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Dear Emuna: I Don't Love You Just the Way You Are
Dear Emuna

Dear Emuna: I Don't Love You Just the Way You Are

Advice for a critical husband, a grieving community and a financially struggling couple.

by

Dear Emuna,

I am trying to define and understand where is the line between letting your spouse know they are not meeting your needs - and criticism. My spouse falls short in many areas like not being empathic, not being there emotionally and physically enough for me. I have been telling my spouse practically daily where I need things and she sees it as that I am critical of her. I think that a spouse should be able to let their spouse know where they can improve and be more attractive. Where do you draw the line? My wife says that we should focus on each others good qualities and our happiness will increase, but I don't think I can manage without my wife meeting certain criteria. What do you think?

-- I Don’t Love You Just the Way You Are

Dear Confused Husband,

I confess that I am troubled by your language. I don’t think it’s helpful to speak in terms of criteria that we need our spouse to meet. Most people, even women who are committed to growing, do not enjoy being criticized – or having their shortcomings pointed out on a daily basis. On top of that, it is rarely an effective strategy (Does it work with you?). I think there is wisdom in your wife’s words. I think you should start by focusing on each other’s good qualities. That will bring a greater closeness and a greater pleasure to your marriage, both of which seem to be missing. It is always better to give attention to what you do have – and count your blessings – than to focus on what is lacking.

Most people do not enjoy having their shortcomings pointed out on a daily basis.

Let’s assume you do that and you notice a great improvement in your home life. There are still a few small (this label is important) areas for improvement. What's the best way to get any one to change? Is it to nag them until they can’t take it anymore or compliment them every time they act in the desired fashion? Praise and encouragement works for spouses, employers, children – maybe even yourself!

If you want your wife to make more of an effort with her looks, tell her how beautiful she is the next time she dresses up (Take her somewhere she needs to dress up for!) or praise her effort and determination in going to the gym. If you would like dinner ready at a particular time or made using different ingredients, the same technique can be employed. “I really enjoyed that spinach quiche we had last week – I don’t know how you managed to make such a delicious and healthy dinner.” “It means a lot to me when dinner is ready when I walk in the door. I’m so tired and hungry at the end of the day.” Whoever said you catch more flies with honey knew what he was talking about. Good luck!

-- Emuna

Related Article: Accepting Your Spouse


Dear Emuna,

Our community has been deeply affected by the tragic loss of a very special and unique young wife/mother. Jenny Morhaim was taken from us so suddenly and tragically. She was so well known for her warm always smiling face and her sweet and kind voice to match her wonderfully calm and exceptionally special character. We are all numbed by the loss.

I feel so deeply sad for her three very young girls, her husband, brothers and father to have lost such a wonderful and important member of the family. I'm struggling to understand how on earth such a tragedy could have taken place and I suppose my underlying age old question is "Why do bad things happen to good people?"

-- Seeking Comfort

Dear Seeking Comfort,

What possible answer can I give you? We don’t have the tools to fathom these tragedies. And the Almighty’s master plan remains opaque; we live in a time where His face is hidden. As much as we would like to know the answer to the why question, we need to recognize that it is not available to us. We need to fall back on our faith in the Creator and our trust that He only does what’s best.

And most of all, we need to accept His will. We can take pleasure in having known such a wonderful person and in being part of a people that cares so deeply for each other. These are not small things. But ultimately, facing life’s challenges with acceptance is both one of our greatest struggles – and greatest accomplishments.

We certainly don’t want the pain, we don’t want the loss. But these things are not in our control. All we can do is respond in the best way we can. The pain may never go away, we may never understand (not in this world anyway) but it is a fundamental tenet of our faith that we accept the Almighty’s will – and that we recognize we are willing to bear the cost of tremendous grief for the exquisite privilege of being able to love.

I know that I have learned from daughter and son-in-law who faced the loss of their infant daughter with courage and acceptance – and pain. There has not been a moment of bitterness; but there have been lots of tears. That is the price of love.

