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August 25, 2016 / 21 Av, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘Miami Beach’

Keeping Your Relationship Strong When Money Gets Tight

Wednesday, December 16th, 2009

During these difficult financial times, many couples, usually without ever noticing it, start dealing with life as individuals. They begin to recede from each other and allow a distance to develop. They stop talking. They find their feelings to be too intense and too difficult to face, so they don’t share them. They don’t want to share that they are scared, so each partner says nothing and goes into a deep and lonely place within. They don’t fight for their relationship. Instead they fight over money and who’s at fault for the situation. They blame each other for not making enough money, for spending too much money, for not saving money, or for not spending enough time doing the things that will bring in more money.

Sadly, this distance is a close step toward a wide gap from which many couples do not recover. For over 22 years, I’ve helped couples turn this around quickly. In my book, In Good Times & Bad: Strengthening Your Relationship When the Going Gets Tough & the Money Gets Tight, (written with my wife) we offer a one week program to turn your family life around to create a warm, loving home. It begins with a pattern of living that successful couples follow to create a deeper love from struggle.

1. Decide to fight for your marriage: Everyone says they want a great relationship but do not necessarily throw their whole selves into it. When I counseled a couple separated due to financial struggle on a recent Oprah episode, the wife shared that this financial struggle was harder than her overcoming her recent battle with cancer. Through counseling, she came to understand that she made a decision to fight for her life in a way that she did not for her marriage. With that knowledge, a different way of live began for her and her husband. Saying firmly to yourself and your partner that we ARE going to get through this and will not allow it to cause our relationship to deteriorate is a crucial step. It keeps you away from negative conversations about the relationship and creates renewed energy to deal with your collective financial problems.

2. Attack the problems, not each other: We only have so much energy. The more we expend it blaming and fighting, the less we have to get our problems solved. Now is the time to have that conversation with your spouse, the one that says let’s stop arguing and let’s start standing up for this couplehood. Not talking is the worst mistake you can make. Force yourselves to go into this with eyes wide open. Look at your whole financial situation and together begin to figure out creative solutions. Divvy up roles, who’ll research this, who will talk to this person who might have some answers or ideas. Be determined to focus on loving each other and knowing that as long as the two of you are in this together, that’s what counts. Everything else comes and goes, but love is the constant we must focus on. In the book we explain how to get this conversation going so that the focus is on getting over negative history and working together for the future.

Once you become a team there’s inspiration for positive changes. We think clearer and find more answers. My father-in-law, a judge for over 30 years, told me how unfortunate it was when people would not show in court during foreclosure proceedings. Even if they didn’t have an attorney, just showing up could have helped and he could’ve given them more time to manage things. When people are so overwhelmed and feeling alone, they’re more likely to take a wait and see attitude, the very opposite of what will help the most. Teamwork is the goal and you may be surprised how much more creative and confident about the future you will fell when love is more prevalent in your life.

3. Give yourself permission to have fun: There’s a tendency to stop having fun during tough financial times. We have this image that we’re supposed to be sad and overworked. If there’s a spare second, do something to make money. Life doesn’t stop when money is tight. At some point, you’ll decide that you have to get back to living, enjoying parts of your day. Why not give yourself that permission today? You and your partner are allowed to have fun and enjoy life. You can even go on a date for little or no money every week. Try this: on your date, don’t talk about money, work or the kids. If you’re like most people, you’re already laughing out loud wondering what you’ll talk about. Get back to loving your time together and creating fun. Don’t wait to live life.

4. Get the children on board: Parents tend to share as little as possible with their kids because they fear worrying them. Unfortunately for kids, lack of information leads to an overactive imagination. When your kids hear comments during arguments like, “You’re spending all our money,” they think, “Oh my gosh, all of our money is going away.” Yes, your children need reassurance but they also desperately need to be a part of this family team. They can handle the truth as long as they know that their parents are on top of the situation and that there will be love in this family regardless of what comes next. You have the chance to send a powerful message to your children that they will draw on for the rest of their lives: as long as we are focused on the love in our family, we get through anything. Again, in our book, we outline scripts on how to talk to different age children so that they can feel in the loop without feeling anxious.

