April 8, 2024
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April 8, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Last week I said that I would talk about how to get through the sometimes terrible aspects of marriage, while never giving up on the awe and wonder of it all. Is your marriage wonderful, perfect, amazing? Well, if it is, you are probably recently engaged or possibly recently married. (Because at that time, you simply don’t pay attention to the other person’s faults.) At any other time, it isn’t and it can’t be! You might be among the few who feel overwhelmed with gratitude for their marriage, not because you aren’t aware of your spouse’s faults, but because you aren’t paying attention to them! That is the secret of close to perfect relationships.

Twenty five years ago, Manis Friedman wrote a wonderful book entitled Doesn’t Anyone Blush Anymore? He mentions the story of a woman who committed adultery. She felt terribly guilty and was terrified to hear that if you commit adultery, you aren’t permitted to stay married to your husband and you’re not allowed to marry the person with whom you committed adultery. She didn’t know what to do! After much anguish, she finally decided to consult with a rabbi.

Following much hemming and hawing, she finally exposed herself. “Rabbi, what should I do? I committed adultery?!”

The rabbi thought for a few moments and said, “I have to think about it. Come back tomorrow.”

She came back the next day and asked what the rabbi thought she could/should do.

The rabbi seemed surprised and said “About what?”

She was very upset, but answered, “About what I told you yesterday.” She told him the same sorry again.

He said, “I’m sorry I didn’t remember.” And he said again he needs to think about it and that she should return the next day.

She kept telling her story; he kept forgetting! The moral of the story is that sometimes a rabbi needs to behave like a husband. And that in fact is the halacha, don’t believe it, FORGET IT– it’s like it didn’t happen. And even though that may sound crazy, that is precisely what people need to do to maintain wonderful marriages. Don’t pay attention to your spouse’s imperfections (unless they are threatening or dangerous.) Don’t notice them and don’t see them. When you are overwhelmed with the question, “Why isn’t my husband/wife a better person?” ask their parents, ask their teachers, ask their friends, and they will say, “Because that’s who s/he is!” And that is indeed WHO YOUR HUSBAND/ WIFE IS!

For many years, my wife was upset with the fact that I sometimes seemed lazy or that I “forgot” about things that I didn’t want to remember, or that I am far less neat than she is, or many other things. She couldn’t accept my faults (and indeed, who can accept anyone else’s faults?) The answer to that is anyone who truly loves another person not only can accept the other person’s faults, but learns to not look at them, to not pay attention to them, to not see them.

And that is true even in the most important and ultimate areas of the spiritual! Is your spouse not learning as much as he (she) should? Is s/he davening less (or not at all!)? What about their bein adam L’chaveiro behavior? Do they act inappropriately with people, or some people? Are they selfish or into self-destructive behavior? Are they sometimes self-centered or downright mean? What about their business ethics? Is it questionable, highly questionable, or clearly illegal? Indeed, what do you do when you become aware of terrible behavior in your spouse?

The first answer is it’s not your issue. It is between that person and Hakadosh Baruch Hu. S/he will ultimately deal with whatever happens and will be held responsible before God. It is not your responsibility to make anyone good, honest, or just. It IS your responsibility to act in a way that will hopefully encourage people to improve their behavior, even if they don’t do so for a long time or ever. And if you think about it, what about YOUR own imperfections or downright terrible behavior? Of course you’re thinking “my issues are small, but my spouse’s are TERRIBLE!” Who are you to judge? Ultimately only the judge of all living beings can judge, and I have a feeling that the judgment will be kind, caring, and loving–something that mere people can’t possibly do.

The most difficult question is, of course, what if his/her behavior is or will have a very destructive impact on me, our children, or others? You need to carefully think about whether and how the behavior in question can or will impact you or others. If it will be very upsetting, but you could possibly live with it, then don’t look at it, stop thinking about it, and go on. And if you’re not sure, consult with your rav. Then don’t look at it, or, leave if you absolutely must and your life will be better than it is, even though terrible, if you do. If it will be worse or equally bad, then DON’T LOOK AT IT and go on to make your life and marriage the best that it can be.

I know that the last part of today’s article raises a lot of difficult areas. We will deal with some of them over the weeks and months to come.

Please feel free to contact me regarding this (or any) topic. You can do so anonymously by writing to [email protected]. Dr. Glick was a clinical psychologist in private practice for 35 years as well as the rabbi of Congregation Ahavat Yisrael in Montreal. If you would like to submit a question, or contact him for an appointment, he can be reached [email protected] or by calling him at 201-983-1532.

By Rabbi Dr. Mordechai Glick

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