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Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities – 12/18/09

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Dear Rachel,

I’ll get straight to the point. How do I get my husband to be more attentive in a “giving” sense? I can understand not splurging or wasting. For instance, some would consider spending money on fresh flowers that last for only a couple of days a waste of money.

So I compromised and asked my husband (beforehand) to bring me just one flower, like a rose, to the hospital when I would give birth (this past summer). Needless to say, the baby (and winter) is already here and I am still waiting.

Since he is completely not tuned to important (meaningful) dates, I guess I should have known better. For example: Recently, when the day of my birthday was coming to a close with no mention of anything, I gently prodded him by asking him if he remembered any significance to the day. His response (I’m not kidding): “Is it our anniversary?”

Some people may not call this a problem, but still it would be nice to receive some special attention once in a while.

I wonder if this is related to the trait of stinginess. My husband does have a bit of miserliness in him, I must admit. If my children or I am in need of something, like in the way of clothing, it takes some convincing to make him come around. This can become frustrating, especially since it’s not like I have my own expense account or am independently wealthy.

By the way, I have a close friend whose husband buys her flowers every Friday. This not only enhances their Shabbos table but I am sure promotes good feelings between them as well. But I wouldn’t dare to suggest such a move to my husband!

Do you have any ideas, Rachel, of how I can get him to sit up and take notice?

In need of some TLC

Dear Need,

It is by no means a simple task to alter one’s nature. Your husband may have grown up seeing his father act in this manner; perhaps his parents struggled financially and were therefore watchful of their limited resources.

The reality is that it takes all kinds. The practical-minded, for instance, use their wives’ birthday or anniversary occasions to purchase a badly needed refrigerator or to replace an on-the-wane vacuum cleaner, while the chivalrous type usually treat their wives to a night out plus buy them a present.

Then there are the extremes: the lavish spender who, besides splurging on an expensive piece of jewelry even though she already has more trinkets than she knows what to do with, surprises his wife with plane tickets to the French Riviera – while at the other end the no frills/no bills kind cannot be bothered with remembering any special dates.

And yet all this can work out well, believe it or not, when like marries like. However, when, as in your case, oblivious meets up with sentimentalist, adjustments have to be made by both.

Going with the assumption that your husband has some saving graces (you don’t discuss any) and that the something that attracted you to him is still there and attractive, you might want to start teaching him about some of the finer things in life versus sitting back and waiting for things to change. Try squirreling some money away from your weekly household allowance, then surprise him for his birthday – by getting dressed up to go out for dinner, and, if your savings will stretch that far, with a small gift (or a card). He is bound to be motivated to reciprocate on your special day. In other words, do for him and he will be inclined to do for you.

You may also (gently) remind him that any money spent to enhance Shabbos or Yom Tov is money earned. In other words, Hashem repays us for such expense – hence, flowers for the Shabbos table is money well spent.

As for buying his lady a gift, birthdays and anniversaries aside, our Sages advise a husband to present his aishes chayil with a gift for Yom Tov. Tell your hubby you can do with a new pair of earrings, and that you have no problem accepting a belated Chanukah present. (If you don’t trust his taste, ask him to take you shopping. Or, if you prefer to take your chances, tell him to surprise you.)

Every married couple has to work on working things out; nobody enters a ready custom-made arrangement when marrying a virtual stranger. Action and communication foster a harmonious relationship.

The reader may further keep in mind that not everyone considers a birthday a cause for celebration or gift-giving. In fact, in many a frum household there is no mention of such days, adults considering a birthday milestone simply as an opportune time for self-introspection and prayer – to appeal for His guidance in self-improvement and to express appreciation for His gifts and bounty.

If your children are healthy and your husband is otherwise a decent, responsible and caring man, count your blessings (instead of your years).

Speaking of counting, the blessing of le’hadlik ner shel Chanukah consists of thirteen words, reflecting the thirteen divine attributes of mercy (yud-gimmel midos ha’rachamim). This is symbolic of Hashem’s compassion in extending our z’man Teshuvah (that began in Elul) to the end of Chanukah.

May we soon merit to witness the lighting of the Menorah in the Beis Hamikdash!

* * * * *

We encourage women and men of all ages to send in their personal stories via email to rachel@jewishpress.com or bymail to Rachel/Chronicles, c/o The Jewish Press, 338 Third Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11215.

About the Author: We encourage women and men of all ages to send in their personal stories via email to rachel@jewishpress.com or by mail to Rachel/Chronicles, c/o The Jewish Press, 4915 16th Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11204. If you wish to make a contribution and help agunot, your tax-deductible donation should be sent to The Jewish Press Foundation. Please make sure to specify that it is to help agunot, as the foundation supports many worthwhile causes.


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