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Making a Vision for Your Marriage

To be successful at anything you have to know where you are heading. A marriage needs a vision just like a business needs a mission statement. Here is a step by step plan to get you and your marriage on track. (This is an excerpt from a longer class, please contact us at the Jewish Marriage Institute if you would like to learn more.)

Step 1: Give yourselves one hour of uninterrupted time

Step 2: Spend a few minutes thinking about some of these questions to get you in the right frame of mind …
What kind of marriage partners do we want to be?
How do we want to treat each other?
How do we want to resolve our differences?
How do we want to handle our finances?
What kind of parents do we want to be?
What principles do we want to teach our children to help them prepare for adulthood and to lead responsible, caring lives?
How do we help develop the potential talent of each child?
What kind of discipline do we want to use with our children?
What roles (earning, financial management, housekeeping, and so on)
will each of us have?
How can we best relate to each other’s families?
What traditions do we bring with us from the families in which we were. What traditions do we want to keep and create?
What intergenerational traits or tendencies are we happy or unhappy with, we make changes?
How do we want to give back?

Step 3: Take out two sheets of paper, one for each of you. Working separately, write a series of short sentences that describe your personal vision of the deeply satisfying marriage you would like to have. Include things that you might think are obvious and include qualities you already have as well as qualities or behaviors you wish you had. Write each sentence in the present tense, as if it were already happening.

For example: “We have fun together,” “We have a meaningful sexual relationship,” “We are loving parents,” “We are affectionate with each other.”

Make all your items positive statements. Write “We settle our differences peacefully” rather than “We don’t fight.”

Step 4: Share your ideas. Note the items that you have in common and underline them. (It doesn’t matter if you have used different words, as long as the general idea is the same.) If your partner has written sentences that you agree with but did not think of yourself, add them to your list. For the moment, ignore items that are not shared.

NOTE: What happens if you have loads of things on your list that are different. It’s not a problem, they could be things are really part of your personal vision and not the vision for your relationship.

Step 5: Now turn to your own expanded list and rank all the sentences (including the ones that are not shared) with a number from 1 to 5 according to its importance to you, with 1 being “very important” and 5 “not so important.”

Step 6: Circle the two items that are most important to you.

Step 7: Put a check mark beside those items that you think would be most difficult for the two of you to achieve.

Step 8: Now work together to design a mutual relationship vision. Start with the items that you both agree are most important. Put a check mark by those items that you both agree would be difficult to achieve. At the bottom of the list, write items that are relatively unimportant. If you have items that are a source of conflict between you, see if you can come up with a compromise statement that satisfies both of you. If not, leave the item off your combined list.

Step 9: Post this list where you can see it easily. Read it every day. Once a week, read it aloud to each other.

Good luck, you have the ability to make a better marriage

Settle for the Best

A little boy named Johnny was playing marbles in his front yard. His uncle drove up and decided to play with the boy for a few minutes. Then the uncle reached into his pocket and pulled out a dime and a dollar.

“Johnny,” he asked, “would you like a dime today or a dollar next week?”

Johnny’s boyish eyes bounced back and forth between the shiny dime and the crisp greenback. He thought, I could buy a back of potato chips today, or I could wait until next week and buy a rubber ball. He felt some hunger pangs, so he grabbed the dime bought some chips and wolfed the down. They were delicious.

A week passed and when Johnny went out to play one afternoon he noticed that every other boy in his neighborhood had a rubber ball. He wanted one real bad; so he rode his bicycle over to his uncle’s house. “Hey, uncle, how about that dollar you promised me?” Johnny asked.

But his uncle looked down and said, “Johnny, last week I promised you a dime today or a dollar next week, and you made your choice. You can’t have the dollar now.”

We believe that God is big enough to give you the person you can love the most. Don’t settle for a dime if you can have a dollar.

NOTE: A 2009 study by the Australian National University found that partners who are on their second or third marriages are 90% more likely to separate than spouses who are both in their first marriage. Read the rest of this entry »

Great Expectations

Daily life involves thousands of expectations; so much so that we get used to having them constantly met, but if the gap between our expectations and the reality we find ourselves living in grows – that is when the challenge of disappointment begins.

If we make an effort to keep our expectations reasonable, then it is reasonable to assume that they are going to be realized. Right? Well, not always. The problem with being reasonable is that what is reasonable to you is weird or extreme to your husband/wife. And what is reasonable in the first year or two of marriage may not be after five years of marriage and a couple of kids.

For example, you might have an expectation that your wife is never late, or that she must look like she has just walked out of the salon. You may expect your husband to always give you the sympathy and empathy that you deserve. These are not reasonable and if you create a set of rigid expectations like these then your marriage is going to struggle.

I will throw out two reasonable expectations. Firstly, that the man of the family spends quality time with the children on a daily basis, and secondly that he works to provide us with a nicely comfortable life style. If you have both of these expectations at the same time they are very often going to come into conflict and you may find yourself with increasing levels of frustration.

This idea was investigated in a study of female doctors. They categorized the women into three groups. Those that put career first, even to the determent of their family, those that put their family first at the risk of not progressing professionally and thirdly those that intended to have a successful career and balanced family life without having to sacrifice either of them. Those that thought they could perform the balancing act were the group with the greatest levels of depression , anxiety and marital problems.

When choosing your priorities and the way that you expect your life to play out, make sure that you are being reasonable and consistent.

To learn more about this topic email us at the Jewish Marriage Institute.

The Jewish View on Marital Intimacy

In Jewish thought marital intimacy exists to create “an intellectual, physical and emotional unity between a husband and wife”. It is the way to form the deepest possible connection between a married couple spiritually and physically.

The Torah, when it talks about the first ever couple, Adam and Eve (and by the way the sages point out that they were actually married with a chupah and all the trimmings), says that when they were intimate Adam “knew” his wife. The Hebrew word ledaat, implies connecting to and understanding the essence of a thing. Adam did not know his wife until they were intimate. The purpose was not physical pleasure and was not an attempt to populate the world, it was to connect. Marital intimacy is celebrated in Jewish thought, whilst being extremely private it is never seen as something sinful or shameful.

When Gd created Adam, it was originally a hermaphrodite, a being that was both male and female, and then Gd saw fit to split that original being into two, Adam and Eve, each one of them possessing half of that original soul. Then when Adam and Eve married in the Garden of Eden the two bodies and souls fused back together to create one flesh, basar echad. In marriage, one of the many difficult tasks we are faced with, is to slowly but surely work towards the reuniting of our souls with our wives, whom we consider to be our lost soul mates.

During marital intimacy one of the proper thoughts is that we are reaching the ultimate physical expression of that coming together to form one flesh.

To learn more about this topic email us at the Jewish Marriage Institute