I've been married 3 months and have been trying to get my husband to come with me to therapy since we got engaged. He's a very private person and refuses to talk to anyone about anything private in his life. We've had a few disagreements in the past and they always blow up into huge arguments. I really think therapy would help us figure out how to communicate better, but I can't seem to get him to agree to go to one. Any ideas? Thanks.
Dear Befuddled Bride,
First of all, Mazel Tov! The first year of marriage is an enormous adjustment and many, many couples see their disagreements skidding off track before they knew what hit 'em. This doesn't mean that you made a mistake. It simply means that you are normal.
Seeing as your marriage is only 3 months old, it may be that you do not need actual therapy. There are a number of accessible resources that can help you before ever needing to sit yourselves down on the therapist's couch. It may be that you two just need to learn how to communicate better. While your attraction and love for each other likely came naturally, communicating properly is really a skill set that needs to be learned and practiced before you two can sail smoothly through conflict and discord.
The first thing I would recommend is to go on Amazon and fill up your shopping cart with any of the following books: Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by Dr. John M. Gottman, Ten Lessons to Transform Your Marriage, also by Dr. John M. Gottman, and Hold Me Tight, by Dr. Susan Johnson. These books are all research-based, easy to read and chock full of exercises that you and your spouse can do in the privacy of your own home, without having to let a third party in on your marriage.
If that doesn't cut it for you, your husband may be more comfortable going to a marriage enrichment class, which is an educational class about effective communication for healthy couples. These couple who are overall happy, come together to hear from expert presenters how to improve communication, conflict resolution, budgeting and the like. There are exercises to do for the couples, but it is done in a private fashion where each couple works privately and does not share with the others or with the presenter. Most of these programs are very affordable as well. One such program which has gotten rave reviews is The SHALOM Workshop (you can check them out at www.Shalomworkshop.org).
If you see that the above is not doing it for you, then it may be time to go for therapy. Be sure to find a therapist who has a lot of training and experience in couples. Couples therapy is a very different sort of therapy than individual work. Then, sit your husband down. Tell him how much this would mean to you for him to just try it for one or two sessions. Tell him how you are concerned that if you don't work out your small bumps now, they will grow to become too hard to smooth out.
Many men interpret "We're seeing a therapist" as "This means that we have major problems and will need to divorce". This is most definitely not the case. When I see a young couple come in who are flexible without decades of resentment, willing to work out their minor kinks, I think to myself, "Phew! I'm so happy they came in for their booster-shot against divorce!"
My husband quit smoking before we ever met, and when we dated I made it very clear that I will not tolerate him picking up the habit again. We're married about 4 years and I've recently been noticing signs that he has gotten into it again. I confronted him, and he fessed up right away, but I am so mad at him! I'm worried that my kids will grow up with a bad role model while they're inhaling second-hand smoke-which is way worse than regular smoking! How do I get him to stop?
-Not Breathing Easy
Dear Not Breathing Easy,
Well, we can just end this article right here if you are looking to get him to stop. There is only one person on earth who can get him to stop. And that is him.
Here's how I see it: he is doing something that he is ashamed of (henceforth he did not tell you that this is what he was doing, you had to discover it and confront him). Now you are enlightened and you both know full well that his Achilles' heel is in need of a cast or a brace or something. You can either pinch the injury by frantically sniffing him every time he walks in the door, or you can flick that heel by following him out to the porch like a mother hen. Or you can randomly use his car to see if there's a lighter or Febreze stashed away. These are all good suggestions to keep you feeling very involved while keeping your husband from ever feeling safe enough to tell you what is actually going on.
Ready for one of the hardest things you've ever done for your marriage? Accept the possibility that your husband may never quit. Ok, so we've caught you up to your husband's reality. Now you can help him try to kick this habit (if he wants to). If you're not playing principal, he will be more likely to open up to you when he fails. Make it ok for him to fail. Then he will only be fighting his temptation and not his parole officer as well.
I'll give you some information from another side of the temptation coin. Men who have pornography addictions can't shake it so easily. But, according to Barry Horowitz, men whose wives are on board with them and support them actually soar in overcoming their struggles. In Alcoholics Anonymous, they suggest having a sponsor-someone whom you are comfortable with, who you can check in with to let them know how you are doing. You say when it's a good day, you say when you mess up. And they are there to tell you, "It's ok, let's keep going. Tomorrow is a new day." Here, a wife who supports her husband is a sponsor that is around 24/7.
