יום חמישי, 27 בדצמבר 2012

If I Really Cared

"If I Really Cared . . . • Who you are would be more important to me than who I am. • Where you hurt would be more important than that I'm well. • What you feel would be more important than what I know. • I'd look you in the eyes when you talk to me; • I'd think about what you're saying rather than what I'm going to say next- • I'd hear your feelings as well as your words. • I'd listen without defending. • I'd hear without deciding whether you are right or wrong. • I'd ask you why and how, not just when and where. • I'd laugh with you but not at you. • I'd talk with you and not to you, and I'd know when it's time to do neither. • I wouldn't climb over your walls. • I'd wait until you let me in the gate. • I wouldn't unlock your secrets; • The performances would end.  • I'd be myself with you • And give you the right to be the same."

יום שלישי, 25 בדצמבר 2012

Marrying The "Right" Person

People overstate the importance of a couple being "right for each other".

No couple is fundamentally really right for each other.

Every couple IS right for each other if they work on their middos.

Rav Volbe of Alei Shor fame said that every boy is right for every girl. If they work on their middos they can made a wonderful life for themselves. If they don't, it doesn't matter how right they seemed for each other - there will be fire...

Think about it. Every person has a good side to their personality. Every person. Even middle linebackers who lift heavy weights so that they have the strength to badly injure men wearing a different color uniform on a Sunday afternoon on national television. If a woman does it right she can bring out the best in him. If a man does it right he can turn a shrew into an angel.

Usually. There are exceptions to every rule.

If both people are working hard on themselves and on their marriage they can create something beautiful. If you are reading this you dated your spouse or will date your future spouse. It is not like a guy from Meah Shearim marrying a Dominican giyores named Juanita [now "Chana Sara"] who grew up on 134th and Broadway. That would be quite a challenge. For two people of a similar backgound to have a successful union is a much more likely proposition.

It is a matter of how hard people are working, how self aware they are and how willing they are to grow.

Appreciate Your Partner

From the Gottman blog...

From the list below, choose three items that you think are characteristic of your partner. If there are more than three, still circle just three (you can choose another three if you decide to do this exercise again.) Even if you can recall only one instance when your partner displayed this characteristic, you can circle it.
Loving, Sensitive, Brave, Intelligent, Thoughtful, Generous, Loyal, Truthful, Strong, Energetic, Decisive, Creative, Imaginative, Fun, Attractive, Interesting, Supportive, Funny, Considerate, Affectionate, Organized, Resourceful, Athletic, Cheerful, Coordinated, Graceful, Elegant, Gracious, Playful, Caring, A great friend, Exciting, Full of plans, Shy, Vulnerable, Committed, Involved, Expressive, Active, Careful, Reserved, Adventurous, Receptive, Reliable, Responsible, Dependable, Nurturing, Warm, Kind, Gentle, Practical, Witty, Relaxed, Beautiful, Handsome, Rich, Calm, Lively, A great partner, A great parent, Assertive, Protective, Sweet, Tender, Powerful, Flexible, Understanding, Totally silly…

For each item you chose, briefly think of an actual incident that illustrates this characteristic of your partner. Write about it in your notebook or journal as follows:

1. Characteristic ___________________________________________

Incident: ___________________________________________

2. Characteristic ___________________________________________

Incident: ___________________________________________

3. Characteristic ___________________________________________

Incident: ___________________________________________

Now share your list with your partner! Let him or her know what it is about these traits that you value so highly.

יום חמישי, 20 בדצמבר 2012

3 Types Of Listening

In Brisk they break things up into two categories. The Rogochover Gaon was wont to splitting things up into three categories. We will go the latter route...

There are three types of listening:

1] Polite listening.

2] Interested listening.

3] Empathetic listening.

The accepted reation when listening politely is "Aha" or "Ahhh". [For those of you who receive emails from me and I write "AHHHHHHHHHHH" that is not polite listening but an expression of the excitement I feel for you and whatever may be going on in your life:)]. If one is a bit more polite then he says "What do you say?"

