On Sunday evening, August 14, Let’s Get Real With Coach Menachem featured a virtual shiur with Rabbi Dovid Kaplan, Senior Lecturer at Ohr Somayach and well-known author on how to bring your marriage to an even higher level. He noted that not every generalization applies to every marriage. It’s the most important relationship in your life, and every decision you make affects your spouse. Why did Hashem make men and women so different?
The Abarbanel taught that Hashem did this so that we learn to relate and to give to someone else. Men should ask themselves the following question: “How would I like to be married to me?”
Rav Aharon Yehuda Leib Shteinman zt”l taught that if you treat your spouse well, then your spouse will treat you well. Rabbi Kaplan shared that men are naturally takers and, by nature, women are givers. If a man is treating his wife well, then she will reciprocate. If the wife is treating her husband well, then he will reciprocate.
The focus in shalom bayis should be on the man. He has to learn to give to his wife. This is one of the keys to a strong marriage. Chazal teach that a man has to love his wife as much as he loves himself, and he has to respect her more than himself. “A good wife is a precious gift to a husband.” Husbands need to remember that, he taught.
When Rabbi Kaplan speaks with couples, he first finds out how the husband is behaving. He offers the following important advice: A man should read a book on marriage for five or ten minutes every day. “If you focus on your marriage, it will improve.”
Rebbetzin Tzivia Leah Chadash shared that her marriage of 60 years was like being in Gan Eden. “Your wife should be able to say that about your marriage.” He shared that marriage needs constant focus. He spoke about eliminating electronics when you have date night or spend time together. Also, realize that a wife wants to communicate during a date night, while a husband may be more interested in doing something.
Someone asked Rabbi Kaplan how one can prepare for marriage. He responded: First realize that you are taking on a responsibility for a wife and a family. Also, expect the unexpected. You will have to focus on someone else and you have to be ready to give. Learn Torah and musar and get yourself into a realistic mindset. Marriage is an avodah to Hashem. Appreciate that that is what you are entering.
The Chazon Ish advised his sister, who was getting married, that the moment you want to take, that is the moment you have to give. Rabbi Kaplan advised young women to understand what male nature is so they can go into marriage with that knowledge.
When his wife walked into the room, Rav Moshe Feinstein would close the sefer he was learning and give her his full attention. In a healthy marriage, there needs to be communication, and a wife needs to communicate if she needs time and if she needs her husband to pay attention to her. If a man won’t budge, then professional help is needed.
Rabbi Kaplan noted that sometimes men go into marriage with unrealistic expectations. “We have to grow up.”
Someone asked how she can encourage her husband to focus more on learning Torah. Rabbi Kaplan responded that there is a misconception taught in seminaries that the wife is not supposed to be the husband’s mashgiach. He said that he disagrees with that. The wife’s role is to encourage and compliment and build up her husband’s confidence, but sometimes she has to be a mashgiach and direct him to go learn more. How you say something and when you say is important. “Of course you are your husband’s mashgiach.” Don’t tell him in an unpleasant way. Most people respond to positive reinforcement. Tell him how happy and proud you are that he’s learning Daf Yomi, etc. Rabbi Kaplan suggested making a list of 20 or 30 compliments and splashing your husband with them. Everyone responds to positive compliments.
Someone asked about how to make decisions in a healthy marriage, and Rabbi Kaplan shared that he has a basic principle that it is better to listen to your wife because she has that binah y’seirah, extra intuition.
If it’s an issue of personal preference, the man should give in. When it’s an issue of right or wrong, then the husband has to do research and bring the information to his wife. Then he should let her make the decision. He added that the binah y’seirah is tremendously accurate.
Someone asked about a conflict with his mother and his wife, and Rabbi Kaplan strongly advised that your loyalty must always be first to your wife. You have to be respectful of your mother, but your wife comes first.
He noted that marriage is a test of midos. Shalom is an active accomplishment. It doesn’t mean an absence of conflict.
By Susie Garber