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No Expiration Date on Your Spouse’s Need for Respect and Appreciation

January 11, 2022 | by Emuna Braverman

The older you get the more important it is to intensify your efforts to fulfill your spouse’s needs.

There is a story in the Book of Genesis that I always find beautiful and slightly puzzling. The Almighty deliberately hides from Abraham the fact that his wife Sarah said he was old.

The thing is, he was old. Ninety-nine to be precise! Was Abraham so sensitive about his age? And by then, they had been married for over 70 years. Did he really need her to think of him as young, or conversely would he really be insulted to hear that she considered him old? I understand the lesson about sensitivity in marriage but is really still necessary at their advanced ages?

The Torah seems to be saying that the answer is yes.

Perhaps we should look at ourselves and our marriages and to continue to be sensitive in our relationships even as we too start getting older (although not quite 99!). It’s a well-known idea that men crave respect. We might think that the need fades with time. Haven’t they already achieved so much? Don’t they already know how much we respect them? Haven’t we been telling them for years? Do we really still need to demonstrate my respect?

The Torah seems to be suggesting yes. The need/desire to be respected by the one person in the world whose opinion really matters to you never fades. It may even intensify. Perhaps as our husbands’ impact on the world fades, their need for respect grows, and we (and perhaps their children and grandchildren) may be the only external source of it.

Whatever the circumstances, it would be a mistake to think there is an expiration date on our husband’s need for respect and our obligation to offer it.

Simultaneously, our desire to be loved and even admired physically doesn’t seem to diminish with time. Even as the wrinkles encroach, even as our hair turns gray, even as our knees and backs and hips start to creak, we want to be told how beautiful we look (and we may even go to some desperate lengths to try to encourage that praise!). Like men, I suspect that our need for that admiration may increase proportionately to our aging process as opposed to decreasing.

When I first read that story in the Torah, I almost thought it was silly. I was young and being sensitive to aging seemed a long way in the distance. Now, after covering a significant portion of that distance (!), it looks very different. I applaud the need for sensitivity and recognize with new appreciation the importance of intensifying my respect and admiration for my husband, not to mention his need to intensify his appreciation in return!

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