On Passover, we mention the 4 sons: the Wise, the Wicked, the Simple one and the “Child Who Doesn’t Know How to Ask.” These children represent 4 different approaches to engaging with and learning about the laws of Passover. It is said the last son is so dis-engaged from Judaism he doesn’t even know the story well enough to be able to engage with the story of Exodus and ask questions.
I was reflecting on the concept of the son “Who Doesn’t Know How to Ask” and thought to myself, we can learn from this son about how not to approach entering a long term committed relationship.
The other week I was at the bank, talking to a young male banker and explaining my business to him. I explained that as a marriage therapist, not only do I help couples who are in crises mode, but I also help people overcome barriers to finding love and young couples who are eager to learn new relationship tools so they can start off their relationship on the right foot. His initial response as I explained this to him was, “May I never need your services.”
While on the one hand I fully empathize and hope his marriage is so unique and strong that he and his wife are able to create solutions to any challenge that come their way. On the other, it made me feel sorry for him that he believes that the next many years of his life will run smoothly, simply because as he believes that coming from a good family and marrying into a good family is all he needs.
When I reflect on my practice over the past 20 years and I think about the range of clients I’ve had from the many varied backgrounds and cultures, the couples who have come out the strongest were those who were able to be humble and admit that there is so much to learn and know about love and relationships. They realize there is so much that goes on behind closed doors that they didn’t learn from their parents.
Those who struggle the most believed that they know everything there is to know about relationships because they read several Get Help Books, watch Dr. Phil and they should be just fine.
Everyone has a different definition of what a successful marriage is. Who we were when we start out and who we become changes over time. When we live life to the fullest, engross our lives into that of child rearing, career and personal growth and development, things naturally get stirred up within us and within our relationships. Some of these things we are equipped to navigate on our own.
Other times we get triggered by things that push on our subconscious buttons that can cause us lots deep discomfort and pain. Because these triggers are sitting on subconscious wounds, we are unaware of why we are in so much pain. We respond to our partners in a way of defending ourselves and blocking the pain. These reactions can cause the relationship dynamic to spin out of control, suddenly.
We discover over time that the way our parents modeled for us how to do things is different to how we want to do them. We had certain ideas about finances and raising children and vacation and spending leisure time when we first got married that are completely different now. Our needs change. Where we needed lots of time and space before, we are simply unable to take that space simply because it no longer fits in with the demands of married life with children. Throw yourself into the sandwich generation and your commitments have now just been doubled. The stress is that much greater. If you feel unsupported by the person you married, you can feel very alone and abandoned.
Our busy lives can feel exhausting. Especially during those challenging times when we disagree about how to do things. We are pushed and pulled by so many different demands. We forget who we are, what are dreams were when we first started out.
In some ways, I am envious of the young banker, she’lo nitztarech – the attitude that my services should never be required. I am envious of the fact that he is still living on cloud nine without a care in the world. On the other hand, I feel for him. I feel for the fact that he has no clue what lies ahead. And along with the naivete, the “One who Doesn’t Know What to Ask” attitude comes the foregoing of responsibility. Throwing all caution to the wind and saying, “whatever will be will be. Que Sera Sera as they say…
While we can’t control everything in life, having a plan or a vision in place can go a long way. Taking the alternative approach, simply hoping for the best, without any sort of vision or plan, you may end up on a path that makes you unhappy and ultimately take out your dissatisfaction on your partner.
Whether you are at the beginning of married life, somewhere in the middle, or further along it’s never too late to take pause and consider how your marriage is fueling you. Sometimes we need to take a hard detour and consider new ways and approaches to our lives. Many are good at reassessing their business goals. How many of us invest as much in our most important asset, ourselves, our marriages and our family?
I wish for all of you to have a long and happy marriage. I want to encourage and inspire to rather than fall into the category of the son who “Doesn’t Know How to Ask,” be like the Wise son. He has such a healthy thirst for learning and living life to the fullest that he can’t ask enough questions, even though he already knows so much. For there is so much more all of us that we can learn.