1 Tishrei 5781 / Saturday, September 19, 2020 | Torah Reading: Rosh Hashana
 
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HomeFamily & Daily LifeMarital HarmonyGoing into 'Receivership'
 
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Going into 'Receivership'    

Going into 'Receivership'



If you have two people trying to 'take', it's a recipe for disaster, and one of the fundamental reasons why so many modern marriages are going to the wall...

 



It's part of the folk-lore in my family that I was born a tomboy. My mother was forever telling people how disappointed she was in me, that I didn't like or play with dollies; or that I wasn't into doing my hair; or that I was forever ripping my skirt by climbing trees (even into my teens - it was a great way to get away from people…)
 
It didn't help that the next three siblings after me were all boys; or that my house was extremely 'male' dominated. In my house, people didn't ask you to move up the couch if they also wanted to sit down; you got karate-chopped, drop-kicked and crushed. It took me ten years to realize that toilet seats could actually be put down. And when someone told me that the unspoken rule in the world was that 'boys don't hit girls', I was flabbergasted.
 
From a very young age, I was constantly fighting. I was fighting at home. I was fighting at school, where G-d arranged for my class to be very short on boys (9 boys, compared to 20-something girls) - so as the most 'boyish' girl, I was constantly being roped in to fill in the gaps on the school soccer team, or to play cricket.
 
This meant that in play time, the girls didn't want anything much to do with me, and the boys would continue to treat me like a boy. They would tease me, they would say horrible things to me - and me really being a girl, not an actual boy - I'd get very upset with them, and I'd end up getting in to yet another big fight.
 
All this fighting, all this aggression, all the extreme 'manliness' I was exposed to taught me some very important lessons, which I brought with me into my marriage: Lesson One: you can't rely on anyone else to stand up for you. In other people's homes, the 'men of the family' might have been very protective of the females; in my house, they were putting me into headlocks and working out new ways to 'get' me. No-one was nurturing me, or sheltering me. If I wasn't constantly defending myself - and sometimes, attack was the best form of defence - I'd get clobbered. If I couldn't stay away from all the people who were trying to hurt me, both verbally and physically, (and eventually, I'd have to come down from even the tallest tree…) - then I had to look out for myself, and learn how to fight.
 
The second lesson I learnt was: the biggest gorilla gets the banana. In a world where I was treated like a man (both at home, and then at school, and then later, at work) I had to act like a man to survive. That meant being aggressive; being pro-active; being demanding and 'out there' and hard as nails.
 
The third lesson I learnt was: under NO CIRCUMSTANCES accept anything from anyone else. There will always be a price to pay, or a string attached, or an obligation created that will weigh you down for the rest of your life. Stay independent, keep your guard up, and always make sure that the 'debt' is in your favour.
 
As you may already be noticing, these traits may 'work' in the outside world (and even that's a discussion for another occasion), but in a marriage, or in a family setting, there's no question that they were bad news.
 
They'd be bad enough in a man: a husband, a father. But in a woman? In the wife and the mother? What a disaster!
 
G-d was very kind to me. My husband is a prince amongst men, who grew up in one of the most 'female' dominated homes I've ever come across. His mother and two sisters were very 'strong' personalities, and his father was technically blind, which meant that he couldn't drive, and was reliant on his wife even to walk down the street, if it was unfamiliar territory.
 
In my husband's house, the toilet seat was permanently 'down'.
 
It was a match made in heaven.
 
In his guides on marital peace for men and women, Rav Arush explains that you can't have two women in the marriage. The husband's role is to give, and the wife's role is to receive. If you have two people trying to 'take', it's a recipe for disaster, and one of the fundamental reasons why so many modern marriages are going to the wall.
 
Strangely, I had the opposite problem, which hasn't been as explosive, but which still hasn't been ideal: we've had two 'men' in our marriage.
 
A couple of weeks' ago, I was listening to Dr. Zev Ballen's VOD called 'One Soul', where he was talking about a couple that came to see him who'd been fighting for years, and who in two short sessions had the Shechina come back between them. It sounded so amazing, that I dragged my husband off for a session with Dr. Zev.
 
Again, Baruch Hashem, I have a pretty good marriage. When you have two 'givers', in many ways, it works well. But it's not G-d's model for a Jewish marriage. Within a few minutes, it became very clear to me that all my 'independence' and all my insistence on 'looking after myself' and 'keeping myself apart' was severely crimping my husband's G-d-given need to give to me.
 
He had a job to do, and I'd been stopping him from doing it all those years!
 
But then, my evil inclination attacked me: what's all this rubbish, about becoming a 'receiver'?!?! Don't you know that's just another way of saying you're going to be a 'taker' - how is that meant to help your marriage? It's just an excuse to be selfish!
 
I had to think about it for a while, and talk to G-d about it, because it sounded like a very strong argument. Then, G-d enlightened me: I find it very hard to accept kindnesses from anyone; husband, friends, kids - anyone. That's one of the reasons I found it so hard to give up my career, and my own separate bank account, to become a 'full-time' mother.
 
But I know how amazing I feel when someone lets me do a small kindness for them. I realized that sometimes, accepting a kindness from someone is the biggest gift you can give them.
 
My husband - every husband - was created by G-d to be the giver in the marriage. If I don't give him the space to do that job, in some very fundamental way, I'm preventing him from doing something he needs to do in order to feel happy and significant.
 
On the other side of the coin, I was created to receive from my husband. If I continued to be the 'independent' woman, who can (apparently) manage very nicely with minimal input, then I'm also not doing what G-d created me for. Something very important is 'missing' in my marriage, despite how good it is, in so many ways.
 
And the truth is, I've been feeling that 'lack' for years.
 
In our 'modern' world, everything is so messed up. There are so many women, like me, who are being educated to submerge our femininity, and our 'softness' and our 'neediness', to act like hard men, and there are so many men who are being emasculated, and made to feel like small boys who can't do anything right.
 
The main reason why so many marriages are failing, or struggling, in our times is because we've forgotten what we're meant to be doing in our relationships: the man is meant to give, and the woman is meant to receive.
 
This formula for marriage works; it grows love; it creates family units that are stable, happy and holy; it helps children to grow up spiritually and physically healthy, in the most optimal conditions possible for them to succeed in their own lives, and their own marriages.
 
Thank G-d for Rav Arush, who is teaching us how we're meant to be doing all this stuff properly. Without his guidance, I would still be trying to prove my worth in the marriage by out-earning my husband, instead of showing him how much I appreciate the money he gives me to spend every day.
 
So it's official: from this day on, I'm trying to go into 'receivership' - and I know it will be the best investment I could make in my marriage.
 
 
* * *
Check out Rivka Levy's new book The Happy Workshop based on the teachings of Rabbi Shalom Arush





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