Love is a very delicate feeling. It flees from an atmosphere filled with blame, anger and sarcasm and grows in an environment of respect, acceptance and honesty. The following 10 marital proscriptions — if followed consciously and conscientiously– will transform a relationship mired in negativity into one based on trust and safety.
Why a list of marital taboos rather than a positive “to do” list of marital suggestions? The following Talmudic story answer the question:
A non-believer confronted the great sage Hillel, the Elder, and demanded that he teach him the entire Torah while standing on one foot. Hillel agreed and said the following: “What’s hateful to yourself don’t do to another. Everything else is commentary. Now go and learn.” Many commentators have wondered why he chose to answer in the negative rather than quoting the famous Biblical proscription “To love thy neighbor as thyself.”
My understanding is quite simple. We understand what it is that hurts us; we’ve experienced how painful a critical statement or disdainful look can feel; we’ve seen how one negative comment can harm or even destroy a relationship and we know that the negative things that we do or that are done to us can far outweigh our or others’ positive behaviors.
Therefore, the first step in improving a relationship is to eradicate the negative behaviors that continually pollute the marital environment. It doesn’t help to plant rose bushes in a toxic waste field. First, we have to clean up the poison and then we can beautify the area. The more we sensitize ourselves to the subtle ways that we have hurt our partners, the more we enable our feelings of love to blossom.
As you read each of the following 10 Things, I encourage you to practice the exercises. The challenge of marriage demands a commitment to the three P’s — practice, persistence and patience. Just do it, and you’ll begin to see the benefit. Even if only one of the partners in the relationship makes a concerted effort to change, the results will still be quite significant.
1. DON’T TAKE YOUR PARTNER FOR GRANTED
Marriage is probably the most effective and challenging training program for developing character. Many of the encounters we have with our partners afford us an opportunity to practice self-control, kindness and respect. At any given moment, for example, you could be confronted with a choice between lashing out in anger or communicating your resentment. At another moment, the choice might be between taking your partner for granted or expressing appreciation.