A friend recently recommended a book that changed my life. At least for a few days. And then it didn’t.
The concepts at first seemed so empowering and enlightening, and they worked brilliantly. What happened?
The book is “First, Kill All the Marriage Counselors” by Laura Doyle. I would never have read it, except that the person who suggested it is someone I admire, someone I would never have imagined needed to read a book like that.
The premise of the book, which has no overtly Jewish or religious themes but at its core is about shalom bayit (peace in the home), is that men need respect, which I had heard. But in this case the writer also explains how women need to replenish our spirits with self-care and to learn to recognize what we really want. As women, we have much more power than we may realize, Doyle writes, and we set the tone of the marriage.
She recommends doing three things every day that make us happy, really happy. Whether it’s playing beach volleyball, painting pottery, having coffee with a girlfriend or browsing the local bookstore, she prescribes no less than three stints of happiness and self-care per day.
Even in a modern world where women work outside the home, handle the finances and run many aspects of daily life, she says not to try to control our husbands; we should reveal our hearts with vulnerability and express gratitude.
Men inherently want to please their wives; they want to be loving and adore them. First women need to show respect, and soon the love will flow.
Doyle and her method have helped hundreds of thousands of couples in dozens of countries.
I wondered if her advice also could help me, a religious Jewish woman who observes Torah and mitzvot. My husband and I both work full time and are busy caring for four children.
But I started trying to use the tools prescribed in the book. Expressing my desires in an inspiring way? Check. Giving compliments and saying thank you for things I normally took for granted? Check.
At first, the difference was magical. I was beaming with joy and filled with massive amounts of love and contentment. But after the spell suddenly subsided, I was left confused. Maybe my past limitations could never be overcome.
Then I watched a video by Chana Weisburg on Chabad.org about the Torah portion, and things became more clear. It is a long and difficult journey to become free and overcome any type of limitations, Weisburg explains. Only G-d truly has power over us — not our past traumas or current challenges.
Yes, as a woman, I set the tone of the marriage and the home. I had read the book and practiced its clever concepts and terminology, but I had forgotten to let G-d in.
In last week’s Torah portion, Bo, we left Egypt, and in this week’s portion, Beshalach, Pharaoh chases us. The sea splits, the Jews cross over, and the Egyptians drown — and we finally experience liberation.
The word “Egypt” means limitations. Even once freed from our limitations — finances, health, emotional trauma — we may suffer residual fear and uncertainty. Pharaoh pursues us even after we’ve escaped Egypt. The fear controlling us is the Pharaoh we allow to remain in our own lives.
So how do we free ourselves from the demons of the past and move forward? By splitting our own inner sea — a metaphor for the material world that is hiding the divine life force. To transform the sea means to reveal that neither we nor our world are ever separate from G-d. Becoming free may be a long journey, but we can begin by realizing that only G-d has power over us. Not Pharaoh and not our past traumas or limitations.
Only a marriage with G-d’s presence will ever truly be one of peace, love and fulfillment. So while the book offered a springboard for daily living, my faith and spiritual connection are the foundation of the relationship and our home.
It’s going to take practice and prayer for the improvements to permeate. But at least now I have some of the tools to be successful, as well as the realization that G-d, not my limitations, is in control.