Now more than ever is the time to send your loved ones this message: let’s focus on us, the love we’ve shared, the kids we’ve brought into this world, and how we can get through this together. The honest sharing of thoughts and feelings, no matter how complicated, brings us into the inner sanctum of our psyches. That in itself sends a message of togetherness.

Great Gift Ideas for Kids

1. For little children, get little presents. Very small children are generally delighted with almost any age-appropriate little toy or interesting item that you give them. If the item is wrapped in pretty paper or has a balloon attached, they will be delighted. There’s no risk of an awkward moment in which the children report to their friends that they didn’t get the really expensive doll or whatever. Parents often joke about how they bought expensive gifts for their toddlers and the kids were more interested in the boxes. Although we may have enjoyed big fancy gifts as children, the toys we played with endlessly were small green plastic soldiers and dolls with removable clothing. Spend less money on the little ones and apply the money saved to presents for the older ones.

2. Ask parents who’ve been there and done that. People who have kids older than yours may have ideas about which gifts, in retrospect, were a universal hit. Assuming that your kids don’t have their hearts set on a specific thing, this is a good strategy for success. At one point we had five kids under the age of seven, with the eldest being six (yeah, we’ve heard the jokes) and we wanted to get something that would be fun for the group. A friend had kids who were a few years older, and she noticed that they loved the Fisher Price pirate ship. This was a well-received toy by our kids, an instant hit, and it was enjoyed for more than a decade. We later bought the Fisher Price castle; the princess joined the pirates on their ship, and it was all a lot of fun. Although some more classic toys like Lincoln Logs ended up being turned into weapons and lost, the castle and the pirate ship endured.

3. Pool resources. Relatives who would otherwise send cash will often enjoy the opportunity to participate in buying a more meaningful gift. You can let it be known that shares in little Yaakov’s new video game system are available.

4. Use the Internet. Look on eBay and on overstock sites on the Web. Bartering sites offer chances to trade a marketable service for merchandise. Discounted merchandise is widely available.

5. Take a trip. Visiting a park or going camping by finding amazing rates on the Internet is a great time-off gift. Because we live in Florida, we often went to Disney World on days off. We bought a one-day pass for each of our older kids (babies are admitted free), drove there and back on the same day, and had a memorable time. We brought along our own food and sodas. There are often tourist attractions that can substitute for expensive material things, and time with family in a different setting is very memorable.

6. Consider a pet. If your financial situation and home life are reasonably stable and you have time and patience, a pet can be a sure way of generating excitement. Please be aware that bringing a pet into your home is a huge responsibility, not something to be undertaken impulsively. If you decide to get a pet, shelters are filled with puppies and kittens abandoned during foreclosures and other crises. The adoption fee is often nominal. The animal will have had all of the necessary shots, the implanted identity chip, and other veterinarian services that would cost at least a thousand dollars if you had to take care of them. Hamsters and their tunnel homes are inexpensive and very exciting for children, but be warned: hamsters do have a habit of disappearing from their cages and reappearing at inopportune moments.

7. Give a group present. Purchase something that the entire family can enjoy, like a Ping-Pong table or a new television. However, this option doesn’t rule out little gifts for the kids. Warehouse and dollar stores can be good places to buy some inexpensive, individual toys to satisfy your children’s wishes for some simple little gifts of their own.

8. Have fun! No matter what gifts you give to your children, if there isn’t a joyful spirit attached, you’ve wasted your money. Make your times together about fun and happy moments with your kids, and that will be the memory; a nice gift will just add background color.

