If you’re religious or hold traditional values and are looking to know how to blend your values along with marriage counseling, you’ll appreciate this article which is sourced in biblical references having to do with marriage. It’s written by an Orthodox Rabbi, but the message is non-denominational. All those looking for Christian marriage counseling or bible-based marriage therapy can appreciate these sources.
More inspiration on biblical marriage counseling:
- Principles for a happy, biblical marriage
- What does the Bible say about marriage?
- Marriage Encounter Christian marriage retreats
- Christian Marriage Counseling Near You
What does the Bible have to say about marriage?
And Moses brought the people to meet God. . . This teaches that the Divine Presence went forth to meet them, like a bridegroom who goes forth to meet the bride . . .~ traditional Jewish commentary (Rashi) on Exodus 19:17
From the love story detailed in Song of Songs to the wedding customs that hark back to God’s revelation at Sinai, marriage is used throughout Scripture as a metaphor for the relationship between God and man. Why was the marriage between husband and wife chosen to depict our relationship with the Divine?
What is meant by the passage, “You shall walk after the Lord, your God” (Deuteronomy 13:5)? How is it possible for a human being to walk after the Shekhina (the Divine Presence)? Doesn’t it say, “For the Lord, your God is a consuming fire” (ibid 4:24)? This is what it means: You shall follow the attributes of the Holy One, blessed be He. Just as he clothes the naked … so should you also clothe the naked. The Holy One, blessed be He, visited the sick . . . so should you also visit the sick ~Talmud, Sotah 14a
The ideal we strive for is to walk in God’s ways – as He is a “consuming fire.” To emulate God. When we emulate the Divine attributes of mercy and compassion in our relationship with all of creation, we bring Godliness into the world. There is no greater human relationship that provides us this opportunity to be holy than that of a husband and wife. In fact, the word for betrothal in Hebrew, kiddushin, means consecration and sanctification. As we are consecrated towards each other, we are compelled to become sensitive to the needs of an “other.”
On the other hand, it is through the marital relationship itself that we can better understand what it means to be in relationship with God. We are commanded to love God, yet it is through human love that we are able to even begin to fathom what love is. One can better understand what it means to be humble before God and to go beyond our ego by practicing these virtues in our own committed relationship.
Yet while these ideas may also apply to other interpersonal relationships, couple-hood is unique in that it calls us to wholeness.
A man who is not married is not a man, for the verse says, “Male and female He created them” (Bereishit 1:27) and He called them Man. (Talmud Yevamot 63a)
Ancient Jewish mysticism (Zohar part I, 91b) explains that husband and wife are really one soul that was divided in half—half of it in a male body and its other half in a female body. Finding our destined partner enables us to find our lost half and return to our original wholeness. This is why marriage is accompanied by an unparalleled amount of joy. God has brought the couple together and the Divine plan has become manifest.
A Roman matron once asked Rabbi Yosi ben Chalafta, “Now that God has finished creating the universe, what does he do?” The rabbi replied that God now makes matches, bringing couples together so that they can marry each other. ~ Midrash Rabbah (Bereishit 68:4)
Believing that marriage is a “match made in Heaven” provides solace to couples when the luster begins to wear off, for even the rough patches are integral to achieving our original wholeness.
In our increasingly confusing world, wholesome family values and the idea of marriage as a commitment til death do us part, are often scorned. If you are seeking traditional marriage counseling, make sure it is based on sources with similar values about marriage, or is at least respectful enough of where you are coming from. Otherwise, you don’t want to go to marriage counseling to save your relationship and wind up being encouraged to get divorced.
Hillel used to say: “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? And if I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?” (Ethics of the Fathers 1:14)
Hillel’s famous aphorism in Ethics of the Fathers provides us great insight into human relationships and especially marriage.
3 Questions to Ask Yourself if you Want a Biblically Based Marriage
1) If I am not for myself, who will be for me?
No one else can change your reality but you. You cannot rely on anyone else to help you, especially if you do not help yourself. What can you do to change the situation? Part of emotional maturity in a relationship is taking personal responsibility. While it may be easy to focus on what your spouse is doing wrong, the only person you have the power to change is yourself. Waiting for your spouse to change will only bring you heartache. This victim mentality is paralyzing as it holds us back from seeking a real solution for our situation and it leads to further resentment and ill will.
I am always amazed when I hear stories about successful people who have overcome adversity. How did they get through those challenges in their life? They did not wallow in self-pity. They picked themselves up and did what they could to achieve what they wanted in their life.
In a marriage, it takes two to tango. We both contribute to the situation in which we find ourselves, for good or for bad.
If your relationship is strained, what are you doing to bring this rupture about? What can you do differently to change the situation? How can you be the best spouse you can be? When you develop an attitude of personal responsibility, it has a ripple effect in the relationship. It is actually a more effective way of bringing about change in your spouse than blaming them for your woes and expecting them to do the work.
2) And if I am only for myself, what am I?
The trap of personal responsibility is that we can become self-righteous. When our spouse is upset, we may quip, “I have worked on myself. This is your ‘stuff’ and you need to deal with it.” Our personal growth should not come at the expensive of being callous to another in pain.
Being in relationship is the greatest opportunity to develop compassion for another human being.
Lend a caring ear, validate their feelings, and provide empathy for their situation. Knowing they can count on you to be there for them in their pain, is often what they may need to heal and move forward.
3) And if not now, when?
There is no better moment to heal your relationship than now. Couples fool themselves by thinking their relationship can coast on auto-pilot and they can work on it later. Life is busy and it may seem like there are more pressing issues to attend to than your relationship.
Big mistake. Don’t wait until your kids get older and leave the house. Don’t wait until you make more money and can afford to get help. We never know how much time we have on this planet. Tragic stories of people who are here today and gone tomorrow wake us up and provide us with a greater appreciation of the present. Now is the time to create your ideal relationship. Now is the time to start being kinder and more appreciative to your spouse. Now is the time to make your marriage a priority. Asking yourself, “If not now, when?” reminds you of your sacred duty to wake up and take action. Don’t look back on the missed opportunity and regret years of your relationship that could have been remarkable.
If you’re looking for Christian Marriage Counseling or Marriage Counseling that will safely support your religious values, look no further. Our marriage retreat, while not specifically religious, will provide you with an environment that will safely support your marriage in a way that is in line with your religious values. Click here to read more about The 2 Day Marriage Restoration Retreat.
There’s nothing quite like the power of gaining clarity on a confusing situation. Complete the form below to talk with Rabbi Slatkin to see what he thinks would be best for you and your unique situation.