4 Marriage Tips for the Jewish New Year
The Jewish New Year has surprisingly effective suggestions for how to be a fantastic spouse.
One of my favorite things about Judaism is the calendar. We have dedicated times for different things so we know what we’re focusing on. We jack up the joy during the month of Adar and Purim, and we experience freedom during the month of Nissan and Passover.
During the month of Elul, as we ramp up to Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, our job is teshuva. Teshuva, often translated as repentance, is fundamental to a flourishing relationship – with God and your spouse.
Here are some ways you can use this time of change to improve your marriage:
1. Take responsibility.
It’s so easy to let patterns continue unchecked or to slip into a bit (or a lot) of victim mode. In your relationship with God that might mean living life on auto-pilot, without taking time to do deep introspection about your life and values. Or resenting the challenges you’ve been given and not wanting to invest in the relationship.
In your marriage, you can fall into a rut – and it can be hard to generate the energy or motivation needed to get out of it. Or you are so aware of the things you want your spouse to do differently that you don't have the headspace to see what you could be doing differently.
It might not be realistic to expect yourself to never go on relationship auto-pilot or get fixated on what you’d like your partner to do differently. But one month a year you certainly can manage.
This month, focus on YOU:
- How are you showing up in your marriage, and are you happy with that?
- How could you do better?
- Is there anything you need or want to work on to be the spouse you want to be?
2. Teshuva isn’t about how bad you are.
I once had a relationship where the other person, who I love, repeatedly made the same mistake which created a significant inconvenience for me. Her response was to apologize profusely and criticize herself excessively. I wasn’t surprised that she never stopped making this mistake–she used all her remorse on self-blame instead of self-improvement.
When we do teshuva, often translated as repentance, it’s not actually about Jewish guilt. Teshuva comes from the Hebrew root word “shuv” -- to return. The goal is to repair your relationship, not to focus on what you did wrong.
While indulging in some self-hating might seem like it will motivate you to be better, the truth is it just doesn’t work. Seeing your value and our capability is what propels you into being your best self, not endless self-flagellation and criticism.
How can you apply this to your marriage? Notice where you keep tripping up and use that discomfort you’re feeling to figure out how you will do better. (You still may need to apologize, but do so after you’ve determined how you’ll keep it from happening again.)
3. Make amends.
I didn’t grow up knowing the ins and outs of the Jewish calendar, and I remember the first time spending the High Holiday period around more traditional Jews. Suddenly everyone is having really uncomfortable conversations! People are finally getting around to the apology or difficult discussion they’ve been putting off.
This is the time to make amends, with other people and with God.
Of course, the best thing is to apologize and make amends as soon as you need to. But human nature being what it is, you benefit from a little added push from the Jewish calendar.
Now is an auspicious time to make that phone call you’ve been putting off. And if you’ve been needing to make an apology to your spouse and kept thinking you’ll get to it tomorrow, now is the time.
4. We begin with the end in mind.
The important days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are around the corner. Beyond getting our apples, honey, and white clothes ready, you want to make sure your soul is ready. The more you understand what’s coming, the clearer you are on how to prepare.
When you work to repair your marriage, are you remembering what it is you’re working towards? What is the vision you have of your marriage? Spend some time there. The more you flesh out this vision, the more you’ll see what you need to do to get there.
This isn’t always the most comfortable work to do, but I can guarantee it’s the most rewarding. Wishing you a happy and meaningful new year!
You can listen to the episodes on this topic and download a workbook here: https://kaylalevin.com/ep-118-elul-your-marriage-part-1-take-an-accounting/
Featured Image: Unsplash.com, Chermiti Mohamed