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You Don't Love Me!

You Don't Love Me!


Galit, married 10 years, is convinced that her husband, Ari, doesn’t love her. “I know for a fact that he is incapable of loving,” she explains. “He never buys me gifts. He doesn’t just forget my birthday, he doesn’t even know when it is! He never tells me how beautiful I am, how special I am. I see how my friends’ husbands treat them. They practically trip over their feet trying to take care of their wives. You can see the love in their eyes. We have three beautiful children so there is no way I will divorce Ari, but I feel that I am doomed to live a loveless existence.”

Ari has a different take on things. “I know she feels that way. But she can’t tell me how I feel,” he says. “My wife is the only thing in the world that matters to me besides my children. I work hard for them. Of course I also love my parents and siblings, but not the way I love Galit. She blames me for not being more romantic. What can I say? This wasn’t what I saw at home, and it doesn’t come naturally to me. But I am totally there for her, and she knows it. When she was sick, who took her to the doctor, picked up her medicine and kept the kids out of her room? Isn’t that love? Why does love have to be only about flowers? She can see that I’m a good man, but she needs everything to be just her way. I don’t understand it.”

Different Strokes for Different Folks

Gender differences and personality differences, as well as differences in family backgrounds and cultures, can all be challenges in the development of secure adult love. One popular book on marriage, The Five Love Languages, points out that there are different styles of expressing love. While some people need to hear affirming words of love, others need gifts, touch, time or practical assistance. Certainly, people have love requirements that go beyond these simple categories as well.

For example, there is the woman who feels that her husband’s acceptance of his mother’s criticism of her means that he doesn’t love her: “Everyone who is looking at us from the outside would say that Michael is a wonderful, doting husband. But I know that he doesn’t really love me. Whenever his mother makes a critical remark about me, he doesn’t defend me. On the contrary, he tells me that she’s got a point! A man who does that clearly doesn’t love his wife.”

If Only He/She Were Different

People cruelly deprive themselves of love through their own narrow definitions of the term. Why make rules that turn one’s loving partner into a cold-hearted distancer? Yes, it’s natural to wish that one’s partner would communicate love the way one wants it to be communicated. But whether this happens or not is up to G‑d. And it seems that G‑d rarely wants it this way!

I believe that this is because G‑d put us here on earth in order to grow (not to get what we want, a realization I’m sure you have come to already). And while we really, really want our spouse to be the one to grow and learn how to communicate love to us properly, our spouse’s growth is not really the issue; it is our own growth that is really relevant. We need to ask ourselves: can we grow to understand the love language of our spouse?

Of course, it is more appealing to try to get the other person in the relationship to change, but that is not the Jewish way of solving marital problems. When we focus on changing ourselves, we open the floodgates of love. (None of this applies in an abusive relationship, where one should not accept or take responsibility for a partner’s unhealthy behaviors.)

A few Torah-based behavioral patterns and perspectives that can help you grow towards your spouse are:

  • developing gratitude (really feeling) appreciation for what one’s partner does and who he or she is)
  • growing in humility (I am not the one in charge of everyone else’s behavior and words, and I do not micromanage people to make them show love to me)
  • developing a good eye (stop staring at the glaring hole and enjoy the donut that surrounds it)

And while we busy ourselves looking for the good in our partners, G‑d will, in like fashion, busy Himself looking for the good in us!

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 Brooklyn January 6, 2015

Where is the kindness in ths marriage? A spouse should listen to what his/her other half is requesting and fulfill that desire if at all possible. Isn't it much kinder to try to satisfy your spouse than to simply say, "I didn't see this in my house"? Reply

peter sundwall sweden December 1, 2014

sarah thx for your answer on divorces and marriages I´m a kohen...and I will tell you the short but true story of a marriage ...and as such I`m enclosed IN an environment where I´m not allowed to reveal myself. In talmud there is a procedure called chazakah where most of your life has been directed by a beit din as many other rules layed down in the talmud. It is a very lonely life despite the marriages arranged for me along the way. The ultimate purpose is the holy marriage with G-d and the people of Israel. At the moment...I´m fifty-six years old there have been given no sign that this mission has an end and I´m thorn between only two options....insanity or suicide. My life has been ruined over and over again so many times that I`ve forgot how many times I have been forced to start over. It is a marriage filled with humiliations and depravations, And all because I`m jewish. Still I will never give up the hope of being able to one day celebrate a shabbes with family and friends. I might add I`m also a writer and musician.A sad truth. Reply

Sarah Chana Radcliffe Toronto December 1, 2014

Divorce and Loveless Marriages Marriage is very hard for almost everyone. It is a learning process...and it often takes decades to become wise enough to appreciate and enjoy one's spouse. IN our divorce-prone culture, many won't wait it out, thinking that they'll just find someone "better." And of course, some people have no interest in changing themselves in order to be able to love someone who is often hurtful and/or disappointing. But one thing remains true except in the rarest of circumstances (involving truly mentally ill partners), a good eye and a good heart brings out the best in oneself, one's partner and one's marriage. Reply

Anonymous November 30, 2014

Wow! Incredible article! Reply

yochanan November 30, 2014

why is the world coming to an end, because G-d Said to one of His prophets, because my people don't love me anymore. Reply

Alan S. Long Island, NY November 30, 2014

A bit too simple a treatment of the most complex subject known to man: love. Trying to generalize such a complex subject, I'm afraid, leaves open too much room for generalizations that do not neatly fit mankind.
Yes, I agree with one important point that you make: one cannot change another person. That said, I think that by 'growing', can't it also be that Hashem meant growing into the best person one can be byunderstanding what your spouse needs from the marital relationship, and trying to become that person?
Your interpretation, I'm afraid, pretty much 'gives a free pass' to a spouse that says 'take me as I am', the good with the bad.
In your example, it seems rather easy for the husband to understand that just because his parents created a house where loving expressions didn't flow, that he might try to bring some of this into his home where his wife obviously desires it. Yes, the wife must accept a lower level of these expressions, but, in this example, the husband needs to try a bit harder to communicate his love. Actions and words are what his wife needs Reply

peter sundwall sweden November 30, 2014

sarah sarah....being a man I can tell you shortly how my last marriage was..twelve years.
Living in a total secular surroundings I considered me happy to have find her as she was Jewish. And I worked hard to get her. She on the other hand couldn`t care less about Judaism and just wanted to be like everybody else. From the very beginning to the very end, recently divorced she said ..I like you but I do not love you.I was content with that for many years just because of the possibility to raise a Jewish family and children. Of course it didn`t work. In the end she resented me for laying tefillin and spending my time with talmud. Every word that came out of her mouth
was like a fountain of fire. In this very moment we`re discussing whether our son..ten years old should celebrate christmas or chanukkah..or both. To me this is a disappointment...I was so happy twelve years ago that I had found a Jewish wife.
Happily and a blessing is that our son Daniel is faithful to G-d..the only one. Reply

David Levant Emerson,NJ November 29, 2014

A man will leave his mother and cling to his wife. A wife needs two obligations,to always feel special and to always be loved. Holy matrimony is the most sacred of all relationships,as long as it ordained by G-D. Reply

Anonymous Montreal, Quebec via November 21, 2014

If it is like you claim why are there so many divorces and loveless marriages Reply

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