Shalom Bayis (Peaceful Marriage)
Dealing With an Emotionally Abusive Partner






[Material is adapted from several books which Rabbi Forsythe is writing on the Jewish marriage and "singles situation." This part is on serious but non-hitting marital trouble, and practical resolution and repair, in 32 sections.]













































When couples come in for marriage counseling, I constantly see that they do not only have issues to work out in their relationship with each other. They commonly have issues to work out within themselves. I notice that it is often a delicate balance to somehow divide the sessions or scheduling so that there is time for the couple together and one or each alone. This is all in an ideal case where both parties acknowledge that they each have their personal issues to deal with...then, spending private time with each flows almost naturally. It becomes fairly complex when one says that (s)he is flawless and perfect while the other is responsible for all of the trouble and has all of the problems. It is necessary for the counselor to formulate a "big picture" plan, gradually identifying the problems between the couple and seeing where these are manifestations of the personality, character and psychological history of each individual. Then the counselor has to understand the "cause and effect" relationship between the "inner individual" of each spouse and: his/her individual behavior, as well as the dynamics or clashes of the two personalities interacting with each other.

Often, the issues in marital arguments are not what they seem on the surface. The problem is often what these issues represent within the "inner individual" of one or both of the spouses. Since the surface manifestation is not the true issue, and the seeming issue will not be effectively addressed or resolved in and of itself, addressing the "inner individual" is crucial to fixing the marriage. To use one of my expressions, "If you don't have two complete halves, they can't add up to a complete whole."

A typical example, which I see over and over, in some form or another, is the need to control. The person is in some way broken, insecure and defensive. The issue is not as important as is the need to win, to be "safe," to be validated, to be clean or to be good. In the past (in childhood or early in the marriage) the person was psychologically tyrannized or rejected, which made the individual feel very hurt, diminished, dirty, insecure, vulnerable or the like. The issue now gives the individual similar feelings, or the threat of them, which is unbearable. The person's stand in the issue is really protection from what the issue psychologically represents and is associated with, deep inside.

Sometimes the person was in some way abused or neglected such that the relating is designed (deep down) to keep life safe. The person might be aloof, workaholic, steamrolling, intrusive, unemotional, compulsive, critical, judgmental, attacking, etc. The mind designs from the start (or in reaction to stimuli) relating behavior that controls, evades intimacy and/or takes away human identity from a relating partner, so that the second person is "pigeon holed" into a "compartment" that is perceived to be agreeing with and subservient to the way this first partner has "programmed" the world.

Naturally, when one comes to a spouse expecting and needing the other to fit into the way (s)he has "wired" the world, life does not flow smoothly. The other person was not born or designed to be cannon fodder for another person's neurotic "programming." So, when the two come together (and this is all the more complex when both have their "package"), they each react to the other's irrational and destructive demands, behavior, needs, emotions, expectations and relating style. The difficulties can be quite hostile, tense and complicated.

When it comes to practical resolution in marriage counseling, without addressing both 1. the apparent practical issues between the two and 2. the underlying psychological foundation in each, the problems do not lastingly go away. A good percentage of my marriage counseling comes from people who went to other counselors who made no progress and the problems were never resolved. More often than not, these people tell me that I am the first one who made breakthroughs after being to three or four other counselors. Experience made clear to me that what is missing on a wide scale is a comprehensive approach that requires dealing with the two as a couple; dealing with one, if not both, as individuals; and tying everything in to the law and wisdom of our Torah.



One of the most critical issues in resolving shalom bayis issues is having both sides of the story. The two sides often can be so different that I wonder if they are talking about the same marriage and whether these two people ever really met each other before they met me. It can be worse. If one or more of the parents are involved, they generally also have their own agendas and biases and make for even a bigger and more complex mess.

In Choshen Mishpat (the portion of the Code Of Torah Law which deals with interpersonal claims, rights and judgements), the judge is required to be impartial, to obtain objective and factual information, to ask questions in ways that do not suggest answers or how to "second guess" the judge. A marriage counselor is somewhat the judge who must find out what is real in marital dispute cases, what each is doing or causing, what each must change, etc.

When one party speaks, this has to be presumed to be POSSIBLY accurate and useful information. On the other hand; it may be subjective, incomplete or half truth; it may be a plea for recognition or emotional support; it may be an attempt to manipulate or control; etc. When each speaks, they often contradict each other, interpret events or their meaning differently or correct each other's one-sided statements. Each tends to blame the other for all of the trouble, see everything that (s)he does or feels as justified and perfect, rigidly hold to his or her position and view, and force it onto the resolution process. This, of course, is sabotage. Occasionally a relative or close friend joins the process on some level, which can be helpful to the extent that the other party is objective, "agenda free," and sincerely concerned (about the couple, their children and peace).

To the extent that a husband, wife or relative has an personal agenda, that which is outside of that agenda is an object of scorn, fright and/or antagonism which could "invalidate" the counseling process in that person's own mind. The subjective person says that everyone else is wrong, can't understand, is futile to talk to. The goal is to be right, not resolved, so there are no substantive or lasting improvements.

One of the saddest aspects of this is that the Torah requires honesty, working at shlaimus (personal completion and perfection) and on tikun hamidos (growth in character and personality) at ALL TIMES. Relationships is one of the areas in life in which 1. this obligation for ongoing growth is most put to the test, 2. Torah obligations are highest and 3. the stakes are highest.

The person with any agenda or "blinders" judges the counseling on the basis of how it serves his/her needs and designs. Each one can be locked in his position. In a good case, each works on seeing beyond his/her own limitations gradually. Realistically, it can be a slow process. If a person is deeply neurotic, brilliantly sneaky or manipulative; it takes time for the defenses, contradictions and perverse behavior or thought patterns to come to the surface. Remember, what person A says about person B is information to look at, to compare person B with, etc., but not to take as final or complete fact. A professional and experienced counselor looks for data about the person, as much as possible FROM THE PERSON; not from potentially biased and imperfect hearsay.

Here's another sobering fact, which I can report because I do matchmaking as well as counseling. Singles who circulate on "the singles scene" are often miserable with loneliness, repeated relationship disappointment and the "slim pickings." I even sometimes tell singles who describe themselves on the phone that they need not come in for the interview because I know of no one who would even be a "reasonable maybe" for them (I believe there must be professionalism, competence and integrity in the matchmaking role). One woman at a singles seminar I once ran said that she has a friend who keeps complaining about her husband. This woman said that her married friend should say Tehillim to thank G-d for her husband. He's really not a bad guy and being single would be worse.

In order to achieve real resolution, each individual must recognize and accept responsibility for his or her reality, its impact on the marriage, its implications about his or her personal need to work to grow and change, and to make genuine contribution to remedying the situation. It is a test. The marriage, and the lives of spouses and children hang in the balance. Failure is tragic. Passing offers a happier, healthier, calmer and more fulfilling life.



An important part in the subject of shalom bayis trouble is the refraining or refusal to substantively and accurately identify and resolve the problems. Some people outright refuse to do anything, many deny that there is (or that they have) a problem, some go into long and protracted psychotherapy (which may have eventual use but which now avoids the immediate marital catastrophe), go to therapists who tell the individual what they want to hear (rather than what they have to do) or go to therapists who let the person talk and talk without getting to concrete and practical resolution.

If a car breaks down, you fix it. If an injury victim is hemorrhaging, he gets emergency surgery. If a person is drowning, he needs a lifeguard. If a marriage breaks down, you fix it. If a marriage is seriously injured and is hemorrhaging, it needs "surgery." If a marriage is drowning, it needs a "lifeguard." Often, a marriage counselor must make a balance between addressing the individual problems within each partner, in conjunction with addressing the destructive and intense conflicts between the partners. The process also must provide appropriate balance between the issues of the present with the roots in the past, for resolution to be lasting and effective. Dealing only in the past gets "lost" and dealing in the present alone often misses the root of the trouble, which can spring back or take on new kinds of manifestations. Psychological rectification must, for the observant Jew, all be integrated with the requirements of the Torah, since, invariably, Torah violations are commonly intertwined in the marital behaviors and troubles (e.g. anger, verbal hurting or insulting, embarrassing, revenge, grudge, misguided non-halachic criticism or rebuke, loshon hora (prohibited slanderous speech) and other serious sins).

It amazes me how people with serious marital troubles continue along, without making the connection between the marriage not working and their not getting it fixed. They either do not take resolution seriously, or it doesn't occur to them to seek it except in the abstract, or their attempts to get help are off-target. They keep on repeating the same miserable patterns, emotionally crippling their children. Anger, tension, hostility, yelling, coldness and the like can traumatize and "psychologically kill" a child starting right at birth.

If a marriage is not functioning and peaceful, it is necessary (even if for no other reason than the children) to get capable help. This applies to rectification of both the psychological and spiritual ills that are present.

One of the key reasons that marriage troubles do not improve is the failure to do tshuva (repentance) on behaviors, emotions or faults. The halachos of tshuva teach of the unlimited potential to grow, to complete and to repair personality, behavior, mistakes and character. And, with work, over time, a person can improve the way in which they relate, and the quality of their relationships. There are four steps to correct, restore and achieve proper and complete tshuva if ever one Jew wrongs any other Jew. One must:

1. Admit. Openly and truthfully acknowledge the wrongdoing. State that you realize you did what you should not have, or failed to do what you should have; and that this caused whatever harm or suffering or loss to the other person.

2. Remorse. Feel and express sincere regret for what you did and caused. The highest level of this is when this brings the perpetrator to feeling shame. The Maharal writes that shame demonstrates separation from the wrong which was done, and is therefore instead, commensurately, attachment to what is right.

3. Commitment. Commit to abandon the wrong, to never do it again in the future, and to replace it in the future with what is good and correct. Accept within yourself to refrain from the bad and, instead, to adhere to the good.

4. Appease. Restore the damage as a practical matter, doing what it takes - e.g. paying for damaged property, returning stolen property, publicly and apologetically retracting a public insult or slander, etc.; engendering trust, comfort and security in the victim; and taking full responsibility to enable the other person to feel safe and that the wrong has been fully remedied. Make good to right the wrong as necessary so as to appease and comfort the victim.

These steps achieve tshuva shlaima (complete return), accomplished when the wronged one has been paid, when the problem has been corrected and smoothed over so that the victim can afford to justifiably and securely forgive and forget.



One of the repeated patterns that I see as a counselor is people choosing partners with whom marriage is a "tradition" started by their background and parents. When that "heritage" is neurotic, destructive or dysfunctional, I call it "hurtage." Sometimes the "hurtage" is blatant, sometimes subtle. However, what matters is that the choice of partner and relating style or pattern stems from some psychological factor such as 1. a role model; 2. defending against a painful or negligent aspect of one or both parents; 3. internal unconscious association with some aspect of life which stemmed from that parent or that environment; 4. striving and longing after some intense emotional need; 5. self-image; etc. (or any combination, as may apply in individual cases).

When parents make demands, criticize, emotionally neglect or reject, emotionally or physically disappear, seek their needs from their children or psychologically "put their stuff" onto their children; the children are deprived of their childhood, of the development of their intrinsic personality and their potential to have a full and authentic life as the individual they were created by G-d to be. This can include the child's direction in life, profession, capacity to function as a normal and independent adult, inner happiness, co-dependent and dysfunctional relationship choices and abilities, and spiritual or material achievements in the world. This can be tremendously costly in the context of the child's growing into being a spouse and parent.

Whether the child's emotional prod is to perpetuate or to escape their parents' psychological poison, their mate selection and marriage conduct is profoundly and destructively impacted. Often, they do not see what they are doing and seek to put blame on everyone else for what does not work. When two people's neurotic needs feed into each other, the combination of the "packages" together generally makes for extremely difficult, painful, complex conditions. Some people constantly rescue or protect another person, some deny or bury their feelings, some try to control and manipulate, some let themselves be used (generally out of desperation for love and approval) and then feel resentful, some constantly feel disappointed or unappreciated, some are malcontent or bored unless a relationship is unstable or exciting; some are perfectionistic, critical, judgmental, punitive, compulsive, abusive, workaholic, nervous, tough, or overly cautious; etc. Since most are seeking one-sided relationships in a blind drive to satisfy needs, their relationships generally start with a romantic stage in which the two are "winning" each other. Then the relationship grows comfortable and tends to degenerate to angry, intense, near-constant, unbearable and incomprehensible hostility ["it was so beautiful once!"].

Often when we trace the person's psychological history in counseling, there is tremendous wound, emptiness, defense, resentment, terror, insecurity, anger, anguish, emotional starvation, tension, restlessness and/or frustration.

When adults are caught in the complex web of having come from a negative and deficient childhood, we have to decide on how to approach each situation on its own merits. We always try to increase the person's understanding of the origins of his feelings, behaviors and patterns. After intellectual realization, it is imperative to progressively bring this to the point of EMOTIONAL ASSIMILATION. ONLY THEN does lasting change take place, when the root of a problem is rooted deep beneath the surface. Behavior modification does not work, and sometimes backfires, if a person's issues start beneath the surface and his behavior is only changed on the surface. The neurosis just keeps manifesting in new ways. Since Behavior Modification somewhat stems from study of animals, there is a halachic problem with Behavior Modification for the observant Jew. Tosfos [Chulin 42b] says that it is forbidden to study animal behavior for the purpose of learning human behavior. This fits our premise very well. When there is no under-the-surface pathology, a Torah variant of Behavior Modification was used by the original baalai mussar for midos and spiritual elevation, which is permitted to use.



Psychology often contains elements that violate the Torah. It's attitudes, concepts, methods, and values are often unacceptable. For example, Behaviorism studies animals to learn about humans. This is prohibited [Tosfos, Chulin 42b]. A human has "mazel" and a neshomo [G-dly soul], which no animal has. Learning from an animal to apply to a human being can be as false as impermissible; except to learn good traits, such as to not be lazy from the hard-working ant [Proverbs 6:6], and one can use limited "behavior modification" to improve midos (character traits) and self-discipline [Rambam, Rabbi Yisroel Salanter].

We have to be very careful and selective with secular psychology. I'll give examples. 1. Psychology maintains that uninhibited releasing of anger is "healthy." The Torah forbids and condemns it and the Igerress HaRamban calls it plainly a sin. In the mid '90s, a team of scientists found that anger leads to heart attack. That's healthy!? 2. For one complete week in New York, every day was cloudy and drizzly. Psychologists expected mass depression, due to lack of sun. A reporter interviewed people on Manhattan streets, asking if lack of sun had them depressed. Everyone said "no." One found the weather relaxing, others found ways to occupy themselves indoors. The psychologists did not have one person to bear their theory out. 3. A recent study found Alcoholics Anonymous 12-step program was the best system for beating alcoholism. This system believes in a higher entity. Since it is not religious, A.A. does not refer to "G-d," but it does believe in a power above and beyond the human; which helps to strengthen will-power, resolve, discipline and long-run maintenance. Psychological approaches to freeing a person from alcohol addiction do not have effective or long-lasting results; while A.A., with its spiritual belief and support, has proven most effective and successful. 4. Psychology recognizes no absolutes, even in serious questions of morality or man-woman intimacy.

Methods or concepts derived from animals or from secular origins often only skim the surface or are misdirected. If a surface behavior modification technique is used in a situation in which the issue goes much deeper, the results, at best, will be irrelevant or fleeting and, at worst, destructive. A person with emotional trouble can be trained to change through Behaviorism but, since the root of his trouble has not been resolved or healed, and there is no morality, he or she will continue to behave in new neurotic ways.