The accepted reaction for interested listening is "What time did that happen to you?" "Was anyone with you when it happened?" "What did it look like?"

The reaction to category 3 may be something like "Really? How did that make you feel?"

If you want to have a deep relationship with a spouse or child try your best to listen empathetically, with your heart [recommended to turn off cell phones]. If you fake it they will probably be able to tell.

I can always tell:-).

[Based on "Ha-Ish Mekadesh" page 325]

יום רביעי, 19 בדצמבר 2012

Why We Forget

Two days ago my wife asked me to bring a small bag of new dishes to the mikva to tovel them. I agreed and immediately put it out of my mind. She placed the bag on the dining room table right near the front door so that I would remember on my way out.

The next morning I got up and went to mikva but forgot to bring the dishes. Last night she asked me if I had toveled them. I instantaneously decided that "no" wasn't the right way to phrase the answer so instead I said "tomorrow". Whew. Got out of that one....

This morning after I woke up the thought to bring the dishes quickly crossed my mind but not for long. By the time I had left the house to go to mikva I had already forgotten.

Now what?

I forgot. It happens.

Why did I forget? Why in general do people without Alzheimers forget?

Listen carefully PLEASE!

People forget things that aren't important enough to them.

What don't we forget? Example: In my LIFE I have yet to see a Yid walk out of the mikva pool right out onto the street, forgetting to get dressed. Never. Why? Because it is very important to a person not to embarrass himself publicly. [I was once at the airport and they made me remove my shoes and my jacket and my belt and to empty my pockets for inspection. Being the floaty, forgetful person I am I started going further in the disrobing but I INSTANTLY caught myself and stopped....]

A person never forgets to put the car key into the ignition when he wants to drive somewhere. It is important for him to get to where he needs to go so he doesn't forget to put the keys in the ignition.

ANYTHING important enough to us we don't forget.

I have forgotten people's simcha's to which I was invited but I didn't forget my wedding or my children's brissim and bar-mitzvahs. Too important.

When I went to mikva I didn't forget my towel or change of clothing because those were clearly more important to me that the dishes I was asked to bring. There is a word for that in English - "Self-centeredness." If I would have been able to step outside of myself and experience another human being, I wouldn't have forgotten twice.

When we say that the Greeks tried to make us forget the Torah להשכיחם תורתך what does than mean?? How do you make someone forget something???

What it means is that they tried to make the Torah less important in the eyes of the Jew's which is the road to forgetfulness. If it doesn't matter to me then I forget.

If someone has a chavrusa and forgets it means that it wasn't important enough. If you forget to call someone back it means that the call wasn't important enough to you. If I have a phone call to make to a fine Yid who wants to give me 10 million dollars to build a building for my yeshiva - I don't forget. Pashut!

Making your spouse's needs as critical as your own will prevent forgetfulness:-).

The happy ending is that I went back to the mikva later in the morning and the dishes are now ready for use. And I got some mussar out of it, too.

Two Hands

The Chazon Ish has a very interesting definition of the relationship between husband and wife. "Like a right and left hand". You are one hand and your spouse is the other. Beautiful!

How does this play out practically speaking? 

When both of a person's hands hurt, which hand does one attend to first? The one that hurts more.

Example: Your wife wants to spend this Shabbos at her parents. She just gave birth a few weeks ago, is feeling down ["PPD"] and really needs her mother's help and the warm fuzzy feeling she has being home again. You? Your mother-in-law is the personification of all the stereotypes about mothers-in-law. Annoying and at times meddling and while a good cook, you like your wife's food better. Plus, her little brother is beginning to really get on your nerves. 

What do you do?

Who "hurts" more? The sensitive-hormone-attacked-post-partum-depressed-yearning-for-mommy-and-daddy-again wife or the just-leave-me-alone-and-let's-stay-home-husband?

The wife.

If the husband feels that she is "part of him" he will have no trouble happily agreeing to spend a lovely Shabbos at his "wonderful" in-laws. If he sees it as a battle between two opposing forces, no matter what decision is made in the end he will have lost.....

