| Family Reflections |

The One Thing That Matters

Spouses are flawed by design


Shiffy: I can never tell Yoni my problems because he’s so unsympathetic. I know he doesn’t like emotionality, but I have feelings! I need a supportive husband.

Chaya (Shiffy’s best friend): It sounds so hard, Shiffy. But Yoni is a good guy. A lot of men aren’t great at giving emotional support. But he learns, he makes a good living, he’s trustworthy and honest, and he’s a great father, right? And you’ve told me a million times how he never gets angry, how he’s so appreciative and thoughtful. So even if he isn’t the most sensitive and understanding when it comes to feelings, you have other supportive people in your life.

Shiffy: You don’t understand, Chaya. This is the one thing that I need the most. I need him to “get” me. Without that, nothing else matters.

The One Thing

It’s funny how this works. A spouse can have a million things going for them, but “the one thing” that is most needed seems to be missing. There are two possible explanations for this phenomenon. One is that the missing item isn’t truly “the one thing.” For instance, if Shiffy were to get divorced, she would probably be careful to select a new marriage partner who definitely would be able to provide “the one thing” that was missing in her first marriage. But in all likelihood, this second spouse would have a different flaw that would now rate as “the one thing” that’s missing in her new marriage. In other words, something important will be missing from every marriage, and every spouse will experience the phenomenon of “the one missing thing” that feels like the only thing that really matters.

A second explanation for “the one thing” phenomenon is that Hashem looks into the heart of each person and provides the exact spouse who will be lacking “the one thing” that the person feels she really needs in her marriage. For instance, if the one thing that a woman needs her husband to provide is financial security, then that will be the one thing he’s unable to provide. If the one thing she needs is affirmation, then providing compliments and positive feedback will be the one thing her husband can’t seem to do. If the one thing she really needs is a person who is devoted to learning, it will turn out that her husband struggles mightily in this area.

If intentional design is the true cause of “the one thing” phenomenon, we might wonder why Hashem would create this lack when He could so easily have fulfilled the need. Of course, we already know that Hashem creates lack so that we’ll turn to Him. The name of the game here is, after all, to develop a relationship with Hashem. When our hearts are broken, when we’re missing what we so badly need, who will we turn to...? Exactly.

The Missing Thing

Unfortunately, common wisdom tells us 1) a human partner can fulfill each and every one of our needs, 2) we’ve chosen the wrong person if that person isn’t fulfilling each and every one of our needs, 3) the next person we choose will be able to do what no other human being can ever do (i.e., fulfill each and every one of our needs), 4) marriage is only about having our needs fulfilled by someone, 5) we can’t be happy or have a good marriage unless our spouse fulfills all our needs, and particularly, “the one thing that matters most.”

This formula for human misery is very successful at creating human misery. Instead of enjoying our humanly flawed relationships, we’re permanently dissatisfied. Convinced that attaining “the one thing that matters most” will grant us a life of peace, joy, and blessing, we look in all the wrong places for the key to our happiness. Let’s exchange “the one thing that matters” trope for a life of giving, building, and truly appreciating. Let’s allow ourselves to bask in Hashem’s goodness to us, to fully and truly enjoy every gift we receive, including those that are channeled through our spouse. Let’s learn how to find happiness in every breath because, let’s face it, the project will keep us so busy that we won’t even notice that we’re missing “the one thing” that our spouse lacks.


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 900)

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