Judaism is a system for living that is built on obligations as opposed to rights. This is especially true with respect to the Jewish approach to marriage. Obligations foster responsibility and giving. Rights foster a sense of entitlement which can lead to irresponsibility. In Judaism, one is not entitled to anything. Everything good we have is a gift.
So with this in mind, I present Judaism’s Bill of Obligations in Marriage:
I have an obligation to:
1. To be a mensch. (Need I say more? Then let me spell it out for you…)
2. Strive to give my spouse pleasure, not pain.
3. Avoid blaming and attacking my spouse for things that bother me.
4. Express what I need and not expect my spouse to mind read.
5. Take my spouse’s feelings and needs seriously.
6. Make sure that my spouse feels emotionally safe with me.
7. Give my spouse a consistent and enjoyable physical intimacy.
8. Consistently express love and affection.
9. Consistently recognize and express gratitude for the kind things my spouse does for me.
10. Acknowledge and take responsibility for my mistakes.
11. Work with my spouse to find win-win solutions to our problems and disagreements.
12. Seek professional help from a licensed psychotherapist or rabbi if we cannot solve our issues by ourselves.
13. Always speak to my spouse with respect.
14. Always treat my spouse with respect and dignity.
15. Always “fight fair.”
16. Never fight with my spouse in front of our children.
17. Support and encourage my spouse’s personal growth.
18. Always strive to be a good friend to my spouse and share his/her personal struggles.
19. Set boundaries to protect our marriage from damaging, outside influences.
20. Make my spouse my #1 priority — not my career, the children, nor my parents.
21. Never discuss problems in our marriage with anyone without my spouse’s knowledge and permission, unless I am sure he/she won’t mind.
22. Maintain “healthy” boundaries between myself and those of the opposite gender.
23. Be financially responsible.
24. Be happy and know that my spouse is not responsible for my happiness.
25. Strive to create a peaceful and relaxed home environment.
26. Never yell or scream in anger, be violent, cause fear, or be controlling.
27. Let my spouse know where I am, where I’m going, what I’m doing, and who I’m with.
28. Give my spouse his/her space and privacy.
29. Build my spouse up and never tear him/her down.
30. Have fun together and strive for balance in our lives.
31. Never threaten my spouse with divorce.
32. Do my part to ensure that we are working together as a team.
33. Be a mensch! Now you know what it means!