והמבין יבין:-)

[Based in part on the sefer האיש מקדש page 379-380] 

יום שלישי, 18 בדצמבר 2012

Monologues And Dialogues

The difference between a monologue and a dialogue:

In a monologue one person talks and the other people listen.

In a dialogue two people talk and nobody listens.


Think about it...

The Underlying Issues

When you learn Torah in depth you discover something fascinating. While the text will say that two Rabbis are arguing about a certain issue, beneath the surface they are often arguing about something more fundamental and central which just expresses itself in the present argument.

This is sooooo true in relationships as well. Example:  A wife says "You were late for dinner and I had to wait for you for 45 minutes." He says, "I got stuck in traffic, what do you want from me?"

SHE might really be saying "You don't care about my feelings. I worked so hard to prepare dinner and you showed up late. I feel unloved."

He just gets defensive, whereas if he would read this blog he would not answer by referring to the bumper-to-bumper on the Van Wyck, but with words of empathy. "I am sooooo sorry. It was so insensitive of me and I feel terrible. Thank you so much for all of the work you did for me."

What is important is to acknowledge the feelings of the other person and to admit fault.

12 red roses sometimes help, too:-). 

I Could Do Better

Excerpts from a much longer article by John Gottman.

... What I found was that the number one most important issue that came up to .. couples was trust and betrayal. I started to see their conflicts like a fan opening up, and every region of the fan was a different area of trust. Can I trust you to be there and listen to me when I’m upset? Can I trust you to choose me over your mother, over your friends? Can I trust you to work for our family? To not take drugs? Can I trust you to respect me? To help with things in the house? To really be involved with our children?

.... In a second study, we tried to find out how this could be. And we discovered that if a wife trusts her husband, both of their blood consistently flows slower—not only during their conflict discussion but at other times as well. That’s associated with better health and a longer life.

.... [The] the basis for building trust is really the idea of attunement. [We can break] this down with the acronym ATTUNE, which stands for:
  • Awareness of your partner’s emotion;
  • Turning toward the emotion;
  • Tolerance of two different viewpoints;
  • trying to Understand your partner;
  • Non-defensive responses to your partner;
  • and responding with Empathy.
By contrast, the atom of betrayal is not just turning away but doing what Caryl Rusbult called a “CL-ALT,” which stands for “comparison level for alternatives.”

What that means is I not only turn away from her sadness, but I think to myself, “I can do better. Who needs this? I’m always dealing with her negativity. I can do better.”

Once you start thinking that you can do better, then you begin a cascade of not committing to the relationship; of trashing your partner instead of cherishing your partner; of building resentment rather than gratitude; of lowering your investment in the relationship; of not sacrificing for the relationship; and of escalating conflicts.

יום ראשון, 9 בדצמבר 2012

How To Listen

99.999 percent of the population doesn't know this but I am about to share a secret with you that may well change your life and that of those around you.

How do most people listen to another person speak? Everything the person says immediately passes through the prism of their own opinions and experiences and is thus received. THAT IS NOT TRUE LISTENING.

Somebody says to me "I believe that women and men are really the same thing and have the same purpose in life." I will instantaneously think "This person is nuts! Women and men are physiologically, psychologically, existentially and every other "ally" [a favorite word of mine]different."

I didn't truly listen to the other person. I heard his voice THROUGH my own.

Somebody says "All the problems in the Middle East are the Israeli's fault." I will think immediately "This person has either just arrived moment ago from the planet Mars where he has been since birth, is off his meds or has potato knishes where other people have a brain. How can he believe such absurdity.?!"

I didn't truly listen to the other person. I heard his voice THROUGH my own.

My child says "My teacher is a mean person." [Not that he did. An example...] I quickly get defensive because I want him to respect his teacher and say "That's not true. He is a very nice, caring person."

I didn't truly listen to the other person. I heard his voice THROUGH my own.