So your job is to calm down, and tell your husband how much you love him. Tell him that you understand that this is not an easy thing for him. Say that you are his partner and will not judge him anymore. And that's all you will say. Now you have to show him that you are serious. Don't sniff, don't confront and don't dart your eyes to his pockets. Once he feels safe (like in 2 weeks of this), you can gently ask, "How's the smoking going?" And if he feels safe with you in this area and other areas, he will open up. And you will say, "Wow, that's so hard." Or, "I'm really proud of you for trying."
Another thing that may be worth looking into is the stressors in his life and the way he relives stress. Think of healthy outlets that would be good for you two as a couple and present it as "couple's time" as opposed to "your new, healthy, constructive ventilation system." Bike riding season is starting soon, and jogging is always in season. Or, if he already has something in place (like the gym or basketball with buddies), make sure that you encourage him going. That doesn't mean that you should say, "Hey, it's 8:00! You're going to be late to basketball! C'mon, get up and leave!" No. Instead make side comments that he can overhear like, "Sorry Chani, but I never go out at 8 on Wednesdays. That's hubby's basketball time."
Will he stop lighting up? Don't hold your breath. But at least you'll fire up his heart in your direction.
I teach in a Seminary in Israel that caters to young modern orthodox women. I see that these girls are struggling with making the jump from learning halacha to incorporating it into their lives. For the most part, these girls were well raised and come from good, moral backgrounds. They don't necessarily feel like there is anything missing from their lives and they in no way consider themselves baalei teshuva.
How can we empower the good modern orthodox girl who never felt she was lacking to want to grow and connect to HaShem? Specifically in the areas of tzniut and shomer negia. They understand the importance of tzniyut but don't really see the merit in being careful that shirts aren't too tight or that knees are completely covered. What's missing?
-Hoping to help
Dear Hoping to help,
I think that if you took a huge step back, you would achieve what you set out for. If you have an agenda (albeit a noble one), the girls will pick up on it. Agendas tend to repel those that you are trying to attract. When you take a step back, you will stop focusing on one or two points to push. Instead, you can instill a more global love for G-d and love for Am Yisrael. If a young woman lacks this, but takes on strict adherence to halacha, she will be very wobbly once she is back home and questioned. There are many individuals whose growth is slow and steady and long-lasting. So don't try to fight the fashion. Just love and support your students.
But be on alert. If a student asks you questions about tzniyus, then be ready to address it. I remember a teacher of mine tried to encourage my modern class to dress more modestly and be more prudish with boys. She gave a horrible analogy-she said "Imagine you are in the grocery store and you are buying tomatoes. Would you pick the ones that have bruises on them? Or would you buy the ones that look like nobody touched them?" She was basically making us all feel like damaged goods, and she also stressed the point that the goal is to be untouched for our future husband. Wrong and wrong. Firstly, a positive slant would have been more effective. Secondly, that's a really bad goal-change our behaviors just to snag a good hubby. Tsk, tsk, tsk.
Instead, talk about a wealthy woman. This woman has millions in the bank and owns some very rare gems. Does she give out her PIN and her ATM card? No. Does she wear her jewelry when she is out and about? No. This analogy actually brings to mind a time when I was enlightened by something. I was at a wedding. The guests that attended ranged across the socio-economic spectrum. Everybody had their glitz blinging and looked beautiful. Some stones were real, and some were costume. Then, I spotted a woman whose wealth far out-wealths any other guests. I'm not one to check someone out, but I could not help but notice the stark simplicity of her attire. A single solitaire diamond centered in her collarbone was the only sparkly bit on her. What is the message here? This is someone who is capable of putting Tiffany's to shame. I guess she didn't want to shame her Jewish sisters who could not keep up with her. Instead, she chose to downplay and to undertone. She knows what beauty she has at home in her vault. She just doesn't want to be defined by it.
