Dear Dr. Yael,
I am writing to you about my marriage. We are married for five years. For the first three years of our marriage we had a close loving marriage where we shared time together and enjoyed each other’s company. Now my husband, a great guy whom I love, seems to have no time to share with me. From morning to night he is engaged in his own private activities. He is up to daven and learn in the morning and then goes to work. When he comes home he learns and davens some more and engages in private conversations with various friends, work associates and relatives.
We have two beautiful children whose welfare and education is of paramount importance to both of us and in whom we both invest substantial time and effort, but otherwise seem to have lost any connection between us. We basically do our jobs and live in separate orbits. I am afraid that if this pattern continues it could, G-d forbid, result in the ultimate dissolution of our marriage. Please give me ideas on how to rekindle our marriage and attain the closeness we once had. We still love each other and want to make the marriage work, but are in a fog as to how to reinvigorate our relationship.
Concerned in Brooklyn
You and your husband have fallen into a routine in which you both are fulfilling your individual responsibilities but are not communicating with each other. You need to rekindle your relationship in order to get back to how it was when you were first dating or the early years of your marriage when you did things together. While your husband was presumably conscientious in his davening and learning at that time, he still had plenty of time and interest to talk to you at length about all types of topics, to take you out to a nice quiet spot to be close with you, and to have fun together. You need to reintroduce those experiences into your everyday experiences.
You should, as a couple, forge out “we” time where you do things together such as discuss books, art, Torah topics, or whatever you both share interest in. Find a book by the Chofetz Chaim and challenge each other as to the proper way to speak and relate to your fellow human beings. Discuss themes of the parshas hashavua together. Go to lectures on Torah or secular topics which pique both of your interests. Go to museums or take walks together. Create, thereby, mutually shared experiences which will be a path to develop your enhanced relationship. Speak to each other everyday about your day, your work, and/or about your children’s progress in school. Get a babysitter and go out to eat or do something fun together.
Your new growing closeness must take priority over all other competing pressures on your time such as various friends or extended family commitments. Your time together is of the utmost importance as you need to work on rebuilding your relationship.
Once you each become, a more integral part of the other’s lives, again, you will recreate the closeness and intimacy you shared in the early part of your relationship and will move as one again. If you work to rebuild your relationship, you will hopefully stop living your lives traveling in separate orbits and hopefully be on one path in which you both share your lives together again.
Remember, there is no greater goal in Judaism then the establishment and maintenance of a Bais Ne’eman b’Yisrael. It is urgent that you undertake all efforts to reinvigorate your marriage both for your sakes as well as for your children whose emotional health and future ability to relate to their spouses in the future is heavily influenced by the relationship of their parents, which they observe at home.
I think you could both benefit from counseling to help you rekindle the spark in your marriage. Please find a positive therapist that will focus on your strengths and will work to help you rebuild your marriage.
Years ago I wrote a column on doing marital therapy with a focus on each partner being seen individually. Both husband and wife should be seen in the same session individually or in separate sessions individually and afterwards the therapist would see the couple together to give them positive things to do to improve the marriage. Unfortunately, when a couple is seen together when they are in great conflict, they end up hurting each other in front of the therapist and then they go home in an even worse situation. A therapist should build on the persons’ strengths. A therapist should never open up issues that can’t be resolved in the session to some degree. The couple should not leave therapy upset with one another, which sometimes can lead to the demise of their marriage. Please be careful with whom you pick for a therapist if you go for therapy. One should feel good about themselves and the therapist should be ego building.
When we build on our strengths, we can grow as people, spouses, parents, and in all areas of our lives. Positive energy in your marriage and seeing the attributes in your spouse will ultimately heal the rifts between you. Hatzlacha in the journey of rekindling your marriage!