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Advice from Miss Deitz's Third-Grade Class
Mom with a View

Advice from Miss Deitz's Third-Grade Class

Marriage is about more than giving. It's about putting our spouse's needs constantly and completely before our own.

by

I think the best insight in Advice for a Happy Marriage, from Miss Dietz's Third-Grade Class comes from the child who suggests, "If there are two cupcakes and the man takes the one with not as much frosting, he loves you."

Wise words from an eight-year-old.

This old soul recognizes that marriage is about more than giving; it's about putting our spouse's needs constantly and completely before our own. That level of self-sacrifice -- whether it involves cupcake icing, or getting the crying child, or allocating limited finances -- both creates and is evidence of a good marriage.

Some people are innately generous, and we envy their spouses! But even if it isn't a natural impulse, we can train ourselves to become that kind of giver. Sometimes we hesitate because of the work involved. Sometimes we hesitate because we don't really believe we can affect that character change. But mostly we hesitate because of flawed logic and faulty thinking.

We have been brainwashed into thinking that the true giver is a schlemiel.

We believe that if we give to such a degree we will somehow be hurt by it. We will be taken advantage of; we are allowing ourselves to be doormats and shmattas.

We have been brainwashed into thinking that the true giver is a schlemiel and a fool with no instinct for self-preservation.

Judaism suggests the opposite. The most life-preserving and life-affirming thing you can do is give. If we don't want to give to our spouses more than ourselves, then our marriage isn't based on caring, it's based on selfishness. What is in my best interests? What am I getting out of this? (I would argue that giving is also in our self-interest...)

And there's a decent chance it won't last. Any significant relationship requires commitment to the needs and desires of the other party, a commitment that transcends ego and personal appetite.

Sometimes it's difficult. We're tired. That last piece of chicken or brownie looks good. We were saving up for a new pair of shoes. We're tired.

But the reward is in more than the gratitude of our spouse; it's in the strengthening and deepening of the relationship.

There's no question if one of our children wanted that cupcake we'd give it to them and take particular delight as they smeared the icing (that icing that we wanted!) all over their face!

We're just confused about which relationship is the more important one. We're just dismissive of the needs of adults (unless, of course, they're ours). We're just misled by the values and behaviors we see around us.

The Talmud teaches us that with the destruction of the Second Temple, prophecy went out of this world, except for fools and children.

I don't know if any of the kids in Miss Dietz's third-grade class are prophets. I don't even know if they've mastered their multiplication and division tables. But I do know that among them is one very wise third-grader who's going to make someone a very good husband or wife.

Published: January 13, 2007


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Visitor Comments: 9

(8) Anonymous, January 17, 2007 10:12 PM

One of the loftiest goals of marriage is as the Bible says "to become as one". We would be falling short of this goal if we simply placed our spouse's needs before our own. Ultimately we must strive to make our spouses needs our very own needs.

(7) Anonymous, January 17, 2007 1:09 PM

Abusive Spouses - Need or Greed?

Does putting the spouse's need before one's own including allowing one to be shouted at, cursed, demeaned, emotionally and physically abused? Where does one draw the line? Surely it is one's right to demand courteous treatment, however many cupcakes one should give up.

Anonymous, April 29, 2012 11:32 AM

No, this does not include allowing yourself to be abused

This article is talking about normal relationships, not abuse. With a person who reacts normally, you can pretty safely put their needs above your own, and not become a doormat. With an abuser, this does not work. The rules of the game are simply different, because the person you are dealing with does not follow the normal rules. If you think your relationship might be abusive, get help. Now.

(6) Yaffa M., January 16, 2007 1:07 PM

Bravo!

You have no idea how much you just helped my marriage, Boruch Hashem. Thank you.

(5) Mary, January 15, 2007 8:56 PM

Both give more than 100%.

I disagree with the author.
My father says BOTH parties have to be willing to give more than 100%. My parents have been married 63 years.
I gave a specific example of giving being a one way street which didn't work, but apparently the censors at Aish refused to post my post even though it mentioned no names, no places, nor used bad language, for reasons of their own, despite the fact that most people prefer a specific example rather than a generality. So I won't repeat it. Perhaps it was a technical blip that ate the email.

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