| Family Reflections |

Silly Spouses

See the good in your spouse by looking at him through parent-like eyes

One’s child is perfect. Others may see the youngster as lazy, immature, impulsive, or rude, but parents see their offspring as awesome, amazing, sensitive, brilliant, and flawless. Even when a parent can acknowledge a flaw or two, that slight imperfection is well within the tolerable range and may even be downright adorable. (“Yes, he tends to fabricate things, but oh! What a brilliant imagination he has!”)

Not so with other people’s children. Other people’s children are noisy, mean-spirited, demanding, and often obnoxious. They’re nowhere near as lovable as one’s own little angel. Which might explain why it is so difficult to love one’s spouse.

“My father is a renowned scholar,” says Deena. “He’s mature and wise. His serious and reflective attitude to life gave me the perspective I have till this day. My husband, Aaron, on the other hand, is a clown. He’s always joking around and, believe me, his jokes aren’t even funny. My kids — the oldest of whom is eight — think he’s a riot. Sure! He’s as immature as they are, and I just can’t respect him as a husband. To me, he’s just a silly little boy.”

Aaron, as it turns out, has a good job and supports his family without outside help. He’s responsible and reliable, well-liked by all who meet him. He steps up to the plate when it comes to household chores, doing most of the cooking, at least half of the cleaning, and all of the shopping. Yes, he’s a fun-loving, funny guy. But should that really be causing his wife so much grief? Does his boyish, fun-loving nature render this young man unrespectable and unlovable? What’s this all about?

Negativity Bias

Aaron’s wife Deena is falling into the trap of negativity. We humans easily see what’s wrong in others (except our own children). Once we see it, the blemish wipes out all the good. The mind gets stuck on the flaw and is unable to see all the positive points of the husband’s personality. The flaw might not even be a flaw, but once it’s perceived as such, it acts to erase all the goodness around it.

Deena has some friends whose spouses are irresponsible, unkind, and unhelpful. However, she doesn’t count her blessings, recognizing the strengths her husband brings to the table. Instead, she “can’t respect him because he acts silly.” This extreme negativity is easy to identify as the handiwork of the yetzer hara. Once this young lady’s bias grabs hold of her brain, love and harmony in her home will quickly diminish.

Loving Other People’s Children

Interestingly, one of Deena’s children is very much like her husband: a sweet boy who is loving and helpful, responsible with homework and chores, but who likes to joke around a lot. Deena is crazy about him. “Well, he’s just a child,” she says when challenged. “It’s okay for him to be silly.”

Yes, but chances are good that Deena will still think he’s pretty great if he continues to demonstrate his funny side well into adulthood. And she’d very much want her future daughter-in-law to think he’s pretty great, as well.

One’s spouse is someone’s else’s child. Take a few moments to look at your spouse-child through a parent’s eyes. Imagine diminishing and reframing flaws and highlighting positive attributes. See what’s truly great about your partner, then grow him or her up again and apply that love lens to the adult you live with.

There may still be traits that you don’t like, but they will now be subsumed by the positive view and high regard in which you hold your partner. Often, the problem traits will even morph into positive characteristics (“The children adore him because he’s so funny; he’s such a great dad,” “I still don’t think he’s funny, but when he jokes around, his good nature really shines through.”)

Like a parent who is blinded by love, unable to dwell on, let alone see, the imperfections of her youngster, a spouse can focus almost entirely on his or her partner’s strong points. We can only see what we look at. Deciding to look at the good traits makes them visible. Deciding to look away from the less desirable ones renders them invisible.

When the yetzer hatov directs our vision, we see the beautiful world that Hashem wants us to see. We see the beauty in our children. And we see the beauty in our spouses.

(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 700)

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