Category Archives: Relationships

7 Sure-Fire Ingredients to Better Relationships

"You can get anything you want if you just convince enough people."

Unlike a 150 years ago when you could carve your life out of the wilderness, today everything you want is owned by someone else notes the author of the above quote Roger Dawson in his book, Secrets of Power Negotiating. He recommends spending some time figuring out how to persuade them to share. Undoubtedly you have developed relationship-building skills. But are you actually getting the financial, emotional, and spiritual support that you need from these relationships? Perhaps it is time to take a second look.

7 Sure-Fire Ingredients to Better Relationships

To live intentionally you will have to decide the kind of relationship you want to have with others. Will a particular person remain essentially a stranger or become an acquaintance, a business associate, a friend, or your spouse? As you know, you will have to invest more time and resources, especially emotional ones, the farther up this scale you go.

Social media has significantly clouded this issue. Is the quality of the relationship you have with each of your Facebook "friends" or Twitter followers the same? Can a genuine relationship be created with someone you know only online?

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Here are the questions to ask when determining the kind of relationship, if any, you want to have with someone. Some can be answered earlier than others.

  1. Can you treat this person respectfully? Do you find yourself making fun of someone? Behind his back? If you do not respect him why bother staying connected and potentially hurting him later on?
  2. Can you build trust with this person? What kind of business association can you have with someone you do not trust? You may realize a short-term gain, but sooner or later the investment you made in creating the relationship will have to be written off. Will it really be worth the effort?
  3. Will this person help and/or support you in meeting your goals? Some people claim to want to help you while they are actually undermining your progress. Be guided by someone’s actions far more than his words.
  4. Will this person help you see if you are heading in the wrong direction? Heard the expression the road to hell is paved with good intentions? If you are going to have more than an acquaintanceship with someone his definition of kindness will have to include tough love.
  5. Will this person be respectful even when telling you things that may be difficult for you to hear? Criticism can be difficult to accept under the best of circumstances. It needs to be conveyed politely and empathically.
  6. Do your strengths and weaknesses complement each other? Perhaps most important with a spouse, you can avoid the strife that engages competitive instincts inherent in having similar talents and faults. Likewise in business, partners with diverse aptitudes make a stronger team.
  7. Does this person share your values? While it is not necessary that every friend or business associate share all of your values, being at cross-purposes on certain ones may make more than an acquaintanceship difficult if not impossible.

It may sound cold, even calculating, to assess people in this way. But the reality is that you have a finite amount of time. Spending this precious resource on those you cannot help and who cannot or will not help you is useless. Better to establish a basis for a relationship from the outset, intentionally setting the stage for mutually supportive, productive interaction.

Question – How do you decide with whom and what kind of relationship you will have with someone?

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Do You Make This Friendship Shattering Mistake?

“And the Egyptians mistreated us and afflicted us . . .” (Devarim/Deuteronomy 26:6). When the Torah refers to “us” it usually uses the word lanu but in this verse it uses osanu. When an unusual word is used you can bet there is some deeper meaning behind it.

Do You Make This Friendship Shattering Mistake?

The parsha for this Sabbath is Ki Savo. Moses continues preparing the Israelites to enter the Land of Israel by discussing the mitzvah of the first fruits offering, reiterating the inseparability of G-d and Israel, and detailing the blessings and curses that will befall them depending on how well they adhere to the Torah. At the end of the parsha Moses begins his final exhortation.

Rabbi Mordechai Gifter, in Pirke Torah, notes that the Egyptians mistreated the Children of Israel by slandering them. By making them appear evil to others they caused people to think that the Israelites should not be treated justly or humanely. As a result, the Egyptians were able to enslave them even though a generation before a Jew, Joseph, saved their lives. The Nazis and Stalinists, among others, did the same thing in more recent history.

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This practice happens on the micro level too. When you hear someone denigrating another person do you stop to consider whether the reports are true or why the person is speaking negatively about someone else? Did the incident actually occur and was it as egregious as it is being portrayed or does the person have another agenda?

You are obligated to judge whether the story is true before lending it credence. If you cannot verify it consider what might be the storyteller’s ulterior motive. Possibly he is trying to cover up bad behavior on his part.

Even when you conclude that the person actually did something wrong, reflect on whether the incident justifies any improper treatment the storyteller is proposing. Everyone makes mistakes. Be careful to fully investigate before condemning someone or accepting another’s condemnation.

Question – How do you determine if criticism of someone is justified?