And I don't mean that a girl should save her beauty till she feels ready to share it with the right person. I mean she should save her beauty for herself. I'm involved in a longitudinal study, and my poor kids are the subjects of it. I always tell them how beautiful their bodies are (particularly their most private areas. And yes, it is a little hard to say that to my son without a smirk). If they decide to start streaking in the middle of our Shabbos meal with guests, I do not shriek or yell at them to cover up. Instead, I smile and say, "Wow! Hashem gave you such a beautiful body! But it's really just for you to have. It's your special present just for you." I'll let you know in a decade or two if my method has a leg to stand on…
Aviva Rizel, MA
Marriage and Family Therapist
528 Willow Avenue
Cedarhurst, NY 11516[email protected]
By Aviva Rizel, MA, MFT
I don't understand why in this day and age, people often tell newlyweds, "Never go to bed angry." With over 20 years of research swaying conventional wisdom in the direction of taking time-outs in the face of conflict, I marvel at every bridal shower that has this piece of false wisdom doled out.
Dr. John M. Gottman, one of the foremost marriage researchers in the country, (read: "researcher". This means that he is not just pontificating. He has hard evidence that shows what makes a great marriage and what makes a doomed marriage.) has seen that a successful couple knows when to put the breaks on a fight. If a couple is angry and arguing, they are driving on very slippery terrain and have to slow things down. One way to do so is by making, what Gottman calls,"repair attempts". Let's say you and your spouse are having a nice conversation when all of a sudden you hear your spouse blurt out, "What's with your sister calling non-stop?! Can't she pick tomatoes without your input?" Now you suddenly tense up and are about to either defend her ("Leave her alone, she's going through a hard time."), or you are about to shoot back something like, "Well she calls a fraction less than your mother does!" So what do you choose to do? Which is the better option? Actually, neither one of them will help diffuse the situation. Instead it will only escalate the tension. It would be good if you can build a ventilation system into your marriage by responding something like, "Well, if you were beaten up by a tomato when you were a kid, you'd have a hard time buying them too!" Basically, we want to see you be able to step back from the situation and say or do something to lighten the mood. Then address your spouse's concern. "We don't have to answer every time she calls." Or, "Would you like me to ask her not to call during this time?"
It goes without saying that every couple is different. For some couples, an inside joke makes a great repair attempt. And for others, a wink may be the perfect diffuser. So, when you are feeling the heat, try to do something that brings the emotional level down. Make sure that your spouse is ok with whatever you use for repairs. My husband and I were once lecturing to married couples about repair attempts and how to have a fun fight. Immediately after our program, one husband came up to us and said, "I am so good at repair attempts. I have the funniest line for when my wife starts up. I say, 'Check it before you wreck it.' But it never works the way you claim it should and it actually makes her even madder!" Hmmm… let's call the wife over. Turns out she thought that humorous line was the absolute worst thing to say to her when she was hot under the collar. Sounds more like an offense than a repair. Moral of the story: if you are going to make a repair attempt, make sure that it will actually accomplish the goal. Make sure that what you do or say will amuse or calm your spouse. A good way to figure out if you have the right method is simply by asking your spouse in a non-conflict situation. "Do you get annoyed when I ask you to rephrase things when we start to argue?" If the two of you are on the same page, your repair attempt can be akin to a secret agent giving a code to another secret agent. The code itself differs from couple to couple, but if you cracked the code, you would find that they all have a shared meaning: "We are committed to each other and will try to control our emotions and reactions to keep our marriage strong. Now let's take things down a notch before they get out of control."
One more thing on repair attempts-if your spouse is the one who is attempting to repair, make sure that you accept it. There are many people who think that a repair attempt is really just a way to detour away from the issue that they are talking about. So when their spouse is ready to lighten things from a fight into a discussion, it just gets the person irritated that his/her spouse is not taking things seriously. Blocking the repair attempt is pretty dangerous though. Here's the secret to finishing the play: Once a spouse pitches the repair, the other spouse has to catch it. A chuckle, a smirk, or even a calm deep breath is enough to accept the repair.
If a couple has trouble with these repair attempts, their discussions can become high-octane arguments before they know what hits them.A cute little attempt at repair is not going to bring them back. Here is where bucking the old wives' advice comes into the forefront. Instead of sticking around to resolve things, it's time for a time out. Take a break from the conflict so that each partner can physiologically calm down. If it means going to bed angry, that's fine as long as you are committed to respectfully working things through tomorrow. If you stay up till 3am duking it out, you are more likely to hit below the belt by saying things you would never say if you weren't so sleep deprived.
So go ahead, go to bed angry, angry as all heck. Then wake up to a stronger marriage.
Aviva Rizel is a Marriage and Family Therapist in private practice in Cedarhurst, NY. She lectures in the tri-state area on dating and relationships. Aviva can be reached at 347-292-8482 or [email protected].