As a simple example (based on many similar true cases), let us say that Ira was emotionally abused as a child so he grew up to be excessively shy. Since his ability to form relationships was crippled, he went to a behavioral therapist who trained Ira to be assertive and unashamed. Thinking he is fixed and fine, Ira became pushy, obnoxious, selfish and nasty. He would do or say as he wanted, without consideration of another person's feelings. There was no talking to him about his flaws. Emotions effect who a person is attracted to. Since the emotional root of his problem was unrepaired, he was attracted to women who fit his emotional needs, with whom he had intense, unhappy, volatile and short-lived relationships. He confuses having no shame or inhibitions with being mature and healthy. Since psychology has no moral foundation and does not make judgements of good or bad about people, there is no basis in his misguided therapy for declaring his behavior or personality to be deficient. His secular therapist is as pragmatic about business as he is about therapeutic methods, just considering what does or doesn't work, and whether or not Ira is satisfied with his results. Torah considerations such as character, human dignity, G-d's will or the impact of his behavior on others are non-existent or minimized.

On the other hand, Analysis gets "lost" in the past and is impractical. To a significant extent, it fails often to address or improve functioning in "real life" in the present. There are many therapies, but none of them is complete as a theory or practical skill base. I've developed a very effective blend of 1. sourcing the root of problems where they truly come from in the past 2. making practical life succeed "here and now" and 3. law and wisdom from Torah.



When I do counseling for singles or couples, I repeatedly see that every time one partner in a marriage or dating relationship abusively treats or abandons the other, the perpetrator is broken psychologically on some profound level. If the person has no inner frame of reference for worth, respect or wholesome concept for self, there is no inner frame of reference for perceiving these about anyone else. People tend to blindly deny fault in themselves and project faults onto others. "All who delegitimatize [another person], and who refrain from seeing the favorable in the other DELEGITIMATIZE [IN THE OTHER PERSON] THE TRAIT WHICH IS ACTUALLY HIS OWN BLEMISH" [Kidushin 70a]. Abusive, cruel, punitive, unstable, irresponsible, rejecting and/or explosive traits come out after the relationship feels secure, and are "normal" in the person's mind, especially when by "a nobody" against "a nobody." These are increasingly probable at times of * differences or arguments, * life stresses or pressures, * conflicts between 1. internal emotional neediness or damage within the personality (or immaturity or selfish interest) versus 2. responsibility to the other person or to the relationship, * emotional and/or compulsive dependency (such as the relationship, or someone or something outside the relationship), * "subjectively justified" criticism, malcontent, complaint or fault-finding against the other person, * nasty and intense termination (and may include breaking up many times), * taking one's problems out on the other person, etc.

One who lacks self-respect, acts out by disrespecting or abusing you, and not being attracted to a person who exchanges respect. He sees himself as small and doesn't want the pain of seeing his beaten and wounded self-esteem. He sees others as small, which to his mind is "normal" or "reality." He is attracted to relating partners who feed into his emotional needs and offer him a sense of security (usually stemming from some significant unresolved childhood pain and psychological deficiencies): e.g. people who he can "control" (so he doesn't feel his helplessness or fright), "rescue" (from their troubles and problems, to make himself feel important or valid), or psychologically browbeat (to take anger or frustration out on). In each case, he can convince himself that he has self-respect and his behavior is justified because, by "coincidence," he always gets stuck with sub-standard relating partners, who are always totally the bad ones. Lacking self-respect, he presumes all people to be worthless, small and not entitled to respect or to nice feelings. You are there to service his needs and insecurities. Since, deep down, he "knows" he is "small," and doesn't want to face the pain of seeing it (it's miserable to be rejected, insignificant and too unimportant to be entitled to esteem, worth, inner happiness and security), he treats others as small and worthless, since this is the way his mind defines "normal," while avoiding the pain of this "reality." This subterfuge spares him from direct confrontation with his beaten and wounded self-esteem. He will be attracted to people with personality weaknesses that feed into his particular needs, defenses and patterns. He will attract (depending on the case) people who need his "package" (abuse, confrontation, power-plays, love-at-any-price, removal from their feelings and/or someone to rescue).

This psychological mechanism (of attributing what is in my mind to others) can go for good, too. King Solomon says, "See life with the wife that you love" (Ecclesiastes 9:9). The commentaries explain "see" to mean "live happily [with the wife that you love]." Why should King Solomon write "see (re'ai)" meaning "to happily live with?" A healthy person who sees himself as having value, qualities, what to offer; and as being good, respectable and lovable; will SEE the same in other people and will SEE LIFE AND PEOPLE HAPPILY! When Moshe, the most humble man who will ever live, had to quell the rebellion by Korach, Moshe showed that he knew his worth, standing up strongly for G-d. Elsewhere in the Torah's account of Moshe, he is humble and compassionate. Moshe was never held back by excessive or unhealthy self-deprecating humility. Moshe was not prodded by arrogance, ego or unhealthy drive to conquer Korach. When a person sees himself as having good qualities and attributes, his view is that there is room for everybody to live in the world; to be good, valuable and enjoyable; to have what to appreciate and be attracted to. They are able to get along with people, see people as worth getting along with and want to get along in relationships. All positives, in his mind, are normal. He SEES others as worth giving what he has to offer, interacting happily with, exchanging with and (in midos and emotional terms:) enriching. Relating is mutually rewarding, dynamic, happy and healthy. Each keeps coming to the relationship with good to offer to each other.



[Introductory Paragraph Copyright 1997 by Rabbi JEFF FORSYTHE. "Basic Techniques Of Dirty Fighting For Couples" (the remaining material in this installment) is excerpted and summarized from "Emotional Wellness Matters" Newsletter, Vol. IV, No. 4; based on material published by Simmonds Publications, La Jolla Ca.]

One of the most excruciating, difficult aspects of a troubled relationship is one-sided manipulation. Let me cite many of the most common techniques (to grasp control; avoid the real issue and/or invalidate the victim as an unworthy or disqualified person) used in marriage relationships. A counselor always must deal on a case by case basis. For example, I have seen victims justifiably blaming and demanding change from blindly abusive spouses. So please do not jump to play therapist, just know what marital issues you are dealing with.

ESCALATING: Quickly move from the main issue of the argument to attack to attack the other person's motives, character, flawed personality, and blame them for the failure of the relationship. TIMING: Choose the time when the partner is about to leave for work or about to fall asleep after a hard day at work and least likely to be able to respond. CRUCIALIZING: Exaggerate the importance of the issue. "If you really loved me you would have...etc. or "This proves you never really loved me." BROWN BAGGING: Think of every possible problem from the past and lay them on your partner all at the same time. Never stick to the original issue. ASK WHY: Treat your partner like an irresponsible child. "Why didn't you clean up after dinner," or "Why don't you love me like [whoever] loves [put name of good friend here]." The object is to make the partner feel like an irresponsible child and incapable of an adult relationship. CROSS COMPLAIN: If your partner raises a complaint, bring up one of your own. OVER-GENERALIZE: Use "never" and "always." "You always ignore me when I ask for help," and "You never listen to me when I need sympathy." BLAME: Make it clear that you are never at fault and are always the victim and will never make any changes. It is your partner who is at fault and if the relationship is to get any better, your partner will have to change. SARCASM: "Well lookee here who's always so perfect. No room for any improvement here is there?" With just the right tone, your partner may not be able to respond. MIND READING: Let your partner know you are the expert when it comes to knowing how they feel. "You don't really feel angry about that any more," or "You didn't mean to say you wouldn't be home in time to eat dinner." This way, your partner isn't an equal and you won't have to deal with any issues, unless they read this list. FORTUNE TELLING: "I can see you will just never change." This gives you the upper hand, shifts the discussion away from the issue, and demoralizes your partner. PULL RANK: "When you make as much money as I do, then I'll listen to you." Keep your partner down since there is no need for an equal partner. Certainly it's a lot easier than discussing the real issues. DON'T LISTEN: Don't let your partner know you place any value on their feelings, opinions or preferences in the issue under discussion. Ignore everything except the part you want to hear. Pretend to read or even fall asleep. It's very powerful if you leave the house when your partner suggest an issue that is of special concern to them. GIVE ADVICE: Always become the expert when your partner wants to discuss an issue. Tell the person just how to act, think and feel. Try to come up with a better answer and if questioned, point out that you were only trying to help and they brought the matter up in the first place. USE LABELS: Use plenty of terms such as "neurotic" or "paranoid." This implies the other person is at fault. "Insensitive," or "slob" can be powerful also in the right context. Mainly, you will establish that your partner is inherently flawed as a person. AVOID RESPONSIBILITY: You can bring any disagreement to a halt by simply saying, "Oh, I forgot," or "I guess I was tired." The object here is to avoid the whole discussion. PLAY THE MARTYR: This can be very powerful if not overused. "You're right, honey, I guess there really is no hope for me." this generally leaves your partner without a response. If this strategy begins to lose its advantage, try pretending illness and blame it on your partner. REJECT COMPROMISE: Never back down. Stick to your philosophy that only one of you can win and your partner doesn't qualify.



The Torah teaches the dynamics of developing genuine love when the Torah commands us to love G-d. "You will LOVE the L-rd your G-d with all your LAIV, with all your NEFESH, and with all your MI'ODE (Deuteronomy 6:5)." There are three levels created within a person for producing any love (whether for G-d or for a human): 1. laiv, 2. nefesh and 3. mi'ode. The difference between love for G-d and a person is not our purpose, so suffice it to say that the differences are basically in the delivery and impact of love. The practice of love in a relationship between two human beings develops from mutual 2-way loving, to bring consistent benefit for each recipient. By each bestowing ongoing good that pleases the other, each develops lasting and growing love. But, since we can be subjectively attracted (so we give or withhold love somewhat based on how we feel at different times) we must know the "system." Otherwise, true and mutual love may never come, or it may not remain.

The laiv is the heart, the deepest essence level, your definition and center as a human being. Here are midos

(character, qualities, personality traits), motives, attitudes, free-will decision-making, and capacities for subjectivity or objectivity. Here is the root of one's humanity, will and identity.

Nefesh is "personality;" containing one's talents, skills, abilities, energies, unique cluster of emotions and sensitivities (and the way the individual expresses them), and expression of intellect (the mental function called "seichel"). The nefesh contains those powers that enable one to uniquely act in this physical world, providing the link between the outer world and the inner essence in the heart. The purest and most "golden" heart itself has no active manifestation and can be abstracted. Since the heart is the most internal element, it bestows its value by externalization and expression through your individual nefesh/personality to the outside world. One expresses and conveys what is in the heart with what one says and does and with how, e.g. with liveliness or dullness, humor or seriousness, and all traits across the entire spectrum of emotions, talents, self-expression and personality.

Mi'ode is "externals." It consists of tangible objects, external to the person himself, such as one's wealth and possessions, as well as looks, and intangible externals such as your family ("yeechus") or your status in society, all of which have nothing to do with you as an intrinsic person.

The Torah is telling us, in our context, that development of true love MUST accord with these three components AND they must specifically come in this order: 1. laiv, 2. nefesh and 3. mi'ode. Their appeal and value to you must be in this specific order for genuine and lasting love to come in one human being for another. In relationships, EACH LEVEL HAS TO PROCEED TO THE NEXT, AND BUILD IN BOTH CHRONOLOGICAL AND PRIORITY ORDER. One of the most destructive mistakes is expecting love to come from any other order or combination of these three elements. If one's heart responds to nefesh (e.g. talent, personality or sense of humor) or mi'ode (e.g. looks, profession or wealth), such a person is not responding to the inner person - the heart of the other, and is probably not altogether in touch with his/her own heart. Attraction to mi'ode values is entirely in the imagination. For example, people who are attracted to money or social status have the weakest basis for a lasting, happy or fulfilling marriage. Nefesh is more subtle because personality is in the person, yet it is on the surface. A brilliant, personable or talented individual can be cruel, selfish, irresponsible, impatient, arrogant, rude, spoiled, shallow, brutish or explosive. A person with a developed and good heart is a mentsh; with midos, virtue, character, values and commitment. A person relates to as deep a level in the other as one relates to in oneself. If one doesn't know how to relate to one's own heart, how can he know what it is to relate to another person's heart? How can you relate in terms that you know nothing about? How can one connect to a level in someone else that (s)he isn't in contact with or isn't aware of in him/herself? This can indicate need to work on oneself to develop more spiritual and emotional connection and sensitivity. To the extent that one doesn't have any of the essentials in the heart, or lacks contact with his heart and foundation in it; he can't perceive, value, be attracted to, relate to or pursue these. There is no internal frame of reference in his mind and being. Everyone can intellectualize about them, but they are not operative on a practical real-life "gut level," in the heart, where behavior truly stems from. He will be attracted and motivated based on inner reality - what it is and what it isn't, what the person really wants or rejects. People have psychological "antennae" that select people for relationships who are like their inner self and/or whose characteristics feed into the needs of one's inner self.

For example, Reuven and his wife Rachel adore each other. He is a poet and she is a cook. He composes a love poem, writing with a pen on paper. It pleases her to her heart. She prepares an exquisite meal which he enjoys. They have exchanged "laiv-love," which is expressed through (but not dependent on) nefesh (talent, personality) and utilizing mi'ode (time, money, paper, pen, food, pots). Their essence love bond is heart-to-heart (laiv), they express their heartfelt love through their individual personalities (nefesh) and, last, use externals (mi'ode) as means (never as ends) for provision of love. They both understand, value and prioritize the level of the heart; and have a true and successful love bond.

The more a person works on the laiv; particularly on midos, kindness and human virtues; the more he will know his laiv and grow more connected and attuned to it; and the more he: relates to and values laiv in another, sees the laiv (or absence of it) in others, governs and judges behavior by the qualities of the laiv, and is genuinely attracted on the basis of laiv; then: the more he has the benefits of full lifelong goodheartedness as the foundation of his/her relationship. Relationships in general and a marriage in particular will grow, deepen, sweeten and endure in direct proportion to the extent to which it is an unconditional laiv-to-laiv relationship in which both partners recognize, give and appreciate heart. This is key to selecting, cherishing and keeping a mate. We will apply this to building a fulfilling and quality marriage relationship in the next installment. Note that this series has 32 installments. The gematria (numerical value) of the Hebrew word "laiv" is 32 (lamed = 30, vais = 2). It is hoped that the reader will assimilate the material in this series into his/her heart, so that it will be applicable to practical every-day life. If the 32 installments of this series is willingly internalized into the heart (which is numerically equal to 32), with commitment to act on it, then this series will be helpful and beneficial to its readers.



In business, there is a field called "Time Management," the purpose of which is maximizing productive and effective use of time. Let's apply it to quality marriage relationship. We'll start with some of its key definitions.

"Goals" define final results to be produced by effort/investment. They are clear, specific, concrete and preferably written. "Objectives" are component results; e.g. a couple's goal is a pleasant evening together, an objective is meeting at a restaurant at 6:00. This can be relative. A goal may be saving a rocky marriage, an objective would be managing that evening at the restaurant. "Priorities" are measures of value created or damage prevented by spending time or effort. These also may be relative and must be made with value judgement, data and common sense. To make this concrete, there must be a system for establishing priority levels e.g. A, B, C (high, medium or low). D is to specifically represent things you do not want to do (it is worthless or harmful) and A+ means sudden emergencies or opportunities that can override an A. The purpose is to identify the highest level of value-creating activity. "Scheduling" enables you to allocate time to make the most value-producing activities happen according to priority. You must allow for things that have to happen or be finished by certain times, and the unexpected, and a framework for organizing and discipline to achieve priority goals.

A marriage requires spending time in quality interchange between the deepest possible parts of each partner's being (laiv), where the real qualities, virtues and midos live. Each must be connected to his/her own innermost being to be able to exchange it and connect it with another. One relates to as deep a place in another as one is connected to in him/her self. That level is the deepest level which one values and is attracted to.

