What makes a successful or failed relationship? How can people get closer to each other, and more committed to each other, over time? What really causes strife between two people?
We're going to look at these questions, and others, now, to see if we can really get underneath what's going on in our relationships. The first thing to understand is that people speak in code all the time. They don't just come out and tell you what's bothering them - instead, we get a whole bunch of clues and hints, some of which aren't even verbal.
Let's take an example: There's a businessman who's having a hard time. The recession has hit, and he's overstocked on merchandise. All of a sudden, the business that he's been building up for years starts sinking. In the meantime, he promised his wife a certain standard of living when they got married, and now he can't deliver on what he promised.
The problem didn't start with the business sinking. The problem started right back at the beginning of the marriage, when the man made a lot of mistakes and failed to treat his wife like an adult, and a real partner in his life. He didn't share what's really going on in his life, in his head, and make her feel important and significant and valued as a person in her own right.
He figured he'd let his money do the talking for him - which kind of worked when he had the money to give her. But now? Now she's feeling left out and resentful and angry. As a result, she's continuing to spend the money that they don't have - and that she doesn't even really want to be spending!
Why is this happening?
It's happening because the husband is failing to meet the wife's deeper needs. It looks like they are fighting over the money, but really, that's a minor detail. When he's telling his wife that they don't have the money, and he's rebuking her for overspending, what he's really saying is that he feels his wife is somehow sabotaging him, and that she doesn't want his efforts to turn things around economically to succeed. He's telling her that she's making him feel as though he's a failure.
In return, the wife feels even less loved and even more punished by her husband, and we have a classic circular pattern which just keeps going round and round, making both sides crazier and crazier.
No one can stand the pain and discomfort and reinforced negativity of being in a circular pattern for long. Let's remember: they aren't really fighting about the money. Once the husband realizes that his wife has some deeper needs that he hasn't been fulfilling since way back when they first got married, he'll start trying to fulfill them. And when he does, the money issue all but disappears. It's practically gone. Why? Because now, the wife is receiving much more unconditional love and giving from her husband. He's making an effort to be home for dinner more; to spend more quality time with her and the kids, and to take the kids out more. He's holding back all the critical remarks and anger and resentment that he sometimes still feels. But even when those feelings well up, he's holding them back - and that is making all the difference in the world to his relationship with his wife.
He knows he's got a lot of mistakes to fix from the beginning of the marriage, but with emuna, he can undo them all, very quickly.
Rabbi Shalom Arush writes about universal human needs that apply to men, women, children and everyone. Here are 8 basic human needs that Rav Arush addresses in his books and lectures:
1. Faith 2. Gratitude 3. Truth 4. Specialness 5. Purpose and Meaning 6. Self-Improvement 7. Love and Relationship 8. Courage.
When it comes to us and our relationships, we have to ask ourselves: how far would I actually go to help that person, and to be with them in their trials and tribulations? Can I give them my all? 100%? Do I really have that love in me?
The answer is, yes, you do! But most of us really don't know that it's there. If we haven't pushed ourselves, or demanded it from ourselves, or unleashed it, then we haven't yet accessed that real, deep, love that we actually feel towards our spouses and kids, and also towards ourselves. That love is so very powerful. But most of us haven’t got anywhere near harnessing it, yet.
So instead, we get caught up in our heads, trying to work out and strategize "what to do" about specific people, situations or problems. We forget that we love these people, and that our love for them is so powerful, it can push through anything. But before we can harness our love, we first have to be connected to it. Only once we connect to it, can we share it with our spouses, kids, colleagues, friends, neighbors, ourselves, and also G-d.
Love is the power that will bring the Messiah. Love is Hashem Himself. Love is Hashem's greatest "characteristic." Hashem loves everyone and everything He created, and His love is perfect and unlimited.
Of course, we're not Hashem! We are human and limited, and our love has flaws and limitations and biases. But we can still aspire to emulate Hashem to the best of our abilities. In fact, that 's the purpose of our life - to emulate G-d and perfect our character. We have to strive to live by the spiritual values that will prepare us and groom us to be able to make the right choices.
* * *
Dr. Zev Ballen, Psy.D. has been a practicing psychotherapist for more than 30 years. He is the founder and developer of Emuna Therapy, a faith-based method of counseling based exclusively on the teachings of Rabbi Shalom Arush. Dr. Zev has the endorsements of Gadolei Yisrael such as the Nikolsburger Rebba, Rabbi Yitzchok Fagelstock, Rabbi Shalom Arush, and Rabbi Lazer Brody. You can see Dr. Zev's live video broadcast every Wednesday at 5pm Israel time here on breslev.co.il. You can write in with questions to Dr. Zev at: firstname.lastname@example.org. You can call him at: 845-362-8600 (US) or 054-840-9499 (Israel). Dr. Zev resides in Jerusalem, with his family, where he learns in Rav Arush’s Kollel and maintains a part-time private practice. You're also welcome to visit Dr. Zev's personal blog, Emuna Therapy.