Mordechai Neuman is a licensed psychotherapist and rabbi and the author of the acclaimed New York Times bestseller The Truth about Cheating. He is a frequent guest on Oprah and has made many appearances on Today, Good Morning America, Dateline, The View, The Early Show, Talk of the Nation on NPR, NBC Nightly News, and CBS Weekend News. He and his work have also been featured in People, Time, O: The Oprah Magazine, Marie Claire, Redbook, Parents, Parenting, the Washington Post, Newsweek.com, the Chicago Tribune, and the Miami Herald. He is the creator of the Marriage Turnaround Intensive, an all-day counseling program for couples, and maintains a private practice in Miami Beach, Florida. He is also the author of Emotional Infidelity: How to Affair-Proof Your Marriage and 10 Other Secrets to a Great Relationship, Helping Your Kids Cope with Divorce the Sandcastles Way, and How to Make a Miracle.

Mordechai Neuman

It’s My Opinion: Taking Responsibility

Wednesday, May 20th, 2009

            What seemed to be just another local scandal recently broke into a national news story.  Rev. Alberto Cutie leads St. Francis de Sales Parish in Miami Beach.  The handsome, charismatic priest is well-known.  His Spanish-language television and radio talk shows made him famous. 

 

Recently photos appeared in TV Notas USA.  They were taken on a seemingly deserted stretch of beach.  The pictures showed the priest and a young woman, both in bathing suits.  The pose indicated an intimate relationship.  There seemed to be no one around.  The priest was mistaken.  The ever-present South Florida paparazzi were apparently watching.

 

Father Cutie’s first interview with Spanish-language Univision showed him in his priestly collar declaring, “I will never say I’m sorry for loving a woman.”  A few days later, Rev. Cutie had obviously rethought his position.  He appeared on “The Early Show” on CBS, in a button-down shirt, and apologized profusely.  Cutie took full responsibility for his actions and admitted that he had erred.  He offered a public state and national apology.

 

We are taught, “Who is wise? – He who learns from everyone.”  There is certainly something to be learned from this nasty scandal.

 

Excuses are plentiful.  An individual can find many reasons that exclude him from guilt.  It is often quite easy to even rationalize a chet (sin) into amitzvah.  People do it all the time.

 

Taking personal responsibility is difficult.  However, it is the only catalyst for real introspection and change.

Shelley Benveniste

Charter-School Debate Roils U.S. Orthodox Communities

Wednesday, March 11th, 2009

The Yeshiva Elementary School, an Orthodox institution in Miami Beach with about 450 students, was in dire straits in late 2008. It was behind on payroll, in significant debt and facing financial collapse.

So its administration contemplated taking what would have been a revolutionary step: splitting the school for grades K-8 into two distinct institutions – one for religious studies, one for secular studies. Like most Jewish day schools, Yeshiva Elementary had a dual curriculum encompassing both spheres of study.

Under the proposed plan, secular subjects would be taught in a publicly funded charter school that would be open to students of all religious backgrounds. Jewish studies would be taught later in the day at an off-site, private supplementary school.

In tough times, the plan could reduce overall operating costs passed on to the parents by hundreds of thousands of dollars, and school officials said that a respected rabbinic authority had granted them a heter, or religious exemption, to pursue the charter school option. But when the administration brought the proposal to its parent body, the idea triggered vehement objections – and opponents, who were urged on by at least one local synagogue, lined up several prominent rabbis to speak out against the idea.

The opponents “had a meeting and came up with a ruling that it should not be done,” said one school official who did not wish to be identified. “We are not planning to go against the gedolei Yisrael,” or leading sages.

Though the plan was shot down, the very fact that an institution like Yeshiva Elementary – a school on the right of the religious spectrum – would

even consider such an option underscores the scope and urgency of the financial challenges facing the Orthodox world as it attempts to maintain its decades-old commitment to universal day school education. And it also reflects the growing willingness of some parents and school officials to consider more affordable alternatives.

For several years some have pushed charter schools, which receive government funds but are exempt from many regulations, as an alternative for Jewish children outside the Orthodox world. The Ben Gamla Hebrew Charter School, for example, generated headlines and debate when it opened in 2007 in Hollywood, Fla., pledging to teach Hebrew and Jewish history and culture, but not religion. In New York, a group backed by philanthropist Michael Steinhardt and others recently gained approval to open a charter school in Brooklyn and now plans to seek approval to open similar schools elsewhere.

