Chanie Levitin was born in LA and moved to Seattle in 1972 to build up Chabad outreach for the Pacific Northwest with her husband, Rabbi Shalom Ber Levitin. She has 12 children between the ages of 22 and 47, more than 40 grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren. She has spent the years teaching all ages, giving classes for brides, counseling, and birth coaching.
What’s your advice for young people getting married?
It’s very important to be honest with your partner. You can’t expect your spouse to read your mind. If you don’t like something, whether it’s in the physical sense or in the lifestyle sense, they’re not going to know. That’s when anger builds up. Communicate, because you can’t expect someone to know you’re dissatisfied.
So how do you communicate? Easier said than done!
It’s not when you’re angry. You have to sit the person down: “There’s something I need to tell you. I don’t want you to be hurt or upset.” Empower the other person to contribute. It’s important for the other person not to get defensive. It makes such a difference to validate someone’s concerns. You just diffuse a moment that could turn into a fight or a conflagration. Then the laundry list comes out. We all keep a laundry list, and women especially. Keeping the laundry list is a negative thing in a marriage.
What are some ways to keep a marriage happy?
When your spouse comes home from work, don’t greet them with a “Guess what happened today.” Try: “I’m so happy to see you.” Give that person a minute to breathe. You have to appreciate your spouse. They’re not here to be your slave or your maid. And intimacy in a marriage takes work. All the women I know are working. Even the stay-at-home moms are working. Every woman is working. You can let intimacy go by days and days, weeks and weeks, and that goes by the wayside. You have to make sure your intimate life is a full-on intimate life.
Mikvah puts you in a position where you have days that you cannot be together, and the days you are together force you to be special. God wants us to have this beautiful spiritual, physical relationship. Used properly, this strengthens the marriage.
What’s the bottom line?
A man needs to feel appreciated, and a woman need to feel treasured. I think we’re here for a purpose. If we look at marriage as a gift that Hashem gave us, as a uniting, or a reuniting, of a man and a woman — our neshamas [souls] are one half of a whole — when we are striving together, that gives such joy to Hashem. I believe so strongly that gives cosmic light to the darkness. When a marriage is in that state of love and beauty, it is mimicking the love that God has for Israel. When we understand that, we work harder at that and don’t let it go. It’s not easy. It’s work.