When blocked, not connected to one's innermost being (laiv), one cannot be happy, satisfied or fulfilled. An inner being needs an inner being. If you try to satisfy the inner needs with the outer personality (nefesh) or externals (mi'ode), you will never feel you have enough and never feel fulfilled. A bucket with a hole in it cannot fill, even when you keep pouring in. For a happy and fulfilled marriage, to have a mature and responsible relationship, you have to be full on your own in the innermost level. A quality and loving relationship comes from two people giving from their inner fullness to one another. "Who is rich? The one happy with what he has (Pirkei Avos, chapter four)." When happy with your inner life, and you have basic necessities, one's life is happy and satisfied independent of external things, gratifications or events. A relationship does not depend upon the levels of nefesh or mi'ode.

There are gender-based and individual considerations in quality relating. A wife may spend time decorating and cooking. Her husband should not see this as housework. She should be LOVED, APPRECIATED AND RECOGNIZED for taking care of HIS home for HIM (Chazon Ish). He should buy her new colorful clothes for holidays (Hilchos Yom Tov). It is a wife's emotional need, especially if her peers have clothes. A woman is sensitive and emotional, a man is logical and analytical. This plays a crucial role in communicating, making decisions, responding to issues in life [note: Rabbi Forsythe's "Make Your Life Better" Series offers a 12 part set on "Superb, Skillful and Effective Communication;" many parts of which apply to the man-woman relationship]. Also, be aware of your partner's individual taste, feelings and wishes. Understand, identify and deliver such things to your partner.

Spend time regularly together. You both "own" and owe that time, and can expect it. Enjoy that time. Communicate in a soft, polite and positive tone; with concrete, clear details; especially about practical needs and differences; and get to know each other on deeper and deeper levels. Express feelings or needs in terms of how their accommodation helps the relationship, not in terms of your demand. Understand that you each may not be able to deliver everything, but care enough to do all you can with a good attitude and enable the other to trust that you keep working to do better. Apply goals and scheduling to building a fulfilling and quality lifelong marriage - your first priority.



When people with troubled man-woman relationships come to me for practical counseling (e.g. singles who can't find, form or retain a serious relationship; or couples whose marriage is an exercise in tension, battle, aggravation and pain), I notice a significant recurrent pattern in many "tough cases." Although it may vary with individual cases, basically one or both members of the couple do not acknowledge the other, never mind substantively respond to, or give to, the other. This is particularly difficult for the relationship when (s)he can't hear the other, can't deal with the other as a real and distinct human being, is rigid, cruel, judgmental, immature, untrustworthy, condescending, insulting; can't communicate, gives grandiose lip service and thinks (s)he is doing everything right and nothing wrong, thinks the other is doing nothing to contribute and everything to damage the relationship, forcefully works from his/her own assumptions and understanding (and imposes them on the partner; to the exclusion of the other's thoughts, needs, individuality and feelings) and is blind to the impact of his/her behavior on the other person.

Some spouses talk "past" each other, not "with" each other. Some also can behave or communicate as if in his/her own world. Consider this true story. One morning, the husband said, "I want steak for dinner." Without a word, she bought and made chop meat because, on her own, she decided that they could not afford steak. When his wife served the supper, he was infuriated because she disobeyed. She demanded he get a better paying and more realistic livelihood. He demanded divorce because she interfered in his domain, and abandoned her.

A painful, stressful, fight-ridden man-woman relationship is one of the most miserable and destructive things in life. The Abarbanel points out that the Torah mentions frogs ten times during the plague of frogs in Egypt. He says that this means that the plague of frogs was equal to all ten plagues. All that croaking noise and disruption was unbearable. Nagging, criticizing, fighting, tormenting in marriage - all that noise and disruption - is also unbearable like ten plagues! And it can break a victim's personality and self-image.

To succeed, a couple's efforts must be directed to recognizing the impact of each one's behavior on the other, accepting responsibility for behavior and personal growth instead of dispensing demands or blame, and development of ability to deal with the other as (s)he truly needs and is. That is vital to restoring their relationship. This requires drastically changing course, maturely acknowledging the other as a real person and substantively responding to the other, and building trust and communication. Sometimes, one or both must have therapy and examine his/her psychological history. It can sometimes take many counseling sessions till the real or deeper issues come to the surface. Rambam (Moreh Nevuchim 3:22) notes that the Bible does not praise Job for being intelligent, wise or brilliant. It praises him for having midos (good character traits) and being righteous. Midos and righteousness are fundamental. In G-d's estimation, these are what count in a person. These (not intellect) are crucial to marital reconciliation, behavioral upgrade, having honest will to correct personal problems/faults, adaptability, constructive change and human growth. I've seen many a brilliant, but sick or evil, mind: seriously anguish, control, manipulate, belittle, abuse or damage other people - even in close or familial relationships. The intellect is a dangerous weapon when used by a faulty character or disturbed personality. It is a valuable and beautiful asset when used by a sweet, mature, sensitive, giving, caring, responsible, good-hearted, loving, fine and respectful person. Often, change and improvement comes slowly and all concerned must have a realistic conception of the time-frames and the work which is involved in getting the marriage (and its members) realistically and lastingly repaired. But, this is only the beginning.



When a couple comes to me for marriage counseling, one or both are in profound pain. Sometimes, however, at least one party is not willing to work or change. I ask, "Do you like the results that come from what you are now doing?" The party answers, "No." I point out the contradiction between wanting to do the same things and desiring different results. If people can't change in order to do what brings the desired results, how can they complain that they don't like the results they get from what they do? They can either choose to change as necessary or choose to learn to love misery. Doing the same things gets the same results. To get different results, you have to do different things. If help is needed, it is best to get it AS SOON AS POSSIBLE; because bad situations, habits, tension, hostility, defenses and alienation tend to get worse and worse over time.

One of the very common problems is a lack of clear and objective goal-orientation. People in distress often think more in terms of relief than goals, so they can't be blamed when they lack thought-out goals. However, they often have one-sided and destructive goals, which have to be cleared out of the way before realistic and helpful goals can be formulated, never mind achieved! People often say to me, "I want X, make my spouse do Y and fix Z." It doesn't work that way. It can take time to help people to clarify issues, to see what is needed, to establish all the needed goals and to work towards operating in ways that are realistic and effective; especially if they are among those who are defensively resistant to change. The bottom line is objectively and systematically getting out of things that don't work and getting into things that do work. This can require retraining the person's thoughts, emotions and behaviors - and assuring internalization of the changes, so that they can be trusted to be spontaneous, operational and reasonably consistent in practical life. When it takes time to change all the details, we work on CHANGING THE DIRECTION meanwhile.

It is crucial for the couple to FEEL comfortable with the counselor. He may disagree with many things you say. He may not give-in to many positions you take. That is a sign he has "backbone" and is professional. You are comfortable because there is basic (not necessarily perfect) rapport; (s)he is Yoray Shomayim; and you are confident (s)he is listening, attentive, responsive, trustworthy and concerned about the two of you and your marriage. You should sense his/her heart, as the Alshich writes, "Words which come out of the heart enter into the heart."

Any responsible therapist will tell you that achievement of lasting change and improvement, especially in tough cases, requires time; together with hard, volitional, honest, steady, good-faith and patient work by both spouses. It can be a slow process. It is better to err on the side of slowness than to err on the side of sabotaging the therapeutic process. People tend to group or blur together multiple issues. Issues must be isolated to be defined, prioritized and sequenced, and then tackled (often one issue at a time), in order to be effectively and lastingly resolved. With professional help, and by developing the ability to acknowledge and respond to the reality of the other spouse, by seeking to please and respect each other and to prioritize peace, by both learning to communicate and give-in, by feeling concern for each other and working cooperatively together, a couple can make breakthroughs to a more functional and satisfying marriage relationship. Since the difficulties which block marriage counseling's success are often inner psychological or disruptive emotional issues, we will look at this more closely.



Among the biggest problems is when one or both spouses is in psychological denial ("I have no neuroses, faults or blame") or psychological projection (you have all the neuroses, faults, problems and blame; including mine!). This is analogous to person A's house catching fire. He sees his home and all of his worldly possessions going up in smoke. He calls the fire department, but since he cannot admit to himself that he is having a life tragedy and his property is turning into ashes, he tells the firemen to go a few blocks away and put out a fire at B's house. The firemen cannot help A as long as they are directed to B. A has to accept the fact of major fire at his address and stop pointing his finger at B. Until then, the firemen are idle, unable to help, and A's house, life and possessions continue being destroyed. Until each person faces his own work on relationship resolution, introspection, personal responsibility, psychological issues and behavioral correction, even the best counselor is like the great fireman who was sent to the wrong neighborhood because homeowner A couldn't face his pain and fear or break old psychological barriers and habits.

A most tragic problem in single or married people is fear of a committed, intimate relationship. The more you try to remedy problems or bring the person into a close relationship, the more the person will sabotage or flee.

Kathy needed and expected too much, and projected her faults and neuroses. She told me that she is deep, refined and works on her character frequently and seriously. She could not accept any shallow or boorish man. She was married for about two years. He brought her flowers and presents; was supportive, loving, patient and communicative; drove an hour to save her when she broke down in a rainstorm; was generous and sacrificing to care for her. He did not make much money and she left him abruptly. He pleaded with her and professed his love but she suddenly, selfishly and callously was turned off and she dumped him like a disposable soda can because she couldn't have all that she wanted. She couldn't care less that she hurt and devastated him. After the break-up, she spoke to me several times. It turned out she only saw fault in him because she could not make a living and she projected her disdain for herself onto him. She was so insecure that she feared no one could love her so she was too frightened to maintain a love relationship. Kathy was inaccurate in saying that she was superior and needed someone "extra special." She needed NOT TO NEED SO MUCH. The cure was RESOLVING HER OWN LIFE-IMPACTING FLAWS & ANXIETY.

Another major problem in marriage counseling is that one or both want instant gratification and victory. We live in a society which trains us to want, demand and expect "instant everything." I can go to the grocery and buy a frozen meal that I put in the toaster so I have a complete breakfast in two seconds. People think personal growth or marital resolution come out of some freezer and avail instant gratification. It does not work like that in the real world. It takes time. Rushing can be futile or, worse, sabotaging. We're dealing with personalities, emotions, conflicts, self-image, resentments, deep-rooted habits and behavioral patterns, defenses, mistrust and biases. Further, some people in counseling often have their own personal agenda (which does not always coincide with objective, fair, mature, genuine and lasting resolution of the issues involved). This can make them manipulative, resistant or unreasonably judgmental; which can damage the therapeutic process. They go into counseling essentially to "prove" the other spouse wrong, and to strive to get their own way. They may run and run and run to several counselors or rabbis seeking to hear what they want to hear and to try to get what they want. The only thing they get accomplished is: they wear out lots and lots of shoes. Progress only comes with facing; and working hard, honestly and courageously on; the true and relevant issues, in and between the spouses. We will look at this further, from the standpoint of psychological health.



There are certain criteria by which psychology judges mental health. For example, signs of good psychological health include 1. adaptability, 2. living in the present, 3. the capacity to be affected by input from outside of one's own self and own mind (e.g. other people, rules or principles, realistic response to circumstances, etc.) and 4. the ability to grow.

Obviously, a person 1. who is rigid, 2. who lives in the past or future (e.g. present-day neurotic associations stemming from childhood dysfunction, or overpowering anxieties about what might happen in the future), 3. who is closed to or is unaffected by input from another person (needs, feelings, opinions, requests, etc.) or is callously indifferent about another person or who fails to deal with circumstances or principles as they really are, or 4. who refuses to grow as a human being... does not show signs of good psychological health.

These being the case, when a couple comes in and one or both spouses show any of the above signs, I have "tools" or "data" that help to define what the situation is. All of these unhealthy signs indicate that there is serious work to be done in the counseling process. When a person has psychological difficulties which stem from abuse, emotional trauma, dysfunction, a neurotic parental role model, etc., the person's relating patterns are essentially 1. continuations of their "psychological training" and/or 2. defenses against the damage, fright or suffering they went through or against what they presently associate with it. This makes their relating very complicated because present behavior is very enmeshed with nasty and complex origins in the past. Since such people tend to be somewhat blind to the meaning or impact of their behavior, and are generally judgmental and defensive, it is difficult to get them clear or anchored in what the issues are, or what they have to do, to not do and/or to change. They always have an explanation. What is tragic, of course, is that the person, regardless of denial, is causing "human damage" by abuse or emotional harm to family members. Their refusal to recognize the reality outside of the "private reality in their mind" does not help those whom they are damaging. It is critical that they come to deal responsibly to repair their personality, behavior and perceptions. If the person is "reachable" I work to increase awareness of the hurtful, destabilizing and disruptive impact of behavior on others, to accept his or her responsibility to shield spouse and children from harm and to gradually bestow good on other family members while working out the inner turmoil, conflict, pain, anxieties, tension, frustrations and confusion. If the person is not reachable, the road is more difficult and slow. I'll strategically work around the resistant individual by changing the other spouse; for example, build self-esteem, teach "emotional self-defense," increase the sense of value in the marriage (to maneuver the offender to having more fear of losing the marriage and more motivation to change) or make the offender's behavior be ineffective or backfire. Then, we can bring the partner into the counseling process. This, of course, does not apply if someone is "closed tight" or dangerous. It's always a case-by-case question.

Sometimes psychological or emotional problems stem from early in life. Sometimes the problems originate in the marriage or are brought to the surface in the marriage. To the extent that the marriage originates or triggers psychological or emotional difficulties, the marriage itself must provide repair (deeper or earlier problems have to be dealt with using different therapeutic processes). As Rambam writes, to fix a bad extreme you must go to the other (good) extreme. The couple must be emotionally supportive, nurturing, sensitive and understanding to create together an environment of emotional comfort, stability, responsiveness, fulfillment, cooperation and security. This is crucial to gradually building a wholesome, calm, trusting and satisfying relationship.



A person's relationships are fundamental to his emotional condition. From the beginning of life, he needs emotional input and nurturance. Throughout life, this continues; although in the healthy adult, the focus is progressively less and less on taking or needing; progressively more and more on giving than needing. At the point when one is able to give more than take, one is ready to marry (Sefer Alay Shor). This does not mean that the grown adult does not need wholesome emotional input and safety from emotional injury. The earlier on that one starts receiving emotional harm, the more his psychological foundation is damaged. Also, the more profound and impactful the damage, the more an older person may get seriously harmed. The body can only tolerate so much pain or fright. After its capacity is filled, it will defensively "short circuit," burying the unmanageable emotions beneath conscious awareness. They surface in other ways, or in aspects of life which the system associates with the original stimulus. The close adult relationship between spouses has them psychologically vulnerable to and dependent upon one another. To the extent that they each rely on each other for emotional goodness and safety, the violation is that much more injurious and traumatizing. In a psychologically destructive relationship, the measure of harm by an abusive or sadistic spouse can be enormous.

When a person stubs his toe, he screams angrily. His feeling is actually pain. Similarly, a person emotionally hurt may come out as angry, when in actuality, the cause is pain. If this pain is too enormous and frightening to be processed on the surface, one manifestation can be depression. The person evades or pulls away from one or more aspects of life, may not care about life or may take certain things too seriously. Sometimes the symptoms are selective, in that they may only appear in areas of life psychologically associated with the original trauma. The emotions may be covered or guised in many other possible ways; depending on the cause, the person's sensitivity level and psychological history. There can be emotional and physical symptoms. Some include: fatigue, headaches, rapid heart rate or breathing, forgetfulness, confusion, poor or unsustained concentration, approval-questing, sleeping too little or too much, nightmares about disaster or danger, compulsiveness, defensive overreactions, inability to express feelings, denial of or being uncomfortable about having feelings, focus on the past or future and not on the reality of the here and now, obsession with being clean or perfect, apathy, promiscuity, attention-getting, underachieving, keeping busy to evade or escape unwanted feelings or responsibilities; and anxiety about rejection, intimacy, normal risk or things which constitute no objective cause for fear. Such people often wind up being critical of themselves or others, malcontent, coercive, controlling, manipulative, contrary, hostile, unable to receive or trust love or respect, nervous, unstable, insecure, self-injuring, impossible to please, cynical, sad, and untrusting of close relationships or of people's motives.

