I understand your approach when helping women improve their marriage is to empower them. How is one empowered?
When a woman owns her own happiness, she is in tune with her feelings and she knows what she wants—she is empowered. If your husband forgot your birthday and you have the need for him to go out with you, recognize that need. Don’t just sulk. Initiate. When you initiate, your husband learns what you like and how to make you happy. You are giving him that information.
Which he wants anyway?
Yes. How you treat yourself shows him how to treat you. Many women want their husbands to be mind readers or the one who initiates. That might come later in a great marriage when he’s very in tune with you and takes more interest. But you first need to love yourself.
So every person has the power to make themselves happy, and it’s independent of outside circumstances. It sounds very much like being samei’ach b’chelko.
We can actively do whatever it takes! Make friends, pursue hobbies. One of the things that I stress is the importance of self care. Do things for yourself. Fill up your emotional and physical self. Many women don’t know what they want. They never consider themselves and then they become resentful.
Let’s say your husband wants to take a walk with you. He doesn’t realize you are exhausted and your legs hurt, he doesn’t even recall that you are in your first trimester. You think, “I’m a good wife, so I’m going to go on the walk.” But you aren’t in touch with yourself; you don’t own your happiness. And while you’re walking with your husband you’re tired and in pain, so you start getting angry and resentful and then you think, “Why is he making me do this?” Eventually this causes the two of you start fighting while you’re supposed to be on this nice walk. If you let him know how you feel—that you are not up to a walk now—by saying something graciously like, “I would love to, but I prefer a drive because my feet are hurting me,” then you can both be happy. This happens all the time. Women don’t know what they want, so they make decisions that don’t serve them well and ultimately hurt the relationship.
How do you implement this concept of creating your own happiness on a typical night? I’d imagine that many women who come to you don’t have husbands who are making overtures to spend time with them.
Many women feel guilty when sitting down to read when there’s laundry to do and dishes to wash. But there’s no reason to feel guilty. If you want a night off, take it. No one will gain if you don’t. When you pamper yourself, you will have more energy and feel better. You’ll feel happier giving to others when you feel happy about yourself. Many women neglect themselves while taking care of the needs of their family.
What are some of the other skills to make a marriage better?
Receiving graciously is another skill—saying thank you for everything your husband does for you. Your husband’s “love language” is not your language. Women love words of affirmation, but many men don’t know how to say them. Women love gifts, but many men don’t understand the need.
Once you receive graciously—even if it’s a simple thing—over time, your husband will get better at his areas of weakness. But if you don’t receive graciously, your husband has no opportunity to learn and grow in that area, because he doesn’t know how much it means to you. When you appreciate your husband for who he is and accept what he does have to give you, it gives him the emotional strength to try to improve in other areas, and it becomes possible for him to be better at your “love language.”
What exactly is “love language”?
We all have specific ways we like to give and receive love; that’s our language of love. Your husband might love acts of service and therefore always does acts of service to express his love. In contrast, you want him to say nice things and to compliment you. When you graciously receive what he gives, even if it’s not the way you want it, there’s a better chance that your husband will become better at giving in ways you want it. When you give your husband respect and accept him, he feels better about himself. When he feels good as your husband he will want to make you happy, and what you like will become more important to him.