Here are five Torah teachings that can be used to increase marital harmony:

1. Respect: "Who is strong? He who controls his inner impulses."(Ethics)

Respect starts with self-discipline. Put simply: The ability to control one's own selfish urges. When a person can do this, only then can he or she behave respectfully toward another. Marital respect means setting yourself aside and recognizing your partner's intrinsic value,followed by actions that express this belief. A respectful person is a "strong person."

Examples of "respectful" behavior:

· Let your partner influence you.

· Accept your partner's right to make decisions.

· Emphasize your partner's value in speech and deed.

2. Commitment: "...a man shall leave his father and his mother and shall cleave (be one) unto his wife." (Genesis)

Your marital partner must be the most important person in your life—your number one priority. Being committed to one's husband or wife over and above parents, friends, work, or selfish personal interests can be challenging. Step back from your busy life and ask your partner: "Do you feel you are the number one person in my life?" If the answer is "no," ask why. Once you have the answer . . . get to work fixing the problem. Bottom line: A healthy marriage is made up of two individuals "committed" to each other. This means being "one" with your marital partner.

Examples of "committed" behavior:

  • Demonstrating loyalty through standing together with your partner during difficult times.
  • Daily choosing with speech and deed your partner as the most valued person in your life.
  • Feeling your partner's pain as your pain.
  • Staying far away from wrong relationships.

3. Caring: "You should love your neighbor like yourself (Ahavat Yisroel)." (Leviticus)

You have a unique relationship with your marital partner. Often, you are the only person that can perform a particular act of kindness, for the benefit of your spouse—and it is your obligation to do so. Your responsibility to care for your husband or wife supersedes your own personal feelings (as do all Mitzvot). This means "caring" even during those times when you don't feel like it. A healthy marital relationship requires "caring" all through the marriage.

Examples of "caring" behavior:

  • Warmly greeting your partner.
  • Nurturing your partner.
  • Comforting in sickness or emotional distress.
  • Expressing your appreciation for what your partner does for you.

4. Closeness: The Torah Commands us to affirm our fundamental relationship with G‑d by repeating twice daily, "Shema Yisroel."

Shema means to listen, or more precisely to understand. Through "listening" we come close to G‑d—an important goal in saying the Shema. So too, listening can bring a husband and wife close to each other. It is human nature to want to feel understood. Effective listening is one of the most powerful relationship tools that can be used to achieve relationship closeness. However, "listening" is a special skill that for many people requires practice and effort. The letters that spell "listen" are the same letters that spell "silent." Effective listening requires setting aside judgment, commentary, and advice—being silent—and just hearing what your partner says. Listening creates a safe and supportive relationship where your partner can express dreams, fears, and goals. This will lead to feelings of closeness for both the listener and the speaker. Feeling close keeps the marriage healthy.

Tips on how to be an effective "listener":

  • Don't interrupt when your partner speaks.
  • Let your partner know that you have "listened" by summarizing what you heard.
  • Ask your partner questions about how he or she feels.

5. Accepting differences: Before Moses died he blessed each of the twelve tribes. The tribe of Zebulin was blessed with, "going out." The tribe of Issachar was blessed with, "in your tents."

Members of Zebulin where merchants and members of Issachar were Torah scholars—one very different from the other. Each tribe had very different responsibilities, lifestyles, and needs. Yet they were instructed to "work together" in harmony. Zebulin was told to support Issachar's Torah learning, whereas Issachar was to share the rewards of their learning with Zebulin.

You are very different from your marriage partner. Yet marital success requires you "accept" these differences and work together to successfully build your family. Marital success does not depend on being the same; rather it depends on discovering the value in diversity.

Examples of using differences to increase marital success:

  • Valuing that you and your partner have different talents and letting this knowledge lead to delegating primary responsibilities according to individual strengths (parenting, finances, problem solving, etc.).
  • Avoid attempts to make your partner like yourself.
  • Praising your partner for his or her special talents or efforts.

Each one these five characteristics of a healthy marriage are supported or sabotaged by any one of the other four. For example: a relationship with not enough "closeness," can cause a deficiency in "commitment." Establishing a healthy relationship almost always requires hard work. Whether "the work" is talking together and sharing feelings, reading books on how to build a harmonious marriage, or consulting with a profession relationship expert, the rewards—marital harmony—are worth the effort. Without it, all other successes — financial, professional, community leadership — although important, will have little personal value. Only a happy marriage creates personal contentment and peace.