When a person is subjected to such profound psychological harm, their lives cannot be near fully functional. I am confident that Heaven considers such injuring to be a profound act of theft by the perpetrator, who steals the victims ability to have a fulfilling, complete and wholesome life; especially when the victim can't help but continue such damage into a next generation.

In my counseling work, I frequently see people who, in their private "heart of hearts" are terrified of closeness, commitment, vulnerability or more pain and disappointment, whether from a current abusing spouse or from a past spouse who ruined their ability to be close. It's like psychological crippling.

The closer people are, the more obligation they have to be loving, gentle, considerate, trustworthy, supportive, accepting, pleasing and good. If they are not, the consequences of trespass are greater, deeper and more lasting.



Behaviors that violate the relationship tear the heart, sometimes in ways that can emotionally harm or kill the emotional life of the victim, who can, for example, become depressed, numb, bitter, or hateful of marriage or the opposite gender. Sooner or later, abusive "blindness" will emotionally injure a spouse and push him or her, angrily and resentfully, away from the perpetrator. Once that starts coming out, the marriage tends to spiral "downhill," and, more often than not, degenerates to a point where 1. the couple cannot stay married, 2. one or both become(s) vicious and spiteful, 3. one or both get numbed or resentful and the rest of their life is spent "going through motions" or living in "separate worlds" (if they stay together), and/or 4. the couple separates and one or both may never again be able to have a lasting and stable marriage because of how miserably the failed marriage "burned" him and/or her. Without deep psychotherapy, the personality may have become too damaged, jaded, angry, pessimistic and/or frightened to allow another serious, committed, healthy and well-chosen relationship into his and/or her life. To keep "psychologically safe," the person may remain altogether isolated, seek after futile or unattainable relationships, run from relationship to relationship, find a "comfortable" or "friend" relationship that never escalates to commitment, choose partners who they can abuse (taking their problems out on subsequent partners, or "I hurt you before you hurt me"), choose partners who give them abuse (getting abused is "normal, in my experience"), get into long and unstable "approach-avoidance" relationships (which frequently bounce between being close and being hostile) that never escalate to commitment; or choose partners who don't seem frightening, threatening and demanding (e.g. someone who "needs them," or who is relatively docile; so they end up dissatisfied because the partner is not a "true" match - just a "safe" one). I have seen many heart-rending examples of divorced singles or re-marrieds whose ability to have a man-woman relationship has been wrecked or crippled by a previous failed or intensely dysfunctional marriage. They are pained, untrusting, frightened, defensive, angry, resentful, insecure, cynical and/or self-sabotaging.

Then, there is psychological impact on children too. Amy had been divorced twice. Both marriages were rocky and psychologically beat and hurt Amy deeply. Both former husbands were selfish and did not earn a living. The first husband was fiscally irresponsible and only made half-hearted effort to make a living. The second tried a business that did not have "mazal." Neither of her former husbands had means, so Amy received no kesuba money nor child support. She had to struggle with a family on her own, and became mistrusting of men and highly sensitized to financial difficulty. When her daughter Bea graduated high school, Amy sent Bea to a college which offered a scholarship. What struck me about this was that Amy told me that she taught her daughter to expect to be abandoned by men, to expect no support from a husband, and to expect that even if she married, she should expect, at some time or other, to be divorced and Bea would have to fend for herself. Therefore, Amy "had to" send Bea to college to learn a profession, so that the "inevitable" wreckage that was sure to come would not leave Bea in the tough straits that Amy was in. Amy's psychological message impacted against Bea's mate-search, view of men, capacity to trust, emotional security, expectations from marriage and modes of relating to men. [Notes: 1. identities are disguised and 2. this does not criticize women having a livelihood, if it has its own merit; without value judgement, "agenda" or psychological harm - the point here is the psychological situation, cost and damage - Bea was trained that marriages are doomed and inevitably die; she was conditioned to approach men and marriage with a defensive and negative mind-set, which is unhealthy and will block long-run bonding with a man].



A major problem is lack of communication. In practical marriage counseling, the different stories given by the two sides would appear to be descriptions of people who never met each other and who don't know each other. A person in any strife with another has his/her own agenda, interests, subjective bias, pain, defenses and perceptions. When you hear one side without the other, the story is probably nowhere near true, valid, reliable or complete. It takes hard and good-faith work by a counselor and both spouses to get to even perceive an issue in a way that the couple can constructively and meaningfully agree on and work with (never mind to work further on and resolve!).

A serious and destructive problem is meddling or intrusion by parents or anyone who takes sides or provokes one or both spouses. Always show peace, calm and unity in front of all people, especially children, or anyone prone to interfere. Keep your quarrels and tension private, except for your marriage counselor and rov. The only exceptions might be in cases of violence, abuse or danger; or disclosing the problem to the rare person who can be trusted to genuinely, two-sidedly and effectively contribute.

Another major problem in troubled marriages is the often spoken about but too-rarely worked on subject of midos. Nothing substantive is achieved in any personal growth or interpersonal improvement without major, attentive, ongoing and practical concentration on the destroying of bad personality traits and the significant building of good personality traits. Each person must learn to make cheshbon hanefesh [introspective accounting] at least twice a day (morning and night), as well as whenever (s)he does anything to hurt someone or does any sin, and must have a rabbinical guide to know what to do, when and how to do it; and to keep objective, constructive and diligent. To date, there are two installments in my "Make Your Life Better" series, with more in planning, and several tapes in my Tape catalog on Midos. My marriage tapes also discuss midos for marriage relating (include stamped, addressed envelope with inquiry).

A related problem is when one partner says, "I won't change until (s)he changes." I tell the person that (s)he has to maintain his/her own standards, and not to incur fault because the other makes mistakes. Two wrongs still don't make a right. Each must accept responsibility for his/her behavior, its impact on the other and on the relationship. If the other is wrong, or destroying the marriage, let it be his/her problem. For resolution, each partner must be prepared to change behavior and grow as a person.

A major cause of marital trouble comes from absence of sufficient kavod (respect, honor and consideration) for one another. Chazal in Yevamos obligate a husband to give his wife more kavod than he gives himself and in Kidushin obligate a wife to give more honor to a husband than she gives to herself. When the Rambam codifies this into law (hilchos Ishus) he places the first obligation onto the husband to honor his wife. We understand from this that if a man gives his wife kavod, she will naturally respond by giving back kavod to him, and they will have a happy and peaceful life together.



One of the most recurrent themes found in relationship problems is an attempt by one or both parties to control. The need or drive to control is generally deeply neurotic and defensive in its roots. The person so deeply needs that people and outcomes serve the person's agenda that the person is blinded to most other people, other factors or higher principles. Everything and everyone exists to serve the person's needs. The person judges everything by its ability to provide the goal or need. The person is generally a very clever, shrewd and aggressive manipulator; bent on determining how events turn out; and enormously subjective in interactions of every or any kind. Things that can't meet the need, can't be used self-servingly or won't achieve the goal are criticized, disparaged, discounted or discarded; even if this entails being rude, cruel, abusive, perverse or irresponsible. Since the person is generally highly insecure, the person is an "angel" with strangers or with people whom the individual needs. The polite and charming behavior is a surface veneer and a very phoney act. In one's private life, the person will only be nice when something is needed and being nice will help get what the person wants. Otherwise, the person is quite satisfied being anywhere between selfishly negligent and a callously abusive destructive one-sided tyrant.

This all makes relating to such a person very difficult, painful and gut-wrenching. Since the person specifically judges things by the extent to which they satisfy their agenda, they have significant difficulty admitting that they are wrong, have psychological and midos shortcomings; hurt, break or abuse others; should feel remorse or have to change. Such people tend to be rigid. There is always reason for what they do, say, feel, want; and they can generally be persevering, ruthless and callous in the pursuit of their aims. Such people tend to be very bright, sometimes psychologically insightful and they "have all the answers." The problem is: when relating to someone else, the person's neuroses have negative impact outside of his/her private reality. I see in my counseling experience repeatedly the difficulty, viciousness and pain that these people ongoingly bring to spouse, children and others.

If you are married to such a person, it is very difficult to relate such a person. Such people either will not come for counseling or come ready to tell the counselor, of course, what should be the outcome (and the fault is with the spouse and counselor!). To make such a person become reasonable is very difficult, since he/she tends to have strong emotions and interests; and be so smart, blind and rigid. It is necessary to change "frames of reference." By changing frames of reference and invalidating the offender's destructive axioms and behavior, the usefulness of that behavior is hopefully canceled. The person sees that his/her pattern no longer works. This is a very individual question, especially if the other partner has some dysfunctions that predispose him/her to abuse or shortchange. Sometimes the technique is radical, sometimes subtle; depending on the situation and personalities. There are times when the partner is "unreachable" and that marriage will either remain as it is or terminate. When the partner is "reachable" (although it is usually a very slow and gradual process), we try to send the message that the control, abuse, irresponsibility and manipulation won't work. Preferably we show that such behavior either is ignored (the last thing the person wants) or backfires (the person is better off without the behavior). Such people generally have a very poor, if not broken, self-image; which goes back many years; and change requires therapy. Because so much is psychologically invested, such people tend to resist change. If the person will not seek help, the "victim" has to work on coping, based on the individual circumstances. In future installments, we will be bringing many of the techniques which I have found helpful in cases where we have been able to reach difficult spouses.



A troubled marriage is analogous to a hemorrhaging patient, especially when one or both spouses behaves destructively or demands instant results. "We want peace, love, fulfillment of needs, joy, satisfaction and all of our problems resolved by tomorrow!" I tell them that a doctor first has to stop the hemorrhaging and assure that he has a living patient before he can do fine-tuning surgery. A patient is lying on a surgery table and bleeding rapidly. The life is leaking out. The patient may need an organ repaired or some nerves reconnected, but if the life flows out, there is no need to heal a dead person's ailment. The person just gets buried. A badly injured marriage is comparable. If we don't stop the hemorrhage, the marriage will just be dead and buried, chass vichalila. Let's stop the war and torture. When the marriage hemorrhage has stopped and we have a live patient, we'll go for fine-tuning and Paradise then! I will furnish techniques in the next three installments and address how to tie down the techniques in practical application. But first, the couple must re-learn how to treat each other. When doing practical counseling, in some of the worst cases I've worked with, I've actually told the couple that their marriage is in hemorrhage and that they have to stop the behaviors that could "kill the patient." That is key to "stopping the hemorrhage" in the marriage. The same way that a hemorrhaging patient will die without emergency treatment, a "hemorrhaging marriage" will die without emergency treatment. Expecting "fine tuning" (e.g. a fixed relationship, seeking need-fulfillment and love, satisfying each other and building a peaceful and happy future, etc.) is futile till the hemorrhage stops.

Another vital thing. I beg all disputing couples, rachmana litzlon, to shield the children totally from all tension, animosity and fighting. This can be psychologically crippling to the children. They may feel guilty, develop severe emotional problems and/or become unable to have a stable marriage when they grow up. Don't teach the children to hate their father or mother. If the marriage, Heaven forbid, becomes unreconcilable, just calmly and repeatedly say, "Your father/mother and I are not able to get along. You are not at all at fault so don't feel bad. You are good and your father/mother and I both love you."

Among my jobs are lessening anxiety and tension; "validating" each person; and providing secure emotional support that assures "light at the end of the tunnel," that "the patient will survive," IF BOTH PARTNERS WORK in good faith, willingly, gently, diligently, patiently and with a good attitude. I have to be adaptive for individual cases and personalities; and make judgement calls about varying techniques, pacing or sequencing; especially since different personalities, scenarios, dynamics and complications apply in each individual case. One of the things that I find most gratifying when I do private counseling is achieving breakthrough where there had before been no hope.

There are some techniques which I have developed that have been instrumental in making breakthroughs. The next three articles feature several samples.



This installment is the first of three which deal with techniques for addressing seriously troubled man-woman relationships. Warning: some people come for counseling and hope the process automatically fixes their problem; none of these techniques work unless both parties make true commitment to work, even though this is a slow step-by-step gradual process. If either will not be WILLINGLY COMMITTED TO WORK AND TO BE TRUSTWORTHY, there will indeed be no hope. In other words, there must be clear drive in both; in spite of the present hardship, tension, suffering, frustration, antipathy and/or discouragement; to produce a workable relationship; and to honestly be in the "process" of restoring and building it, with courage, self-sacrifice (especially of ego, defenses, stubbornness and pride), unselfish two-sidedness and determination. If both are committed, consistent and loyal, prospects for success can rise dramatically.

Application of all of the coming samples, and my other techniques, require softness, calm, respect, honesty, discretion, drive for resolution and peace, seeing the relationship as bigger than self, patience, acceptance of responsibility for one's own obligations to the relationship, letting go of judging or demanding, having a "giving orientation," having a good and unselfish attitude, consistency, perseverance, empathy, adaptability, trustworthiness, a good and positive attitude, recognition of and substantive responsiveness to the other, and a drive to grow. When these elements are not present, we work on developing them. Sometimes psychotherapy is a necessary part of eliminating blockages and making breakthrough. Typically, the couple will adapt these techniques a bit to make them work in their individual situation and for their personalities.

If one partner's behavior has a brow-beating aspect, the other will say something that points it out. Often, the offending partner is not aware that every word has the impact of a baseball bat over the other's head. If the victim says, "You're baseball-batting me," the offender has to realize that the behavior is abusive, and stop. If other people are present, be creative: e.g. hint by humming the tune of "Take Me Out To The Ballgame," or refer to something that looks like a bat or a stick, so that the other "gets the message" and exercises character strength, behavior change and self-control.

If a behavior comes from a psychological pattern or conditioned habit, I tell the victim to point out calmly, softly and non-confrontationally that the other is falling into the old pattern or habit, and that this pattern has been the cause of the trouble. The person might softly say something like, "Do we want to continue or to change the troubles [or results, consequences, quality of life] that we've been having?" If you change the cause, you can change the effect.

Another thing I do to undo a confrontational relationship is to give projects in which the couple practice being allies or teammates with common purposes, interests or goals. It may pertain to the children, livelihood, spiritual projects, hobbies, dealing with sources of relationship trouble (e.g. provoking events, learning to give emotional support, midos development or dealing with meddling and instigating relatives) or adding "quality time" together.



If a couple has mutually exclusive understandings, feelings or assumptions I try to concretize it by getting them to analyze the points in arguments. "Your view is A and mine is B." Then I show them how their expectations or concepts lead to different or conflicting conclusions. This works to build more common language and to prioritize peace over individual positions. I teach them to apply this at home when practical issues and tense misunderstandings arise. Let's say a bride wants to spend shabos with her parents. The husband does not want to. He's uncomfortable there. Instead of screaming at each other, he asks, "Are you aware of how your parents treat me and how that makes me feel?" She answers. He evaluates whether she understands and empathizes. She asks, "Do you know what it means to a girl to not see her parents for shabos for so long?" He answers. She evaluates whether he understands and empathizes. They compromise.

Sometimes one or both parties (due to insecurity, pent-up anger or other cause) cannot speak honestly or expressively with the spouse. To undo tendencies to manipulation, lying, evasion, half-truth, full or partial omission, etc. I have them work on discussing issues in terms of the truth, single common understanding, objective merits of a point, benefit of doubt, not knowing the other person's entire thinking or side of the story, not having all the facts, how each might think differently due to different background or personality, etc., to gradually train their minds to think more closely, similarly, co-operatively and sympathetically. Differences become "exercises" in finding common meaning, instead of fights. Even if they don't always understand things the same way, the couple learns to see the other's thinking process better; with less emotion, attack, criticizing, disparagement or value judgement. They respond by discussing how to make a resolution, compromise or satisfactory alternative. If they cannot come to a mutual understanding, I tell the couple to say calmly and good-naturedly, "Let's put the subject aside for now and bring it up at our next counseling session." I tell them to have patience, learn to give in more, give each other benefit of doubt and to have rachmanus (compassion, mercy) for the other's feelings and side of the story. This alternative approach let's them avoid a fight, keep a civil and human atmosphere, and trust that the issue will be satisfactorily resolved.

