If you’ve ever gone to a Broadway play, you may recall the ridiculously long and drawn-out process of the repeated curtain calls. I never understood this. Yes, the play was great. Yes, the actors were great. Their voices were spectacular. The costumes and backdrops were phenomenal. Blah, blah, blah... But at the end of the play, a strange compulsion overcomes the audience of every single play, Broadway or not, all across the country, every single night. You might call it the “Curtain Call Plague”. Audiences are compelled by unseen forces to clap and clap and clap and clap, as the actors sashay across the stage from behind the curtain, feigning bashfulness and surprise as they bow again and again and again. Each actor gets a different intensity of fervent clapping, but the main actors get the full decibel limit with a few cheers, if they were really outstanding. What was the purpose of this? Why wasn’t one round of applause sufficient? Did their egos really need that much pampering? I suppose I’ll never figure it out...
There was a popular movie a few years back called, “What Women Want.” It was a typical cheesy, superficial movie, with a strange yet insightful plot. The main actor, through a freak electrocution, was suddenly able to read the minds of all the women around him. After a novel few days of enjoying the inside scoop, he eventually became overwhelmed and thankfully reverted back to only hearing his own thoughts. I honestly think men would go crazy if they had as much on their minds as women do. Sorry, but I just had to get my opinion in there somehow. Did you know? I’m a mind-reader too; right now you’re probably wondering what this has to do with a standing ovation at a Broadway play.
Women are complicated in many ways. But the bottom line of what we want is very simple. We have many emotional needs, but the biggest one is: we need to feel appreciated. In case you didn’t get that: Women need to feel appreciated. We put in so much of ourselves into everything we do, whether it’s doing homework with the kids or making dinner, or even going food shopping. Each way we contribute to the well-being of our loved ones is much deeper than just physical actions. For example, when I go food shopping, I’m not just buying what we need to eat. There is an extra dimension of emotional care, whether it’s thinking about what my kids like to eat for dinner, or a little smile that comes to me from picking out baby wipes. What women do and how they feel are very much intertwined. When I send my husband food shopping, he just goes through the motions as quickly as possible, and hopefully returns home with the things that I actually sent him for. But believe me, his head is not there. It’s still at work, going through the million and one details of what needs to get done.
I’m not saying all men are like this- my father happens to be a very emotionally connected and compassionate man. He used to make our school lunches when we were kids, and I know he put his heart into everything he did for us. But the norm is that the majority of women do things with more emotional attachment than men do. Therefore, we women often end up frustrated when our efforts don’t elicit the response we’re looking for. When we get a “Thank You” from our husbands, many of us may feel frustrated and resentful, though we may not know why. I’m a sucker for a good compliment. Just ask my husband, whose compliments frequently get returned (not with another compliment- just not accepted!) because he wasn’t sincere in the way he said them. I’m not looking for an ego boost; I am looking for genuine and sincere appreciation.
That being said, we can now begin to understand where so many marital problems come from. It is something so subtle, that most couples miss it until it blows up into something that can do permanent damage to their marriage. Let me stress that I am aware not all arguments start out the way I am about to describe- I am just referring to this one specific way. Here’s the snowball effect in action: A wife slaves away the entire day, trying to balance between working and her home chores, such as getting all the laundry done, preparing dinner, helping the kids with homework, getting them bathed and ready for bed, and everything else that she must do during the day. Her husband comes home, tired and hungry. She serves him a delicious, hot meal, to which he may grunt out a “thank you”, and proceeds to devour his dinner like a bear that just came out of hibernation. The wife is severely insulted, and definitely adds this to her mental list of “Everything My Husband Does Wrong”. She says nothing, and the night continues, but there is growing tension between them. Maybe he doesn’t yet notice it, but he will when she blows up at him eventually!
I’ll tell you a little secret. Over the years, I have had the merit of seeing Rav Brody at many events, and I have seen how people love him. Men and women alike are falling over themselves around him, eating up every word he speaks. Watching people say hello to him after a lecture is like watching people meet the world’s greatest movie star. Everyone who has met him will agree that he is a very wonderful and special man. But what makes people go ga-ga for him? It’s because he truly appreciates and sees the good in everyone. When anyone does something for him, they get a “Thank You” like they have never experienced. They can feel how grateful he is for their efforts, whether it’s helping to organize an event, or just telling him about the CD’s they shared with others. Every single thing someone does is appreciated like it is the greatest thing in the world.
Can I even imagine how Rav Arush appreciates everyone? I don’t even think I would be able to understand his level of gratitude. Anyhow, men, imagine what would happen to your marriage if you made a greater effort at showing your wives how much you appreciate their efforts. Do you think your wives would stop nagging you so much? Guaranteed! Wouldn’t it be great to come home and not argue or ignore each other? Don’t you think your kids will feel it too? Everyone can sense a good or bad vibe that’s going on in the house. With just a little effort, you can turn around even the worst situation. Do you feel that it’s too late? It’s never too late! It will just take more effort, but you can make it better!
Here’s another secret- women nag and complain to their husbands when they’re not getting the attention, affection, and appreciation they need. It’s not just like a bonus- it’s like the air we breathe. If we don’t get it, we’re going to wither like a flower that wasn’t watered properly. I believe that many divorces can be prevented if men just understood this one simple fact.
Whoah, there goes the mind-reading again! Men, I can hear you thinking, “We men also need appreciation! Are you saying it’s all our faults that our wives get crazy?” First of all, men absolutely need appreciation and attention as well. And ladies, if you’re not showing that you are thankful that your husband puts forth so much effort for your families, then you must. Men need and deserve a “Thank You”- but they can survive emotionally without it. It doesn’t affect them in the same way it affects us. If we don’t get the appreciation we need, it’s as if all of our efforts were for nothing. As a result, we can get a little bit c-r-a-z-y!
What stops us from giving a wholehearted “Thank You”? Believe it or not, it’s the ego! It’s very humbling to thank someone else, especially if you’re not used to doing it. It can be hard, because being in a relationship for a while without thanking each other puts up a great big wall between the couple. As a result, it can be hard to show humility and appreciation. But with time and repeated effort, saying and really feeling the “Thank You” will come as naturally to you as it comes to Rav Arush and Rav Brody.
Of course, I’m not limiting this to just a marital issue. We need to thank Hashem for every single thing in our lives, from morning until night. Doing so is the key to developing a genuine appreciation for every miracle Hashem does for us, big or small. There are two wonderful and essential CD’s that will help you get the hang of saying “Thank You”. They are: First Place (for men) and Learn To Say Thank You (for everyone). The next time someone does something nice for you, look them in the eyes, give them a great big smile, and thank them with all your heart. You’ll be amazed at how happy it will make them, and you too!