Dear Rabbi Brody,
I'm not a religious person, nor am I Jewish, but I've been a fan of your blog for almost 5 years now and feel so much better about myself ever since. Anyway, I'm going to be married in 3 weeks after 36 years of bachelorhood. I remember reading somewhere about someone who asked a Jewish wise man to teach him the entire Torah while standing on one foot, and I guess I'm asking you for the same thing. Even so, could you please give me a few general guidelines for insuring future happiness in marriage? I appreciate your time and attention. Tom S., North Carolina
First off, I suggest you read Rabbi Shalom Arush's classic book that I had the privilege to translate, The Garden of Peace. You won't be sorry.
In answer to your question, yes, there are some basic guidelines that work for any marriage, despite religious or cultural background. If you follow these simple points, you'll have a happy wife and your relationship will blossom. Real love comes with real commitment, and that begins only after you've taken the vows. Here are a few pointers that have never failed (if you follow them, I'll guarantee you a happy home until you and your wife reach 120):
1. Never criticize your wife, no matter what. In an environment free of criticism, she'll blossom emotionally, and she'll do everything in her power to please you, so ultimately, you won't have anything to criticize.
2. Never make a negative remark about her parents or family. Call your inlaws once a week. If you develop a good relationship with them, your wife will forever hold you in high regard.
3. Never say "no" to your wife; if she asks for something that you can't afford, tell her you'll get it for her as soon as you have the money.
4. Spend a minimum of 30 minutes a day listening to your wife - not talking, just listening. Show her that her life is important to you. If possible, you should set aside an hour a day for quality communication time together (sitting in front of the TV with beer and pretzels is not quality communication time!).
5. Make her first-priority in your life, above everyone else.
6. Agree on a mutually-acceptable third party (a clergyman you trust, etc.) to air your differences.
7. Never say a derogatory word about your wife to anyone.
8. If your wife is displeased with you, don't be angry; she's your mirror and she's reflecting you. It's also usually a sign that The Almighty is displeased with you. Rather than arguing with her, do some soul-searching, mend your fences, and you'll see how things work out for the best.
9. Smile always, and try your best to speak softly to her always. Nothing makes a wife nervous like an angry husband.
10. The more you develop your emuna (complete faith in G-d) and your trust in G-d, the more you'll develop inner strength. Wives love nothing more than a husband with inner strength that they can lean on. They hate when their husbands are emotional weaklings that lean on them. Emuna makes you strong.
I guess you can call the above list "The ten commandments for a husband". Thanks to you, Tom, we've finally written them down. I wish you and your bride all the happiness in the world. Blessings always, LB