My friend and her husband had a big fight the other day, a huge knock- down, drag ‘em out fight, the kind where the repercussions reverberate for days afterwards. I think some dishes may have been broken… it was bad. Luckily the kids were out visiting friends.
When the dust had settled and tempers had calmed, my friend asked her husband what had happened. “I’m under a lot of pressure at work,” he replied. “I have to listen patiently to my boss, smile at our new clients and treat my employees with kindness and sensitivity, even when they mess up. By the time I get home, I’m wrung out. I’m too tired to exercise self-control and why should I have to? This is my house; this is the place where I can let it all hang out.”
Was this explanation a comfort to his shaken wife?
No relationship in the world is more important than the one we have with our spouse. It’s the place where we should be on our best behavior, not our worst.
Isn’t it ironic that we can be calm and polite to strangers whose opinion is irrelevant to us and rude and nasty to the one person whose opinion we value the most?
Isn’t it a confusing message when we dress up to go out for lunch with our girlfriends and scrub off our make-up and throw on a pair of sweats when we get home? (This applies to men as well; don’t think it’s only women who have to dress for their spouses!)
I think it, unfortunately, reflects confused priorities and expectations – mistaken priorities in the sense that we put the strangers and friends before our spouse and erroneous expectations in that we think home is the place to let it all hang out.
Sure we want to have a sense of peace and relaxation in our homes. But, as our story demonstrates, this is not achieved by removing all boundaries on our behavior.
Only through maintaining an appropriate discipline can we create the kind of atmosphere we want in our home and set an example for our children.
Yes, that means that being at home is work too. That’s reality. Certainly we want to model for our children an elevated way of speaking and behaving. We’re usually sane when it comes to our offspring; we know that they would not benefit from a “let it all hang out” home.
Our spouses deserve the same consideration. Our marriage deserves the same attention. And our self-respect demands that we lift up and act better, preserving our precious sense of dignity.
Do we always feel like it? Of course not. Is it difficult? You bet. But if we compare how we feel about ourselves after a big fight, where we totally lost control and said and did things we are not proud of versus the how we feel when we’ve made the effort to create a calm home and resolve our differences peaceably or keep our frustrations out of the house, then we recognize that the effort is worth it.
Our home is not Club Med. It is not a place where anything goes. The Torah suggests that our homes are meant to be a miniature sanctuary, a place of elevation and holiness. It’s only our behavior that will determine which it is.