My wife [ditto the previous brackets] says "You never help! I have to do everything around the house." I immediately raise my voice and start listing the myriad things I do around the house. "I watch the baby [when she is sleeping]. I take out the garbage. I put my dirty clothing within a 50 yard radius of the hamper. I even clear my dishes after I eat on occasion [such as when I reach a birthday that has a zero]! How can you say that??! BLOOD LIBEL!"

You know this is coming...

I didn't truly listen to the other person. I heard her voice THROUGH my own.

So how does one listen?

First, in your mind decide that you will be totally receptive to what the other person is saying without any personal input. Completely be with the other person. Don't react cognitively. Then reflect back to the person what was said. For example - "You are saying that I don't help at all and that you have to do everything?" Try to understand what she said and reflect back that understanding.

Then try to go deeper. "It must be terribly frustrating to be married to a man who never helps. In the present situation you have the entire burden of the home on your shoulders. This must be overwhelming."

To summarize:

Listen, reflect back, try to understand the underlying feelings.

יום חמישי, 6 בדצמבר 2012

צלצול הטלפון

בעל ואשה יושבים בבית ומשוחחים. פתאום מצלצל הטלפון. בזריזות הבעל קם ממקומו ועונה לטלפון. מעשה זה אומר יותר מאלף מילים. אני לא יודע מי מעבר לקו, אבל דבר אחד ברור. יהיה מי שיהיה - הוא יותר חשוב ממך
באמצע התפילה לא עונים לטלפון שהרי מי יותר חשוב מבורא כל העולמים. קו מחשבה זה יוביל אותנו למסקנה דומה בקשר לבן או בת הזוג. אין יצור בכל האנושות שחשיבותו מגיעה לקרסוליה של בת זוגי
בפעם הבאה כאשר צלצול הטלפון יפסיק את שיחתם - תסתכל עליה בעיניים ותגיד במלוא הכנות והלהט " אני לא עונה כי לא יכול להיות שהאדם המבקש כעת לשוחח איתי הוא יותר חשוב בעיני מהוד מעלתך" - גישה זו תבטיח כי תראה שלום באהליך

Learning From The GPS

An insight of a wise lady.....

My husband is driving the car and another WOMAN is telling him what to do and HE LISTENS. He turns on the GPS and whatever the woman tells him, he listens!! When I tell him what to do he looks at me with fury and screams "Don't tell me what to do!" [My note - Many men don't like to be told what to do and particularly how to drive:-)] But when this women speaks - he follows EVERYTHING she says! What is the secret?

The secret of the GPS is that she speaks softly and sweetly. "At 200 feet turn left" "Two blocks down turn right". Always in a pleasant voice.

When he makes a mistake she doesn't scream at him but says calmy "now regrouping".

So ladies - if you want your husbands to listen, learn from Ms. GPS.

Speak softly, sweetly and patiently.  

Forever Growing In Love

Today I sent an email to a friend about the importance of love.

I dedicate this to him and hope that this quote resonates with him and the many others who read it.

In discussing love, it would be well to consider the following premises;

One cannot give what he does not possess. Too give love you must possess love.
One cannot teach what he does not understand. To teach love, you must comprehend love.
One cannot know what he does not study. To study love, you must live in love.
One cannot appreciate what he does not recognize. To recognize love you must be receptive to love.
One cannot have doubt about that which he wishes to trust. To trust love you must be convinced of love.
One cannot admit what he does not yield to. To yield to love you must be vulnerable to love.
One cannot live what he does not dedicate himself to. To dedicate yourself to love you must be forever growing in love

Leo F. Buscaglia
Source: Love : What Life Is All About, Page: 36

I Love You

Aren't those beautiful words?

They ARE. But words are LITERALLY hot air.

If you really love someone - SHOW IT!


Great question.

The answer is the same as the answer to the question of "What type of boy/girl should I marry?" "What should I do for a living?" "What flavor of Ice Cream should I buy?" [Huge question!] Answer - individual. What I looked for in a wife [a girl who was willing to marry someone out-of-the-box-off-the-wall-chassidishe-litvak-sit-down-comedian-blogger-rosh-kollel-recovering-sportsaholic-with-no-concept-of-time-and-little-patience-for-most-things] is not what you will look for in a wife.