There are cases when the couple fights when one or both will says something and it provokes the other (it "pushes the other's buttons"). The speaker does not have the discretion, awareness, adaptability, creativity, self-control or diversity to inhibit the destructive speech and use a positive alternative. When one or both express their feeling, make a statement, respond, etc., the result will be a blow-up, fight, insult, alienation, or some other negative consequence. To stop the pattern, I tell the party/parties to say nothing. What the party would say will only be destructive. I tell the party to write it down: what the other did, what you would have liked to say, what your feelings were - whatever would be relevant. The person can achieve some non-destructive release in the meantime. At the next session, the person comes in with the paper and we discuss what the person would have liked to have said, what the probable result would have been, what result the person would have liked, and how it would be necessary to change what the person would need to say to achieve the result that would be desirable and constructive. If both partners participate in this problem, I tell them both to write down what happened, what they felt and wanted to say, and to bring their papers in to the next session. They see clearly how their perceptions, impulses, needs, internal "wiring," sides of the story, assumptions, emotions, agendas and behavior are different; and more importantly, what kind of work they need to do to stop the destructive pattern of clashing and antagonism, to softly resolve issues and to build communication and a workable compatible relationship.



If one or both parties speaks in a harsh, demeaning, nasty, judgmental or abusive tone, I make several rules. The party/parties must address the other with softness, respect and self-control. The issue must be discussed in what I call "natural private." This means: in privacy that comes about in a natural way. For example, if a quarrel-issue come up at the table in front of children or relatives, the party who wants to insult, criticize, demand or fight must keep silent. If the potentially trouble-making person would angrily growl, "I WANNA SPEAK TO YOU IN PRIVATE!" everyone there knows there is a fight in the works. The atmosphere is tense and confrontational. For children, this can be terrifying and psychologically destructive. If other adults witness differences, they may take sides or meddle, which will be destructive. There is no gain by going into private this way. This, in contrast, is what I call "disruptive private," which misses the point. Instead, later, (s)he quietly asks to speak in private, in a "natural" inconspicuous manner. They have true and constructive privacy.

Some couples can handle tension better than others. Those who can keep themselves controlled and constructive can go into private right away to discuss and resolve difficulties. For them, it can be useful to excuse themselves from other people to discuss the matter as soon as trouble starts to surface. In general, the more immediately you resolve an interpersonal or psychological problem, the better. Ideally, the couple should see the need to talk privately as compelling, but they are to excuse themselves from others and go into private to talk IF THE DELAY WILL NOT BE DESTRUCTIVE. If the couple's stepping away will cause the people around them to talk loshon hora, this can be considered destructive, since the Torah prohibits causing any others to sin.

Another related rule is that the upset partner must address the issue in the form of a question (not a statement, demand, attack or value judgement). The question allows the other to respond comfortably as (s)he wishes. The party cannot steamroll or force his/her view, anger or bitterness. The other must be free to respond to the question with the comfortable expectation that his/her side will be given equal weight and fairness. I make clear that paining with words is a serious sin, so the offender has no permission to do it; and even a correct position is automatically wrong if it is presented in the form of a sin. If the offending party presents him/herself properly, the "victim" must acknowledge and respond fairly. If the offending party's approach is wrong, the "victim" must say that this was an improper approach and then ignore the offender until making proper approach. The last thing the offender generally wants is to be ignored and the main thing that (s)he wants is to be acknowledged. This trains the offender to take away the abuse and trains the victim to stop assuming (s)he must always run, close-up or hide. Communication and trust can gradually be built.

In a case where an abusive partner has no interest in counseling or work on better relating or on growth, the one partner who comes in can be trained to stop responding in ways that "feed into" or tolerate the difficult partner's abusive pattern, and to prod the other to move in helpful directions. This can include building self-esteem, learning how behavior may psychologically "trigger" the other, behaving in new ways which invalidate the other partner's assumptions, learning how to make the partner's patterns fail or backfire, making the abused partner more valuable or attractive in the abuser's eyes (to increase motivation for the abuser to work on the marriage), etc. The hope is that the abusive partner can be maneuvered into starting counseling also. Since such techniques are geared to intense, irrational and emotional scenarios, they must be individually custom tailored to the individual situation and personalities.



In the previous three articles, we addressed techniques for building acknowledgement of and substantive response to a partner in a troubled marriage, as a key step in healing the relationship. Let's develop this more.

In all the sample cases cited in the previous installments, we have striven to concisely describe techniques for "stopping the hemorrhage" in a painful, tense, miserable relationship. It is "life and death" to the process to accept responsibility to what each owes to the relationship and its resolution, development or health. The relationship must be viewed as bigger and better than the individual's feelings. Those feelings become the responsibility of the other. Each will be responsible for the other's needs and feelings (as much as humanly possible); so there is no more intense drive to grab, control, expect, fight, demand or abuse. Among the biggest sources of sabotage, confrontation, failure, antipathy and alienation are: putting fault and responsibility on the other, judging, criticizing, demanding, negating the other as a person, always having exquisite and impenetrable justifying explanations for one's own destructive speech and behavior. It is only when each party decides to accept responsibility, to give, to work on self; to regard the other with benefit of doubt, compassion, respect, forgiving and leniency; to be "other oriented;" that lasting changes and improvements come.

I establish obligations and duties for each that address the needs, fears, hurt, insecurity and coming to terms with the other. Each must train him/herself to exert self-control and not act from impulse, to have an attitude of responsibility for his/her behavior and obligations (to not have a focus the other's shortcomings or behavior), to see impact of behavior on the other, to develop concern over that impact when negative or sadistic, and to adjust accordingly immediately. I provide emotional support, show how the behavior may stem from the person's upbringing (and therefore is not necessarily valid just because it exists, which can help against having so much emotional investment in destructive behavior and against hurting or fighting with a relationship partner), help the person release internalized destructive emotions in non-destructive ways, have the couple focus on the long-term and on the impact on children (or, for a single: on never finding a stable marriage with such thinking and behavior), show how behavior would self-sabotage with a different spouse (to show cause and effect in their behavior, which would remain the same even with another spouse, to lessen fault-finding, value judgement, criticism and malcontent with the spouse), etc. The keys are forming an attitude of responsibility and giving, acknowledgement of the other's reality (which can be different from the concept in one's own mind of the other) and substantive and mature response to the "real other." When both approach each other, and the relationship's problems, this way, the couple will start the "turnaround." If they keep at it faithfully, they will be the proverbial snowball that keeps getting bigger and better. Give your partner what he or she needs and asks for. Be willing to give in and to extend yourself. Hold back from anger or from hurting, frightening or neglecting your spouse. No one has any license to hurt another or to fail in his or her responsibilities to the other. Marriage is obligation to provide what the other needs. It's a contract.



Jewish law prohibits causing damage. It is argued in the law codes whether one who will have major loss may save himself by causing another minor loss, if he pays for it. If A has a jug with $1,000 honey and B has a jug with $3 wine, and the honey jug springs a slow leak, can A say to B, "Spill out your wine, I will pay you and salvage my honey." Ramo (Choshen Mishpat 264:5) says that some rishonim require that the owner of the cheap wine spill it out for the owner of the valuable honey, while others rule that the honey's owner has absolutely no right to damage the wine owner, even for pay (e.g. if the wine has sentimental value). Shulchan Oruch HaRav (Hilchos Shi'aila Uschirus ViChasima, 6) resolves the impasse beautifully by writing that a spiritual person will be stringent on himself and lenient on the other - the one in jeopardy of losing the honey should seek not to harm the owner of the wine, and the wine owner should seek to save the honey for its owner. The Jew cares about, and wants to do good unselfishly for, another Jew. See how you can apply this in your marriage.

It is crucial to keep in mind both the qualitative and quantitative. I may have 47 peashooter reasons for my side and you may have one atom bomb reason for your side. You always need "seichel (sensible intellect)." Reason out, case by case, a fair, considerate, open-minded, good-faith, unselfish and halachic resolution. Also, you always need to objectively weigh the value of the issue IN THE PERCEPTIONS AND FEELINGS OF THE OTHER PERSON. The resolution must promote elimination of hurt and establishment of long-run peace. Maturity means contentment with less than all you want and happiness with all you have.

I am friendly with a successfully married chasidic couple. She comes into his business one day each week to do typing and correspondence. He drives the children each time they need to be taken somewhere or picked up. They both do things to extend themselves beyond their ideal range of activities to practice "alliance." They both do so in a spirit of contribution to the happy, healthy and peaceful operation of their home, marriage and family. They both are very friendly and pleasant people with good hearts who came from good homes. He did something very wise, which will only work when both partners are decent, nice and reasonably mature individuals. When he got engaged, he told his wife, "I'll make you a deal. Let's never fight. You are always going to be right." At the beginning of the marriage, he truly treated her like a queen who could do no wrong. After a while she started feeling bad and she complained to him, "I don't want to be always right! Will you please be right half of the time!" She decided on her own that a relationship means making the other happy, knowing how to give in and choosing someone who feels that way about you too. For about twenty two years, now, this couple has not ever fought. One always tells the other to have his or her way, and everything is done with calm and a smile. By the way, each of their children, without exception, has grown up (blee ayin hora) to be sweet, cheerful, friendly, polite, well-adjusted and pleasant. I know this family since their children were little. I can testify myself to their consistent, successful and lovely conduct. It's all true.

Whenever you are mad at someone, do something good for the person right away. Force yourself. Give a blessing, do a favor or kindness, make a peace overture. Do something right away and make strong, good natured moves to work to break the yaitzer hora, emotion or bad mida. Doing acts of love will break hate and it is a mitzva to do so (Bava Metzia 32b). Don't stop yourself by saying, "The other person isn't doing as much. The other person isn't being big about it." You've got your job to do and he has his. Your job is to be Torah-loyal, peaceful, pleasant and a kidush Hashem. This is an area which requires considerable judgement, mutual good faith, a good attitude, sensitivity and reasonable adaptation to the individual personalities and situations involved. The "acid tests" are: * optimal practical, loving and healthy functioning of the family and * promotion of greatest, fullest ongoing peace in the marriage.



To paraphrase Rabbi Moshe Chayim Luzzato, z'l, in the introduction to his classic "Mesilas Yesharim," we often "blow it" in life in matters that we know. If only we would constantly review, remind and apply what we know, we would keep our lives out of trouble and keep them in good shape. It repeatedly amazes me how people come to me for counseling and some of their major life or relationship difficulties come from violation or omission of basics. For example, the Torah openly prohibits causing pain with words, begrudging, vengeance, embarrassing, causing any form of tangible harm (e.g. bodily injury or damaging property or reputation) or intangible harm (e.g. waking from sleep, flattering, wasting a person's time).

If you ask any Jewish five year old to tell you about loving your fellow as yourself, he or she would get all animated and (in five year old frames of reference) tell you all about it (share your cookies, say "I'm sorry" and make-up, let Shmerel and Genendel play with your toys). When a spouse emotionally abuses a spouse, it stuns them when I ask them about "Love your fellow as yourself" with his/her spouse. They can intellectualize about how Rabbi Akiva calls it the must fundamental principle of the Torah [Yerushalmi Nedarim 9] or how Hillel says that the entire Torah is commentary on not violating this [Shabos 31a]. But to apply "love your fellow" to not being sadistic to their spouse? To use modern language: something's missing in the "program." Emotional connected-ness to practical application seems to be hoping for too much. Especially when we consider that the gemora [Kidushin 41a] says we see someone before marriage to make sure one can fulfill "Love your fellow as your self" with that person. When you went through a technical little procedure called your "wedding," you were called "rayim ahoovim [close friends who love each other]." Gosh, behaving with love applies to the one you married! Live and learn! It's your choice: do you want a five year old to fulfill G-d's will at his level better than you have to at your level?

Another striking example is "derech eretz kadmo liTorah [civil, thoughtful, polite behavior precedes Torah, Midrash Vayikra Raba]. I ask audiences or people who come in for counseling, "If derech eretz comes before Torah, how can someone who acts without derech eretz be a Torah person?" This gets the self-proclaimed frummies thinking. The contradiction sinks in. If (s)he acts without the prerequisite for Torah, what does the pretense of being a Torah person make the perpetrator? A phoney? A bum? A Torah person for sure not. Oy, how the bubble busts! If the person has been anguishing a spouse or fighting, how does that stack up against full-time derech eretz as a prerequisite for being human and Torah-true?

The Vilna Gaon says [Evven Shlaima 1] that the essence of life is working on midos every moment and that everyone who is not working on midos at any moment is wasting life. People get so caught up in themselves, their self-importance, their inescapably important pursuits. Little do most realize that every moment that one is not smashing bad midos and elevating spiritually, it is all a waste. When one spends time and energy lording over or terrorizing or disappointing a spouse, one is in full time waste of life. How can one who wastes life or destroys a spouse be too important? One needs a good foundation to be a good person and for each moment of life to be good. That's good midos.

Always judge favorably (Pirkei Avos, chapter one). Give benefit of doubt and see the positive. Rabbi Yitzchok Levi of Barditchev always saw the positive in everyone. If a Jew smoked on shabbos, knowing it was a serious violation, he said that this Jew was honest. When someone comes late for minyan, see that he dovens to Hashem, overcoming obstacles when delayed. If you see something in a negative light, say "I don't know all the facts." If you ever see anything in your spouse that you don't like, always look for the positive. If you always look: for something positive, for things to like, for a good aspect to appreciate, to not take him/her/each other for granted, to give to and not to take from; it will change your outlook, make you a happier and more pleasant person, and impact the quality and happiness of your marriage dramatically.

For any marriage to stand a chance, both spouses must be able to do the four steps of tshuva (repentance for sins and negative actions: 1. feel sincere remorse, 2. admit what you did, 3. make practical restitution and 4. appease - ask your orthodox rabbi for case by case guidance). Both must be experts at the arts of forgiving, overlooking, accepting, forgetting negatives and moving constructively forward.

Then, there is the famous midrash (Beraishis Raba), "Gadol hashalom [the greatest thing in human relations is peace]." Related to this are 1. the Chazal (mishna Uktzin, Bamidbar Raba) which says, "The only vessel which can contain blessing is peace," 2. the verse which says [Proverbs 3:17, The Torah's] "ways are pleasant and all of its paths are peace," 3. To have peace in a marriage, the man must honor his wife more than he honors himself (Yevomos 62a) and 4. the Shmoneh Esray's prayer for peace "Sim Shalom" that Hashem gave us the "Torah of Life and the love of kindness." We see that the real test for all interpersonal behavior is its being pleasant, respectful and peaceful; its being governed by the Torah; and its mode of practice being ongoing kindness. You can have every material blessing, but without peace you have nothing, and peace has the value of all other blessings combined (Rashi, Leviticus 26:6). Unless there is peace, there is no blessing and no Torah and, by lacking the greatest thing in interpersonal behavior, the main point is missed. After all, there is another basic. The Talmud (Kesubos 61a) says that a marriage is for life [family and happiness], and not for pain. It's as if to say that the Torah considers spouses to be instruments for each other's happiness and well-being...and never otherwise. Regarding peace in the marriage context, Chazal (Avos DeRebi Noson 28) say, "Whoever makes peace in his home is as one who made peace between each Jew and every other Jew." The greatness of this speaks for itself.



