Basically, a recent study shows that people who find small ways to show their partners that they care are happier in their marriages. Not surprisingly, when you’re compassionate, loving, just plain nice, you make your partner happier, and you feel happier, too. The research is focused on the small things–like warming up your husband’s side of the bed or peeling your wife’s orange or bringing home his favorite dessert. Apparently, the little things add up.
I read the article and it got me thinking about hot seat, a game my family would play on Friday nights growing up. Each week another family member was chosen to be in the “hot seat” and everyone at the table was required to say something nice about the person.
In our house, we haven’t done much in the way of Shabbat traditions, at least not yet, while our kids are still so young. They eat a ton of challah, but otherwise, it’s pretty much like any other night. But in the interest of making an investment in happiness, both my husband’s and my own, this Friday I’m putting him in the hot seat and bringing Shabbat back in one small way.
Here’s why Jon deserves it: He works his tail off. He saves people’s lives in the hospital room, he saves mine at home. He heaps affection on our kids and he’s as hands on as his job will allow. He’s nicer to the dog than I am. He makes me hot cocoa at night and he stirs out the lumps. If he falls asleep in bed before I do, he lets me wake him up so that I can tell him about what I was reading or a story I forgot to share earlier, before he’d fallen asleep. If we order in, he’s always the designated one to go out and bring the dinner home. He understands that I’m struggling and he’s struggling too, but somehow, it’s usually my struggle that takes precedence and I’m not saying it has to be that way or that this is a good thing, I’m just saying that this is usually how it goes and he’s a very good man.
There’s a Hebrew hymn, Eshet Chayil, or “Woman of Valor,” a biblical poem from the Book of Proverbs that’s traditionally recited by a husband to his wife on Friday night. The poem was probably written by King Solomon, and describes a woman of valor as “one who is energetic, righteous, and capable. She is more precious than rubies.”
This Friday night, I’m acknowledging that I’ve got a man of valor. My own Eesh Chayil.
The thing is, my husband isn’t perfect and our marriage isn’t perfect and our life is far from perfect. A lot of hard stuff has happened. We’ve both suffered tremendous loss in the last few years. We’re unsure about our next steps professionally. We’ve recently moved from the city to the suburbs and to say it’s an adjustment would be an understatement. The new house has leaky ceilings and no furniture and more space but a scary mortgage.
And yet, here we are. I’m sitting up in bed writing this and he’s lying there reading (trying to stay awake) and asking me every once in a while if I’ll be done soon so he can turn out the light and we can go to sleep together.
This Friday night, I am putting my partner in the hot seat to see how it makes both of us feel. If I can stay awake, I plan to sit across from Jon at dinner and tell him why I’m grateful for him. I have a feeling we’ll both feel better afterwards. Because the thing is, this parenting thing, this marriage thing, this life-thing, it’s hard. It helps to have someone remind you that you’re good, every once in a while. And it helps to be reminded of how fortunate you are to share a life with a good person. When a tiny monster has thrown mac and cheese on your shoes and you are tired to the bone, when you miss your dad or you’ve argued with your sister, when you feel lonely or you feel frustrated or you feel bored, something small like hot seat can be just the thing to carry you through to tomorrow. Tell someone why they’re important. Let someone tell you. Feel the ripple effects. Thank me later. Shabbat Shalom.