Even though the three-week mourning period leading up to Tisha B’Av suspends the celebrations of weddings, this time period actually sheds light on how to build up a marriage relationship. When we mourn the destruction of the Holy Temple two thousand years after it happened, we are expressing our longing for redemption and our commitment to bringing about that process. It is not about becoming depressed and immobile. It is about taking the first step toward rebuilding by establishing a clear vision.

As a Jewish home is compared to the Holy Temple, it is a fitting time to develop a vision of what your home, or more specifically your marriage, looks like.

The Vision

The fact that the Holy Temple no longer exists tells us something about the present, as the Jerusalem Talmud (Yoma 1) says, “Any generation that does not rebuild the Temple is as if that generation destroyed it.” The first step to rebuilding is to have a vision of what you want to build. The Shabbos preceding Tisha B’Av is called Shabbat Chazon, the Shabbat of vision, named after the special Haftarah we read bearing the same name. According to Kabbalistic sources, on this Shabbat we are all shown a vision of the Third Temple.

Having a vision provides us direction to reach our destination and helps us focus our energy to get there. Without it, we may feel aimless, chaotic, and empty. This is especially true with marriage. A lot of couples get married and assume the relationship will take care of itself. Sooner or later they realize that it is not so easy. They both entered the marriage with their own unconscious ideas of how their relationship would be, with separate desires, dreams, values, and needs. Many early frustrations in a marriage arise when husband and wife butt heads about these very issues, discovering that they are not on the same page.

Whether or not you have already woken up to the reality that some degree of conflict is inevitable in relationships, it is essential for you to co-create a conscious shared vision. How do you want to build your Holy Temple? What are its foundations? The following exercise, based on the work of Dr. Harville Hendrix, author of Getting the Love You Want, is an effective tool to help couples create this vision. All you need is three pieces of paper and two pens.

The Exercise

On two separate sheets of paper, both you and your spouse list your personal relationship vision. Entitle the page “My Relationship Vision.” Write a positive, descriptive, and specific sentence. Instead of the negative, “we do not fight,” put down the positive: “we get along together in a loving relationship.” Vision has a magnetic power that draws people to it. As opposed to focusing on what we don’t want and investing our energy in moving away from the past, away from the destruction, and mourning about what we no longer have or fear what could be, let us shift our attention to what we do want. This helps us move towards it with greater ease than getting stuck in our fears or our old way of being.

Formulate your vision in the present tense. As opposed to saying “we will be happy,” write “we are happy.” The future is here, now. Our dream relationship is before our eyes at this very moment. When we think of it this way, we can actually live it as opposed to waiting for it.

Once you have constructed your vision statements, using a separate line for each sentence, begin to rank the items according to relative value/importance to you by writing a number on the left column of the paper. On the right column rank items according to difficulty. Finally, circle the two most valuable items to your vision.

Finding Your Mutual Vision

When you are both done, read each other your visions and note which items you have in common. Now, you are ready to create your shared relationship vision. On one piece of paper, write the title “Our Relationship Vision.” Write down all of the mutually agreed upon items. Draw a line after the mutually agreed upon items and write down all of the other items that you had listed.

Once you are finished, post your relationship vision in a place where you will be able to see it. Take a moment every day to glance at it and/or spend a few minutes every week to read it together. Are your relationship choices and actions in line with that vision? Do you feel yourself moving towards that vision? Merely reading the vision on a regular basis can help create a shift in a relationship and move it in a positive direction. It will make you more conscious about what you really want. It also provides encouragement that you are making progress in achieving your vision.

Not only have you created a vision of a new reality for your relationship, you are taking the steps to get there. By building your marriage, you are strengthening the foundation of your home, your miniature Temple, and adding your brick to the collective Holy Temple, which should be built speedily in our days.

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