Love is individual. Find out what makes your mother-father-brother-sister-wife-husband-child-bubby-zeide feel loved and act accordingly. If you say it and don't show it, then, as the line goes in Rabbinic literature העיקר חסר מן הספר - The most central element is missing.

A quote we've all heard...


From Diapers To Marriage

The only time a woman really succeeds in changing a man is when he is a baby."

Ladies!!! Please! If you are married you probably noticed some things about your husband which are not to your liking and you would like to change.

Despair is usually not a good thing to have. In this instance it is! Give it up. He is who he is.

Step #2: But you are annoyed! What do you do? OHHHH, can't cover that in one post. But one small piece of advice. Find out from your husband what YOU CAN DO to make him happy. Then consistently do those things. MAKE HIM FEEL LOVED. He needs it. Ask for nothing in return. As he gets more loving and appreciative of you, drop subtle hints as to what makes YOU happy. If he is a mentsch he will not disappoint.

Many make the mistake and think that by constantly criticizing they will get the spouse they want.


Love - Temporary Madness

"Love is a temporary madness. It erupts like an earthquake and then subsides. And when it subsides you have to make a decision. You have to work out whether your roots have become so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part. Because this is what love is. Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not the promulgation of promises of eternal passion. That is just being "in love" which any of us can convince ourselves we are.

Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident. Your mother and I had it, we had roots that grew towards each other underground, and when all the pretty blossom had fallen from our branches we found that we were one tree and not two."

Sweetest friends - when couples are dating they often feel "in love". This feeling NEVER lasts. One should be aware of this at the outset and just use this feeling of excitement to get him/her to stand in the SCARIEST place in the world - under the chuppah!

After the guests have left, the band has packed up their instruments, the checks have been counted and gifts put away [many of them to be rewrapped and passed on to a different couple] la la land sinks under the horizen and real life begins. The goal - to go from la la land to the Promised Land of intense marital satisfaction.

The test is - can one sustain a true lasting love. One does this by deciding that short of my spouses untimely demise, this marriage is going to continue. I am FULLY devoting myself to CONSTANTLY enhancing the relationship and LEARNING more and more and yet more about my spouses needs, wants and desires and then going about filling them. I am also one million percent NEVER going to look, think about or desire to have a relationship with anyone else, even though on the surface they may seem more desirable. This is my first and last husband/wife and I am going to make it happen. I am NOT going to wait for my spouse to do what he/she is obligated [from my perspective] to do for me. He/She owes me NOTHING! I owe her/him the most doting, loving, understanding spouse on earth.

OF COURSE both the husband and wife read this blog so the behavior will be mutual.

AYYYYYYYYYYY - Sweetest friends, so much work goes into making a relationship work and so much understanding goes into making it deeper and deeper. Some people never get divorced but their relationships are SHALLOW! I don't wish that upon you. That is why my Bava Basra is begging me to return and open him again and I keep typing away. I feel like I could go on and on. Sooooo much to say.

BUT - That is for another time bez"H!!!

LOVE AND BLESSINGS TO ALL and a special thank you to the many who have emailed me recently with input, which encourages me to believe that in fact my small words may be having an impact on somebody's soul.


Take divorce. Who gains from a divorce? The husband loses his wife. The wife loses her husband. The children lose a stable home and often suffer from great emotional anguish and have to go through therapy. Come to think of it - the husband and wife ALSO suffer great emotional anguish and require therapy. Who is bringing this anguish upon them?



Why would someone do that to themselves and their poor guiltless children?

But they are having trouble getting along? Well, instead of splitting up they can both change! They got married for a reason. There are obviously qualities in the other person that each side finds attractive. That is why they married. Now that not such great things have come out they can work through it. People, rational people, can change.

Some say "I am no longer in love". MY rational mind says that one has no right to harm other people because "he/she is no longer in love". So be married anyway. Really. You don't have to be infatuated with your spouse. Also, love comes and goes. Today she isn't in love with him, maybe tomorrow she will be. Feelings are fickle.

