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Marriage and Love

Marriage and Love

Take the test: Are you unintentionally turning your marriage into a business partnership?


Marriage is not a business partnership. I know, I know, you’ve heard this idea before. It doesn’t apply to you because you and your husband are different. You discuss parenting techniques, you agree on money matters, you even have a regularly scheduled date night. You certainly aren’t one of those couples who fall into the trap of treating marriage like a business relationship.

Or are you? There are ways of doing this that are less obvious and more insidious than the standard expected way. I’m thinking of your pattern of giving and taking.

Are you giving to your spouse because you love him (or her) and want to give him pleasure? Or do you have an agenda? Is there something you want or expect in return? Is there a quid pro quo in your relationship? Are you keeping a list?

If you answered the first question in the affirmative, then you can stop reading now. But if your answer is ‘no’ or ‘sometimes’ to the first query and ‘yes’ or ‘sometimes’ to any of the remaining ones, then we have something to discuss.

A relationship where we give in order to get, where we give with expectations or with strings attached, may not always be a business one but it has been shaped by the mindset and attitudes of the business world. And it is certainly not a marriage in its most ideal form. It won’t lead to a deep and lasting relationship.

You can’t keep score in marriage.

In marriage, you can’t keep score. “It was up five times last night.” “I went to the dry cleaner’s three times last month.” “I made dinner every night last week.” This type of negotiation is reminiscent of a brokered mediation not a loving caring relationship.

When the Talmud tells us that “If you treat your husband like a king, he will treat you like a queen,” it is not describing a reciprocal contract, but the natural consequences of behaving in a giving and respectful way.

Not only do we need to give to our partner without expectations or conditions, we need to do it with warmth and enthusiasm. We need to do it exuberantly and whole-heartedly. We need to do it with love.

There is a common perception that love isn’t enough to help a couple weather life’s challenges. It’s certainly true if we’re speaking of romantic love, infatuation, stars and bells.

But real, deep, abiding love, the kind that is based on commitment, where the lover cares more about his spouse’s welfare than his own, that is a love that will last. It’s so much harder than most business partnerships. You can’t leave the work at the office; it’s a 24/7 proposition. It’s non-stop giving and caring and trying to do what’s best for someone else, putting them first.

The Talmud also teaches us that “a man doesn’t die except to his wife.” That’s the most significant relationship in anyone’s life. Everyone else moves on; the deepest and most profound loss is that of a spouse, a life partner, the one who shares your hopes and dreams, goals and aspirations.

This reflects how it should be in life. We don’t want to wait for a tragedy, God forbid, to recognize this. We want to work on our marriages now and treat our husbands and wives with the caring they deserve. We want to appreciate them and the relationship now, not only after loss (I just came from the funeral of a 44 year-old mother, so this feels particularly timely).

The Talmud is teaching us about the importance of marriage and the uniqueness of the marriage relationship. It remains silent about the death of a business partner.

April 20, 2013

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Visitor Comments: 15

(10) Anonymous, September 20, 2016 6:09 PM


Undue pressure cannot be the basis of marriage. It is a business partnership done for the sake of Torah study. One cannot be in marriage a little bit ,one is either immersed in it or out of it. No one is a little bit married . The oaths were taken twenty yrs back. Family did not force me to take vows but it was on account of them that oaths were taken, so they are quite flexible when it comes to me.

(9) Anonymous, April 22, 2013 6:45 PM

There is another reason that one spouse my keep giving despite getting nothing in return and that is for Shalom Bayis, a peaceful home. But even that can get very difficult when it is all one sided. Giving for the sake of giving is great when you are in a healthy relationship, but unfortunately, I observe too many extremely lopsided marriages.

(8) Diana, April 22, 2013 2:56 PM

I agree with Anonymous dangerous message

It is against human nature to give and give and not expect anything in return. If you don´t get anything in return the motivation to give disappears. One gives because one receives and feels happy. If both partners do not behave in the ideal way portraid by the article then it will not work. Realistically when you give and do not receive in return then you feel dissapointed and sad. Humans need to receive from each other because that is what motivates us to give. You can ask any psychologist and they will agree that in a marriage both partners need to give and receive. It cannot be one-sided only because it is not fair and it will not work.

Deborah, July 18, 2013 3:16 PM

I agree with 8

It cannot be one-sided only because it is not fair and it will not work. And if the woman keeps treating him like a king and she never gets the "qeen's" return, then what?

(7) Anonymous, April 22, 2013 2:22 PM

The reason giving is hard

Giving is hard gor everyone. The problem is that sometimes u can give snd your spouse doesn't realize it because for him it would be a natural reaction while for you its a compromise.

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