Judaism is a system for living that is built on obligations as opposed to rights. This is especially true with respect to the Jewish approach to marriage. Obligations foster responsibility and giving. Rights foster a sense of entitlement which can lead to irresponsibility. In Judaism, one is not entitled to anything. Everything good we have is a gift. With this in mind, I present Judaism’s Bill of Obligations in Marriage:
I Have An Obligation To:
Avoid blaming and attacking my spouse for things that bother me.
Express what I need and not expect my spouse to mind read.
Take my spouse’s feelings and needs seriously.
Make sure that my spouse feels emotionally safe with me.
Give my spouse consistent and enjoyable physical intimacy.
Consistently express love and affection.
Consistently recognize and express gratitude for the kind things my spouse does for me.
Acknowledge and take responsibility for my mistakes.
Work with my spouse to find win-win solutions to our problems and disagreements.
Seek professional help from a licensed psychotherapist or rabbi if we cannot solve our issues by ourselves.
Always speak to my spouse with respect.
Always treat my spouse with respect and dignity.
Always fight fair.
Never fight with my spouse in front of our children.
Support and encourage my spouse’s personal growth.
Set boundaries to protect our marriage from damaging, outside influences.
Make my spouse my #1 priority—not my career, the children, nor my parents.
Always strive to be a good friend to my spouse and share his/her personal struggles.
Never discuss problems in our marriage with anyone without my spouse’s knowledge and permission, unless I am sure he/she won’t mind.
Maintain healthy boundaries between myself and those of the opposite gender.
Be financially responsible.
Be happy and know that my spouse is not responsible for my happiness.
Strive to create a peaceful and relaxed home environment.
Never yell or scream in anger, be violent, cause fear, or be controlling.
Let my spouse know where I am, where I’m going, what I’m doing, and who I’m with.
Give my spouse his/her space and privacy.
Build my spouse up and never tear him/her down.
Have fun together and strive for balance in our lives.
Never threaten my spouse with divorce.
Do my part to ensure that we are working together as a team.
Be a mensch!
Rabbi Dov Heller is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who holds Masters Degrees in Clinical Psychology from Antioch University and in Contemporary Theology from Harvard University. He also holds a B.A. in philosophy and was ordained a rabbi in Jerusalem in 1982. He is director of the Aish HaTorah Counseling Center in Los Angeles. This article first appeared on Aish.com.