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I don't like her taste. Why does it bother her?

Updated: Sep 7, 2023

We have been married for over 10 years, and I have a problem: my wife has certain clothes that cause me a very unpleasant feeling. It's not a matter of modesty but rather a matter of taste. It's hard for me to see her wearing them.


She is aware of this feeling, and she really does not wear those clothes. However, she is not happy about it. She also clearly shows that she is not happy. As for myself, I don't want her to wear those clothes. She has enough other clothes, and it's good that she doesn't wear what I don't like.


But it bothers me that she "turns up her nose" and displays her displeasure with my displeasure. This is something that happens regularly, almost on a daily basis. What can I do?


Answer:


This question, in its various forms, is very common, which is why I decided to dwell on it instead of other seemingly more important questions. It can also provides an opportunity to discuss an approach that can help resolve other issues, with G-d's help.


And the answer: the way that you explained the issue — your "I don't want her to wear," etc. — leads me to assume that nature of your expression to your wife was not a request. It was a demand or an expression of distaste or something else. A request was not there.


And this is a very critical point.


Here's a headline: "In a Jewish home, there is no coercion." There simply isn't! No one forces anything at all on the other. Even if it's clear to you that this is true, and she's just "causing problems," and "why does she even care," still, she doesn't owe you anything!


Here's another headline: "No one owes another anything." This is not a law. (For those who are looking for halacha, refer to mishnayot in Tractate Ketuvot and also Rambam.) We are discussing here the correct behavior and atmosphere in the home. No one can oblige the other. A house is like a kingdom, and "They accepted His kingdom willingly," (Emes V'emuna blessing) out of goodwill, and that's all.


Now before anyone gets bent out of shape, I'll try to explain. First I will just preface:

  • This is the way of Torah (as I received it).

  • Experience shows that this is how it works best.

Coercion — this is what is happening in your home now. She is not wearing the clothes you dislike. So you won, but it's a bitter victory. She is suffering, and the arrows of that suffering are shooting in your direction. You are the problem, and you are the dictator. A positive connection does not exist, and you suffer too. That's a fact.


What you need to do is ask.


Talk about your feelings. What do you feel when she wears clothes that are distasteful to you? How would you feel were she to give up these garments. Be careful not to blame her. It's not that you feel that she disrespects you, it's that you have a hard time appreciating this or that color or style.


Even before using that approach, consider that you may not be aware of the importance of the whole issue of clothes for your wife. Ask yourself, "How important is it for my wife to wear an outfit she likes?" Before you continue reading, try to answer from 1 to 10.


...........


If you answered less than 8, then excuse me, but you are far off the mark. I would bet on 9-10. It's not a question of whether she has a lot of other beautiful clothes. That's not the point at all! Clothes for a woman are part of her personality. It's not just about what she likes but much more than that. I suggest you ask her about it. Ask her to tell you how important her clothes are to her. What does it do to her when she doesn't wear an outfit she likes? Encourage her to elaborate, and try to experience what she feels.


You will be surprised. When she shares her feelings, part of the stone that now sits on her heart will roll off, a big part of it, maybe more than 50 percent.


That leads us to the second message here: listen.


You emphasized that you don't want her to wear certain clothes, but what does she want? Let her talk about what she wants. Show interest, show that you consider her wishes, that her desires have a place in your heart.


So let's conclude:

  1. She feels suffocated. Let go. She is allowed to do whatever she wants.

  2. You have to learn to ask for what you want; the form of the request is to talk about your feelings and not to give instructions or blame.

  3. Listen. Give room to the desires of the other, to her difficulties, even when it goes against your wishes.

I will reveal a little secret here: If you really want her to do what you want and not "turn up her nose," this is the only way it will happen! If you let go, listen to her, and ask correctly, she will be emotionally available to think about your desires. She will fulfill them too, and with great desire.


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