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The Ho-Hum Marriage

The Ho-Hum Marriage

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“Please show me a little appreciation and hold off on the criticism and complaints.”

“Please help out more.”

“I need you to be more affectionate.”

Do you ever hear yourself making similar requests of your spouse? You just want to help your partner meet your needs—that’s reasonable, right?

The problem is, it’s hard to squeeze our spouse into the precise size and shape we’d like him or her to be. And, unless the behavior we’re addressing constitutes abuse, it’s not always right for us to insist that our spouse makes a change.

Of You just want to help your partner meet your needscourse, we should always work on our marriages, improving our own behaviors as well as asking our partner to try to make changes that are important to us. Even so, and despite our best efforts, we may not be enjoying the marriage of our (movie-based) dreams. Insufficient romance, unnecessary squabbles, the constant struggle to overcome lower impulses in thought and deed—all this can make for what we consider to be a rather “ho-hum marriage.”

So we sometimes find ourselves wondering, “G‑d, why did You give me such an impatient, irritable, self-centered and otherwise flawed partner? Can’t You make my spouse a little kinder, calmer and more patient? My friends have delightful spouses, and it’s so easy for them to build happy, close relationships. Why am I stuck in this ho-hum marriage?”

To answer this question, we need to step back and think about the purpose of our existence in this world. Are we just here to be happy? Or are we here to better ourselves and the world?

When G‑d gives us challenges, it’s not that He doesn’t want us to be happy. It’s that He wants to help us grow. And there’s a much deeper, more profound sense of joy that comes from doing what G‑d wants of us, as opposed to just fulfilling our own desires.

While we want, and may even feel entitled to, everything good in life—a fantastic marriage, beautiful children, wealth, a fabulous career, a wide circle of loving friends, perfect health and more—having it all will stunt our growth. If our spouses were always thoughtful, responsible and giving, we wouldn’t need to dig deep inside to find our spiritual gems of patience, empathy and compassion.

The world at large Marriage is an opportunity for developing our own perfectionmight tell us that marriage is about finding the perfect mate, but as Jews, we see marriage as an opportunity for developing our own perfection. By divine design, our personal growth brings us increased marital happiness as well. When we learn to seek out and appreciate the good qualities of our partner, as well as exercising self-control and not criticizing, our marriage is enhanced.

So, rethink the ho-hum marriage. Each Jewish home is, in fact, an essential building block of our people. Your marriage—as ho-hum, human and imperfect as it is—is committed, courageous and holy. You are demonstrating to your children and to the entire world that marriage is for mortals, for imperfect human beings, and that its very purpose is to bless the world with energies of tolerance, acceptance and unconditional love.

Let us rid ourselves of the notion that marriage “ought to be” pleasant, easy and natural, and embrace the reality that it is a continuous work in progress. Let us stop staring in disgust and disappointment at the flaws of our partners, and instead expand our levels of appreciation, peace and love. In other words, let’s unmask the ho-hum marriage for the treasure that it truly is!

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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