Among the most common relationship questions are those that revolve around the problems that couples face when they need to come to an agreement . The Jewish view of marriage is that each partner is half of a whole, and each is as important as the other. If so, whose opinion holds more weight when you are disagreeing with one another? Both are equally valid, but the first step in resolving disagreements is to remember to approach the problem as a unit. The concept of unity between a married couple (becoming basar echad or “one flesh”) is one of the most important aspects of a Jewish marriage.
Although both partners’ opinions hold equal weight, in order to be able to get anything done, someone must have the final say when a decision has to be made. Traditionally, Jewish faith has provided an answer to this relationship question by indicating that this is the husband’s role. However, this does not mean that a husband should not take his wife’s viewpoint into account. Far from it! In fact, in the Torah, G-d tells Abraham, “Whatever Sarah tells you, heed her voice.”
A Jewish man and wife are a team, and all decisions that are made are for the benefit of the family unit. A Jewish wife’s role is considered central in the building and preserving of family life, and her opinion is to be respected. She provides love, encouragement, security, and advice to her husband. In turn, it is a woman’s duty to consider what is best for her spouse and children. When both parties are taking the other into greater consideration than themselves, that is when truly good decisions are made.
Gentle persuasion goes a lot further than demanding your own way. One of the best parts of the film “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” is when Toula’s mother is helping to answer her daughter’s relationship questions. In comforting her daughter over a disagreement she is having with her father, Toula’s mother says, “The man may be the head of the household. But the woman is the neck, and she can turn the head whichever way she pleases.”
Everyone in a relationship questions their partner’s decisions from time to time . The bottom line is that you are in this relationship together, and listening to one another and considering your partner’s needs is the best way of reaching a mutually acceptable decision. Maurice Lamm, in his book The Jewish Way of Love and Marriage, notes that the word for “wife” in Hebrew indicates, in the words of Rabbi Moshe Sofer, “one who is involved in a joint venture, or a ‘joint partner,’ … [Marriage is]…Not ‘one body, one thought,’ but one joined body retaining two thoughts.”