Stop The Pain, Not The Marriage
Marriage is not like every other human relationship. It brings two incompatible people together for the purpose of healing and growth. The degree of healing and growth will depend on many factors. One such factor is the ability to give love. Love is the foundation of married life. Even though many people talk about it, there is a great deal of doubt as to whether they really know how to give love. Most couples take it for granted that when they get married, their partners will understand what it takes to care about the happiness and well-being of another. This is why, three years ago, I designed a Marriage Enrichment program called T.E.A.M. — Torah Education and Awareness for a Better Marriage. It was designed to complement the Chassan and Kallah classes after Sheva Brochos. This way, as a team, they could put into practice what they had just learned. Since then, I have used the same T.E.A.M. love principles in premarital, marital and remarital counseling. But my greatest success is with couples who were just about to get divorced, but then realized that it is not the marriage they wanted to end, it’s the pain. If a couple grew up in a home with limited “VP” (a term we use at T.E.A.M. for verbal expression and physical affection), how could they have known and understood the skills and dynamics that make up an intimate relationship?
Recently, one couple shared with me a method they used when they first got married. They made a strong commitment not to make the same mistakes their parents made. They stated that “we may not know what to do, but we certainly know what not to do!” Now, logically, this would make sense, if not for the fact that by the time a person turns eight years old, 80 percent of his/her emotional programming has been already recorded. It’s like having a video camera on in your home all the time, transporting images to your mind of what love is supposed to feel and look like.
Love Principle #1
“Through giving, Hashem chooses each couple on the basis of their potential to heal each other.”
When we give our partners what they need, we also heal our own wounds. Giving love is a healing process that can only be activated if the male gives first! If not for the Torah, we would think that the female gives first, since this midah is so much a part of her nature. The Zohar tells us that the giving is the responsibility of the male. It’s he who gives first, if the healing is to begin.
Love Principle #2
“Love means different things to different people.”
The way you want to be loved may not be the way your partner wants to be loved. It’s important to ask him/her how they want to be loved, so that you know how to give love.
Love Principle #3
We are not mind readers!
It’s not realistic or emotionally healthy to think, “If he/she really loves me, I would not have to ask for something I really need.”
Love Principle #4
“Stop the pain, not the marriage”
Most couples do not want to get divorced. What they want is for the pain to stop. Recently, I was a guest on a talk show, along with a representative for single mothers. She spoke for a short while about her experiences before she got divorced. After the show, as we were leaving, she articulated these exact words “we need to stop the pain, not the marriage” If you don’t heal the pain, you will take it into your next relationship.
Love Principle #5
“Break the cycle”
Any unhealthy emotional programming that your parent learned from the past has now become your emotional programming of the present, and possibly the future (of your children).
Love principal #6
“A relationship is equal the sum of all its parts”
You first have to change something about yourself before you can change something about your relationship. When we change our behavior in response to our partner, we heal our partner and ourselves.
Love Principal #7
“Without change there is no growth”