May 18, 2024
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Put Your Marriage First

A recent editorial in OU’s Jewish Action by its Executive Vice President Allen I. Fagin entitled, “Do We Have the Time and Energy to Lead a Torah Life,” illustrates a conundrum that many of us are silently, or not so silently, wondering. Fagin points out all of the spiritual and financial demands that come along with a Torah lifestyle. He estimates that an Orthodox family with four children will spend over $1 million, in after-tax dollars, to educate their kids before they get to college. As responsible adults, we want to provide for our families, but it is coming at a cost.

We are working harder, often longer hours and having less family time. The time we are home, is not always fulfilling as there is sometimes resentment from our spouse and a disconnect because of our general absence. This often leads us to want to work more and avoid being home as it can be the lesser of two evils.

What have we become? We are working so hard, not enjoying the fruits of our labors and suffering because of it. There is a better way. It is possible to have a thriving professional career that does not come at the expense of your family. That happens when you realize that the key to your financial success starts at home. While it may not always be possible to control the amount of time we spend with our family, we can impact the quality by working on creating a strong marriage. When that happens, we come more successful.

Here are three things you can do to make sure your relationship thrives despite the pressures of financial success:

1) Schedule a weekly date night—I know it does not sound too spontaneous but it is the consistency and commitment that create long-term success. The Gemara (Shabbos 31a) details that when a Jew stands before the Heavenly Tribunal to be judged, the first question he/she will be asked is “Kavata itim l’Torah,” did you set establish set times for Torah study. It does not ask how much you learned or the quality of your learning; rather if you set aside regular time to do so. Setting aside time for any endeavor on a consistent basis demonstrates that it is a priority. By scheduling a weekly date night to go out and have fun with your spouse, you are showing each other and your children that your relationship is a priority. This is especially important if you don’t spend much time at home. It shows your spouse that although you may be busy working long hours, there is one thing that is more important: your marriage. Making that sacred time will convey that message, curb resentment and, most important, give you the much needed time to connect and recharge your relationship batteries. Much as you couldn’t get through the week without Shabbos, your relationship can’t make it without this quality time. Hire a standard babysitter, get out of the house together and have fun!

2) Share daily appreciations—With so much business, you may not have time to acknowledge or even notice what your spouse is doing. It can be a challenge working so hard for your family and not being appreciated. This sentiment can apply to either spouse, whether they are working or taking care of the kids. That’s why it is essential to spend a few minutes a day sharing a minimum of one thing you appreciate about each other. It’s a more meaningful way to say thank you, where you can sit down, look into each other’s eyes, share your appreciation and why you appreciate it. This little pick me up, will infuse your relationship with positive energy, and keep you in a connected state. Make a convenient time to spend five minutes a day doing this exercise.

3) Four critical moments—There are four critical moments of transition in the day which can be utilized to build a strong and lasting relationship: when you wake up, when you leave the house for work, when you return home from work and when you go to bed.

These transition times are crucial. When you wake up in the morning, you set the tone for the rest of the day. By beginning with emotional connection first thing in the morning, you start your day off on the right foot and set yourself up for more positive experiences with your spouse. Leaving for work is a time when you will be separating from each other for the day. Connecting at that busy moment allows you to take your spouse with you, so to speak. Even if you are separated by distance, you will carry their support and love with you throughout the day. When you return home from work, it is an opportunity to transition from a busy day and refocus on what’s most important: your family. Connecting with your spouse at that moment provides a refuge from the stress of the day. Finally, when you go to sleep at night, you conclude the day on a positive note, setting up the following day for even more connection. Finding these regular times to connect strengthens a relationship. It builds trust and helps you feel that you can rely on your spouse. Look into each other’s eyes for 15 seconds. Give each other a hug. Talk to each other.

Your life is extremely busy and letting your relationship fall to the wayside, will only be a liability, not just for your marriage but for your success as well. By making it a priority to have consistent moments of connection, whether it be a weekly date night, daily appreciations or connecting at the four transition times of the day, you will infuse your moments, days and week with positive energy and closeness.

By Rabbi Shlomo Slatkin MS, LCPC


Rabbi Shlomo Slatkin MS, LCPC is a Certified Imago Relationship Therapist (Advanced Clinician) who works with couples via intensive marriage retreats and online “Marriage School”. To learn more about our private and group retreats, visit www.TheMarriageRestorationProject.com

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