Last summer, the Orthodox Union presented a Marriage Enrichment Retreat at the Woodcliff Lake Hilton in New Jersey. The event followed the release of the findings of the OU’s landmark online Aleinu Marriage Satisfaction Survey of Orthodox marriages. According to the survey and confirmed by experts on Orthodox marriage, couples often reach a down time in their relationship as they approach 20 years together, often from a lack of communication. In this essay, a woman participant in the retreat from New York, married for more than 25 years, tells how she and her husband were reminded to “communicate, communicate, communicate” to make their strong marriage even better.
My husband and I had the privilege of attending this year’s OU Marriage Enrichment Retreat. I must admit that I was very hesitant about going to an event like this because I was not exactly sure what to expect. But from the moment we set foot in the beautiful hotel and met some of the people, I was put at ease. I remember that one of the first women I had contact with at the “welcome buffet” was Nina Glick, whom I had never met and who, although I didn’t know it at the time, would be one of the workshop speakers at that weekend. We later became very close with both her and her husband, Rabbi Dr. Mordechai Glick, who also spoke at the conference. That was just the beginning of a wonderful Shabbos experience for us.
David and I have been married for 26 years but we actually know each other for thirty. Of all the Erev Shabbos meals that we have shared together over the years, not one compares to the experience we shared on this Erev Shabbos. We were seated among 150 couples who all started singing Sholom Aleichem together, which was beautiful in itself, but what brought me to tears were all the men singing Eishet Chayil to their wives afterwards in unison — it was very moving and beautiful. There was such a feeling of love in that room that it’s hard to describe it in words. But trust me, it was something to experience firsthand.
Over the course of the weekend we listened to many outstanding speakers and met some amazing people from all parts of the country. We heard things that many would think were simply common sense and for the most part they were, but somehow over time my husband and I have forgotten some of them. I am not sure about most couples, but I know from my own experience that after becoming a family it became quite a challenge to find time for just my husband and me. There would always be something that would come up that would throw us back into a “family mode.” Not that we were unhappy, we just didn’t know any different. However I never feel it’s too late to discover things, so even though we both knew that time alone was important we never made it much of a priority, and now we realize just how important a priority it should be.
The essence of the weekend was communication……a lot of us have forgotten how to talk to our spouse like we used to way back when…and over time it’s very easy to get so comfortable with your partner that you forget how you are talking to him or her. I have learned a great deal in that department and my husband will be proud that I am admitting it! But it’s always good to have a sense of humor about such things and that way you can learn and grow together.
I have really done a lot of both and so has my husband. So thank you to the OU for creating such a venue for religious couples to gather, share, and grow and to keep shalom bayit “ad meah v’esrim” (120 years)!
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.