the schmooze

"Di Katastrofe" of Marital Disputes

Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe
Syosset, New York

Having been married for almost "fuftsik" (50) years, I know from experience that disagreements in a marriage are inevitable. Why there's even a Yiddish proverb that goes, "Tov lashevet al pinat gag me'eshet midyaneem u'vait chaver."  (It is better to reside in a corner on the roof, than with a quarrelsome woman in a great mansion.)

The Jewish tradition places importance on peace in the home--Shalom bayit.  Joyce Eisenberg and Ellen Scolnic ("Dictionary of Jewish Words") says, "The Jewish tradition of Shalom bayit requires, among other things, that family members not raise their voices to one another in anger, that a husband treat his wife as nicely as he would treat a neighbor ("shokhn"/"shokente"), and that the commandments for children to treat parents with respect goes both ways.

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, the Jewish Dr. Phil, has eight children.  He says that "parents must first focus on being good people, then on having a healthy, loving relationship, and finally, on being the best parents they can"

Some couples have an argument ("tayne") even before the wedding "tseremonye."

The 2008 Broadway show, "A Catered Affair," starring Harvey Fierstein, Faith Prince, and Tom Wopat, is set in 1953 in the Bronx.  Janey Hurley and Ralph Holloran decide to get married.  The couple does not want a large, expensive wedding.  The bride's family needs the money to save their family taxi business.  But a dinner with the groom's wealthier family leads Aggie, the bride's mother, to decide to give the couple a huge formal affair  Relationships are strained to the breaking point under the pressure of costly bridesmaids' bouquets, cake layers, etc.  Will the couple survive the strain?

A bride-to-be wrote to the "answer maven" at Atlantic Jewish Life:

Q.  Everything was going fine until I got engaged.  Then I started spiraling out of control with all the wedding plans, not to mention how many times I've fought with my fiance over the color of the tablecloths at our reception ("kaboles-ponim"). I'm stressed out. How can I keep from totally turning into Bridezilla?

The "answer maven" said--in part--"And as for your finance, why does he have to know anything?  Ignorance is bliss, my friend, especially when it comes to choosing tablecloth colors...Give the groom one or two important jobs (like booking your wedding night hotel), and leave him out of the rest." 

According to a new study of 150 couples, conducted at the University of Utah, women who swallow their anger during marital disputes are more likely to die of heart disease than women who speak their minds. (This is contrary to the Yiddish proverb, "Vos vainiker me ret, iz als gezunter"--the less you talk, the better off you are.)  The couples, who were videotaped, were discussing sensitive subjects such as how they managed money or household chores. When men dominated the conversation and made cutting remarks while the wives sat mostly silent, researchers found subsequent analysis of the women's heart found high levels of coronary calcification--a sign of heart disease.  Men, on the other hand, suffered no ill effects from "self-silencing," and showed more evidence of heart disease IF arguments with their wives turned into an open battle for control, instead of a more cooperative discussion on how to make things "beser."

The researcher, Timothy W. Smith, told The New York Times, "Can you do it [argue] in a way that gets your concerns addressed but without damage at the same time?"

Some Jewish women are the type who can say in a calm voice, "Ikh hob tsu dir a tayne" (I have a complaint to bring to you)... or "Makh nit keyn tsimes fun dem" (Don't make a fuss about it).

Some advice:  Try NOT to resort to using the following Yiddish expressions during marital disputes:

And the worst expression:

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Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe is the author of
two books:
yiddish for dog and cat loversbook
"Yiddish for Dog & Cat Lovers" and
"Are Yentas, Kibitzers, & Tummlers Weapons of Mass Instruction?  Yiddish
Trivia."  To order a copy, go to her

NU, what are you waiting for?  Order the book!

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