Do you ever wonder what the secret is to those elderly couples you see who look so happy together? The ones who have been married for 50 years or more and are still inseparable? The number one ingredient in every happy, long-term Jewish marriage I have ever seen is respect. It’s an element that all too often gets left behind after the shiny newness of the relationship has worn off, and you begin to see the flaws in your partner.
Unfortunately, I have lost count of the times I have been in public and have heard someone belittling his or her spouse in front of other people. A woman may talk about how lazy her husband is or a man relates to his friends about how his wife is a lousy cook. This is not a sign of a healthy Jewish marriage.
The Talmud notes, “A man must love his wife as much as he loves himself and respect her more than he respects himself. Then you will know for certain that your home is peace.” Generating loving feelings for a spouse who is always putting you down in little ways becomes increasingly difficult as the years wear on and the relationship is tested in times of adversity.
So how do partners maintain that respect they once had for one another when they first met during the shidduchim? First of all, that respect must be earned. Are you treating your spouse in a way that indicates that you value their judgments and their contributions to the marriage? Do you behave honestly and honourably in all situations? If so, then you are more likely to earn respect from your partner
In turn, you must make the effort to respect your partner as well. It’s important to remember that nobody is perfect. There may be things about your spouse that annoy you, but remember that you also have flaws. Keep in mind that your spouse may be a loving parent to your children, do jobs around the house that you could never imagine doing, or give freely of their time to those in need. There is always something wonderful you can focus on in your partner, one of those things that made you feel they were your bashert in the first place.
If you remember to regularly tell your partner how much you appreciate him or her, it’s amazing how much you will find yourself receiving in return, maintaining the shalom bayit that is an essential part to every Jewish marriage. Like a beautiful garden, the more seeds of appreciation and respect for your spouse that you plant in your garden, the more love will continue to grow, preparing the ground for a lifetime of happiness.