"Olam chesed yiboneh [the world is built by active lovingkindness, Psalm 89:3]." When one tears apart a spouse, is cruel or demanding, that also is the opposite of another basic: to be a paragon and factory of active lovingkindness. In Jewish law there is a principle of "kedima [priorities]." In the laws of charity, yeebum and inheritance, there are prescribed orders in which priorities are set down. Likewise, in regard to chesed there are priorities. Generally, in all of these areas, the closer one is related to you, the higher the priority. If you can't give kindness to everyone who might ask it of you, the closer the person is, the higher the priority. Till you satisfy the needs of your spouse and children, you do not go elsewhere to be a kind person (or else your goal is selfish honor and acclaim, not to be truly good and kind).

Further, there are "kedimos" (priority levels) in many places in Jewish law. For instance, in the laws of who you give tzadaka and chesed to, in the laws of inheritance and yeebum, there are priority orders which say that person A comes first, person B comes second, person C comes third, etc. For instance, if I don't have enough time to do kindness for two or more people who need me, if I don't have enough money to give charity to everyone who asks it of me, the halacha gives the priority order by person or category of person. In general, the closer a person is to you, the higher the priority. The closer a person is to you; the more you owe kind, sweet, respectful, compassionate, supportive, pleasing and generous behavior to that person. There is no one closer than one's spouse and children. The obligation to be good is greatest to your immediate family. If one is good to the people on the street and neglectful or bad to one's family, the person has no idea of Torah. You marry to give to a person. The completion of the marriage ceremony is "nesuin." The inner meaning of "nesuin" is to accept active responsibility on behalf of the person you marry and the children who will come from that union. To not be actively responsible on behalf of the good of one's spouse and children is to have no idea of what being married means. Yet, some people act like saints in public and act like ogres and tyrants in private. Ongoingly do things that make your spouse know clearly and securely that he/she is the most important person in the world. Treat your spouse and children as your highest priority and never take them for granted. Sefer HaChinuch says that the laws of Shana Rishona (first year of marriage) are designed to fill your mind with consciousness of your spouse. Chazal (Derech Eretz Zuta 2) say that love comes from active and constant bestowal of good on another. You love the one to whom you give (Michtav Mi'Eliyahu). The closer people are to you, the higher they are on the priority scale. The more that you give to them, the more you will love them. To be amazingly and ongoingly kind to a spouse and children is to literally "build the world." If after your family is provided for (physically, spiritually and emotionally) you still have time and ability, be kind to the world. For questions on sequencing and priorities, contact your orthodox rabbi.

Your spouse and children are the ones to whom you owe the most loving, polite and considerate, midos-dik, generously kind treatment in the whole world. You don't proceed to anyone else until your obligations to them have been satisfied. If you can't get along sweetly and peacefully with your nearest and dearest, what does your act with others really mean? Do you want to build or destroy the world?



Chapter two of Pirkei Avos tells us, "Do everything for the sake of Heaven." When one is filled with ego (whether for psychological or midos reasons) and is oriented towards self, this can be a daunting demand. When one has humility, this is not a daunting demand. True humility is achieved when one's actions are done because it is the will and wisdom of G-d, as conveyed by those who keep the rabbinical heritage which comes from Sinai. The Talmud (Pesachim 50b) tells us that one should always do mitzvos and Torah learning for the sake of Heaven but if one can't do so with pure intentions, let one start doing Torah and mitzvos with less-than-perfect intentions. Over time, by consistently doing, one's intentions will gradually improve until the point at which one comes to doing with pure intention for the sake of Heaven.

The extent to which you learn Torah and do good deeds for the sake of Heaven, you can gauge how humble, and therefore how spiritually alive, you are. If you think you are acting for the sake of Heaven, test by asking: does it ever lead you to a sin or is it ever at someone else's expense? Do you pray with such noisy devotion that the next person can't concentrate? Are you fund-raising for a noble cause and cheating to get the money? Are you driven to do a mitzva and, in doing it, you make your spouse or child suffer?

There is a Talmudic rule (Suka 26a) which says, "one who is engaged in a mitzva is exempt from another mitzva." When one is occupied with a mitzva, one must be able to concentrate on it and fulfill it completely and properly. If one is pulled from one thing to another, nothing would ever get done, never mind completely or properly. However, if I am doing a mitzva and another mitzva comes to me, I generally consider myself exempt from the second so that I may complete the first mitzva effectively and correctly. Let's say I'm writing an encouraging letter to a depressed friend. One may not write on shabos. If shabos comes, do I say that I am engaged in a mitzva so I am exempt from shabos? No. By virtue of the time of shabos coming, SHABOS BECOMES MY FIRST MITZVA, so I am exempt from the mitzva of writing a cheerful letter until Saturday night. IF YOUR SPOUSE OR CHILD NEEDS YOU, THEY BECOME YOUR FIRST MITZVA. Knowing how to differentiate and to prioritize is central to acting for the sake of Heaven, and to acting according to HEAVEN'S WILL AND PRIORITIES. Hurting any Jew (feelings, property, health, anything) is a grave sin. Many people pretend for the public to be saints and think nothing of repeatedly and sinfully neglecting or anguishing their families.

Acting for the sake of Heaven never entails a sin in its wake. A sin for the sake of a mitzva remains a sin (Suka 30a). If you truly act for the sake of Heaven, violating the will of Heaven never is a means for achieving your goal. Heaven wants you to spare yourself the violation and is not interested in any "service" with any violation. Such "service" is for an emotional or ego need, not for Heaven's will. This is antithetical to Torah, humility, spirituality or holiness. Service of G-d is to be pure and to be on His terms. The Torah's ways are sweet and peaceful (Proverbs 3:17), even for one's spouse and children! Act so as to consistently bring good to the people in your life (with no bad "side effects"), especially to those who are closest. When done with Hashem's priorities, and the Torah's sweet and peaceful ways, then your behavior becomes true service of Heaven.



Every moment when one is possessed by anger, the person has lost control of himself and his reason. The angry person loses his/her humanity and (s)he loses his/her attachment to the capacity to live in the spiritual domain that differentiates the human species from the animal. What is more scary is "A person is recognized [for who he really is] by three things: how he is when he is drunk, how he spends his money and how he is when angry [Eruvin 65b]." If a person remains mild and he still behaves like a mentsh when angry, this truly is a "quality-person." If he behaves in an uncontrolled, cruel, furious, destructive manner when angry, he is unlikely to be a genuinely good person.

When angry, one has given up his/her attachment to the purpose for which one is alive on earth. While having the characteristics of the animal and angel, the human's purpose is choosing to live as a spiritual and growing entity at all times; with reason, self-control and the instruction of the Torah governing all aspects of life. Because one has relinquished his/her attachment to ongoing spiritual life and growth, (s)he has separated him/herself from the ultimate source of life, G-d. The Talmud in Tractate Nedarim tells us (22a), "The angry person is overtaken by every form of gehenom;...(22b) the angry person considers G-d unimportant...he forgets wisdom and increases in stupidity." The Talmud (Kidushin 41a) teaches that there is nothing left for the angry person but the anger itself (losing health, relationships, etc.).

Anger is serious. A psychologist who advocates "healthy anger" is sending you and himself into war with G-d and is setting you up for self-betrayal and isolation from people. Anger is an uncontrollable expression of, and preoccupation with, your own self-importance and indignation at having had your toe stepped on. By definition, it is totally constituted of arrogant self-indulgent components that are antithetical to what is human, never mind divine.

The Talmud (Shabos 105b) equates anger with the sin of idol worship. Idol worship is one of the three sins that is so evil that the Torah demands that a Jew die rather than violate it (the other two are 1. murder and 2. prohibited relations [i.e. incest/adultery]). Why? When one serves or worships a deity, one attributes belief in the existence, reality, dominion, power and authority of that entity. When one loses one's temper, one becomes totally enslaved, overwhelmed and overpowered by the emotion of anger. This means that this raging emotion is the authority, the power and the dominion that the angry person serves. It has the reality and existence that authorizes it to domineer and control him/her. Then, the will and the dominion and the authority and the reality of the one true G-d is negated within the angry person. The Torah says clearly and unequivocally (Deuteronomy 4:35), "You have been shown in order to know that the L-rd is G-d, there is nothing else besides Him." The Torah is absolute. Nothing - with no exceptions - has real, meaningful or lasting existence, and authority, except G-d. In the spiritual, closeness is measured by similarity. The closest hope that any physical being has to ultimate, meaningful and lasting existence is optimum closeness and similarity to G-d: His spiritual essence, qualities and imperatives. For a Jew this means total and loyal observance of the entire Torah, including subjugation of intense, selfish, immature or angry emotions.



In a case where a spouse is about to explode or get vicious, imagine that the Chafetz Chayim (or your rebbe, or posaik, or any tzadik for whom you have awe and respect, or your boss at work, or your next door neighbor who you always try to impress) is there in the room seeing every move you make. When Yosef HaTzadik was approached by his employer's wife, he ran away (Genesis 39:12). He saved himself from sin by seeing the image of his holy father (Midrash Tanchuma). By seeing Yaakov's image in his mind as if his father was there, Yosef came under control immediately, and effectively saved himself from sin. It is in the merit of this that he came to be called "Yosef Hatzadik."

One person had powerful, driving and intrusive yaitzer hora. He used the technique of agreeing with himself to commit the sin AFTER a delay which would allow him to forget about it. He became very creative at "brainwashing" himself and he avoided sinning repeatedly. He told himself, "OK, I'll give in to myself BUT now it's almost time to doven. How can I pray to my Creator with my prayer stained with sin? Let me pray first, and then I'll [do the sin] after the minyan." "Today is: Monday/Thursday, a day of extra Heavenly mercy; Rosh Chodesh, a day of kapara; Shabos/Yom Tov, a day of holiness - how can I do this on such a special day?" "OK, I'll do the sin BUT today has been such a good day for me. Why should I ruin it? I'll do it tomorrow." "OK, I'll do the sin BUT I'm tired now. I'll rest for a while and do it when I wake up." "OK, I'll do the sin BUT I first have to [speak to (so and so), do (a chore), make a phone call]. I'll do it afterwards." "OK, I'll do the sin BUT now I'm with [my wife, business associates, neighbors, children]. How could I be a chillul Hashem? I'll do it later when I'm in a different place." "OK, I'll do the sin BUT I didn't ask my rabbi yet if the halacha permits this [explosion, abuse, sin]. Before I do something, I always have to ask a shaalo anyway. I'll wait until I ask my rav and hear what he says to do first." "OK, I'll do the sin but I need exercise for my health. I'll go for a walk first and do the sin later." He used this technique effectively and perseveringly and just about never did the sin.

Repeatedly read Tehillim chapter 131 (lo govah leebi). It has only three verses and has power to nullify a yaitzer hora. If you don't know Hebrew, learn this so that you can say it with understanding and concentration. In essence, King David reports how he never allowed his heart, eyes or deeds to succumb to bad things. Be careful to pronounce the "mapik heh" in the word "govaH" (a "mapik heh" is when heh [corresponding to "H"] 1. is the last letter in a word, 2. has a dot in it and 3. has a vowel - in such a case, the vowel is pronounced first and the "h" consonant sound is pronounced AFTER the vowel sound).

Read "Krias Shma" with kavona and with awareness that this life is brief and fleeting, with correct pronunciation (e.g. the "mapik heh" in the word "yevulaH;" and making sure to separate every word and never slurring words together). Imagine yourself on a deathbed and recovery depends upon never sinning again. Moshe Montefiore, the famous philanthropist, bought a coffin, got into it every day and said, "Moshe, it's one day closer to the end." One man felt a powerful impulse to become angry and abusive at his wife. The gemara says to ridicule a yaitzer hora (Sota 43a). He saw in his mind's eye a big dumb gorilla, with his own face, holding a banana. Instead of blowing up, he giggled at the silly thought of his acting like a monkey, and the impulse was over.

When calm, consider your behavior. Ask yourself, "Do I want to act like a [tyrant, beast, warrior, maniac, whatever]?" When an impulse comes to blow up, abuse, lose control, go into rage, be vicious or callous, remember how you answered, "No, I don't want to act like a...". You don't want to see yourself in a negative way, nor to treat anyone in a negative way. You want to do what is right. You are "Tzelem Elokim (the Image of G-d)" and so is every other Jew. You want to see yourself, your behavior and your spouse in a positive, consistently favorable way. You want to see yourself and your spouse as G-dly.



Being married means ongoing responsibility to a spouse and children. Therefore, being marriageable means that you are able to unselfishly and steadily deliver what you are responsible for, even when life is stressful or painful. A good test in this is: when you are suffering or pressured, can you still be spontaneously concerned about another person? Even if you can't be your fully loving and giving self, you can say, with softness, control and consideration, "Right now I'm [upset, in pain, anxious, nervous, etc.] and I can't give you the [attention, courtesy, time, respect, answer, etc.] that you deserve. It is no fault of yours and I do not want to take my troubles out on you. I don't want to hurt or shortchange you. Give me some time to work myself out and I'll talk to you pleasantly and responsively later." When you're married, having problems is no excuse to withhold what you are responsible excuse to ever stop being an "us."

The mitzva to "love your fellow Jew as yourself" applies to your spouse (Kidushin 41a). It may seem obvious, but there are plenty of people who are kind and loving to strangers but forget to be kind and loving with their family, where the obligation is greatest. To love one's fellow Jew, a person must be very careful never to grow angry at others; for when a person is angry at others he not only feels no love for them, but he may even hate them and wish them harm (Sefer Erech Apayim). The Torah forbids hate (Leviticus 19:17) and fighting (Numbers 17:5). Rambam (Hilchos Dayos 6:3) writes that the mitzva to love one's fellow Jew includes praising and honoring the person as much as you wish that others do so for you. How much moreso should this apply to your treatment of the person one is married to! People make the mistake of saying "I will love and then I will give." Love comes only to those who say "I will give and then I will love." Happiness in marriage only comes when both spouses give on behalf of the good of the other (Michtav Mi'Eliyahu). When spouse love each other, G-d loves them.

In the Torah portion Vayikra, the Torah describes the sacrifices that atone for an individual's sin. In most cases, the Torah says "When a person [odom] brings a sacrifice...". In one case, the Torah says, "When a soul [nefesh] brings a sacrifice...". Why the change this one time? Why in only one specific case does the Torah see fit to refer to a nefesh? When the Torah changes to the word "nefesh," the Torah is discussing the flour offering. If a rich person sins, his offering is to be from a large animal [e.g. cattle] which is quite expensive. If a person is in the middle class, he brings two birds, a smaller expense. If a person is a pauper, he brings a handful of flour as his sacrifice, a relatively tiny expense. A rich person thinks nothing of spending money. For him, it flows like water. The middle class person can live with the smaller expense of his two birds. The impoverished person does not have money for bare necessities. Even though a handful of flour is very cheap for everybody else, any expense, even for a handful of flour, is a sacrifice. When the impoverished person brings his flour offering, he is sacrificing his very soul for Hashem. To show that this is the most precious sacrifice, to Hashem, to acknowledge that the pauper is sacrificing his own soul, the Torah says, "When a soul brings a sacrifice...[the pauper will bring it from flour]."

Similarly, any fulfillment of G-d's will, which comes with our sacrifice, is dear to Hashem. G-d very much wants spouses to love, respect and be peaceful and pleasing with each other. If anger, arguing, nagging, paining, fighting, abusing, or any other violation of Hashem's will and behavior standards, is a powerful temptation for you, and you struggle down to your very soul, and sacrifice and extend yourself, for the sake of doing G-d's will, you are dear and precious to G-d. Eradicating fights and building love will enable you to proceed along the road to progressively achieving, more and more successfully, the will of G-d, and of making yourself more dear, beloved and precious to Him.



