Many couples I’ve seen have a seemingly benign custom of ‘ribbing’ each other, under the impression that it qualifies as humor. Often, either the wife or the husband says something, and the other spouse rolls their eyes, as if to say ‘what a darling dope my wife/husband is!’
This model of ‘humorously’ putting each other down is frequently seen in the media, movies and whenever people want to show themselves as ‘witty’.
Strangely enough, as a rule, the couples who are really happy with each other don’t practice that type of ‘humor’. Whenever I’m in the presence of couples who I have known for a while, whom I respect and whose character I really respect, this behavior is not seen.
The couples whom I have known to be real COUPLES, who are a real team, who support and encourage each other, don’t practice this form of witticism.
Maybe I’m over-reacting, but if a couple makes a habit of putting each other down, even for a joke, it is pretty obvious that they don’t respect each other, at least not in all areas.
It does not mean that the couple must agree on everything, although it might be refreshing to see such couple, where there is a real teamwork, real unity of purpose, commonality of ideas and goals.
Today’s society is fixated on ‘individuality’… If we happen to agree with someone, with our rabbi, with our well-meaning teacher, even with a counselor or a good friend who might be more experienced in some area and who might share some pretty good advice with us, we might be afraid to admit that for being labeled as ‘followers’ or wimps.
Once upon a time, respecting authority, respecting experts, appreciating others’ opinion was considered ‘normal’. Today, when anyone fancies themselves an expert after a five seconds ‘google’ search, we became jaded, arrogant and little know-it-alls.
Nobody can tell us what to do, not our rabbi, not our doctor, not our parents or friends. We know best.
So, its no wonder that spouses don’t respect each other as much…
It is not so common to see a couple truly supporting each other.
But if we’d think for a moment, we are married to this person, we now constitute a unit. If we undermine our spouse, aren’t we really undermining OURSELVES?
If we are ridiculing our spouse, we are putting down our ‘other half’.
If I treat my wife/husband as a clown, as a ‘lovable idiot’, whose opinion doesn’t deserve any consideration,
if instead of paying attention to her/him, we just roll our eyes or chuckle with ‘benign’ derision, we are really disrespecting ourselves.
The couples who I really look up to, to which I’d go for advice or aspire to emulate, those couples are rarely seen ‘ribbing’ each other.
I remember seeing an older couple this Pesach (Passover), they seemed to be in their 50s-60s. Even when they were talking to others, they always made sure to include their spouse.
The wife didn’t roll her eyes when her husband told a funny story or related something he had seen or heard. She showed interest (genuine, not faked), she let him have his say, and she asked questions about the conversation. And vice versa: when she talked, he listened to her, didn’t put her ideas down, made sure he understood what she meant to say…
Perhaps she has heard his stories before. Perhaps he has heard her jokes. And yet, it was obvious that they considered each other a VALUABLE PERSON, whose opinions matter…
Nowadays, such behavior is frequently frowned upon. We are encouraged ‘not to let ourselves be a shmatta’, not to be a ‘yes-man’, not to ‘let them walk all over you’…
But we forget that our spouse is a part of US. If I’m married to a fool, whose jokes or stories deserve a groan, not an appreciative smile or a chuckle, I’m cheapening myself. I’m putting MYSELF down!
But if we pay attention when our spouse is saying something, we are honoring ourselves.
If we listen to the person we have chosen as our life-partner, we are making a statement- I am married to a person whose opinions and ideas MATTER!
I know it’s not always easy, but it is worth remembering.I’m really writing it for myself as a reminder…
We are taught that every person is created B’tzelem Elokim- in the image of G-od Himself!
If we snort with derision when our friend says something, we are de-humanizing him.
If we snort with derision when our spouse says something, we are also de-humanizing ourselves…
When Gd gave Adam his wife, Gd said ‘it is not good for man to be alone’. The main purpose of marriage is to not be alone. Why?
We are created in the image of Gd. Gd is a paradigm of goodness and of GIVING LOVINGKIDNESS.
Just as Gd animates and nourishes the entire world at every moment, so should we make our lives MATTER- by being GIVERS not takers.
But even Gd desires our praises, our aknowledgement of His kidness.
So we all need appreciation, kindness and a helping hand in our lives.
I’ve seen some couples where one spouse was starved for some kindness, some connection, moral support, some sharing,
while the other spouse viewed the act of giving as ‘giving-in’, as ‘losing’ something by giving to the other spouse.
Eventually, both partners in that relationship became like two strangers, both got their own circle of friends, there was no respect for each other’s privacy or for each other’s emotional needs.
One spouse would deridingly announce to others ‘I will not kiss her butt’ ‘I don’t have to do anything’ (He was paying rent and food, so he felt he didn’t need to do anything else)…
That is not living… that is not living TOGETHER. That is not being each other’s ‘helpers’ nor ‘one flesh’- which I understand means taking care for each other’s needs, both emotional and physical, which include respect for each other’s ideas, desires, dreams, ideals and recreational activities.
If those are not met, even if such couple ‘survives’ (for the sake of children), they will be effectively like two strangers, or worse, because it is more painful when someone close to us pus our dreams, ideas and preferences down…
Sadly there are many couples like that.
If we remember to be each other’s ‘help’ and view each other as Gd’s creation in His Image, we’ll have a much more peaceful, spiritual and loving home!