But charter schools have long been a tough sell for those, especially in Orthodox circles, who are wary of sending their children to school with non-Jewish children or too many Jewish children from irreligious households. And there is the issue of the curriculum: Many Orthodox parents and educators do not see Hebrew language studies as a satisfactory alternative to Jewish and biblical instruction.

So even though the Ben Gamla school offers supplementary Jewish studies outside of its state-sponsored course load, many Orthodox families in the area have never seen it as an alternative to day schools.

“No one wants in dealing with the tuition crisis to water down Jewish education,” said Rabbi Kenneth Brander, the dean of the Yeshiva University Center for the Jewish Future in Manhattan. “But you are finding for the first time a whole bunch of organizations across denominational lines in the Jewish community all focused on this.”

Indeed, JESNA and the Lippman Kanfer Institute recently published a 47-page study on how day schools could cut costs. The survey, which was developed in conjunction with a number of organizations and institutions, including Yeshiva University, also suggested several alternatives to day schools – among them charter schools.

Rabbi Saul Zucker, the director of the Orthodox Union’s Department of Day School and Educational Services, spent the first few days in March in Florida consulting with some of the founders of the Ben Gamla school to see if there was a way to adapt the model to better serve the Orthodox.

In some areas, an increasing number of Orthodox parents are openly advocating for some way to integrate their students into the public school system.

In late February, several hundred parents attended a meeting in Englewood, N.J., to discuss creating a Hebrew immersion program within the town’s public school system that could open as soon as the 2009-10 school year. And in the Five Towns of Long Island, N.Y., a heavily Jewish area, Orthodox parents are mulling the creation of a supplementary school system, according to Marvin Schick, the senior consultant to the Avi Chai Foundation, which has spent millions of dollars helping to seed and expand day schools.

But such ideas are still likely to be a tough sell in the Orthodox community, especially on the furthest right edge of the spectrum – as evidenced by the quick kibosh put on the Yeshiva Elementary proposal.

From the beginning, the haredi establishment has given charter schools the resounding thumbs down.

“We are not pro-charter schools. They are not replacements for a yeshiva education, and anyone who can imagine they could be are fooling themselves,” the spokesman for the Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America, Rabbi Avi Shafran, told JTA.

“There is no end around the fact that Jewish education is a Jewish education and that can only happen in a Jewish institution with a Jewish curriculum. And because our nation does not permit religious instruction in public schools, there is no way to avoid the need that Jewish parents have for yeshivas.”

Agudath Israel, rather, is advocating that the Jewish community see day school and yeshiva education as a communal responsibility and that philanthropists large and small step up to help make it more affordable. In addition, Agudah has been a fierce proponent of school vouchers, with the hopes of providing new streams of revenue that could be used to reduce tuition costs.

Nicki Salfer, a consultant on the Yeshiva Elementary project who also runs charter schools in Cleveland and Miami serving homebound, hospital-bound and special needs children from religious families, has seen firsthand the reluctance of the haredi community to consider charter schools.

Five years ago Salfter started Virtual Schoolhouse, her charter school in Cleveland, specifically to help Jewish special needs children, securing the cooperation of every local Jewish day school. The school, which now educates 500 students in total, once boasted 300 Jewish ones, but the figure has dropped to 100 because “a lot of the parents decided that they didn’t want their kids with non-Jewish kids,” she said.

“They are desperately afraid of something like this and losing control of the secular education, and being forced to teach evolution and sex ed, the standard stuff you learn in a public school,” she said.

Getting involved in the process at Yeshiva Elementary, she added, felt like she had “walked into a war zone.”

Though many parents supported the charter school initiative, other Yeshiva Elementary parents were so concerned that they immediately raised upwards of $100,000 to help the school become financially solvent, at least temporarily.

