Dear Dr. Yael,
Two weeks ago you published a letter from a woman who was having a hard time curbing her comparisons between her brothers-in-law and her husband. She wrote about how her sisters all wax poetic about their husbands, which results in her feeling like she got the short end of the stick in her marriage.
I was really upset by the letter and I’d like to add a few points which might offer another useful perspective to this woman’s struggle. If what I write makes any sense to you, perhaps you can share it with the writer.
I listened to a few of Rebbetzin Zahava Braunstein’s tapes on marriage. In every single one she said loudly and clearly, “Do NOT tell anyone besides your husband, mother, and mother-in-law about the wonderful things your husband does/did for you.” Otherwise you will do a thorough job of destroying everybody else’s marriage. If you show your friend a new bracelet your husband gave you, she’ll say, “it’s nice,” but she won’t think it’s nice; she’ll think she should be getting one from her husband too and would he ever think to buy her anything, etc.. Just like in the scenario that the letter writer described.
So, before this woman goes and blames herself for her struggle, I think she should consider that the dynamic amongst her siblings is the natural cause for this, and it would be just as helpful to consider how to curb that as it would be to work on fighting her judgmental thoughts about herself. If she’s the only one who isn’t speaking publicly about her husband to them, she can frame it as a quiet virtue: she isn’t airing all her intimate, beautiful moments with the public because beautiful things are meant to be cherished quietly and privately. A friend of mine who does speak positively about her husband once told me that her younger sister keeps quiet about her marriage because she believes it’s the proper thing to do. She seemed to respect that in her sister.
Perhaps this woman can share this idea with her sisters and make a pact to not discuss their husbands with each other. In the event that this woman’s sisters do not share this perspective and aren’t open to considering another angle, then perhaps this woman, who says she has a competitive streak, can view this as a competition. I wouldn’t be surprised if all her other sisters jumped on the bandwagon, so as not to feel inferior, since it is unusual for so many people to speak so highly of their husband always. (My friends often cry to me about their marriage difficulties.) Perhaps it’s not the ideal route since it goes against Rebbetzin’s Braunstein’s point, but if the public praise isn’t quieted, this woman might benefit from sending herself on a mission to look for the good in her husband that she, too, can announce if she so chooses. (Which, again, she should really only tell her mother, mother-in-law and husband how much she appreciates what he did/does.)
Thank you for enhancing my Shabbos with your weekly column.
I wish you and all those who turn to you for help much hatzlacha, and a very happy Purim!
Thank you for your intuitive, insightful, and helpful column. With divorce on the rise, your ideas are very helpful. As a psychotherapist who works with many couples today, the rise in divorce is often due to comparisons and jealousy. Unfortunately, although I am a great fan of Rebbetzin Zehava Braunstein, a”h, and I quote her often, mothers and mother-in-laws are not always happy that their daughter or son is in a great marriage. When parents are divorced or in unhappy marriages they can be jealous of the young couple’s deep love and respect for one another as well. Therefore, while I do agree that the wife and husband should appreciate each other, and constantly praise and validate each other, perhaps it is also unwise to share this praise with their parents. Unfortunately, not all parents and in-laws are psychologically healthy. In a healthy situation, I agree with this idea as parents and in-laws ideally should be thrilled that their children are happily married. However, I sadly see in my practice, that this is not always the case.
I also agree that jealousy is prevalent in our world and people should never flaunt the amazing things that their spouse did for them. In general, we never know other people’s struggles, so sharing our brachos is not always healthy. Optimally we should all be happy and appreciate the brochos that we have and never compare ourselves to anyone else, but you are correct, this is often not the case.
Let us all learn from your ideas to praise our spouses privately and not to share our amazing spouse’s actions with others. Thank you for your letter and I wish you hatzlacha in all your endeavors.