You’ve seen the pictures and watched the news. Rivers overflowing, homes bashed down, basements flooded and a lifetime of memories washed away. People have inquired about natural disaster insurance and ‘what about next time?’
I started thinking about it. We work tirelessly building our homes. Marriages and relationships take great effort. We put in our best years. We sacrifice. We look away at slights. We open our hearts. We love more than we ever thought possible. There are times that we are fatigued but still, we keep at it.
And then one day there is a hurricane. Somehow a strange wind starts to blow. Doors slam. Painful words are exchanged. We don’t recognize the person sitting beside us. After the storm a painful silence overtakes us.
Can this home be saved?
Is there a way we can invest in love insurance before disaster strikes?
Andrew and Melanie made a beautiful couple. They were the perfect newlyweds, starry-eyed with their whole life ahead of them. Andrew attended a prestigious law school and Melanie worked as a beloved kindergarten teacher. A few years passed. They were part of a warm community, had two children and made their urban apartment into a home.
Andrew was deluged with great job offers. He was an outstanding student in school and obviously on his way to climbing the ladder of success. It was at this point that Andrew and Melanie asked to meet with me. They had attended a few classes where we had spoken about the sanctity of marriage and relationships. They said that they had some ‘issues’ – a code word for everything and nothing.
We met at a local café. We took a corner table for privacy and I asked them to tell their story.
Andrew began to speak. I could see that he would one day become a great lawyer. He explained that he was given a job offer in a beautiful country overseas. The pay was incredible. A grand apartment was part of the package. The law firm was well known and offered great prestige and connections. He wanted very much to take the offer and go.
“But I’m scared,” Melanie interjected. “I love our life here. The kids are happy. We live in a vibrant Jewish community. We have a good life together. Why should we jeopardize all this for the unknown?”
I could see the frustration on Andrew’s face. He wanted to move on. He wanted to take a chance and explore the possibilities. He wanted to taste success. Andrew was annoyed as he went through his thought process again and again.
The gulf between this couple began to expand in front of my eyes. I saw its vast width extend greater as the conversation grew more intense. Melanie wiped her tears with the corner of her napkin. Andrew was not moved.
After much time, we came up with this compromise. Andrew and Melanie would move but it would be a temporary move. Melanie promised to give it her best shot but if after one year Melanie was unhappy, her wishes would have to be respected. They would return home.
Melanie asked to speak. “My greatest fear is losing the sense of family that we have here. I’ve worked so hard on our Friday nights. Our children love when friends come over and join us for Shabbat dinner. Andrew is connected to spirituality when we come to class and study with other couples. What happens when we move and maybe lose all this?”
I asked Andrew to make a promise. No matter how successful he’d become, no matter how long his hours, or how thrilling his office life would seem, he must give us his word that he would never take his family for granted. He would be there every week at the head of his Shabbat table, sharing time with his wife and children. During the week he and Melanie would carve out some alone time so that they would not lose touch. He would join the local rabbi in Torah study and remain connected with his soul.
The couple left holding hands. There was a feeling of hope that vibrated between them.
When the day came for Andrew and Melanie to leave, they called to say goodbye. I wished them well and reminded Andrew of his promise. He chuckled and agreed once again to make sure that he would keep his family and marriage as his greatest priority.
Melanie has kept in touch sporadically. She is working on getting acclimated and putting great effort into bringing a happy feeling into their home despite her reluctance with the move. The kids are gradually adjusting and Andrew is enjoying his new job. Hours are long but he is trying to keep his promise. He has come home for Shabbat dinner and joined a local study group. Though it has not always been smooth sailing, Andrew and Melanie have invested in their love and the dividends are beginning to pay off.
This new year, commit to taking the time and energy to invest in love insurance.
It does not only have to be an overseas move that threatens to divide us. Many challenges can bring chaos into our relationships. What can we do to invest in ‘love insurance’ before calamity strikes?
Beginning this moment, you can make choices that will protect your family and bring a sense of peace into your home.
- Nurture Friendship with your Spouse
It is not enough to discuss the kids, the bills, and what to do about the leak in the basement. This will not make our love flourish. Marriage needs nurturing. We must keep the spark alive. We need to nourish the friendship that helps us grow to love and trust each other. We need to speak about our hopes and dreams, share our thoughts, laugh together, and sooth each other’s hurts. Not a day should go by that we do not give to our spouse as we would to a best friend; even giving a kind word or smile. We need to take the time out from our busy schedules to listen and be sure that we are not simply coexisting. And FYI, time carved out to communicate does not mean texting each other throughout the day.
- Be Loyal
Too often we mock the weaknesses that we see in our loved one. We joke at their expense in public, sarcastically ridicule their mistakes, and knock them in front of the kids. When spouses put each other down, the respect and trust that we have slowly erodes. We don’t think about the effects of our rolling eyes and sharp little comments. But the sting remains, and the damage lasts longer than we could’ve imagined. We can accomplish so much more by recognizing positive traits than seeking out the negative.
- Establish Meaningful Traditions
Time together anchors us. Whether it is Friday night dinners or treasured repeat vacation spots; these are the moments that connect us. Familiar rituals bond us and give us cherished memories. Taking time out to spend with your spouse relays the message that ‘you are important to me’ and ‘I love spending my life with you’. You are showing that you are committed to this relationship. For some husbands and wives, it is a weekly walk or bike ride. For others, it is a favorite ice cream jaunt where they can easily enjoy each other’s company. The most important point is that you find what works for you and never become too busy or preoccupied for the one you love.
We can make a difference and shield ourselves from hurt through the love that we create. This new year, commit to taking the time and energy to invest in love insurance.