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Part 19 – Towards A Higher Level Of Communication


Schonbuch-Rabbi-Daniel

Take Meir, 45, and Leah, 44, for example. They came to resolve their complaint that neither was fully “engaged” in their marriage. Meir was a successful lawyer who worked long and hard hours at his firm. He believed that he was a good husband who provided for his wife’s every need. They had a large house, several cars, went away twice a year on exotic vacations, etc. Meir also described himself as an “avoider” and his wife as being confrontational. Leah, on the other hand was busy running their children’s school’s PTA, studying towards a second degree in art therapy and taking courses in their local shul. In short, Meir and Leah never saw each other, but when they did, they were always fighting about money, Meir’s “sloppiness” and how to renovate their home.

At first, I tried to work through their conflict under the assumption that Meir was avoiding his wife, and Leah was too confrontational. After several sessions I saw that we weren’t making any headway and I decided to probe even deeper. It turned out that the real problem in their marriage was a lack of affection caused by their inability to spend quality time together. Each was living as a separate entity under the same roof. They lacked the aspect of dodi, and were missing the closeness needed to sustain a happy marriage. For Meir and Leah marriage turned into a business deal, an agreement where each side did the minimal amount needed to continue the relationship while sharing no real joy or excitement about one another.

Meir and Leah were not just fighting about matching pastel colors or the size of their chandeliers. They were fighting about the loneliness in their marriage and using the walls of their home as their battleground.

When people argue endlessly about the same topics, it is a sign that they are really talking about something much deeper. There may even exist unsolvable problems and differences that pop up as conflicts over money, education or work stress. In reality, their problems can’t be solved through changing their style of communication. Couples who can’t break their vitriolic patterns need to discover their deeper wishes and desires that are unfulfilled or being denied by their spouse.

Some of a person’s deeper wishes may include:

Wanting more love and affection. Desiring greater control in their lives. Getting respect from people. Wanting to feel secure about their relationship. Desire to live a long life. Financial security. Overcoming past hurts i.e. divorced parents, death in family, loss of money, failure.

Often it is these wishes that fuel unresolved conflicts. For example, arguing over raising children may be more than just a fight about changing diapers. The daily stress of attending to a child’s needs may be exacerbated by a wish that their child will succeed in school or that they will become a doctor, lawyer or wealthy businessman. Or, for parents of a child who tends to act out, they may harbor a deep-seated wish that their child will be perfect and never struggle or compromise their values. Sometimes you find couples arguing endlessly about their in-laws, when in actuality they are upset about the lack of affection in their marriage.

Next week, part 20, How Your Marriage Affects Your Children

Rabbi Daniel Schonbuch, MA, is the Executive Director of Shalom Task Force and author of a “First Aid for Jewish Marriages: Eight Steps To Enhancing the Most Important Relationship in Your Life.” For more information about Shalom Task Force, please visit www.shalomtaskforce.org. You can e-mail questions to him at rabbischonbuch@yahoo.com.

About the Author: Rabbi Daniel Schonbuch, MA, Marriage and Family Therapy, is an expert in marriage counseling, pre-marital education, and helping teens in crisis with offices in Flatbush, Cedarhurst, and Crown Heights. He is a certified PAIRS instructor, and trained as a Level 1, Emotionally Focused Therapist at the Ackerman Institute for the Family, and is a member of AASECT. He is the author of At Risk – Never Beyond Reach and First Aid For Jewish Marriages. To watch his free videos on marriage and parenting and for appointments visit: www.JewishMarriageSupport.com or call 646-428-4723


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More Articles from Rabbi Daniel Schonbuch
Schonbuch-Rabbi-Daniel

Separation anxiety disorder is a condition in which a child becomes fearful and nervous when away from home or separated from a loved one – usually a parent or other caregiver – to whom the child is attached.

Schonbuch-Rabbi-Daniel

I try to focus on the parents in a way that is not often addressed. As soon as the child gets anxious, the parent gets anxious;

Most people are not aware that anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States, affecting 40 million adults age 18 and older (18% of U.S. population).

Parental conflict affects children in varying ways, depending on their age. For example, teenagers around the age of fifteen or sixteen are most likely to involve themselves in their parents’ battles. Younger children may keep their feelings hidden inside and may only show signs of depression in late childhood or early adolescence.

When parents come to talk to me about a troubled child or teenager, I often find it helpful to explore whether or not their marriage is causing their teenager to be at risk.

Active listening is only one part of the marriage equation; learning what to say and what not to say is the other half. And, it’s not just about expressing your feelings, but doing it in a way that avoids hurting the other person.

Control may be the most destructive force influencing a marriage. Let me illustrate this point with the following story. About two years ago a woman named Bracha, 47, came to speak to me about her husband’s controlling behavior. This is how she described her precarious situation:

Controlling behavior may be the number one reason that your marriage needs first aid.

If you are unfamiliar with the topic of control, it’s no surprise. Most people are unaware that control is a major issue for counselors, therapists and psychologists-at-large.

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