Harmony in the Home

Harmony in the Home/Shalom Bayit is a key concept in traditional Jewish marriage. Literally meaning peace or harmony in the home and it refers to any practice or behavior likely to promote those ends. Building a Jewish home requires insight, knowledge and continued learning. In this weekly section you will learn what you can do to enhance and preserve the Shalom Bayit in your home so that you can reap the benefits of peace in the home. You will receive practical and earnest advice while learning about what our Rabbis teach concerning this holy subject matter.

This section is meant for women over the age of 20 or women already engaged to be married.


Why Does My Wife Think I’m Not Sincere, Especially When I Offer To Help Around The House?

Men often think they are being sincere and honest, and perhaps they are on some level. However, what men say and what a woman hears are miles apart. Men have to try and understand how their words come across.

When a man says, “If you need any help, I’ll be happy to help you,” he thinks he is being nice and displaying care.

But the wife hears, “I am going to go lie down on the couch to relax. If you really, desperately need me, then you can come and disturb my peace, and I will reluctantly get up from the couch and help you in the kitchen.  I’ll have to give up my time and be a martyr.”

Hmmm. That is not a very convincing offer. Even though a man did not specifically say those words, between the lines he implies a willingness to help, but not an enthusiasm. He is not presenting himself as being at his wife’s service, but rather as not opposed to doing what she asks, if absolutely necessary. Therefore, the wife does not feel supported by this offer, because it is a passive offer. Men have a tendency to be extremely passive.  In so doing, they make a woman feel as though they are doing her a “favor,” and she should be forever indebted to them for their “masculine” gesture of bothering to get off the couch to throw out the garbage.

Is it any wonder a woman feels her husband is sincere?  Perhaps if a man would learn to express himself differently, he may accomplish more.  Here is an example of how sincerity can be displayed:

“Me dear wife, I’m here for you. I want to devote the next hour only to you. Tell me what I can do to help.”

The words are only slightly different. But the meaning is far reaching. In this case, the husband is making himself available, putting himself at her service, and letting her know it. There is no “if.” He is not requiring her to interrupt him; he is completely there for her, at her beck and call, ready for instructions. When a man offers to help in this way, the offer will generally be received amiably because it was presented sincerely. The husband has made an active offer, rather than a passive one.

Men can learn the idea of actively offering to help from an event that transpired 3000 years ago when Am Yisrael accepted the Torah on Har Sinai. Hashem wanted to give them His laws, but before they even heard the first commandment, Bnei Yisrael committed themselves to fulfilling His will. They said, “naaseh v’nishma – we will do and then we will hear. Without knowing what Hashem was going to ask of them, the answer was already, “yes, we will do it. Now let’s hear what it is that You want.”

There is no doubt that men genuinely want to to support their wives. They just need to express it in a way that their wives will hear. A husband can actively offer his help so that his wife feels he is not there for the garbage, but for her.