“They don’t understand that we do have control over the education” at charter schools, Salfer said. “We just have to follow state standards, as does any state school. They have this perspective and they are wrong, and it will take a long time to change that perspective.” (JTA)

Jacob Berkman

Charter-School Debate Roils U.S. Orthodox Communities

Wednesday, March 11th, 2009


The Yeshiva Elementary School, an Orthodox institution in Miami Beach with about 450 students, was in dire straits in late 2008. It was behind on payroll, in significant debt and facing financial collapse.


So its administration contemplated taking what would have been a revolutionary step: splitting the school for grades K-8 into two distinct institutions – one for religious studies, one for secular studies. Like most Jewish day schools, Yeshiva Elementary had a dual curriculum encompassing both spheres of study.


Under the proposed plan, secular subjects would be taught in a publicly funded charter school that would be open to students of all religious backgrounds. Jewish studies would be taught later in the day at an off-site, private supplementary school.


In tough times, the plan could reduce overall operating costs passed on to the parents by hundreds of thousands of dollars, and school officials said that a respected rabbinic authority had granted them a heter, or religious exemption, to pursue the charter school option. But when the administration brought the proposal to its parent body, the idea triggered vehement objections – and opponents, who were urged on by at least one local synagogue, lined up several prominent rabbis to speak out against the idea.


The opponents “had a meeting and came up with a ruling that it should not be done,” said one school official who did not wish to be identified. “We are not planning to go against the gedolei Yisrael,” or leading sages.


Though the plan was shot down, the very fact that an institution like Yeshiva Elementary – a school on the right of the religious spectrum – would


even consider such an option underscores the scope and urgency of the financial challenges facing the Orthodox world as it attempts to maintain its decades-old commitment to universal day school education. And it also reflects the growing willingness of some parents and school officials to consider more affordable alternatives.


For several years some have pushed charter schools, which receive government funds but are exempt from many regulations, as an alternative for Jewish children outside the Orthodox world. The Ben Gamla Hebrew Charter School, for example, generated headlines and debate when it opened in 2007 in Hollywood, Fla., pledging to teach Hebrew and Jewish history and culture, but not religion. In New York, a group backed by philanthropist Michael Steinhardt and others recently gained approval to open a charter school in Brooklyn and now plans to seek approval to open similar schools elsewhere.


But charter schools have long been a tough sell for those, especially in Orthodox circles, who are wary of sending their children to school with non-Jewish children or too many Jewish children from irreligious households. And there is the issue of the curriculum: Many Orthodox parents and educators do not see Hebrew language studies as a satisfactory alternative to Jewish and biblical instruction.


So even though the Ben Gamla school offers supplementary Jewish studies outside of its state-sponsored course load, many Orthodox families in the area have never seen it as an alternative to day schools.


“No one wants in dealing with the tuition crisis to water down Jewish education,” said Rabbi Kenneth Brander, the dean of the Yeshiva University Center for the Jewish Future in Manhattan. “But you are finding for the first time a whole bunch of organizations across denominational lines in the Jewish community all focused on this.”


Indeed, JESNA and the Lippman Kanfer Institute recently published a 47-page study on how day schools could cut costs. The survey, which was developed in conjunction with a number of organizations and institutions, including Yeshiva University, also suggested several alternatives to day schools – among them charter schools.


Rabbi Saul Zucker, the director of the Orthodox Union’s Department of Day School and Educational Services, spent the first few days in March in Florida consulting with some of the founders of the Ben Gamla school to see if there was a way to adapt the model to better serve the Orthodox.


In some areas, an increasing number of Orthodox parents are openly advocating for some way to integrate their students into the public school system.


In late February, several hundred parents attended a meeting in Englewood, N.J., to discuss creating a Hebrew immersion program within the town’s public school system that could open as soon as the 2009-10 school year. And in the Five Towns of Long Island, N.Y., a heavily Jewish area, Orthodox parents are mulling the creation of a supplementary school system, according to Marvin Schick, the senior consultant to the Avi Chai Foundation, which has spent millions of dollars helping to seed and expand day schools.


