In some ways it is, in some ways it isn’t. Relationship coach Chaya Juravel explains the areas in which the Doyle approach does not work for the Jewish wife…
Chazal say that he who loves his wife, he will call and Hashem will answer; that if a couple is has a strong loving bond, Hashem will answer their tefillos. Working on your marriage brings bracha into your lives, aside from creating an environment that is the best hishtadlus for our children to emotionally healthy, happy and ovdei Hashem.
As a relationship coach, it is a zechus to be helping women bring the schina into their homes. I trained with Laura Doyle 6 years ago. I know Laura Doyle personally and I commend her work. I learned a lot from her. I’m grateful to be instrumental in helping women achieve a close relationship with both their husbands and their children.
My journey as a coach began with Laura Doyle’s intimacy skills and evolved into a new approach that is balanced and congruent with a Torahdig home and lifestyle. Speaking to hundreds of frum ladies has enabled me to see what works and what doesn’t work for the unique role of frum wives and mothers of klal yisroel. There are needs and issues in a frum marriage that a non-Jew cannot possibly understand. Here is my assessment as to whether The Surrendered Wife approach is Torahdig and whether it is realistic and sustainable for a frum wife and mother.
The Capacity for Emotional Intelligence
There is no one size fits all for marriage. Every man and every woman has a different capacity for relationships. The ability to have a good marriage and a good relationship for both spouses depends on emotional intelligence and emotional health. Typically women have more emotional intelligence than men, however, there is a big spectrum. When a woman is not emotionally aware she will struggle with using the skills and will not be very effective. She may not recognize her disrespect or control etc. So not every woman can follow The Surrendered Wife approach with success. If she is emotionally intelligent and emotionally healthy enough to implement the skills then there is a big possibility her husband will respond differently to her and meet her in her effort to create a close relationship, however there is also that possibility that his emotional intelligence is so poor or that he has other emotional limitations such as mental illness, etc. that he will not respond to her effort in a way that makes her efforts worthwhile. He may only improve slightly if at all. He may not have what it takes or may be in too much pain to recognize her efforts and reciprocate. This means that The Surrendered Wife approach is limited either by the wife or the husband’s lack of emotional health or intelligence.
Emotional intelligence, though, can be taught and emotional health can improve which will drastically improve the results and the outcome of the success of the marriage. Women and men can both become more emotionally intelligent and become more emotionally healthy. Typically, when I’m advising a client, I start working with a wife in helping her create positive changes within herself and in her marriage because the wife is typically more emotionally intelligent and because Chazal say that “the success of a marriage depends on the women’s initiative.”
Once she is a happy and healthier person and she is being more accepting, less judgmental and generally investing positively in her marriage, I will begin working with her husband. When he feels those changes and he doesn’t feel threatened, he does not need to defend himself anymore due to the increased emotional safety in the home. Then, there is a much greater chance that he will be open and receptive to learning to be more emotionally intelligent, to look internally, and help himself. BH I have seen miracles, including husbands pursuing therapy for themselves and really learning to love and connect. Not always can women create a close connection on her own and not always will that connection that she does create be as satisfying as Laura describes.
A Deeper Self-Care
Self-care, as Laura describes, it is a simplistic approach to achieving happiness. Doing things you enjoy is definitely a nice start. Working on loving yourself, your self-confidence, creating good thought habits, and getting rid of cognitive distortions are all ways that a woman can achieve the happiness that self-care cannot provide. For example, a woman eating ice cream with her friends is certainly doing self-care, however, whether the self-care will make her happier and more content will be largely dependent on her thoughts. Her ability to have simchas hachayim will depend on her ability to not just nurture her guf, it will depend on her ability to nurture her guf, her nefesh, and her neshama- her body, mind (emotional health) and her soul.
Another point is that doing self-care for self-gratification, for selfish reasons is not the way of a yid. Self-care is not a goal. Doing self-care as a means to the goal of tikkun hamiddos—becoming your best self, and having good relationships—shalom and ahavas yisroel is what we all want to achieve. This fundamental difference will change the way one thinks and does self-care, and will make nurturing oneself a mitzva versus an act of giving into physical desires. I believe self-care is less about doing 3 things a day that make you happy and more about learning to tune into your thoughts and feelings and giving yourself what you need for the purpose of being able to be your best self. This is much more realistic and attainable for a frum wife who may not have the time to do acts of self-care consistently.
I Can’t or I Can
Laura teaches that when something feels like an “I can’t” for you then you should not do it as it will jeopardize your happiness and cause resentment. We know that chazal say “isha keshaira oseh ratzon ba’alah, that a wife is supposed to do her husband’s will, to do what he wants. So it would seem that saying “I can’t” is anti-Torah Hashkafa. Laura has a point though that if someone ignores their limitations they will not be able to be a happy person and therefore this will negatively affect their role as a wife. A person has to be a mentch (a healthy individual) before they can be an oved Hashem or a parent or spouse. From a Torah perspective, is saying “I can’t” allowed ? According to the words of the Rambam, “a woman should treat her husband like a king and make important to herself everything that is important to her husband and distance from herself everything he doesn’t like,” clearly we need to work on wanting what our husbands want for themselves. “I can’ts” should not be used frequently or easily. There is a place for saying “I can’t” when it will put you in extreme physical or emotional discomfort and will prevent you from being a happy healthy human being—a mentch. Adopting a cavalier attitude towards doing what your husband wants is not congruent with the role of a frum wife. We need to use Torah Hashkafa and change our perspectives when possible to make our “I can’t” into an “I can.”
Don’t Be Controlling? It Depends
Another issue to note is that being controlling is sometimes necessary when it comes to ruchnius issues especially with our children. I agree that the least amount of control in a relationship is the best way for a relationship to thrive, however, if for example chas v’shalom a husband is struggling with ruchnius and it is affecting your children, then control may be necessary. Daas Torah should be consulted to make these difficult decisions. What we have to be aware of is that our obligation to ratzon Hashem precedes using a specific skill to enhance our connection with our husbands. In general, when using anyone’s recommendations in the area of shalom bayis it is important to keep focused on the big picture which is what will bring more Shalom for YOU in YOUR marriage. If using a skill is not helping you achieve shalom then that would not be ratzon Hashem.
In order for The Surrendered Wife approach to be sustainable, a wife has to experience success, no one can keep working and investing in a relationship and get nothing in return or very little in return. Thankfully most women who use The Surrendered Wife approach do receive a lot of positive back and their husbands rise to meet them in their effort. That’s what makes it a wonderful and effective approach. Many women also find that they need a lot of support to continuously implement the approach. Know that if you were not able to achieve results using this method, it is not your fault! Sometimes a husband’s issues do need to be addressed in order to create a successful happy marriage or you may need more help and guidance.
The Surrendered Wife approach is definitely a wonderful form of hishtadlus but it doesn’t work for everyone and often enough, long term results can only be achieved with either more support and or other interventions. May we all be zoche to bringing out the potential in our marriages and for our homes to be a dwelling place of the shechina.
See the previous posts discussing these topics.