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Every year beginning on Simchas Torah, the cycle of reading the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, ends and begins again. Each Sabbath a portion known as a sedra or parsha is read. It is named after the first significant word or two with which this weekly reading begins.

Do you have a question about the Old Testament? Ask it here and I will answer it in a future Parsha Nugget!

Thousands Could Live Happier Healthier Lives Who Never Thought They Could

Henry Higgins: I’m an ordinary man

Colonel Pickering: . . . Are you a man of good character where women are concerned?

Higgins: Have you ever met a man of good character where women are concerned?

Pickering: Yes. Very frequently.

Higgins: Well, I haven’t. I find that the moment I let a woman make friends with me she becomes jealous, exacting, suspicious and a damned nuisance. I find that the moment I let myself become friends with a woman, I become selfish and tyrannical . . . After all, Pickering . . . I’m an ordinary man . . .

Excerpted from the 1956 musical comedy My Fair Lady, this dialogue between confirmed bachelor Professor Henry Higgins and his friend Colonel Hugh Pickering is a comedy highlight of the show, most likely because it describes how the genders sometimes actually feel about marriage. Yet it also brings out one of the most important reasons that men, especially young men, need to marry.

Thousands Could Live Happier Healthier Lives Who Never Thought They Could

Ironically, Professor Higgins’s self-criticism underlines among the most important purposes for marriage: to provide a sphere in which men’s “selfish and tyrannical” nature can be tamed. Then they can be subjected to the meticulous standards necessary to develop to adulthood. As he recognizes at the end of the show when he decides to marry Eliza, she is “exacting . . . and a damned nuisance” because he wished to hold onto an adolescent bachelorhood. Once he realizes he needs her as much or more than she needs him his opposition disappears.

One of the most common complaints I hear when counseling female sailors, the single ones, is that there are no men to marry. While women have long groused about this, today it cannot be attributed to a scarcity of men such as there was during the decades after World War II. Two factors appear to be driving this trend: young men remained mired in immaturity and young women are unwilling to be the agents of maturation that they historically were.

Men use the justification of insufficient financial resources to avoid marriage. However Charles Murray, in his book Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010, debunks this excuse. I challenged him on what I thought was the most obvious flaw in his theory but his response proved me wrong.

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Despite an abundance of evidence that married men are healthier and happier than single men, freedom from responsibility retains its mythical hold. Coupled with the easy availability of sexual gratification without marriage and for a young man who does not seek spiritual fitness and pays scant attention to physical and mental fitness, there seems to be no reason to commit to marriage.

Short of accepting the results of multiple generations of men who remain adolescents into their old age, society must re-examine the decision not to pressure young men to marry. As well, people need to consider re-adopting the ideal that seeking growth in all areas of their lives is a core value.

Change can be positive. But often there are unintended consequences. The true test of wisdom is whether a society is willing to undo change when its ramifications prove negative.

Question – Why have so many young men abandoned marriage?

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Getting What You Really Want: Step 1

“And it will be if you did not desire her . . .” (Devarim/Deuteronomy 21:14). Again this week small details yield deeper meaning. The Torah uses the past tense phrase “did not” to describe an event happening in the future. It seems the verse should read, “do not (or will not) want her,” no?

Getting What You Really Want: Step 1

The parsha for this Sabbath is Ki Seitzei. It contains more mitzvos (74) than any other parsha including how to handle a beautiful female POW, the right of the first-born to an inheritance, how a wayward and rebellious son is handled, our concern for another’s property, men not wearing women’s clothing and vice versa (Ooops for Jack Lemmon,) and sending away the mother bird before gathering her eggs.making

Then it covers making tzitzis for a four cornered garment, how a libeler of a woman is to be treated, the penalties for adultery and rape, several rules about marriage and divorce, how the Israelites were to keep their camp tahor, laws concerning workers’ rights, kidnapping, lending and punishments, the penalty for embarrassing someone, the admonition to have honest weights and measures and finally the strange commandment not to forget to wipe out the memory of Amalek.

In his compilation, Maayanah Shel Torah, Rabbi Alexander Zusia Friedman explains Hebrew has two words for a person’s attraction to another: chaisek and chofaitz. The former is used when passion and lust are the driving factors. The latter, when you make a rational decision that something is good for you.

When dealing with a beautiful captive, in the above verse the Torah refers to her captor’s desire as lo chafatah, meaning rationally he did not want her. As you might imagine, after fulfilling her term of mourning, her captor’s ardor likely decreased or ceased altogether. Indeed this is one of the reasons for his having to wait. Had he been more self-disciplined from the start he would have realized his attraction was the aftermath of the lust of battle.