But such ideas are still likely to be a tough sell in the Orthodox community, especially on the furthest right edge of the spectrum – as evidenced by the quick kibosh put on the Yeshiva Elementary proposal.


From the beginning, the haredi establishment has given charter schools the resounding thumbs down.


“We are not pro-charter schools. They are not replacements for a yeshiva education, and anyone who can imagine they could be are fooling themselves,” the spokesman for the Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America, Rabbi Avi Shafran, told JTA.


“There is no end around the fact that Jewish education is a Jewish education and that can only happen in a Jewish institution with a Jewish curriculum. And because our nation does not permit religious instruction in public schools, there is no way to avoid the need that Jewish parents have for yeshivas.”


Agudath Israel, rather, is advocating that the Jewish community see day school and yeshiva education as a communal responsibility and that philanthropists large and small step up to help make it more affordable. In addition, Agudah has been a fierce proponent of school vouchers, with the hopes of providing new streams of revenue that could be used to reduce tuition costs.


Nicki Salfer, a consultant on the Yeshiva Elementary project who also runs charter schools in Cleveland and Miami serving homebound, hospital-bound and special needs children from religious families, has seen firsthand the reluctance of the haredi community to consider charter schools.


Five years ago Salfter started Virtual Schoolhouse, her charter school in Cleveland, specifically to help Jewish special needs children, securing the cooperation of every local Jewish day school. The school, which now educates 500 students in total, once boasted 300 Jewish ones, but the figure has dropped to 100 because “a lot of the parents decided that they didn’t want their kids with non-Jewish kids,” she said.


“They are desperately afraid of something like this and losing control of the secular education, and being forced to teach evolution and sex ed, the standard stuff you learn in a public school,” she said.


Getting involved in the process at Yeshiva Elementary, she added, felt like she had “walked into a war zone.”


Though many parents supported the charter school initiative, other Yeshiva Elementary parents were so concerned that they immediately raised upwards of $100,000 to help the school become financially solvent, at least temporarily.


“They don’t understand that we do have control over the education” at charter schools, Salfer said. “We just have to follow state standards, as does any state school. They have this perspective and they are wrong, and it will take a long time to change that perspective.” (JTA)

Jacob Berkman

Leaving The Fold

Wednesday, October 8th, 2008

I grew up in a Modern Orthodox Jewish community in Miami Beach. Nearly all of my childhood friends remain observant. But that kind of predictability – whereby those raised observant could be expected remain so – is a thing of the past. Every week I meet and receive e-mails from formerly observant teenagers and twenty-somethings who have left Orthodoxy. This includes a not insignificant number of chassidic youth.

When I joined Chabad before my bar mitzvah, it was almost unthinkable that children from that community – the majority of whom give their lives to the Jewish people by choosing to go to the far corners of the globe on shlichus – would choose to be non-observant. That is no longer the case today.

The same is true of other chassidic communities. I recall a lecture I gave at the 92nd Street Y a few years back when several former Satmar chassidim came up as a group to introduce themselves. They had no yarmulkes or beards and a few had tattoos. I much appreciated their candor in sharing with me how far they had drifted from Judaism, but wondered what could have so thoroughly alienated them from their heritage.

I ask the same question of the non-practicing chassidic youth who often join us for Shabbat and holiday dinners at our home.

Several theories are offered as to why some Orthodox young people are leaving. Many believe it is because Orthodoxy is no longer insulated from mainstream society. Still others argue it is simple mathematics: with more Orthodox children being born, it makes sense that a larger number will choose to leave Judaism.

One rabbi told me we should focus not on the growing number who leave but on the overwhelming majority who choose to stay put, which, numerically speaking, is quite an achievement.

Perhaps. But for Orthodox Jews, who have long advocated – rightly so – that education is the key to observance, it should be simply unacceptable to see a significant number of young people rejecting a Torah lifestyle.

