Apparently Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries aren’t the only Hollywood couple in trouble. I recently read (this is what comes of too many hours on a plane) that Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore have hit a rough patch. To resolve their issues they have turned to something called “kabbalah counseling” (I kid you not!). Since I don’t know what that is, I can’t comment on whether it is likely to be beneficial but I can tell you why I’m skeptical.
The concepts involved in making a marriage work are actually not complicated. They are not sophisticated or esoteric. They are not mystical or kabbalistic. They are direct and straightforward. Sometimes when my husband and I teach marriage classes, the attendees are disappointed. They want deep ideas. They want elaborate insights. They want to soar to lofty heights. But that’s just not how you create and maintain a good, solid marriage. Like I said, the concepts are simple. It’s the execution that’s difficult.
There are a few basic ideas that are key to a successful marriage (Ashton and Demi, are you paying attention?).
One is to be a constant giver, to always think about your spouse’s needs and not your own. In any healthy relationship, when you give, your partner will respond in kind. As the Talmud says, “If you treat your husband like a king, he will treat you like a queen.” If, on the other hand, you are focused on yourself, well, like your grandmother always told you, “You reap what you sow.”
The second marriage tip is to be patient. Our sages advise us to be slow to anger. This applies to all situations but none more than marriage (and parenting) where a few hurtful words uttered in a moment of frustration can have lasting negative consequences. Try to learn from each other instead of being critical. Don’t react immediately to situations that you find troubling. Think about it. Behave strategically and thoughtfully. And be patient in the broadest sense. A great marriage doesn’t happen overnight. Please God, you will have (and need) many years to achieve it.
Thirdly, work on letting things go. Don’t be too exacting; don’t be too demanding. Don’t be too quick to be right. Where you can let an issue go, and move on, do so. Most issues are not worth fighting over (this advice will come handy when you have teenagers!).
Fourthly, focus on your spouse’s good qualities. We all have strengths and weaknesses. Just like we want our mate to praise our strengths and ignore our weaknesses, we should treat him or her with the same consideration.
Additionally, everyone needs an objective third party – a rabbi, a therapist, a wise friend (doesn't have to be a kabbalah counselor) who can help you resolve a serious issue when you’ve reached an impasse or can give you some objectivity when you’ve both lost yours. Choose this person carefully. It should be someone you both trust and who can hear both sides.
Finally, ask the Almighty for help. We believe that there are three partners in building a home – the husband, the wife and the Almighty. But you have to invite Him in. You have to ask for His assistance. You have to pray constantly for His blessing.
As I keep reiterating, developing a good marriage is not complicated. It’s just not so easy to put into action. But these practical tips are the ones that really work. Ashton and Demi, I really hope this helps.