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Putting Your Spouse First

Putting Your Spouse First

Allowing the needs of another to take precedence doesn't make you a wimp. It's affirming the supremacy of the marriage over the individual.


"If you treat your husband like a king, he will treat you like a queen." This wise advice from the Talmud is not something we have an easy time putting into practice. We're afraid we'll get stepped on, become doormats, we're concerned our needs won't be met, we don't want to feel like shmattes, we don't want it to be about him.

Which is ironic because that is the key to a successfully marriage (and ultimately to having our own needs tended to) -- to put our partner first. It's not about me. The character trait of humility, this other-centered focus, is crucial to a healthy relationship. This often manifests itself in the seemingly small areas. We're both tired at night. Who gets up to make sure the doors are locked? To check on the baby?

These small things are not so tiny after all. They are the ways we express our caring.

But these small things are not so tiny after all. They are the ways we express our caring, the ways we contribute to the health and strength of the marriage, the way we tell our spouse that they count, their needs count, the way we put them first.

Another aspect of humility is the ability to cede your rights, to give it up and just let it go. So many things we fight about are so unimportant (forget that toilet seat already) and simply not worth it. And yet we let them erode our relationship. Just let it go; make it nonexistent.

The clothes on the floor, the cereal on the counter, the forgotten phone message, the baby's pajamas on backwards -- let it go.

And maybe even some more annoying qualities as well. We can feel that moment of choice, that moment where the frustration is just starting to build and we can either vent it in an unpleasant tirade or we can take a deep breath and move on. It's a choice; let it go and choose the marriage, choose your spouse's needs. Tomorrow you won't even remember what that burning issue was.

Allied with this is the clear recognition that marriage is not a competition and that being right is not the goal. Working together, creating a new unique entity together is. Ego has no place in marriage -- very easy to say and very difficult to live.

It's very hard to really let go, to really not care, to bite back the words as they are agitating to get out. We're not always successful. What's important is that we want to be.

Letting go is a positive affirmation of the supremacy of the marriage over the individual.

There's a mistaken and prevalent notion that we are somehow a wimp if we aren't constantly asserting our rights and needs. On the contrary. It takes real strength of character to step back, to concede, to defer, to allow the needs of another to take precedence. It requires security and clarity not to be threatened by this attitude and to instead take pleasure in the giving.

Letting go is not passivity, it is not opting out. It's a positive affirmation of the supremacy of the marriage over the individual, a clear recognition of priorities and purpose. The Talmud is a statement of reality, of both a Divine promise and natural consequences. If we treat our husbands like a king, he will treat us like a queen. And if we begin by treating our husband like a king, we have already adopted the behavior or royalty.

September 6, 2008

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Visitor Comments: 31

(27) Deborah, December 16, 2014 8:31 AM

What happens when you treat your husband like a king and he keeps putting you second to his adult daughter?

(26) Bill, August 19, 2013 12:49 PM

Talmud is Right!

I am a husband who treats his wife with every consideration. I end up picking up her clothes, washing the dishes, vacuuming etc because she will not do it.

It has made her a little better, at times a lot better.

However, when she puts a phone call to a friend over our little time together at the end of the day, when she resents having to pause a video game because I need to chat to her once or twice in a day during the weekend, I realize that some people cannot be pleased. She is contentious, loud, and unfeeling, and, even when I am really depressed she doesn't care.

I believe the Talmud is right which comes as no surprise to me.

Women today are horrible! That is my conclusion observing other marriages. The courts, the sitcoms, the Oprahs ad infinitum all conspire to make this the worst time in history to be men. It may just be American women who have a world reputation for being the worst.

Jess, December 20, 2013 7:37 PM

This made me so sad to read :-( You are being disrespected...and you are clearly a loving soul. Maybe American woman ARE the worst...who knows...point is, it doesn't matter. The one u have is no good for u. Find the right one. Don't settle. Good luck

(25) Anonymous, August 2, 2013 6:35 PM

what if u treat him like his your whole world and he destroys it.

I have been treating my husband like his my world and king. I have taken his part over my kids. And all that's done is make him more arrogant, more ungrateful. Hurting me more all the time. When will it stop.

(24) no name, September 21, 2011 1:07 PM

I think that your advice stinks. Marriage is a two way street. It is about the individuals. It is about treating each other with love and caring and respect. Letting everything go only causes resentment later. The key to a good relationship is mutual respect and mutual cooperation. Buring all under carpets only gives the illusion of a good relationship. Working together so each party gets their needs fullfilled is what is real.

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