I cannot claim to know all the causes for their exit, but I have learned this about disaffected Orthodox youth: a big part of the problem is distracted parenting. We in the Orthodox community justifiably pride ourselves on our strong families. But because of our large families and our considerable religious duties, Orthodox parents usually face greater pressures than those faced by parents in other communities.

The net result is that we are sometimes not as engaged with our children as we ought to be and delegate their Jewish upbringing to teachers and the general community.

Take synagogue, for example. More and more shuls are creating youth services where the expectation is that young children will not pray with their parents but will immediately be farmed off to a youth director. Is that a good thing? Isn’t it a parent’s responsibility to teach a child to behave in synagogue and pray rather than have the child go to a youth service where he or she is given pretzels and taught to sing Adon Olam?

And even if the youth service is as comprehensive as the main service, isn’t this the one day a week a father gets to pray with his children?

We may also want to begin questioning at what age it is appropriate for children to be sent away from home to yeshiva. To be sure, a dormitory experience can be very rewarding, as it was for me from the age of fourteen. But there is no substitute for a child receiving the affirmation of loving parents. We need to open more yeshivas in more places so that youngsters won’t need to be sent out of town at too young an age.

There is no mitzvah to save the entire world even as our own children go lost. As we think about the various ways we can improve ourselves in the coming year, being better parents should be at the very top of the list.


Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is the international bestselling author of 20 books. His website is www.shmuley.com.

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach

Marital Roles (Conclusion)

Wednesday, May 3rd, 2006

Is It Really Such A “Big Deal”?
(Or Is It A Power Play?)

Are you the kind of spouse that dominates your partner by finding everything “major”? Consider the following to help you have some insight into whether this description is true of you or your spouse:

1. Make a list of how many things this past month you considered “major” – things you felt strongly about. Your spouse should do the same for him/herself. Be honest with yourselves. If you felt it necessary to disagree with your spouse, or if your spouse agreed but you would have made a clamor if he or she had not, then it’s “major”. What does your list look like?

2. Make a similar list of how many things you feel your spouse considered “major,” this week. Your spouse should do the same in regard to you.

3. Review your lists together. Did you find many more things to be considered “major” than your spouse? If you and your spouse disagree about whether one of you considered something “major” (for example, you say he found haggadas a major issue and he says he didn’t), talk it out. Perhaps your spouse doesn’t realize how forceful he is.

Sometimes people disagree for the sake of disagreeing and not because it means so much to them. They need to realize they are doing this. Create a signal with your spouse that asks whether this is a moment when he or she is feeling strongly about something, or if he or she is simply playing “devil’s advocate”. The signal can be something as simple as asking, “Is this major to you?” On the other hand, look at the possibility that your spouse isn’t really making a big fuss about things. Perhaps when he asks a simple question like, “Why do you think the boys need to change karate schools?” you take it to mean he’s second-guessing you and disagreeing. Maybe it really isn’t “major” to him but rather that he just wants to feel part of certain decisions.

4. Look deeper within yourselves. If you realize that you’re finding too many things “major,” work to try to understand the reason. Perhaps you’re trying to overpower your spouse so you can feel more “in control.” Are you feeling weak in this relationship, or do you feel that others in your past have pushed you around? Are you overcompensating for feeling unheard in past years, by making sure you’re heard too much in your marriage?

Are you following your parents’ marital pattern and creating a similar relationship, in which one spouse carries the strong opinion? Ask yourself, “Who else in my life had strong opinions?” On the other hand, if you never find anything important enough to have a strong opinion about, consider that as much of the problem. What stops you from having strong feelings about something? Are you afraid to stand up for yourself? Discuss these deeper issues and learn about each other, while resolving to help each other change in the future.

This is the last of my series on developing proper “roles” for your marriage in order to argue less and develop a healthier atmosphere for your family. Whatever you decide together will be right for your “couple-hood,” will unite both of you and allow each of you to approach those areas with the confidence that you’re not alone in your marital work.