Marital troubles come in many "flavors" to suit every individual "taste" including: * disrespect, * not keeping one's word, * being late, especially if repeatedly, * screaming, * criticizing, * condescending, * insulting, * embarrassing, especially in front of other people, * verbal attacking, especially in front of other people, * not attributing weight or importance to a partner's feelings or ideas (lack of empathy or care, "psychological blindness"), * withholding affection or supportiveness * not helping when the other is busy or pressured * being unreliable, inconsistent, untrustworthy or unstable, * failure to listen or to substantively respond, * failure to acknowledge and appreciate, * doing nice things for strangers which one does not do for a spouse and * failure to do things that your partner requests, even if with exquisite excuses for disappointing, hurting or rejecting your partner.

Marriage is the art of making your spouse into the most important person in the world - and making your partner know it. In Pirkei Avos, Rabbi Akiva tells us that it was a great act of love that Hashem made us in his image. It was a "chiba yesaira" (extra love) that He let us know it. Don't assume that your partner knows that you consider him or her valued, cherished or important. Make it known constantly. This is the opposite of taking or winning. Marriage is giving and letting each other win. This requires all of the opposite of those things listed above. Keep your word. Communicate, listen, respond substantively and act according to the will and wishes of your partner. Constantly and sincerely, give compliments, express appreciation, acknowledge what your partner wishes and feels with words, deeds and a pleasant attitude (as long as there is no violation of Jewish law thereby).

Even a healthy marriage can have a "bump in the road." Here is an example of adding cheer to "turn the lemon into lemonade." I once visited a friend on Chol HaMoed of Passover. His wife, usually a cheerful and humor-filled person, was grumpy over the holiday's prohibition of most vegetables. Frustration was coming out. "What's a Pesach meal? A slab of chicken with potato kugel, potato pancake, fried potatoes, mashed potatoes and a side order of potato salad!"

I said to her, "I'll tell you what. We'll change the name of the season from zman chairusainu [the time of our liberation] to zman potatosainu [the time of our potatoes]." She chuckled. I told her husband quietly that if she gets grouchy about potatoes, remind her of "zman potatosainu." Every time he or one of the children mentioned it, she laughed harder and louder. By the end of Yom Tov, she was, herself, saying "zman potatosainu" with a hearty laugh.

The Vilna Gaon said that you can take every letter of the alef-bais and find it combined in the Torah with every other letter, with one exception: gimmel and tess, the letters of the Hebrew word "get." G-d, in His Torah, never wrote together the letters of the word in His language for "divorce;" the one thing He wants His Torah totally NOT ASSOCIATED with. Think about that. The Torah mentions idolatry and every sin, but not divorce! Do you want a happy marriage? Rather than answering with cheap grandiose words, answer with actions, which speaks louder than words: shielding your partner from hurt of every kind; giving practical and true love, civil behavior, respect, appreciation, humility, midos, kindness, sweetness, a smile, supportiveness, pleasantness, happiness and peace in your marriage and immediate family. The Gaon understood how much G-d [kaviyachol] is saddened by divorce. From this: learn how happy He is when your marriage flourishes! If something would make your partner or marriage unhappy, try to do the opposite. As Rambam writes: to break a bad trait or behavior, go to the opposite extreme. Who wants a miserable or unworkable extreme? What's better than a happy extreme? If you disappoint your partner, struggle to be reliable and punctual. If you verbally hurt your spouse; become supportive, comforting and encouraging. Instead of arguing, give in. Become more helpful, warm and considerate in practical daily life. Turn negatives to positives. Such a policy will make both of you happy!



Marital peace depends on reciprocal kavod. When Queen Esther came to King Achashverosh, he said that whatever she wanted, up to half his empire, would be given to her to satisfy her request (Esther 5:6 & 7:2). Consider that here we have a rough idolatrous king who offered his wife up to half of a 127-country empire just to make her happy. Jewish spouses aren't asked to give half of Achashverosh's Empire. But, when Jewish spouses relate to each other, shall they be outdone by the ancient Persians? How much moreso should Torah Jews want to do favors, kindnesses and displays of kavod for the person they are married to? Shall they not provide what their partner requests? If Achashverosh can respect his Jewish spouse, can you not, to the person you live with day in and day out?

"What the person wants, that is his honor." (Yerushalmi Pay'a 1:1; Sefer Chasidim, section 152). Kavod (honor) is defined by the will of the other. In relating, it is imperative to respond to the other person in practical terms, based on the OTHER'S WILL, NEEDS AND FEELINGS. There is no room for projecting or imposing your perceptions or taste onto the other person. This is utmost contempt and will deteriorate the relationship. Your definition of honor may actually hurt or offend the person. GIVE the person what (s)he wants; DO for the person what (s)he wants; PLEASE the person steadily, voluntarily, caringly and cheerfully. That is giving kavod, if (and these are important qualifications) there is no disparaging aspect (even if the person agrees to be disparaged) and if there is no violation of Torah law.

"Let the honor of your companion be as dear to you as your own (Pirkei Avos, chapter two)." Just as you are sensitive about your kavod, your feelings, the regard people have of you, so is everybody else also. Treat the other person's kavod as if it is precious, with the same sensitivity, consideration, value and importance that you would wish your kavod to be treated with.

"Who is honored? The one who flees from honor." It is not enough to merely offer kavod in a manner of: "I'll give you some if you'll give me some." When you show any pursuit of kavod for yourself, that undoes the credibility of your seeming offer of kavod (which turns out to be false and self-serving). This is effective only when you've assimilated giving kavod to the point where you sincerely evade and flee from kavod. This demonstrates that your offer of kavod to the other is authentic and trustworthy. The human nature response is to feel kavod for he who offers it unconditionally and fully. Your obvious, exclusive, pure, sincere concern is for me and my welfare, my dignity, my feelings. To the extent that this is genuine; this evokes warmth, admiration, security, respect. The person who tries to make himself high, G-d lowers; tries to make himself big, G-d humbles; tries to push too much, G-d pushes back. On the other hand, he who makes himself low, G-d raises high; makes himself humble, G-d exalts; is yielding, G-d brings to success (Eruvin 13b). He who offers kavod, refrains from taking it for himself, and flees from it for himself, receives kavod.

When Rabbi Aharon Kotler z'l, founder of the great Lakewood Yeshiva, would come to a toll, he would tell the driver to take the car to a human toll collector instead of a machine in order to practice kavod habrios (human dignity). Going to the toll machine would disparage the kavod of a human being. The practice of giving kavod is too important and inescapable. Rabbi Akiva's 24,000 students died (Yevamos 62b) in a 33 day period because they did not give kavod to each other. Their lot was death. The Torah is to be a "Toras Chayim (Torah of Life)." To be a kailee (container) for genuine Torah, one must have the trait of kavod and behave voluntarily with derech eretz in practical life.

Kavod is attributing honor, weight, value, significance, respect and esteem to the person; it is willful adaptation of your behavior to actively and consistently demonstrate these uncompromisingly and unconditionally in the most dignified, reverent, sincere, responsive and thorough fashion. In marriage it is not enough to give kavod as much as you receive it. Only when both give MORE TO THE OTHER is it enough. The Torah wants us to treat each Jew with kavod; and your spouse, all the moreso; with extreme, excessive, sensitive, ongoing kavod.



The greatest, most fundamental thing in human relations in general and the man-woman relationship in particular is peace. Chazal tell us repeatedly, "gadol hashalom (great is peace)". "GREAT IS PEACE and hated is fighting (Sifri Naso 42)." "GREAT IS PEACE between husband and wife (Chulin 141a)." "GREAT IS PEACE for which even G-d changed His words. Sara said, '[We can't have a child since] my husband is old.' Later G-d reported to Avraham [to preserve peace between husband and wife] that Sara said '[We can't have a child since] I am old' (Yevamos 65b)." "GREAT IS PEACE; even if a person did numerous mitzvos and he hasn't made peace, he has nothing (Bais HaMidrash 3:129)." "GREAT IS PEACE, that if the Jewish people have peace among them, G-d would not allow punitive Heavenly judgement against them (Beraishis Raba 38:6)." "GREAT IS PEACE for all blessings and prayers culminate with peace. The [Shabos evening] blessings of 'Shma Yisroel' conclude with, 'blessed are You G-d Who spreads over us the tent of PEACE' [the weekday variant - not cited - says that G-d 'guards our coming and going for life and PEACE']. The Shmoneh Esray concludes with, 'blessed are You G-d Who blesses His people Israel with PEACE.' The blessing by the Kohanim concludes with, 'And may G-d give you PEACE'" (Vayikra Raba, Tzav). The only pipe through which blessing comes down from Heaven to earth is peace (Uktzin).

Psalms 34:15 says, "Love peace and pursue it." Based on this verse, the midrash (Vayikra Raba) cites that peace is different from other mitzvos. Other mitzvos apply when they come to you. If I find a lost article, it is a mitzva to return it to its owner. If I don't find property, there's no mitzva. Peace is different. Every Jew is obligated to actively seek, promote, build and maintain peace. You don't wait for it to come. You make it happen. You appease a person in a quarrel (whether his quarrel is with you or another). You exhibit courage and character. You get obstacles or inhibitions out of the way. You forgive. You travel to another place to bring about peace. You exert yourself actively and your relationships and in those of any other Jews.

"Humanity was created from one person because of peace, so no person could say to another, 'My ancestor is greater than your ancestor!' (Sanhedrin 37a)"

Whenever Moshe's brother Aaron heard that there was any argument between Jews, he ran to make peace between them (Sanhedrin 6b). When Aaron died, the Torah (Numbers 20:29) says that the entire Jewish nation mourned for 30 days. Why such nationwide tribute and grief? Because when two people would quarrel, Aaron would go to one and say, "Your friend feels so badly to be in a quarrel with you. He is ashamed for wronging you. He told me he loves you so much but doesn't know the words with which to make up." He would stay with the person until all enmity was gone from the person's heart. Aaron would then go to the second friend and say the same. Each would say, "How can I remain in a fight with such a beloved friend?" and go to the other and meet and, without saying a word, each would hug the other and be best of friends (Avos DeRebi Noson, chapter 12). Aaron did this to make peace all of his life. Israel loved him.

"When you make an altar of stones for Me, you will not build it of hewn stones, for if you lift up your sword on it, you have profaned it (Exodus 20:22)." Rashi writes, "'You have profaned it.' You learn that if you lift iron to it, you have profaned it; for the altar was created to lengthen the days of man and iron was created to shorten the days of man. It is not justice that one lift that which shortens [life] on that which lengthens [life, Mechilta]. Further, the altar brings PEACE between Israel and their Father Who is in Heaven. Therefore, there will not come upon [the altar] that which destroys and injures. And this yields a logical derivative. If stones; which do not see, and do not hear and do not speak; bring PEACE, as the Torah says [Deuteronomy 27:5], 'You will not lift iron on [the altar];' then the person who brings PEACE between man and wife, between a family and another family, between any Jew and another; how much moreso will no harm come upon him!"

"G-d's name is Peace (Shabos 10b)."

The Torah (Leviticus 26:6) tells of the bounty of the land of Israel (rain, crops, fruit, wealth) and G-d says, "And I will give the land peace." Rashi writes, "Perhaps you will say, 'I have what to eat and drink, but without peace, there is nothing.' So the verse adds, 'And I will give the land peace,' so that we know that PEACE IS EQUAL TO ALL other blessings combined together."

The tractates of Brachos, Nazir, Yevamos and Krisos; as well as the shabos night and day prayer services; end with the following narrative.

Rabbi Elazar said in the name of Rabbi Chanina: Sages multiply peace in the world, as it says (Isaiah 54:13), "And all of your sons (BaNaYiCH) are disciples of G-d and the peace of your sons (BaNaYiCH) will be abundant." Do not read "BaNaYiCH (your sons)," but rather "BoNaYich (your builders)." "Those who sincerely love Your Torah have abundant peace and they do not stumble in sin. Let there be peace in your walls and tranquility in your palaces. For the sake of my brothers and friends I will wish you peace. For the sake of our G-d's Holy Temple I will seek your good. G-d will give power to his people, G-d will bless His people with peace [Psalms 119:165, 122:7-9 & 29:11]."

One of the rabbis from whom I learned Torah, Rabbi Avraham Asher Zimmerman, z'l, gave a beautiful drasha on this passage from the gemora.

Rabainu Yonah, in "Shaaray Tshuva," says that a person may ask what good it does if he would do tshuva, behave meritoriously. He thinks that his actions don't matter, don't make a difference. Rabainu Yonah points out that when Hashem revealed to Avraham that He intended to destroy S'dom, Avraham prayed on behalf of the city of S'dom. Perhaps there were ten righteous people. Even though there may have been tens or hundreds of thousands of people in the city, and even though they were almost all evil, perhaps there would be ten meritorious people who deserved not to suffer or be destroyed. The Torah, in telling us of this, is saying that a righteous person does make a difference. One's tshuva, one's merit, one's behavior does have impact on the world.

The above gemara says that sages promote peace and are builders of the world. Some people scoff at those who learn and obey Torah. They say, "We make buildings, highways, inventions. We turn the wheels of industry and progress. We are the builders of the world, not the scholars who sit and learn." However, it is these builders who cause strife and destruction. The gemara emphasizes this by repeating this passage four times. Who are the one's who truly build the world? Those who truly embody the Torah, the ones whose lives embody peace.

Consider the above passage and the verses quoted in it again. See what it says. The ones who sincerely love Torah and who are faithful disciples of Hashem will have abundant peace and not slip in sin, their homes will be peaceful and tranquil, they seek the peace and good of others, and, for being true to the cause of peace, G-d will grant prosperity and blessing.

Every effort at building the world through Torah actions, every spiritual accomplishment, every peaceful resolution or interpersonal interchange, is of incalculable merit - in G-d's estimation. Keep peace at all times. Apply Rabbi Zimmerman's point to your marriage. To the Jew, among the greatest acts are: building a home that is a center for spiritual contribution and pillar of the community, and raising healthy and functional children. If you're already in the middle of a dispute, if you're already emotional or tense, if your marriage has an adversarial pattern at all, then ask yourself, how can I end this like the gemara: on a note of emphatic, enduring, Torah-rooted peace? Similarly, tractate Derech Eretz says to end each thing that you do on a good note.

Never forget that your Torah-rooted effort will help to truly build the world - and may even cause the merit for which Hashem keeps the world existing.




An excellent and effective therapeutic technique; which enables an abused person to resolve emotional injury; can be used for freeing, expressing and healing emotional wounds. It has some elements which are significant and helpful, especially in cases where emotions are buried very solidly, as can happen in cases of abuse; especially if the abuse was intense, repetitious or if it started at a young age.

The technique comes from a psychological discipline called "Expressive Therapy," which succeeds in making breakthroughs where "talk therapy" or certain other conventional methods might not be sufficient to contact, release and resolve injured and intense negative emotions (such as pain, fury, fright, frustration, humiliation, worthlessness, tension, etc.) which, when buried deeply inside, can cause destructive results such as depression, fatigue, despair, insecurities, isolation, dysfunction in practical life and not looking out for one's own needs and well-being.

The person typically has blockage to recognizing; never mind feeling, validating or expressing; buried feelings. Initially, the person is not ready to talk about direct cause-and-effect: the abuser did A and made me feel B.

Conventional talk therapy might not be helpful in many cases where the feelings are too deeply or powerfully buried. The victim cannot access the intense buried emotions yet. It is like trying to reach for something but it is too far away, or it is fully covered with a steel plate, so it remains inaccessible. The more powerful the negative emotions are, the more powerful the defenses are that keep them buried.

Sometimes the person can describe the abuse scenario comprehensively but cannot feel, ON AN EMOTIONAL LEVEL, that it was bad or hurtful. The person at first might only have an abstract and intellectual description of how a person (sometimes not necessarily him/herself) should feel from being mistreated this way. The person is often disconnected from some or all feeling about the abuse.

