As a child you had two basic needs. One was to be happy and loved, and the second was for your parents to be happy and loved. If you grew up and these emotional needs were not met, then your unconscious mind seeks a partner to help you meet those needs. The process will take place by recreating your childhood wounds in your present marriage. This way you can finish unfinished emotional business and move on with your life. By giving each other unconditional love, the two neshamos can provide the emotional energy that’s needed to heal each other. The process happens so discretely, that most couples are not aware of what is happening to them.
As one young couple said to me, “Something hurts but I don’t know what.” As in so many cases, one partner wants to get close and the other wants to be left alone. The one that wants to be left alone starts to get angry and critical. The one that wants to get close starts to feel alone and scared. They both want to be loved, but they don’t know how. It seems as if the closer they get the more they argue. In most cases the couple will find someone to say, “You’re just not compatible.”
This is not true; deep down they know that they are compatible, because they both need what the other one does not have. Inside, they are both very frightened and lost. As a result they will put up an emotional wall to protect themselves from any further pain. The emotional energy Hashem has provided for them to heal each other will be drained and used to hide their true feelings of anger, hurt and fear.
Love Principal #1
Hashem chooses the partner you’re with, so that you can heal each other and complete unfinished business from childhood. I recall a young newlywed telling me how careful she was not to marry anyone who drinks. She remembered what her father’s drinking did to her mother, and how it affected the family. She was in shock to find out that right after sheva brachos her new husband started drinking!
In T.E.A.M, a program I designed three years ago, we call this process P.O.P. — “Prisoners of the Past.” Most couples panic at this stage and file for divorce, in hopes of breaking free. There is an expression in the Gemara that states “A prisoner cannot free himself.” In marital relationships this is very true. The only way you can be free, is by giving love the way your partner wants to be loved, not the way you want to be loved.
During a Friday night shiur, my rav, Rabbi Wosner, shilta, shared an amazing story with me that took place in Israel recently. A young man wanting very much to have children came to a rav in Israel for a bracha. He started crying that he and his wife tried everything, and with all the testing and medication, they still have not been able to conceive. The rav responded that he was sorry but nothing he could do would help. As the young man was leaving in tears, the rav suddenly said “Wait! I have an idea. I can’t do anything, but perhaps you can! Listen carefully. I have a son and just as you, he has been trying to have a baby, and for many years nothing has helped. I want the both of you and your wives to team up as partners, and pray for the other, not for yourselves! I must tell you that this will be the most difficult challenge of your lifetime. This can work, because you each have the same need — what the other does not have. By nature, you will shift back and start to ask for yourself. If this should happen, and it will, just yell out ‘stop!’ and continue praying for the other one. Please keep in mind that by giving you will be getting.” They took the rav’s advice and within the year, both couples had babies.
The T.E.A.M approach teaches couples how to give love and feel loved, not by taking but by giving. If you’re willing to take on the challenge, as a team, any couple can build shalom bayis.