OF COURSE there are instances when divorces are justified. Sometimes a spouse is abusive or unfaithful etc. Definitely. The rational mind says that in extreme cases a couple should split up. Some people are just unbearable to live with. But I am talking about regular run of the mill cases. In such instances people often act irrationally and split up. If both partners would be rational and resolve to make it work - it will.

So as difficult as it was to make peace between two one year old's it is no less difficult to make peace between two educated intelligent adults.

Actually - it is often more difficult.

So sweet friends - this was just an example. There are many more. Our job is to make sure that our logic reigns supreme and we therefore live lives of virtue, goodness and love. The mind tells the heart what the proper path is and the heart goes along for the journey.

The Mathematical Paradox

"In love the paradox occurs that two beings become one and yet remain two."

Erich Fromm

Or a poem in the same spirit:

Let there be spaces in your togetherness,
And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.
Fill each other's cup but drink not from one cup.
Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf.
Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone,
Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.
Give your hearts, but not into each other's keeping.
And stand together, yet not too near together.
For the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other's shadow.”

SWEETEST FRIENDS! Many relationships are destroyed when one person tries to SMOTHER the other. This happens in marriage, between parents and children and sometimes even with friends.

"BUT WE ARE ONE!", she says. Yes you are one - but you are also two. TWO parts of a whole, each part contributing its unique talents and abilities to make for a blessed union. So, for example, if both the husband and wife go to learn at night, who will be with the children. If both the husband and wife do the dishes and laundry who will learn??

So noooooooo, I am not suggesting that the husband not do the dishes and that the wife not learn. CHAS VI'SHALOM! She MUST [in the year 2011] learn and he should do the dishes [unless he hires a lovely Spanish woman to do it] and help around the house. However, the roles of the husband and wife must not be blurred. They have independent needs, wants and responsibilities which need to be fulfilled.

Don't hold your spouse on a short leash. Give your kids independence.

Allow for people to develop in their own special way.


7 Principles

John Gottman is THE world expert on marriage. A slightly edited version of his guidance. You are allowed to use his advice when pursuing marriage as well.

Below are his seven principles along with a few relationship-strengthening activities to try.

1. “Enhance your love maps.” Love is in the details. That is, happy couples are very much familiar with their partner’s world. According to Gottman, these couples have “a richly detailed love map — my term for that part of your brain where you store all the relevant information about your partner’s life.” You know everything from your partner’s favorite books to what’s currently stressing them out to some of their life dreams, and they know yours.

2. “Nurture your fondness and admiration.” Happy couples respect each other and have a general positive view of each other. Gottman says that fondness and admiration are two of the most important elements in a satisfying and long-term relationship. If these elements are completely missing, the marriage can’t be saved.
Gottman includes a helpful activity to remind couples of the partner they fell in love with called “I appreciate.” He suggests readers list three or more of their partner’s positive characteristics along with an incident that illustrates each quality. Then read your lists to each other.

3. “Turn toward each other instead of away.” Romance isn’t a Caribbean cruise, an expensive meal or a lavish gift. Rather, romance lives and thrives in the everyday, little things. According to Gottman, “[Real-life romance] is kept alive each time you let your spouse know he or she is valued during the grind of everyday life.”
For instance, romance is leaving an encouraging voicemail for your spouse when you know he’s having a bad day, Gottman says. Or romance is running late but taking a few minutes to listen to your wife’s bad dream and saying that you’ll discuss it later (instead of saying “I don’t have time”).
Gottman acknowledges that this might seem humdrum, but turning toward each other in these ways is the basis for connection and passion. Couples that turn toward each other have more in their “emotional bank account.” Gottman says that this account distinguishes happy marriages from miserable ones. Happy couples have more goodwill and positivity stored in their bank accounts, so when rough times hit, their emotional savings cushion conflicts and stressors.

4. “Let your partner influence you.” Happy couples are a team that considers each other’s perspective and feelings. They make decisions together and search out common ground. Letting your partner influence you isn’t about having one person hold the reins; it’s about honoring and respecting both people in the relationship.