In any event, a major point here is to promote breaking through blockages to stubbornly buried intense feelings and bringing them closer to the surface for release, expression and healing IN WAYS CONSISTENT WITH THE NATURAL INTERNAL EMOTIONAL REALITY WITHIN EACH INDIVIDUAL VICTIM. My approach and emphasis is to get to the REALITY INSIDE THE PERSON, even though the victim's psychological history might have caused that reality to be injured, distorted, covered over and inaccessible for the meanwhile.

The Torah wants reality. The gemora (Kidushin 49b) says, "Words that are unexpressed are nothing." Keeping that which is unhealthy inside means retaining the unhealthy and unnatural "reality" that is in the person. Only by skillfully crafting REAL EXPRESSION OF THE INTERNAL EMOTIONAL INJURIES TO THE OUTER WORLD CAN A HEALTHY AND NATURAL REALITY BE ACHIEVED INSIDE, WITH THE PERSON'S INNER AND OUTER REALITIES HEALTHY AND UNITED. Compassionate administration of Expressive technique by a Yoray Shomayim [G-d fearing] professional can help the Jewish victim of severe abuse to achieve both psychological and Torah goals for healthy, successful and dignified living.

Any therapeutic process can be slow, scary and difficult. A person can only be helped if his/her will is genuine and his/her effort is persevering. The hope is that the person can be healed and guided to freeing him/herself of the psychological baggage and to entering the mainstream of healthy adult life. If the person bravely and honestly sticks with counseling through to completion of the therapeutic process and goals, the person can stand a good chance at turning over a new leaf and leading a progressively more functional and fulfilling life, from then on.

I will continue with some representative techniques of Expressive Therapy in the second part.



The first part described how some cases of abuse cause such serious and extreme emotional trauma, shock and/or injury that many psychological methods, such as conventional "talk therapy," do not suffice to break through and heal the victim. The more powerful the negative emotions are, the more powerful the defenses are that keep them buried. The person can often be disconnected from, or intellectualize about, some or all feelings about the abuse. To address the extreme degree of damage to and defensive covering of emotions, Expressive Therapy can be helpful and effective to achieve healing.

In the "Expressive Therapy" approach, the abuse victim might often start out by initially talking "around" the subject, e.g. about the offender's behavior in a general way or as if that behavior was excusable or somewhat innocent; about bad feelings or disappointments in present day life; or give a description of neutral general elements in or near the abuse scenario such as the furniture in the room, the mood and atmosphere of the abuse scenario and the offending person's tone, attitude, background or daily habits, etc. The talk of some victims might be frantic and display suffering at certain times. However, on some level, victims often may start out by talking with no or little emotion WHEN IT COMES TO EMOTIONAL EXPERIENCE OF THE ABUSIVE EVENTS.

Strategic directing from the counselor can bring the person to recognize that the abuser did commit intense, impactful and emotion-harming assault that had traumatizing affect on the physiology of the victim (e.g. racing heartbeat, dizziness, nervousness, shortness of breath, exhaustion, etc.) and personality (depression, stress, anxiety, rage, neuroses, paranoia, self-sabotage, self-pity, etc.). The victim can be made to take "psychological steps" towards "emotional contact" with abuse scenes which are too painful or frightening to make immediate and direct "emotional contact" with. Such steps might include drawing pictures of abuse scenarios, writing a "diary" or "letters" or a "news-reporter" description about the abuse scene(s) or abuse pattern(s), "role-playing" talk or "re-enactment" with a trustworthy mature advisor or helper as if it were approximately "at that time" of the abuse, or getting into a physical position in which the victim can be enabled to freely let out the eruption(s) of any upcoming feelings. The person can EITHER assume any position that promotes 1. striking out (releasing intense feelings against the abuser - in the clinical setting only, of course) or 2. calm and relaxing, to allow or coax resistant feelings closer to the surface.

The person, when ready, is helped to relax, to feel calm and validated, and to understand that BEING ABUSED IS NOT OK AND IS NOT NORMAL; and that HAVING FEELINGS ABOUT BEING ABUSED IS OK AND IS NORMAL. Then, when ready, the person can be given a preliminary recognition that 1. the abuse and 2. the victim's inner state have a connection and correlation to each other - "cause and effect." That destructive effect is the wound, the trauma, the buried emotions and life dysfunctions. Then the counselor will gradually evoke those buried feelings; e.g. by compassion, empathy, motivation, goading, encouraging, emotionally supporting, "homework," bringing the victim to responding/feeling according to how (s)he should as a result of the actual abusive treatment in that person's "psychological history," and/or a variety of methods as the case may require.

When the emotions become released, they can be like an "uncorked geyser." Panic or "body memories" (sensations of internal re-experiencing and re-living of the traumatic events) can occur. When the emerging feelings authentically start to come, they can be very intense, surprising and difficult to manage. The support and accessibility of the counselor at that time can be critical.

Then, the person can be enabled, as necessary, to express and release the buried feelings; such as by hitting a cushion, a rubber pad on the floor, a gymnasium punching-bag, or throwing objects at a wall - "seeing" the abuser (e.g. his/her face or torso) in that which is being struck. The person can be opened up to saying, if not screaming, what his/her feelings are, why or in what ways (s)he was abused, or spontaneous statements such as, "How dare you do X to me!" "I'll never let you do that again!" "I'm gonna let you have it!" etc. The person can be made to see his/her role in setting up abuse-engendering situations such as a bad marriage e.g. by attraction to someone who fulfilled unhealthy needs, being won over due to emotional weakness by a driven and manipulative abuser, or the person's selecting a sadist because (s)he grew up seeing abuse and pain as normal.

It is imperative that you entrust yourself in counseling to an experienced professional counselor who is a yoray Shomayim who is either a talmid chocham or who refers shaalos to one. I have seen a "religious" psychologist supportively agree with a client's "alternative lifestyle" because his psychological training was to validate the client and to not be judgmental. Even "religious" counselors whose training is secular (e.g. psychologists, psychiatrists or social workers) may subordinate their professional judgement and ways to secular training and values. Since much in secular therapy's methods and concepts is unacceptable to Torah, in very serious terms, this can be catastrophic for the Jew.

I have seen cases where a secular Jew or a non-Jew has had utter respect for Torah, when treating Torah-observant Jewish clients. If you do not have access to an acceptable Torah-observant counselor, IT IS BETTER FOR THE THERAPEUTIC APPROACH TO BE RELIGIOUS THAN FOR THE COUNSELOR TO BE RELIGIOUS, as long as there is READY ACCESS TO AND COMPLETE RESPECT FOR A QUALIFIED RABBI WHO IS A "DAAS TORAH" for questions that have ANY TORAH ELEMENT. Before meeting, ask the non-Jewish or non-religious practitioner his/her stance on and experience with Torah Judaism.

Some representative examples of halachic questions that could occur in "Torah-loyal counseling" include:

* loshon hora about people who are spoken about in the counseling process [which is generally permissible when spoken in private with a professional counselor when spoken for a beneficial and constructive purpose],

* behavior towards or responses to children, meddling or abusive relatives or others who are relevant to the case,

* the impact of the laws of taharas hamishpacha [family purity] and tzniyuss [modesty] on marriage counseling, especially when the cultivation or repair of affection or intimacy are at issue,

* whether a therapeutic technique or hashkafo (view) is 1. "traif" [forbidden] or 2. permissible or 3. would be permissible IF IT HAD A MODIFICATION. For example, Tosfos in Tractate Chulin says that we may not study animals and thereby learn about humans; but the baalai mussar say this does not apply to learning good midos, such as diligence from the ant or cleanliness from the cat.

IF A PSYCHOLOGICAL TECHNIQUE COMES FROM "BEHAVIOR MODIFICATION" THAT WAS DERIVED BY STUDYING RATS IN A LABORATORY, IT MAY BE A SERIOUS ISSUR (TORAH PROHIBITION) TO USE THAT TECHNIQUE. BESIDES, THERE ARE MANY PRACTICAL PROBLEMS WITH BEHAVIORISM. If a person's problem is deep and is treated behaviorally, it will be changed only on the surface and the problem will come out in a new, different manifestation. However, it will difficult or impossible to tell that person there is a problem because (s)he will adamantly insist that (s)he is "fine" or "fixed." I have seen this lead to relationship termination.

Pirkei Avos (chapter five) tells us that everything is in the Torah, including how to manage and conduct the counseling process.





A difficult and complex problem in many bad marriages occurs when a husband is abusive, the wife refrains from going to mikvah and then the husband declares her a morredess (a rebellious wife). Halacha permits a husband to divorce a rebellious wife with no kesuba payment. Often, these women do not get support from the rabbinical community or others, leaving no practical recourse. Women in this situation can be vulnerable. If the rabbis do not side with her, she could be left alone with no financial, emotional or halachic backing. She may be "trapped," if not endangered, by her abusive husband.

Before developing my answer to this problem, let me set down some crucial general principles first. Every individual case necessarily must be brought by the wife immediately to a rov or dayan. If the husband is threatening, she should consider leaving the house. If there is genuine imminent physical danger, she may need the police. In any event, SHE MUST PROMPTLY GO ON RECORD WITH A QUALIFIED ROV that at such and such a time in such and such a way she was abused, frightened or endangered by her husband. Halacha does not obligate her to undergo any jeopardy or humiliation. The gemora says that, "Marriage is for life, not for pain."

The problem for the rov is that he can only make a determination which affects two people if he hears completely both sides of the story and obtains all possible evidence to support all claims. A rov can receive a shaalo (question) from an individual and can poskin or advise that one person what to do in terms of that one individual's self (e.g. role, action or attitude). The rov cannot say anything that impacts upon any other person (besides the one asking the question) and cannot take sides when hearing one side of any two-party dispute. So, it can appear that he may be taking sides with the husband against the allegedly victimized wife. However, the rov might have no halachic permission to take her side, since she is asking a question that involves another person. For example, does she provoke or abuse him? Does she fail in any of her responsibilities as a wife? Does she exaggerate or say things out of context? I'm not saying that abuse or violence is justified, nor that she deserves no physical and halachic protection when the need is genuine. I am saying that there are specific requirements in halacha for the establishment of a genuine case. Women have been known to complain in cases where they were at fault, neglecting their responsibilities or provoking the husband. Therefore, only if that case is established according to halachic guidelines with a competent rov, THAT IS WHEN WE CAN START TALKING ABOUT HOW TO PROTECT THE INTERESTS OF A WIFE CAUGHT BETWEEN THE OPTIONS OF BEING A MOREDDESS OR A VICTIM. Since a husband and wife being together is the chazaka (normal status) in halacha, a halachic basis is required to permit the wife to go out of her chazaka and establish "new policy" of not going to mikva, leaving home, moving into another room or otherwise not living normally with her husband.

Therefore, THE FIRST AND FOREMOST RULE when a wife is abused and threatened with the ugly choice of going to the mikva or being a morredess, is to go on record IN DETAIL with a rov RIGHT AWAY and then ask him to demand that the husband speak to the rov. The rov must get the husband's side of the story (or deal with the husband's failure to respond). The rov might then declare that the husband's behavior does not merit his wife's intimate access or attention. In other words, she must contact a rov immediately and, in the meanwhile, she has the right to escape or protect herself from injury, pain or degradation. If she ever has to take on herself, at the spur of the moment, to refrain from going to the mikva for the sake of protecting herself, she can state that she feels physically endangered, is going to ask a rov what to do and that this is a "temporary measure" until she can be directed by a rov. In some cases she may have the right to refrain from going to mikva, in others she may have to go to mikva but can refrain from intimate contact while a husband's behavior is unacceptable (sometimes being available can help promote resolution) and in other cases she may not have a halachic basis to refrain from intimacy (keep in mind that NEITHER SPOUSE IS ALLOWED TO PAIN THE OTHER).

When a wife is frightened or abused, she must go on record with the rov. He must be someone who will be accepted by bais din as a Torah authority whose testimony will have impact. Each time (if, Rachmana litzlon, the abuse is more than once), she should promptly make a detailed report to the rov. Each event should be written down so that a dossier containing the entire history is created and a concrete case is built. If, G-d forbid, the case comes to bais din, the chazaka (or status quo in halacha) would be that a wife goes to mikva regularly for her husband. This detailed file of his misdeeds (threats, abuse, imprisonment in the home, frightening anger, etc.) will be the only basis for saying that THE HUSBAND DEPARTED FROM HIS CHAZAKA OF MARITAL LIVING so that the wife can be seen in halacha as responding acceptably by not going to mikva or by leaving the house.

In each case and at every step, REFER TO THE ROV FOR GUIDANCE. In a case where an abusive husband is himself a learned person, Rachmona litzlan, the wife must refer to a rov who, in Torah learning, is at least equal to, or preferably, greater than the husband. And if you suspect trouble is brewing for yourself or someone else, you can call a rov now to ask what to do in case something abusive will occur.



A man cannot use, nor make boorish demands, upon his wife. The halacha makes the conditions of intimacy extremely clear. The first rule is a verse in the Torah (Exodus 21:10): the husband may not diminish his wife's intimate happiness. A husband must fully satisfy his wife's needs in this domain and this is brought in the Shulchan Aruch (Evven HaEzzer 25:2) as halacha - the man must view himself towards his wife as "paying a debt that obligates him." The halacha puts many obligations on a man as well as a wife. Some samples will follow here, collated from Evven HaEzzer chap. 25 and Rambam's Hilchos Ishus chap. 15).

His thoughts must be spiritually pure and he must want to fulfill the command of his Creator to have children who will add Torah and Mitzvos among the people Israel. He may not speak vulgarity or take the seriousness of this marital relationship lightly. He may not be with her if he feels hate towards her, is thinking about any other woman or intends to divorce her. His speech should make her feel happy. She must be willing, he may not force her and it is incumbent upon him to appease her if she is not willing. She may not unduly refrain because this will pain him. Both must be sober, their conduct must be modest and they both must respect and value each other. The husband may never frighten her, nor be depressed or angry with her. He must always speak with her gently.

These halachos should only be dealt with privately. It is a sad generation when there is so much abuse and violence that any rabbi would even think to publicly write such material, and I feel torn and pained writing this for presentation to the public. With many women being violated and threatened in the last generation, the right and wrong handling of these situations can be very costly and destructive. To be honest, it can be very difficult to know what the right thing to do is, since these cases deal with others who are not in our control and who may be irrational.

I'll end this part by describing briefly an instructive case I saw myself when I was once living and learning in Yerushalayim. A woman in Eretz Yisroel was being abused and she refused to go to mikva in the hope the husband would be motivated to make changes and reconcile. The husband (who obviously "had a screw loose") immediately claimed she was a morredess, threw her and her property physically out and gave her a get with no kesuba. I saw from this how dangerous a policy it is to just not go to mikva, especially without a rov getting two sides to the story and backing her up in bais din. Our generation is like a flock without a shepherd. May Hashem help us, guide us and save us from so much insanity, selfishness, injury and pain.


Rabbi Jeff Forsythe is a specialist in human relations, man-woman compatibility, personal development, psychology and resolution of conflict and of emotional pain. He does PUBLIC SPEAKING AND WORKSHOP PROGRAMS (throughout America), PRIVATE COUNSELING (in Brooklyn) FOR INDIVIDUALS AND COUPLES and business consulting (customer and work relations and negotiations). He has a column in the Jewish Press.

He is a published author, and he produces a large and diverse series with approximately 150 Torah Tapes on vital "life subjects" (marriage, prayer, suffering, human relations, personal growth and fulfillment, self-image, finding one's mate, interpersonal mitzvos, views and laws on livelihood and business, etc.) including over 30 TAPES ON BUILDING AND MAINTAINING A HAPPY AND SUCCESSFUL MARRIAGE RELATIONSHIP.