RABBI NEUMAN is a Florida licensed psychotherapist and author of two books, Helping Your Kids Cope With Divorce the Sandcastles Way (Random House) and Emotional Infidelity, How to Affair-proof Your Marriage and Other Secrets to a Great Relationship (Crown). He and his work have been featured many times on The Oprah Show, Today, The View and in People, Time and elsewhere. He lives with his wife and five children in Miami Beach, Florida. For more information on his work, visit www.mgaryneuman.com or e-mail changingfamilies@mgaryneuman.com.

Rabbi M. Gary Neuman

Marital Roles (Fourth Of Five Parts)

Wednesday, April 26th, 2006

Is It Worth The Argument?

(It’s A Lose-Lose Situation When The Goal Is To Win)

  Although in my past columns I’ve discussed the importance of inviting differences into life in or­der to grow through seeing other perspectives, there is a good reason to limit discussion of your dif­ferences when it comes to making decisions. There are very few decisions in life worth fighting for. If it will not be included in your memoirs, it isn’t worth the disagree­ment. That china pattern or model of TV can’t be impor­tant enough to upset the one you love, or threaten the warm marriage you want. To show each other why you think differently is fascinating and even fun, but when it comes to making a decision, you don’t want to feel as though you need to prove your point to your spouse.

Respecting differences means listening to and under­standing your spouse. When all you care about is winning or proving your point, I guarantee you’re not truly lis­tening. So when it comes to a decision, state your opin­ion, listen to your spouse and allow the person in charge of that area to make the ultimate decision, because your partnership has placed that spouse in that role.

This is how any other successful system works. Partners know that there will be disagreements that will not always be easily resolved. So the person in charge of that department should genuinely listen to his or her partner’s opinion, discuss it and consider all or part of it when making the decision. We can’t put all our energy into each decision. So we split the decisions. We are not avoiding our differences, but using them stra­tegically in a way that respects the many demands our busy schedules place on us.

What has always fascinated me about the time and energy we put into decision making is that we seldom truly know whether we’ve made the right decision. Decisions have a way of revisiting you, years in the fu­ture. You can point to something you once thought was a bad decision and then, years later, realize something great happened because of it. Consider three major de­cisions you’ve made in your life. Were they the “right” decisions? Are you sure today that if you had done some­thing differently, it would have been better or worse? Did these decisions cause the exact outcome you antici­pated? Few people I’ve counseled can draw a straight line from point A to point B.

Before making a decision with your spouse, remem­ber that right or wrong doesn’t enter into the discussion as much as understanding each other’s feelings and thoughts Through the ability to make a joint decision, you and your spouse will feel closer. Ultimately, that feel­ing is more important to your lives than the outcome of any specific decision. After all, if you and your spouse have a horrible fight over an investment, and in the end you make money on the investment, is your quality of life better compared with the love you drained out of your marriage? What is your priority?

When couples fight about a decision regarding their children, I explain that no matter what the outcome of the decision, it can’t possibly outweigh the damage the children will suffer because the marriage had to sustain such fighting, When a couple told me they had fought openly and bitterly for days about which board­ing school they should send their “difficult” child to, I felt so sad for this “difficult” child. I sympathized with the parents’ stress and their wish to do what was best for their child, but they had lost sight of what was really important. Couples who fight like this over childcare is­sues are not helping their children. Ironically, they for­get that what is truly going to help their children more than the “right” decision is a warm, loving home, which begins with a warm, loving marriage.

 

RABBI NEUMAN is a Florida licensed psychotherapist and author of two books, Helping Your Kids Cope With Divorce the Sandcastles Way (Random House) and Emotional Infidelity, How to Affair-proof Your Marriage and Other Secrets to a Great Relationship (Crown). He and his work have been featured many times on The Oprah Show, Today, The View and in People, Time and elsewhere. He lives with his wife and five children in Miami Beach, Florida. For more information on his work, visit www.mgaryneuman.com or e-mail changingfamilies@mgaryneuman.com.

Rabbi M. Gary Neuman

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/family/marriage-relationships/marital-roles-fourth-of-five-parts/2006/04/26/

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