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Lessons Learned from 30 Years of Marriage

June 20, 2021 | by Chaya Parkoff

7 lessons I've learned the hard way.

My husband and I recently celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary. I am so grateful to God that we have reached this milestone, and I pray that I may never take my husband or my marriage for granted.

I have learned a lot of lessons over the last 30 years, some the hard way, and some the harder way! Here are a few.

1. While matches are made in heaven, marriages are made right here on earth with your sleeves rolled up. Marriage takes work. And a good marriage takes a lot of work.

2. “While you can’t go into marriage expecting your spouse to change, you must go into marriage expecting your spouse will change!” My wise husband coined this phrase a few years ago and it is so true. You can't marry "potential" or your wishful thinking of who a person can become. At the same time, people grow and change (hopefully in good ways). Anytime I start a sentence with "Well, it used to be..." or "But it's always been like...." I am living in the past instead of the here and now.

3. Marriage is not you + me = you and me. It is you + me = WE.

Rabbi Benjamin Blech wrote on the occasion of his 60th wedding anniversary: “Sharing is the recognition that 'I' is not as important as 'we' – and that may well be the profound hidden meaning in the word 'wedding', in which the 'we' comes before the 'I'."

As Rabbi Paysach Krohn once said, “The difference between UNITED and UNTIED is where you put the 'I'."

4. My aunt (who's been married for 63 years) had told me that a couple she knew had decided to get divorced due to “irreconcilable differences.” Her immediate thought was that if every couple who had irreconcilable differences got divorced, no one would stay married. I have found that the reconciling of differences very often takes place between one's own ears rather than between the two people.

(Don't get me wrong. I am not saying that there is never a reason to get divorced or judging people who are divorced.)

5. “Be willing to hock your wedding ring for good counseling and good cleaning help.”

I heard these words of wisdom from Rebbetzin Zahava Braunstein, of blessed memory. Seeking support from a professional is not an act of weakness, but rather a demonstration of commitment and strength.

6. I don't have a relationship with my husband. I have a relationship with the thinking I have about my husband and my marriage.

I don't know about you, but I can wake up sometimes and everything my husband does annoys me. And yet I can wake up the very next day and those very things that annoyed me yesterday are no big deal today; or are even endearing to me today! How is that possible?

The mind is a very powerful thing! We see and feel what we are thinking, not the other way around (despite popular belief). Our feelings don't determine our thinking. Our thinking at any given moment determines our feelings and the way we see the world at any given moment. And thinking is not limited to conscious thought, the thoughts we are consciously aware of. Rather, our thinking also includes subconscious thought, unconscious thought, habits of thought that we might not even be aware of. And our thinking can change - just like that.

7. One of the best things you can do for your marriage is work on developing yourself. And the best way I have found to do that is by delving into Judaism's precious wisdom with the right teachers and mentors.

I pray that God grants us another 30+ years together in good health and joy.

(And a shout out to my husband Seth for putting up with all of my shenanigans these last 30 years!)

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