It is important to develop the ability to distinguish between what you desire and what you want. How often have you seen a friend marry someone purely because of physical attraction only to find the spouses end up hating each other because they have nothing substantial on which to base their relationship?

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The same principle applies to all major decisions including buying a car or a house. The sporty little two-seat convertible may stir your passion but can you afford the insurance and maintenance and will it transport your family of four?

Better to make decisions based on rational, well thought out wants. With respect to relationships, invest the emotion in them that will ignite passion.

Question – When do you think it is okay to be driven by lust?

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Create Healthy Relationships You Can Be Proud of

We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.” Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Once you have begun building a foundation of fitness in the physical and mental pillars, the profoundly challenging and rewarding task of attaining fitness in the spiritual pillar awaits.

Create Healthy Relationships You Can Be Proud of

The spiritual pillar of fitness has three realms:

  1. Family – Spouse | Parents | Children and Other Family Members
  2. G-d – Prayer | Duties | Rituals
  3. Mission - Core Values | Purpose | Life Mission

The process is similar to attaining fitness in the other pillars. First, assess where you currently are with respect to each realm. Some questions to ponder are:

  1. Do you believe in G-d and if not should you?
  2. Why is it important to acknowledge a power higher than yourself?
  3. How do you put your beliefs into practice?
  4. How often do you engage in spiritual exercise?
  5. What is the quality of your marriage?
  6. When was the last time you saw your parents and children?
  7. How productive or destructive are your familial relationships?
  8. To what system of values do you adhere, and how well can you express these values?
  9. What is your plan for upholding your values?
  10. How well do you maintain your values?

As you begin answering these questions others will arise. Especially in the spiritual pillar, this is a lifelong process. Just like with the other pillars, you may need to consult with professionals to aid your assessments. Roadblocks may arise. For example, you may harbor an aversion to religion based on childhood experiences. A brief story:

Shortly after getting married, as the cook of the house, I had prepared dinner. Sitting down at the table my wife Melanie pointed to something on her plate and asked, “What are these?”

Me: “They’re Brussel Sprouts. They’re great.”

Melanie: “No they’re not, they’re horrible.”

Me: “When have you ever had Brussel Sprouts?”

Melanie: “I was five.”

Me: “Do you mean to tell me you still hate everything now that you hated when you were five?”

Melanie: “Yes!”

Me: “Well, that’s very good information for your new husband to have ‘cause I bet you hated boys when you were five.”

Melanie tried Brussel Sprouts again and lo and behold she liked them. Your tastes change as you mature. What seemed distasteful, boring, or annoying when you were a child may be very nourishing now that you are an adult. Perhaps it is time to re-evaluate your dislike of religion in light of how important a factor of your spiritual fitness it can be.

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Information gathering and assessment will tend to overlap more so than in the other pillars. As well, if you are not already affiliated with a religious denomination, seeking a spiritual connection within one or outside of religion requires extensive research. Some of the resources I use or other clergy recommend are:



Aish Hatorah

Orthodox Christianity:

Discover Orthodox Christianity

Ancient Faith Radio

Orthodox Christian Network


Patheos Library

Christianity Today

Jamie the Very Worst Missionary

University of Nottingham – Department of Theology and Religious Studies

Roman Catholicism

Some of my tweets cover spiritual fitness in a non-religious context so consider following me on Twitter. My Wednesday blog post is called Parsha Nuggets, which provides food for thought from the Old Testament as you explore your spirituality. You can sign up to receive my newsletter here.

Now, start setting goals. You may think that having defined benchmarks to reach on a spiritual journey is counterproductive. But if you wish to make progress incentivize yourself. Contrary to popular thought, spiritual fitness will not develop spontaneously.

While we are spiritual beings, this does not preclude the necessity of exercising your spirit so as to make it an equal pillar. In addition to self-discipline and self-awareness, the indispensable quality required for deep spiritual fitness is empathy. Without the ability to create heartfelt, meaningful relationships with others, especially G-d, your spirit will be unprepared to support you through the vicissitudes of life.

These three aspects of self-development: self-discipline, self-awareness, and empathy, while indispensable are not exclusive to each pillar. Self-awareness will improve your fitness in the physical and spiritual realms. As well, other traits, such as being an adept communicator, will enhance your fitness in all realms. Yet note that if you are truly empathic, you will find a way to relate to those with whom you create your spiritual life.

Question – How do you build your relationship with G-d?

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