To Love, Honor and Cherish…
It would seem to make common sense that honoring one’s spouse is an essential part of any marriage relationship, and yet, the sages go out of their way to remind husbands of the importance of honoring their wives: “Rabbi Chelbo said: One must always observe the honor due to his wife, because blessings rest on a man’s home only on account of his wife, as it says (Genesis 12:13) ‘Abraham was enriched because of her [Sarah]‘…” (Baba Metzia 59a) and “A man must love his wife as much as he [loves] himself, and honor her more than himself” (Yevamot 62b).
Our sages’ advice is an excellent guide to a balanced marriage. When a man treats his wife with honor, she returns it in kind.* When a woman feels loved, honored and respected by her spouse, it is in her nature to then give her utmost to help her husband succeed in all of his endeavors. Thus the sages note that Raba said to his community: “Honor your wives, that you may be enriched” (Baba Metzia 59a).
While the power-dynamic in marriage has leveled out greatly in the last century, the wisdom of the sages remains: Respect and honor of one’s spouse is the foundation of a happy marriage.
*This is the understanding of Jewish wisdom in the majority of situations. Obviously there are exceptions to these rules. (The Talmud even notes the case of Rav, who treated his wife with the utmost respect even though she was nasty to him–see Yevamot 63a).
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