On Sunday evening, December 12, Get Real with Coach Menachem featured Rabbi Ben Tzion Shafier, Founder of The Shmuz. Rabbi Shafier conducted an interactive shiur on how to have a successful marriage. He shared information from his new sefer, The 10 Really Dumb Mistakes That Very Smart Couples Make: A Torah-Based Guide to a Successful Marriage.
Rabbi Shafier first shared the most common question he is asked by people. Someone will call and say my husband or wife is responsible and he is everything good, but I just don’t love him or her anymore. Rabbi Shafier will then ask this person how many times he or she went out with the spouse last month, or the last six months or eight months before. He stops counting the months at this point and then he explains that they are like two ships passing in the night. They are not connecting. “When you don’t spend time together, you drift apart. You have to go out as a couple.” Rabbi Shafier recommends couples do this weekly. Couples need to do what people do who are in love. They need to give gifts and compliments and notes to each other.
Rabbi Shafier noted that when he advises couples about having a date night, he receives a lot of push-back. He quipped that alimony and childcare are more expensive. He added, “The single greatest investment is shalom bayis. It’s so important to spend time as a couple. Go out once a week, and also go on mini-vacations every few months.”
Next, Rabbi Shafier shared that, six months or a year after the wedding, people may think they made a mistake because the infatuation stage of marriage ended. That infatuation stage has a shelf life. “Use it but recognize it will pass.” After it goes, the real work on connection and creating a bond begins. This is the real beginning of marriage. At this point, you will realize you really love your spouse. You will know that he or she has flaws but you love him or her anyway.
Someone asked for some practical tips of things they can do right way in the beginning of marriage. Rabbi Shafier emphasized the importance of dating and spending time together. You need to learn each other’s needs and he held up his book. “You need this.”
Someone else asked the following: “I married the first girl. I am married a few years. I keep thinking I made a mistake. I should have dated more people who are more my type.”
Rabbi Shafier responded that singles often ask him if it’s possible to marry the wrong person. It is possible to pass up your bashert. “I talk to older singles and I can find where they made their mistake.” Hashem works it out that there is a second and a third bashert. “Remember, Hashem runs the world, and He wants you to be happy. He knows what is best for you.” It is very rare that someone will marry the wrong one. In the vast majority of the time, you married the right person, but you are making mistakes that are causing problems.
Another caller asked how to keep the fire going. Rabbi Shafier answered that you have to fight for your marriage. We all go through challenges. “You have to work on it and look for ways to connect with your spouse. Give gifts and compliments. The key is that you need to study your spouse and see what he or she needs.” Again, he emphasized the point that you should do all the things that a couple in love do. Rav Pam taught that “the courtship must continue.”
Next, Rabbi Shafier pointed out that the biggest competition for romance and shalom bayis is children.
“If you want a happy family and a successful marriage, you have to spend time together. This is the best investment for your children.” Having a strong marriage will help your children to be well adjusted, happy, and secure.
He taught that when you have date night, you need to make a rule that you won’t speak about business or the kids. It is time to enjoy each other’s company as you did when you were first chasan and kallah.
The man should plan the date. There shouldn’t be any particular agenda. The wife takes care of the childcare. A wife needs to feel loved and cherished. Find things you enjoy doing together.
Someone asked about politics. She and her husband have different views. Should they discuss this or not?
Rabbi Shafier said it is best to avoid color war. This is not a religious issue, and it is better not to get into it. Our faces are different. Every person has his own unique viewpoint. Men and women will naturally disagree. They have different temperaments and natures.
He emphasized that the husband’s job is to romance his wife. “If you are drifting apart, then nothing except for spending time together will bring you together.”
He continued. “The glue of marriage is love. You have to grease the marriage. If you don’t work on it, this is the first dumb mistake.”
It is always important to ask Hashem for help with shalom bayis. When you have your date night, you should dress up and leave problems and business behind. A change of scene helps you to reconnect in a new way. You can just go for a long walk together.
He also referenced Dale Carnegie’s book How to Win Friends and Influence People. With your spouse – and any relationship – avoid criticism. “The first y’sod is that if you want people to like you, compliment them. If you want them to hate you, criticize them.”
Criticism lodges a wedge and damages relationships. Give honest approval to your spouse, because you are building your relationship. He emphasized, “If you want a happy marriage and happy children, avoid criticism like the plague.”
Fighting is part of marriage. In the heavy traffic of life, you hurt each other. It is impossible to not have inadvertent situations when you hurt each other. The important thing is how to repair the rift. There is an art to apology. “In any fight, both parties are the victim.”
He emphasized to women: “My job is not to change my spouse. Learning to accept what we can’t change is part of a successful marriage.
Rabbi Shafier’s new book is available at www.theshmuz.com.
By Susie Garber