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4 Steps to a Great Marriage

4 Steps to a Great Marriage

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Today, lasting marriage is increasingly rare; approximately 50 percent of secular marriages end in divorce. While no one should have to suffer in an abusive or painful relationship, Lasting marriage is increasingly raredivorce was never meant to be the solution to all marital problems. On the contrary, in a society that truly values marriage, institutions and individuals work hard to support couples, realizing that lasting unions give both adults and children the emotional and physical stability that is so essential to wellbeing.

Indeed, Jews have always placed a very high value on marriage and family life, living within communities that actively support, encourage and facilitate the building of “faithful homes” that together make up a unified people. To a large extent, traditional Jewish couples are still succeeding—against the challenging backdrop of an unsupportive culture—in making their marriages work. This isn’t because they find marriage easier than other people do; they don’t. Rather, it is because their commitment to the institution—their appreciation of its spiritual, social, emotional and physical benefits—gives them the impetus they need to struggle through its inevitable challenges.

Whether you’re ready to throw in the towel or just want to improve your marriage, here are four practical perspectives that can help your marriage survive and thrive:

1) Acceptance and Gratitude

Maintaining a healthy, lifelong union requires acceptance, compassion, forgiveness and appreciation. Yes, you must work towards positive change, but you must also know when to let an issue go, when to give up the struggle and the desire to control, and accept what is. Along the way, you have to accept your own feelings of disappointment. Instead of focusing on what’s missing, it will help if you can reframe what you have in order to appreciate it more. A spouse’s socks on the floor is sure proof that you indeed have a spouse; instead of being fuel for a fight, it can be a reminder of blessing and good fortune.

2) Understanding and Accepting the Opposite Gender

Yes, I’m going to paint in broad brushstrokes here. There will always be plenty of exceptions, but there are certain gender differences that are worth noting.

Men often have a shorter list of complaints than their wives do. Essentially, men just want their wives to be happy. They want to feel that their wives respect and admire them—way beyond the first year of marriage. They need their wives to communicate appreciation and warmth. When women are cold, critical and miserable, men feel like failures and start to withdraw. Men are far more sensitive to rejection than their wives might imagine because they often fail to express their feelings in words. Instead, they may spend less time at home and say less. Or they may become more aggressive and irritable.There are certain gender differences that are worth noting

Women tend to start off sweet, but then—due to disappointment, hurt and endless giving—find that they have little desire or energy for indirect marital strategies. So they begin to make quick, direct attacks, getting straight to the point without taking time to strategize or soften their communication. Or, if that fails, they fall into silent, angry depression.

To break this attack/withdraw pattern, it’s important to see a marriage not as a win-lose situation, but as a win-win (or a lose-lose). For example, while it’s true that most men won’t look around the house and just figure out what needs to be done, the majority will certainly be willing to help out when simply asked to do so. Instead of feeling resentful that he is only “helping,” the wife can choose to accept the “captain-of-the-ship” role in household management and delegate tasks to her good-hearted life partner. Better yet, make a list of chores and divvy them up among the whole family, changing duties from time to time to keep from getting stuck with any one job.

3) Communication

I’m surprised when I hear people say that they have basically given up on trying to have a good marriage and are instead focused on raising their children. If anything, your relationship with your spouse takes priority over your relationship with your children. Children are more perceptive than you may think, and they will learn how to act by watching how you and your spouse interact with each other.

The good news is that good parenting techniques are really just excellent communication strategies. So, if you are careful to praise your kids generously, do the same for your spouse. If you minimize correction, criticism and complaints with your kids, do the same with your life partner. If you use “teaching moments” to make important points with children, then never negotiate with your spouse in times of anger. If you make it a point to show interest and understanding when your kids are speaking, do the same for your spouse. This is not to say that your spouse is just another “child,” but rather, apply the communication skills that you have already cultivated.

4) Meeting Your Own Needs

You are responsible for the quality of your life—not your spouse. Bring contentment and fulfillment to your daily existence by strengthening your relationship with G‑d, Let’s invest ourselves fully enough to succeedlearning powerful stress-management techniques, nurturing a circle of healthy personal relationships, finding meaningful and satisfying work, exercising, learning, growing emotionally, contributing to your community and so on. The better you are at making your own life successful, the easier it will be to enjoy your marriage as the wonderful gift that it is meant to be.

