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The Three Hardest Words

The Three Hardest Words

Without admitting that we need each other, it is almost impossible to give and receive love.


Every week my husband and I have a date. Over the years we have been blessed with both good babysitters, and a joint commitment to never miss our dates. We have sat drinking milkshakes in hotel lobbies asking each other "typical" date questions, and sometimes we are surprised by new answers. We have walked along the beach in Netanya and hiked steep trails by the Dead Sea.

We have taken romantic walks through the Old City and then prayed together at the Kotel. And we have skied Mount Hermon together, looking down at the snow covered trees and majestic mountains rising around us. We play basketball, rollerblade and learn together.

These dates remind us of our friendship and our common goals. We just celebrated our tenth anniversary and with four little kids, we also are blessed to face many challenges together.

Last week all of our children had a stomach virus. Each night a different child threw up at around 2am. My husband and I were exhausted, but we were a team. One of us cleaned up the child. The other one cleaned up the bed. And I thought about how marriage requires so much patience and tolerance for middle of the night messes. But when spouses invest in each other and spend time having fun together, there is enough energy in the relationship for the mundane, daily tasks. Every marriage will have its share of tough in-law dynamics, financial setbacks and various misunderstandings. But when you are constantly making positive deposits into your marriage, the withdrawals become much less significant.

When we are too afraid to be vulnerable, we put up subconscious defenses.

According to Rabbi Dovid Gottlieb, the three hardest words in the English language today are: "I need you." In today's modern world 'need' is considered a weakness. We don't need anything or anyone. We can want something, but we can't 'need' it. However, without admitting that we need each other, it is almost impossible to give and receive love. When we are too afraid to be vulnerable, we put up subconscious defenses. We ask our spouses to come closer while simultaneously pushing them away.

Try saying this to your spouse: I need you to build a home with me. I need you to grow with me. I need you to help me. These words are difficult because on some level, we are still stubborn children who want to do everything their way: Don't help me. I want to do it myself!

I grew up in a very feminist environment. I played competitive sports, and I strove for academic excellence. When I finally sat down in the classroom of the Ivy League school of my choice, I thought: "I made it. This is it. I can succeed without anything or anyone."

It took years for me to realize how immature this thought was. If one of the main goals of our lives is to build strong relationships with others, then we have to make room for other people to give to us. This doesn't mean giving up our choices and our abilities. It means using all our talents and strengths and still being able to say: "I need you to be my partner. I can't run this company on my own." It means being able to see that our marriages go beyond love.

When spouses go out together, they need each other in so many precious ways. Instead of viewing this need as an obstacle or a weakness, we should see this need as a treasure. And the next time you are slipping on a steep mountain and your spouse reaches out her hand, take it. You may be able to make it up to the top yourself, but the real journey only begins when you climb together.

June 28, 2008

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Visitor Comments: 12

(12) leora, November 16, 2009 1:05 AM

Great book to follow up article's point

Just wanted to recommend a really great relationship book--Hold Me Tight by Susan Johnson. It argues that psychology's emphasis on total independence as the healthy, adult state has denied the truth: that our primal and original neediness (considered an unhealthy "child" state, codependence, etc. etc.) actually continues into adulthood, is the human condition, and should be understood and handled with wisdom and maturity--NOT denied. Brilliant book.

(11) adina, January 13, 2009 5:13 AM

I need this

thank you, I know I have a problem with "getting" I always try doing things myself only, it's very helpful to read about it this opens me the gate to work on it, to be able one day, yes, to say "I need you"

(10) Mindy, December 4, 2008 1:48 AM

Excellent advice!

Carmen, hang in there. Sometimes you have to be Very specific about what you need. "Please help me reach the dishes on the top shelf." "Please watch the children for a minute while I have the oven door open." Your husband may not realize how much work you do, so try the advice in this article. If that doesn't work, I suggest you consult a counselor (possibly your rebbitzin).

(9) Carmen, July 5, 2008 3:28 PM

What can we do to keep the marriage alive, when just one of the team is doing all the work? Somedays I'm very hopeless.

(8) Catherine Manna, July 3, 2008 2:43 PM

Excellent article

this was very inspiring
and true!
I knew there was something missing
time to start and i know its not too late.
Thank you!
I needed that!!!

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