Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

29 Adar 5766 - March 29, 2006 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Home and Family

They Do Not Understand
by A. Reader

It is five minutes before Shabbos. The kitchen is sparkling, nothing is out of place, the woman is ready to light, when she notices a dirty coffee cup on the counter. Why does it matter to her? The kitchen will be untidy again anyway, once they have eaten.


She has been working against the clock for three hours so that she can be at her appointment on time. The children are in bed and she is dressed, ready to go when he says, "Would you mind sewing on this button when you have a minute?"


All the children are finally in bed, even the baby, who had his last fling and emptied out the whole toy cupboard again before retiring for the night. The table is set for her husband and herself, and the meal is ready. Why does she feel guilty when he comes in and begins to pick up all the toys? Why does it matter when he comments that he hardly ever sees the children, especially the baby; it is a pity that they are not up for another half hour when he comes home.


One night when her husband came home after a long day at work, a woman was lying on the couch in the dining room, reading a book. Two children were squabbling in the bathroom, three others were playing as if it were early morning; the breakfast dishes were still in the sink and the house looked as chaotic as when he had left in the morning. Even the beds were still unmade.

"What's the matter, darling?" he asked her solicitously, "Are you not feeling well?"

"Oh no, I'm fine, but you come home every evening and ask me what I do all day. So today I didn't do it."

Why did she mind him asking what she did all day? He was only showing an interest.


She scours, scrubs and cleans; it is before Pesach. He declares, "None of this is chometz. You can spring clean some other time." He is right but he doesn't understand.

Why must the house look spic and span when my mother comes, and it does not matter so much when your mother comes?

She does not understand that he needs to solve his problems alone, without chatting about them. He does not like to ask advice. He does not like to ask for directions on the way. Why does he mind when she urges him to ask someone?

We cannot always understand each other, but we can communicate. If there is something which really bothers us, we should discuss it, but when?

We have to work on our middos that we can show genuine interest as we listen to what the other has to say, even if we do not understand or agree. Many conflicts arise through the fact that the partner is not giving the subject their full attention. Therefore, when someone wants to say something important, s/he has to choose a suitable time. We achieve nothing or even make matters worse, if we say it at the wrong time.

However much we need to say something, after working on ourselves, we will not say it when we are angry, nor do we need to say everything we feel. (This is more difficult for some people than for others; so is the self-control it involves.) Furthermore, we need to show that we are really listening and that we have understood what the other person is trying to say.

There are two ways to set about this. One is to inject the occasional question like, "Was this even before you sat down?" The second thing to do is to sum up what has been said. For instance, "What you mean is that you were already upset this morning before you left the house, because you always remember our wedding anniversary, and I never do?" If someone feels that they have not been understood, they may repeat the same fact over and over again, not realizing that the other person heard it very well the first time.

Positive speech is always better than negative. "I'll be happy to sew that button on when I come in. Just leave it on the back of the chair," is fine, whereas, "Why do you always ask me when you know I am in a hurry," is creating conflict. Besides, 'always' and 'never' are taboo words. He does not 'always' ask, when she is in a hurry.


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