Dear Dr. Yael,
On a recent Friday night in our home, the Shabbos of Parshas Kedoshim, I told over a dvar Torah I heard from a friend. It was on “v’ahavta l’rayacha kamocha,” to love your fellow man like yourself.
I related that by nature man is a selfish creature and in all relationships he tends to focus on himself.
Love, I said, is the endeavor that can be used to transcend this intrinsic selfishness. I then presented four Torah figures who personified the relationship between one’s self and one’s fellow man. I started with Enoch, a great-great-great-grandchild of Adam, of whom the Torah says, “Enoch walked with Hashem when everyone else did not. He was surrounded by idol worshippers and pagan perversity.” Unfortunately, his righteousness was selfish and he was preoccupied only with his own refinement and the perfection of his own spiritual self.
At that point, I glared at my wife and jokingly said, “Kind of like you, except you are preoccupied with the perfection of yours and our children’s clothes.”
The dvar Torah continued with Noach who tried to rehabilitate his fellow man, but did not daven to Hashem for the salvation of his generation, then it moved on to Avraham who devoted his life to influencing others to believe in Hashem and was busy with chessed all his life. Finally, we came to Moshe who truly loved Am Yisroel and did everything in his power to satisfy their spiritual and material needs.
But my marriage went into chaos from my first not so smart comment after Enoch. I was trying to put more spirituality into our Shabbos table and instead I ended up with a very angry wife who did not appreciate my referencing her obsession with perfect clothes.
So why did I? Dr. Respler, I was being passive-aggressive and trying to get my complaint out in a most inappropriate manner.
My wife cried and I apologized. However, she said that the only way she would accept my apology is if I did it publicly, in a letter to you. (We read your column every week.) My wife said that I have the right to complain about this issue, but that the way I did it put a knife in her heart and was totally inappropriate for our Shabbos table.
Dr. Respler, I love my wife. Please help me by printing this apology letter to her. She is truly an amazing wife and mother.
How can I not print a letter that will hopefully improve your shalom bayis? I admire your courage in admitting that the manner in which you expressed your disappointment was inappropriate. And, you are correct that it was a passive-aggressive act. As we say, a joke is only funny if two people can laugh about it. Clearly this joke was not funny to your wife.
Sometimes we think that we are making an important point, but we make it at the wrong time. Obviously this issue bothers you, and you should find a way to address it with your wife, when you are alone and both of you are in a good mood. This should also be done in a very non-confrontational manner.
However, if your wife is so amazing and she loves to dress well, and dress your children well, maybe you should decide if this is truly worth getting upset about. Unless it is a financial matter, dressing well both for her, and especially for your children, helps promote good self-esteem. When your wife looks good does this make you feel proud?
If this is her only “flaw,” consider yourself blessed. Thank you again for sending this letter. I wish you continued hatzlocha in your marriage. I hope this apology is accepted!