A woman wanted to get married. According to a widely circulated, word-of-mouth tale, here is her story: She met many men but was always disappointed. None of them had the combination of traits she felt she deserved. Despairing, she consulted a famous rabbi, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, also known as the Lubavitcher Rebbe. He was respected around the world for giving sage advice to whoever sought it.
She told the Rebbe that she wanted a man who was always kind, considerate, generous, sensitive, assertive, a good listener, handsome, healthy, reliable, and responsible, and who would be a good provider and a good father to the children she hoped they would have. “I’m afraid I’ll never find such a man,” she added.
“Certainly, you can find him,” the Rebbe replied. “You can find him in a novel.” (1)
In real life, people have imperfections. (Yes, you too!) So when your partner disappoints you, ask yourself how important it is in the grand scheme of things that he or she behave exactly as you would like and possess only excellent character traits.
For example, you may have a husband who is a considerate, responsible partner who has a great sense of humor and other traits you value. It happens, though, that you love receiving flowers from him, but he rarely gives them because he thinks they are a waste of money. Do you want to kvetch and whine that you shouldn’t have to “settle” for this “inconsiderate cheapskate”?
What if you are annoyed by your wife’s habitual lateness? Yet you value her joie de vivre, creativity, helpfulness, and other fine traits. Will you grumble that you deserve better and think that if she really loved you she would be on time? Instead, let go of unrealistic expectations. Buy your own flowers or live without them. One wife bought a lovely painting of flowers that’s now on a wall in her dining room. It cheers her to see it from her seat at the table.
Work around her lateness when it’s not crucial to be somewhere on time, and tell her in advance when it really matters. Negotiate creatively by using positive communication skills and doing so when both of you are calm, sober, well rested, and not hungry.
Appreciate your partner’s strengths and work around the limitations, and your partner will be more likely to do the same for you. If your relationship is basically healthy, you are not settling in the sense of accepting less than you deserve. You are settling down into living in harmony with your spouse. You have a marriage that is reality based. It is less than 100 percent perfect. It’s real life.
1. This story is a paraphrased version that captures the essence of what actually happened as reported by Chana Sharfstein in “Searching the Novels for Perfect Love?” The Rebbe.org, undated, http://www.chabad.org/therebbe/article_cdo/aid/1218085/jewish/Searching-the-Novels-for-Perfect-Love.htm, accessed August 7, 2013.
2. Seven positive communication skills are described step by step in Chapters 7, 8, and 9, in Marriage Meetings for Lasting Love: 30 Minutes A Week to the Relationship You’ve Always Wanted, by Marcia Naomi Berger. The contents of this article are mainly from the part of Chapter 2, which debunks the marriage myth: “I shouldn’t have to settle for less: I deserve better.”
Woman thinking photo available from Shutterstock