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How To Protect Your Love

How To Protect Your Love


In the early months, sometimes years, of marriage, most people are still "in love." After many years, however, a truly loving marriage becomes a rarer commodity. Along the way, things sour romantic and caring feelings. The longer the pain goes on, the more entrenched it becomes. Resentment, hopelessness and battle fatigue characterize many long-term relationships.

And yet, it doesn't have to be this way at all. When young couples realize how fragile their precious love really is, they will take strong measures to protect it. Unlike those who allow affection to slowly, almost imperceptibly, drain out of their marriage, they will rush to block the tiniest leak with a powerful plug. Not one ounce of warmth will be permitted to escape. Similar tactics are used by those who employed marriage counseling, allowing them to rebuild a damaged relationship. Now that it is whole again, they remain vigilant against the minutest emotional assault. Having learned the hard way, these couples know that love requires not only nurturing and maintenance, but also protection.

Protective Boundaries

Love flourishes in an atmosphere of respect and concern. Therefore, all married individuals need to learn to show respect and concern for their spouse and ensure that they receive respect and concern in return. Let's look at this two-pronged strategy for protecting love, starting with the importance of showing respect and concern for one's own partner.

There are times when a person feels irritated – many times, in fact. Feelings of irritation must be noted and not allowed to take the reigns of the vocal apparatus. "I feel irritated/annoyed/frustrated/furious/upset and I cannot speak until I calm down" is a safety-enhancing marital mantra. In the moment, one can say to one's spouse, "I'd like to collect my thoughts and talk to you about this later today." Then, the intervening period can be used to restore emotional equilibrium.

Speaking in anger leads all too often to abandoning feelings of respect and concern. Minimizing communication during times of significant irritation is a powerful way to protect love. On the other hand, venting emotion can have disastrous consequences, as stated in the Talmud, "He that wreaks his vengeance destroys his own nest" (Sanhedrin 102b). Although there is certainly some satisfaction in speaking one's mind, there is more satisfaction in creating and maintaining a lifelong loving marriage.

And this brings us to the second aspect of protecting love: ensuring that your spouse treats you with respect and concern.

Each person teaches others how to treat them. A person who tolerates mistreatment destroys their own relationship. After all, one cannot truly love (or even like) a person who routinely hurts them. One must prevent that hurt from occurring by stopping it in its tracks.

At the first sign of disrespect or lack of concern, one must stop the train. "Hold on! We can't go any further until we straighten this out. This kind of behavior harms us both; it hurts me and causes me to withdraw affection from you. It harms our marriage. It has to stop now." Whether the offence was a bitterly sarcastic remark or a forgotten birthday or anything else, it must be addressed at the earliest opportunity. When words are insufficient to affect a change, stronger action must be taken (i.e. arrange a meeting with an advisor, rabbi or counselor). It is inadvisable to let little things pass, because the path to marital unhappiness is a slippery slope. It's all too easy to let love slip away completely.

Protecting one's love is an actual mitzvah since it is the route to protecting shalom bayit, a peaceful home. Vigilance in this regard pays off with a lifetime of love.

Sarah Chana Radcliffe is the author of The Fear Fix, Make Yourself at Home and Raise Your Kids Without Raising Your Voice. Sign up for her Daily Parenting Posts.
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Anonymous NYC, NY January 6, 2010

truth Thank you for speaking the truth. A woman who tolerates abuse and insulting behavior not only demeans herself and her marriage but she teaches her sons and daughters that this type of behavior is allowed. It is not only our lives that could turn out differently it is also the lives of our children. Chabad has my respect for this article and I hope it continues to speak out. It is about time to help all the women who say "what then" and free them from abuse. Reply

Stella H Howell Wokingham, UK January 6, 2010

External influences Marriage can be saved ONLY if there is sufficient preparation prior to marriage including compatiability in the Spiritual sense. Without the same ethics, expectations, what one considers unacceptable for one is the opposite for the other. Whilst one party is willing to sacrifice all to retain a Marriage, unless both are on the same 'wave lengths' it is impossible to succeed. Reply

Anonymous bradenton, fl January 6, 2010

buisness and Marriage What if the buisness and poor planning hurts our financial well being; This causes arguments and the slippery slope has us slideing "close to the bottem? Can repairs be made and how to stop the blame game, "constant "bringing up the past.
? Reply

Anonymous New York, NY January 5, 2010

well well But what if we can't stop the other from making sarcastic comments, despite the fact we try to nip it in the bud? What if every attempt makes the other angrier, more spiteful and mad? What then? Reply

Anonymous eretz yisroel January 5, 2010

so true I wonder how my life could have been different had I been told this years ago, before my marriage turned truly abusive? Reply

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Sarah Chana RadcliffeSarah Chana Radcliffe is the author of The Fear Fix, Make Yourself at Home and Raise Your Kids Without Raising Your Voice. Sign up for her Daily Parenting Posts.
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