Since we believe that marriage is inherently valuable, necessary, healthy and good for all concerned, let’s invest ourselves fully enough to succeed at it. This has always been the Jewish way, and so many of us and our children have reaped the benefits of the secure embrace of family life.

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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Ian Boardman Arlington June 8, 2017

Are we too prudish here to say anything about physical intimacy, affection, sex? Doesn't that at least count as number five? I think "making love" is not just a euphemism, but literally contributes to loving feelings and compassion that, among many virtues, help the two partners get through and past inevitable, mundane annoyances, conflicts and life challenges. It is important to recognize that sexless marriages are all too common today, and living in that condition for indefinite periods leads directly to dissatisfaction, loneliness, depression, infidelity and divorce. Passion for each other's souls and sexual activity in the marriage ought to be considered essential and vital benefits of an emotionally healthy, happy committed relationship. Reply

Anonymous June 7, 2017

Amen! Excellent article and very well written! Thanks for posting! Reply

Anonymous Manila June 7, 2017

Shalom! I agreed on your article. Everytime i read your post it gives so much information to me and i wanna share you my story. I'm a Filipino married to a Jewish guy here in the Philippines. In the beginning we were very happy and full of love..He fought everything to be with me even with his family and the community.. but unfortunately, he changed. He left me and my daughter because of so many things but he dont want a annulment or divorce. He wanted me to process everything i need to move in Canada and start the conversion but he's not sure by then if we're able to live as a family. It's very complicated but i know and he always said that im the most important person in his life. What do you think his intension? It feels like im hanging somewhere and just waiting for him when he wants to comeback. Im so confuse. Thank you. Reply

Tiferet Isreal August 22, 2017
in response to Anonymous:

Do you want to convert? This is perhaps the question that you need to answer. Aside from your relationship: Do you want to be Jewish? Reply

Anonymous April 15, 2016

Beautiful Article, but work has to be done by both sides Thank you!!

This is the most to-the-point article I´ve read in years.
All 4 points can work only if the other spouse is honest and upright and is ineterested in the relashionship, and not covering other motives with "misunderstandings" and simply using the situation for their convinience. There are indeed some people who think they are entitled to "organize your life", "make you understand"...
Many men try to compensate their low self-esteem or anxiety with despotic and abusive behaviour towards their wives. In this case no indirect communication will help, if the man doesn´t see his behaviour as not acceptable. Their lack of simple respect to their wife they´ll explain whith "her failure to build a career" or comparisons to "super-moms" who can manage it all and look like supermodels (never takinf look behind the shiny fassade). So - not all man want to make their wives happy, some (not very noble) simply want to raise theirshow off and are not concerned of the wellbeing of the woma. Reply

Marcia Naomi Berger San Rafael, California June 15, 2015

Excellent article, thank you!

I agree it is important to men to feel they are making their wives happy. If wives realize this they will feel more comfortable about saying kindly and specifically what they want, instead of complaining about what they are not getting. Telling him what makes you happy and thanking him when he does it contributes greatly toward a mutually fulfilling relationship. Reply

Anonymous May 20, 2014

Thank you for a succinct article on marriage. Reply

Roxana Guatemala May 13, 2014

Great Article, simple things that we ignore. Thank you! Reply

Terry Krause NJ May 13, 2014

The 4 Steps to a Successful Marriage Great article, Sarah Chana! I am compelled to mention that I wrote a book with my husband (available on Amazon) called "The 4 Steps to a Successful Marriage." Maybe there really are only 4 steps! Reply

Anonymous Teaneck, NJ June 6, 2017
in response to Terry Krause:

I have been on married for 37 years and endorse your article. My husband is a good man who has provided for our family, has helped around the house without my asking. I have been happy all these years because we respect each other's need for a little bit of privacy; alone time where we are able to follow our own interests or hobbies. By respecting the need for independence we have learned to appreciate and understand each other; we became friends. Friendship needs to be in the equation. What do you do when the kids are grown up
and you are now left alone with each other? Reply