thoughts.  He is constantly feeling like he has to make all these decisions and be on top of everything for fear that it might all fall apart.

But if we can find a way to come back to the beginning.  Back to the respect we all deserve then our marriage's foundation will go from fragile sand to hard cement.  If we can think with our minds not that the well is full or empty, but that we can constantly be adding water to it then I know we will all be alright.

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