Updated: Sep 13, 2022
So my husband likes animals, and so does our son. Unfortunately I do not. Recently (after the chickens in the backyard were eaten and the fish in their tank all died), my husband bought a bird. A cute little yellow singing bird, safely tucked away in a cage for our son to take care of. The first few days it was quiet, and all was good. But then the little bird got comfortable. And began to sing! Or rather SCREECH actually. As in, right after the kids left for school in the morning, apparently it was as excited as I was, and it would begin to trill, chirp and warble at the top of its tiny lungs! (Look, I’m happy, and sometimes I sing in the mirror, but this was a whole other level!) I could not carry a conversation on the phone, much less hear myself think. Gosh. So I handled it for a few days, speaking on the phone only in my room with the door closed. But it got to be ridiculous. I mean, this is my house. Why do I have to be stuck in my room because of my son’s yellow bird? And, here I am, trying to relax over breakfast after the morning rush, and I literally can not sit at my table because this tiny bird decides to be so LOUD! So, I went to my husband and said- “I love how you support Mendel in his passion for animals and-’ my husband finished my sentence- “and the bird is driving you nuts?” Yes! I would love a quiet morning. So he suggests, “ok, how about taking it outside in the morning?” Me- “mmmm… I’m not sure I want another thing to take care of..” Him- “ok, I’ll ask Mendel to take it out every morning, how is that?” Me, all smiles, “Yes! That would be wonderful!” Him- “would you like me to take it outside now?” Me- bigger smiles, “yes!! Please! I would love that!”
Actually, the old me would not have had such a cute conversation about the bird. The old me would have been frustrated that my husband kept on bringing animals into our home that inconvenienced me time and time again. The chickens were smelly, the food that we scattered for them outside brought rats, and their droppings got all over. The twins loved to hold them and it was always a stress to wash their hands (and clothes and faces) before they touched food. The fish tank had to be cleaned frequently, and my son would be lugging buckets of disgusting water across the living room because the filter kept on breaking and the tank was too heavy to carry when it was full. The turtles were cute, but we only kept them for a week because we decided that we couldn’t have them because they weren’t kosher. The frogs and salamanders they caught in the park always ended up in funny places. We had already tried to host birds before, two had died and one flew into a tray of food I had prepared for supper. Couldn’t he see that this was really unpleasant for me? Why spend another hundred dollars on an exotic bird when we don’t even really have the space for it! At the same time I would be frustrated, I would also be wrapped up in trying to respect the fact that my husband has this hobby, and I would have tried my best not to say anything.
Although- in all honesty, I would have dropped little disparaging comments such as- ugh, this bird is driving me crazy! Or, I can not relax with this bird around all morning! Or I would have audibly sighed when he was nearby, as I noticeably cleaned up the bird seeds scattered all around. Ugh, the bird feed is getting everywhere I might have muttered. Hoping to attract his attention to how ridiculous this all was, ultimately admit that he made a mistake, and give the bird back!
I might have tried to be upfront about it too and say, you know, I get that Mendel is really excited about this bird, but I’m really not enjoying it. But even though the words may have been benign enough, really there would be a condescending message underneath. As in- Mendel is really excited about this, but it is really not practical or considerate to me. My tone would have been strained. Deep down I would know that there really wasn’t a satisfying solution. Not having animals would be devastating for my son (and my husband) and keeping the animals was impossible for me. I definitely wouldn’t understand why my husband would get tense and withdraw after such a conversation.
The new and improved me, knows that a deep and feminine expression is to be mekabel. To totally and joyfully receive another, especially her husband. To reach inside and find the value and respect for his actions, ideas or opinions. In this case, it was to really get present to how in tune my husband was with our son’s shared love for animals. And his willingness to spend time and money to develop his desire to care for and be responsible for living beings. That’s valuable! AND it is equally feminine to get in touch with what I want. As malchus, the seat of receiving is intimately connected with Kesser, which is characterized by Ratzon and taanug- desire and pleasure. So by respecting him, and getting in touch with my desire to have a quiet morning, I inspired my husband’s mashpiah- protective and initiating side. Notice that I did not talk about getting rid of the bird- I shared my desire for a quiet morning. The core of my desire, not how I thought the desire should happen.
Judgment means I’m still favoring my way - so we are back in the world of two. Your way, my way. The third way is where I am so totally open to your way, and so totally present to my way, that space opens for something new. Like, I could have thought of the solution to take the bird outside. Or asked my h to take it outside. But I didn’t need to. I was free to be in the respect and the desire and so the solution didn’t have to be any one thing.
Often women see themselves with two choices. Either stay quiet in order to respect their husband’s opinion, and ultimately stifle their voice. Or speak up, on principle, share their own opinion and risk causing an argument. Either way we lose out. Stifling our voices will only cause resentment and speaking up can spark an argument.
There is a third way. Fully embracing his voice, and fully embracing your own. Even though the ideas or opinions may seem contradictory at first, we respect by finding value... and sharing your own in a way that doesn’t dismiss or downplay the value of his.
Where can you respect him and honor yourself?