Your wedding day, glorious as it was, is now behind you. Family and friends still talk about your special day, bringing a smile, warmth and even a glow to your face. Still, everyday life edges out those loving and sacred moments, at least on most weekdays. You’re newlyweds. What now? How do you make certain that everyday life doesn’t totally eclipse the joy and wonder of that first day together? Here’s some advice for you newlyweds.
Most clergy meet with couples at least two or three times prior to their wedding, offering them advice and counsel before they are married. The Jewish tradition offers lots of wisdom on the subject of marriage, applicable to those about to marry, newlyweds, and couples who’ve been together for decades. For example, in the Book of Deuteronomy we read: “When a man has taken a bride, he shall not go out with the army… he shall be exempt one year for the sake of his household, to give happiness to the woman he has married” (24:5). We learn from this ancient text that the first year of marriage ought to be set apart from the familiar and the routine. Regardless of whether you are a soldier, urban “warrior”, entrepreneur or serve in some other job or profession, your marital “job” is to be home and available to your new spouse. Making time for each other is essential as you go about establishing patterns that will last you your entire lifetime together.
We also learn from the Deuteronomical text, by extension, that courtship doesn’t need to stop just because you’ve had a marriage ceremony; you should plan to spend special time together, akin to back when you were dating. Despite the challenges of work and family, date each other once a week to keep your marriage fresh and full of wonder. Plan gentle surprises for your spouse: make reservations at her/his favorite restaurant; buy her/him a favorite film on DVD/On Demand and have popcorn ready; together, cook a special, simple dinner at home (Pizza night! Taco night!); go for a long walk outside at sunset; go to Kabbalat Shabbat services at your local synagogue; or, just work out together, encouraging each other when the work is challenging.
In Jewish tradition, the Sabbath table in one’s home is likened to a miqdash me’at—“a small sanctuary.” Your home should be a sanctuary of sorts, providing a space for the sacred, but also serve as a refuge for the two of you. It’s customary in traditional Jewish circles for a the husband to recite to his wife each Friday evening Proverbs 31:10-31, which opens with the words, “What a rare find is a capable wife! Her worth is far beyond that of rubies,” and closes with, “Extol her for the fruit of her hand, and let her works praise her in the gates.” Love is renewed not in extraordinary, but with an extraordinary appreciation of the seemingly mundane.
Two last tips:
Many Jewish couples dip their bread in honey during the first year of their marriage.
Never go to bed angry.