by Chanarachel Frumin

Living closely with others creates a fertile ground for seeing what we consider the dark side of another person. We also feel invited into thinking of “What we are putting up with in this relationship!” We sometimes feel sorry for our-self or angry at the other for having weaknesses at all! Many times we create a feeling of resentment and silent complaint about our predicament.

Sometimes we complain loudly, forcefully and even fight about the situation. Our complaints,whether silent or voiced, pervade and create a flavor our environment. Can you imagine having dinner with a person who is thinking throughout the meal “I wish you would lose all that weight.” or “Why do you leave your clothes around?” or “I think you are the laziest person I have ever met.”

They did an experiment in a doctor’s office where they placed an actor in the waiting room with other patients and his job was to sit and judge everyone in the room without them knowing. They filmed the results and saw that people began to act impatient and uncomfortable and even the babies cried. Then the actor was sent in to think loving thoughts about the others in the room. The result was that people began laughing with the children and asking each other’s name!

There is however another approach to the living with weaknesses or differences of our spouse. Hashem in his great love and mercy gave us the spouse we have. These trials and challenges are really for our well being and provide an opportunity to find ways to spiritually respond maturely and compassionately. When we approach their weaknesses by seeing the possibility of our own spiritual growth then resentment does not have to be the result. Instead we can ask ourselves what midah could I strengthen in response to what is annoying me? Maybe I could offer to help? Perhaps I could practice Caf Zechut, giving them the benefit of the doubt.

First we have the possibility of praying daily for our spouse as a way of saying I am with you. Even if our spouse never knows that we are praying for them the taste of these prayers pervade the house.
Secondly as in the experiment we can focus our thoughts on the kindness and the positive attributes of our spouse again whether or not this is voiced it creates a feeling of appreciation. We also are in a wonderful position to offer encouragement to our partner, helping them grow in their courage and feelings of confidence.

Finding the strengths in our partner can offer a high point in someone’s day and make them feel noticed and cared for. This form of kindness is specific for creating Shalom Bayit, a feeling of wholeness in the home.

Next time we want to look DOWN on our spouse we can take a moment to realize they are the perfect person tpo help us become everything we were created to be in a spiritual world.

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