Recommended Reading: Seven Principles to Making Marriage Work by John M. Gottman.
John M. Gottman, PhD has identified four types of behaviors in marriages that end in divorce. He calls them "The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse". Couples in strong marriages either do not exhibit these behaviors, or they are able to correct them over time with the antidotes to the horsemen.
Blaming spouse personally,
"Why do you always do this?"
Complain, don't blame
Giving an explanation instead of an apology
Foster a culture of Appreciation
Not responding to your spouse during conflict
I recently overheard some pre-school age girls having a conversation about the current media.
"My favorite princess is Cinderella."
"I like her too, but I hate Princess Jasmine because she shows her belly button and that's disgusting!"
The therapist in me felt like a lion unleashed, needing to intervene. "Really? Belly buttons are disgusting? I think belly buttons are soooo cute! I just think that they are too cute to be shown all the time."
The 5 year-old paused and thought. "Yeah, belly buttons are cute. But she really shouldn't be walking around showing it."
"That's right. Her belly button belongs to her and she should keep it private."
When teaching about modesty and boundaries, we must be extremely mindful not to give off the impression that our bodies are covered because it is something negative. The reason a person covers up is because his or her body is a most prized possession. Just like a person hides bank statements, or keeps jewelry in a box in a closet, so too, his or her body is something precious that warrants protecting.
One way to empower our children is to teach them proper boundaries. This can be started at a very young age. A parent can tickle an 18-month old, and then stop. Once the baby stops laughing, the parent should ask, "More?" And then, and this part is key, the parent should respect what the child answered. This is an early lesson that teaches, "I alone have control of what is done to my body."
As a child grows, the lessons grow as well.
At a child's annual check-up, it is important for either the parent or the doctor to tell the child that the only reason the doctor is allowed to see the child's private areas is because the doctor needs to make sure that the child is healthy and growing. And the doctor is allowed to check only when the child's parent is in the room.
As kids start telling secrets to each other, parents should tell the children, "You are allowed to keep a secret as long as it is tzniusdik and not dangerous."
When a parent is assisting a 6 year-old in the bathroom, it is good to remind the child that the only reason that the parent is there is because he or she needs help. And then reiterate how the child's body belongs to the child, and that it is so nice and special.
As a child grows to elementary age, the lessons given become very uncomfortable for many parents to impart. It is quite distressing being aware of the dangers that are out there for our children. But more than distressing, it is harmful to not empower our children with the tools to protect themselves.
Predators don't want to get caught, so they are less likely to abuse a child who has strong boundaries. Most of the time, the predator is someone whom the child knows. And something that is unpleasant to realize is that often, even though the child is uncomfortable and victimized, the child receives some enjoyment. Either the child likes the attention, or the child may even have physical pleasure from the abuse. So there are strong feelings of guilt from the victim's perspective. And if the perpetrator is really good at what he or she does, the perpetrator will trick the child into thinking that the child started it or asked for it. Therefore, while it is nauseating to even think about, parents must mold their children into strong kids who are not easy victims.
A child should be able to answer the following questions:
"Is anybody allowed to touch your private parts?"
"Is anybody allowed to show you theirs?"
"What should you do if that happens?"
"Would it be your fault?"
"What if it feels nice? Is it ok?"
"Whom should you tell? Is it Lashon Hara to tell?"
"What if the person tells you that you will get in trouble if you tell? Is that true?"
"What if the person tells you that no one will believe you? Is that true?"
If, G-d forbid, your child does come to you with information, the best thing is to react in a way that shows that you trust your child, believe your child, do not fault or blame your child, will not punish your child and want to protect your child. Once you have shown these feelings to your child, you can proceed to find out more information. Therapy for the whole family is often necessary after an incident.
A child whose parents give over the proper messages is a child who is proud of his or her body knows that it is a gift to him or herself. That is a child whose strength will spill over into other areas of life. And a confident, proud child is more likely to engage in healthy relationships in the future.Aviva Rizel is a Marriage and Family Therapist in private practice in Cedarhurst, NY. She lectures in the New York City area on dating, relationships and marriage. She is also a volunteer presenter for The SHALOM Workshop (http://www.shalomtaskforce.org/workshops/), a marriage enrichment program serving engaged and newly married couples. Aviva Rizel can be reached at 347-292-8482 or [email protected].