5. “Solve your solvable problems.” Gottman says that there are two types of marital problems: conflicts that can be resolved and perpetual problems that can’t. It’s important for couples to determine which ones are which.
Sometimes, though, telling the difference can be tricky. According to Gottman, “One way to identify solvable problems is that they seem less painful, gut-wrenching, or intense than perpetual, gridlocked ones.” Solvable problems are situational, and there’s no underlying conflict.
Gottman devised a five-step model for resolving these conflicts:
  • In step 1, soften your startup, which simply means starting the conversation without criticism or contempt.
  • In step 2, make and receive “repair attempts.” Gottman defines repair attempts as any action or statement that deescalates tension.
  • In step 3, soothe yourself and then your partner. When you feel yourself getting heated during a conversation, let your partner know that you’re overwhelmed and take a 20-minute break. (That’s how long it takes for your body to calm down.) Then you might try closing your eyes, taking slow, deep breaths, relaxing your muscles and visualizing a calm place. After you’ve calmed down, you might help soothe your partner. Ask each other what’s most comforting and do that.
  • In step 4, compromise. The above steps prime couples for compromise because they create positivity, Gottman says. When conflicts arise, it’s important to take your partner’s thoughts and feelings into consideration. Here, Gottman includes a valuable exercise to help couples find common ground. He suggests that each partner draw two circles: a smaller one inside a larger one. In the smaller circle, make a list of your nonnegotiable points. In the bigger one, make a list of what you can compromise on. Share them with each other and look for common ground. Consider what you agree on, what your common goals and feelings are and how you can accomplish these goals.
  • In step 5, remember to be tolerant of each other’s faults. Gottman says that compromise is impossible until you can accept your partner’s flaws and get over the “if onlies.” (You know the ones: “If only he was this” “If only she was that.”)

6. “Overcome gridlock.” Gottman says that the goal with perpetual problems is for couples to “move from gridlock to dialogue.” What usually underlies gridlock is unfulfilled dreams. “Gridlock is a sign that you have dreams for your life that aren’t being addressed or respected by each other,” Gottman writes. Happy couples believe in the importance of helping each other realize their dreams.
So the first step in overcoming gridlock is to determine the dream or dreams that are causing your conflict. The next steps include talking to each other about your dreams, taking a break (since some of these talks can get stressful) and making peace with the problem.
“The goal is to ‘declaw’ the issue, to try to remove the hurt so the problem stops being a source of great pain,” Gottman writes.

7. “Create shared meaning.” “Marriage isn’t just about raising kids or splitting chores. It can also have a spiritual dimension that has to do with creating an inner life together — a culture rich with rituals, and an appreciation for your roles and goals that link you, that lead you to understand what it means to be a part of the family you have become,” Gottman says.
And that’s what it means to develop shared meaning. Happy couples create a family culture that includes both of their dreams. In being open to each other’s perspectives and opinions, happy couples naturally come together.


These are my answers to frequently asked dating questions. You may feel free to disagree with me....

1] Do I have to feel sparks? No. Sparks are for birthday cakes and notes on books you don't want to read. You need to feel attracted.

2] How attracted? Impossible to quantify attraction. But it doesn't have to be intense. Attraction DEVELOPS over time and AFTER MARRIAGE when the real "show" begins. Dating is artificial [althoughs dates are natural. The fruit that is].

3] She is pretty but I want gorgeous? Join the crowd. Most boys do. But gorgeous women get divorced daily [go to Hollywood. Or better - don't..]. Beauty can't sustain a marriage. As long as she is nice to look at that is enough. MOST girls are nice to look at if you have an ayin tova. It is better not to look. The "shmiras ainayim" thing. But for marriage it is required. A woman's [and man's] physical attraction develops as one gets to know the person better. A beautiful girl become ugly when she acts ugly. Look more at her character than her hair. Try to be less superficial. I am a guy too. I have noticed that my superficiality is as natural to me as scratching an itch. I wage a daily battle against that superficiality and hope I am winning. Join me.