-- Emuna

Related Article: When Bad Things Happen


Dear Emuna,

My husband and I have a wonderful marriage. However, financially we have been struggling. My husband tries very hard to work (I work too) and no matter what, we have a tough time trying to make ends meet. My husband feels terrible about our situation. It is causing a lot of stress and worries. How can I improve my marriage with my husband with all the financial stress we are facing?

-- Broke and Overwhelmed

Dear Broke,

Start by reminding yourself and your husband that you are not alone. We are dealing with a very challenging economic situation world-wide and, unfortunately, many others are in the same boat.

This is not meant to encourage a “misery loves company” philosophy but rather to give you perspective. It is not about poor choices or errors in judgment; it is a generalized phenomenon. Although this won’t pay the bills, it should help prevent your husband from beating himself up.

Your husband needs your love, support, and admiration now, more than ever.

Now, more than ever, your husband needs your love, support, and even more importantly, respect and admiration. Men expect to provide for their families financially; they have an innate sense of responsibility. When they are unable to fulfill this obligation, it is a big blow to their self-esteem. Not only is it crucial not to add to their pain through criticism and attack – or even through venting your anxieties – but you must try to build him up. He needs to know (really know, deep down) that your love for him is unconditional.

The Talmud tells the story of a wealthy man reduced to impoverished circumstances and now working as a laborer in the field. His wife would put on her elegant clothes, her jewels and her makeup to go out to greet him at the end of the day. She wanted him to still feel good about himself and her, despite their financial travails. She is our role model for behavior under these trying circumstances.

Now that you know that no one is to blame, and building your deep commitment to one another, you can put your heads together and figure out how to meet this challenge.

-- Emuna

Related Article: My Deflated Husband

Published: December 25, 2010

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Visitor Comments: 10

(10) Anonymous, February 1, 2011 11:46 PM

Then why did you marry her?

If you don't love or accept your wife for who she is, why on earth did you marry her?

(9) Leigh Anne, December 30, 2010 2:50 PM

Work on Yourself

For the husband whose wife does not meet his needs, I would ask why should she meet them? What are you providing as a husband, (love, compassion, strength, respect) that is meeting her needs so that she CAN meet yours? If you want her to meet your needs, maybe you need to work on yourself FIRST.

(8) Anonymous, December 29, 2010 8:00 PM

Husband is right

Wanting and appreciating criticism is a good thing, and I hope your wife can learn to do it. If she can desire criticism not for selfish reasons but rather to help you, she's a truly righteous person in many ways (obviously, would be good for you to do the same.) Unfortunately, that's a very rare trait in this day and age- so I do agree that it's vital to love her anyway (even though that wasn't your question.) Emuna's advice is okay for starters, but I think she (and other commentators) might be making the mistake between "enabling" and "empowering." Empowering would be a positive thing- like making someone feel good about their progress. Enabling is negative- like making someone feel complacent so they don't progress. The Husband seems to be saying that his wife is lazy, and compliments are enabling rather than empowering her. It's a very good question, one I wish Reb Noach was still around to answer (no offense Emuna- just that your advice only covered one very limited angle.) Good luck.

(7) Jane L, December 28, 2010 4:08 PM

Mr., do you wife a favor

"Mr. I don't love you the way you are," should commit a huge act of kindness and put an end to his marriage before he destroys his wife's self-esteem and her ability to succeed in all areas of her life because she has been told daily that she is not good enough. I have been there, and struggled to please a husband totally focused on appearances for 25 years. I thought he would mature. He didn't. He handicapped our children and he handicapped me. We have to work hard to repair ourselves. Finally he just started over with a new family. Daily criticism is far worse than using street weapons, and are the most cowardly and unGodly of behaviors. This is not said with bitterness, but sadness. I would rather not share my cautionary tale, but I am determined not to be selfish and quiet.

(6) Bunny Shuch, December 28, 2010 2:15 AM

Empathy goes both ways

I agree with Emuna's advice and want to add to it. The husband wants his wife to be empathic and to meet his physical and emotional needs. My question is, is he meeting his wife's needs? Does he even care if he's meeting her needs? Doesn't sound like it. I suggest that both husband and wife get some counseling from a competent marriage counselor.

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