4] When I am not with her I don't feel like I miss her? Not the end of the world. Do you enjoy yourself when you are with her? Great. When you are not with her your mind is on other things. IF you do think about her when you are not together that is a better sign.

5] I LOVE spending time with him. Is that enough? No. Make sure you can list concrete qualities that he has that make him worthy of being your husband. In the meantime you are possibly just enjoying the attention.

6] Her parents are divorced. Should that bother me? Yes. You should empathize with her. But she can still be marriage material. It is worthwhile discussing how she wants her house to look and what she learned from her parents failed marriage. Many wonderful marriages emerge from children of divorced parents. But one should make sure that patterns witnessed as a child should not be repeated.

7] He wasn't shomer negiyah in high school. Should that bother me? Only if he didn't do teshuva. If he did teshuva you know that he is normal. It is not normal to be shomer negiya. It is HOLY. Not every high school kid is holy - yet.

8] He doesn't read your blog. Is that a problem? I can't answer that question. I am biased:-)!!

9] I have more questions? I have to go to shul - sorry. Email or call me:-).


Dedicated to all of the friends who flatter me by confiding in me about their personal relationship dilemmas.

Q - How do I know he [she] is the right one for me to marry?

A - You don't.

Q - When will I know?

A - At least a year after the marriage. Often many more years after marriage.

Q - So why should I marry him?

A - Because Hashem wants you to marry.

Q - But why a specific guy?

A - Because you see that he has qualities you admire, shares with you a vision for the future, you enjoy his company, you have heard good things about him from his Rabbeim etc., and there is a physical attraction.

Q - For how long should I date?

A - Not too long. It is against halacha. Long enough to determine that you have raw materials to create a beautiful, harmonious marriage. Then marry him and get to work [not at speech therapy or special ed. but at marriage]! But don't rush into it either. Speak to someone you trust before making the decision [but not a single friend].

Q - Why can't I know he is the right one for me before marriage?

A- Because after marriage many things come out that were unknown before marriage. Like how you act when you are pregnant or how he acts when you wake him up for minyan on Sunday and he wanted to sleep [not telling you to do it - just giving an example]. Or how he is as a father. Or how many dishes he does. Or how often she criticizes you AFTER she made the catch.

Q - Let's say I see after being married for a while that I made a mistake?

A - We don't believe in divorce unless there are extenuating circumstances. Make it work. Treat him like a king and see what happens. Take responsibility to make the marriage work. Go for counseling. Do anything to create a lasting bond. We don't throw away spouses like an old useless gadget.

Q- What if there is abuse?

A - Go to the police and get out of there.

Q - Is that all?

A - No. There is lots more but I try to keep things concise. I may add that you really need to daven that you get the right one. Marriage the Torah way is the most beautiful thing in the world - if done correctly.

Tug Of War

Tug Of War
Many relationships turn into a tug of war where each side is "tugging" in order to get their needs fulfilled. People do this, I believe, because by nature we are selfish beings. We need to be in order to survive. If we wouldn't care so much about ourselves we wouldn't do the things necessary to live meaningful and fulfilling lives. However the down side is that when it comes to another person we often are so focused on our own needs that we forget that the other person's needs are no less important. In this tug of war there are no winners, only losers.

There is a chasidic concept called "bitul". If practiced the geulah, both personal and national, would come. It means [on the interpersonal plane] that one nullifies his own needs on behalf of someone else. One wakes up in the morning and says to himself, "What can I do today to make my wife [or future wife] happy? What does she like? Flowers? A phone call during the day? Something else?" If not sure one asks "Sara-Rivka-Rochel-Leah-Chana-Roiza-Shulamis-Bracha, my wife with many names, what can I do to make you happy???" One stops thinking "Boy is she needy-annoying-clingy-demanding" and instead thinks "What an opportunity to make another human being a little bit happier!"

After practicing this consistently he will find that his significant other will be THRILLED to fulfill his own needs because that is what she really wants to do in the first place. So his initial motivation is NOT to get what he wants but it is the inevitable result of his behavior.

In English we have a word for this. It's called "relationship".

Try to have one today.