FreePsychArticles #5: The Patient’s Husband
After more than twenty two years treating people I discovered a book that altered my understanding of a large group of those patients: women. But before thinking clinically I discovered something of lasting importance for my own marriage. The name of the book is the “Garden of Peace” by Rabbi Shalom Arush.
Throughout the years of my training in psychiatry and practice successful treatment results with women was very unpredictable. There were many women that failed to respond or derive benefit from the treatment regardless of the modality. It wasn’t until I read that book that I found out why.
You may wonder why just women? It’s true there were some patients, of either gender, who responded less than favorably, but for the purposes of this article I will focus on women and their relationships with their men. (*I will refer to marital relationships in this article but I believe similar issues are at work in all men-women couples.)
Garden of Peace is subtitled: “A Marriage Manual for Men Only.” Along with literally thousands of other men, I discovered a whole new approach to my own marriage and subsequently the treatment of married females patients. The book does not address mental illness directly but because it unearths certain “truths” about the marital relationships and the nature of women in their relationships I have found consistant relevance extends into the field of psychiatry.
And why not? If thousands of marriages have improved as a result of reading this book and applying it’s principles, why wouldn’t the same principles apply to the understanding of women, and men, suffering from mental illness or in crisis?
Anyway, that was what happened over the last few years almost automatically. As I saw my marriage improve, and many of those around me, as a result of the Garden of Peace I began giving more attention to the status of my patients marital relationships. Since a majority of my office practice were women I found it a natural course to delve further into their relationships with their husbands. I discovered a consistant connection between women suffering and how their husbands treated them.
I suppose this won’t surprise most women but I must admit, as a psychiatrist, like many husbands, prior to studying the Garden of Peace I didn’t have a clue.
ABOUT THE BOOK
The introduction starts out explaining the difference of the roles of men and woman. Therefore the author early on advises the book is really designed for men only and cautions about the risks of misunderstanding and misuse if read by the wife. Actually not long after the men’s version came out, a version for the wife was released. In the wife’s version it has similar cautions against the husband reading it.
I try to avoid disturbing the benefit of of this exclusivity with the long introduction. The articles are for anyone interested so I will only give some of the basic principles taught in the book.
The main idea is about how a husband should regard and treat his wife and can be summed up in one word: “Honor.” Now this is nothing new or novel and is even in most wedding vows: “…promise to love, honor and cherish…” (remember?) The problem is too many husbands don’t remember as time goes on OR they just don’t know how. In fact the why and the how are talked about throughout the book.
Rabbi Arush points out with dozens of examples from the sages how important honoring one’s wife really is. It is important for her as the very foundation of the marriage, not just on the wedding day, but every day, all the time! That’s the job of the husband and what leads to a peaceful and successful marriage.
It’s amazing how things can improve when the Mrs. gets a constant dose of Vitamin H (for honor yes?). The big question is: How? Because for today’s man, inundated with ‘pop culture, macho super heros, and inflated expectations for self-fulfillment’, it’s not easy. In fact, most men having a terrible time in their marriages, making one mistake after the other, really want to know how to improve.
The need for this is all the more pressing for husbands of mental patients. Since there are added factors of instability it becomes one of the most important variables in rehabilitation, equal or greater to the biologic treatment with medications.
According to Rabbi Arush, in the context of the marriage Vitamin H is life-sustaining and a deficiency can destroy her. It’s related to another basic idea of Torah brought forth by another rabbi who travels the world giving workshops for marriage: “Women are relationship beings.” And men are…not. Women tend to see everything in the marriage as an aspect of the relationship. Which means, many things that appear minor to the husband are not minor at all. Therefore each moment shared by husband and wife has the potential to supply vitamin H or…deplete it.
I won’t argue it may seem a difficult challenge in may situations. A husband may say, “What if she is not being honorable? What if she’s not honoring me?” This is a fair question. Perhaps I can address these kind of questions on this blog in the future, but the job remains the same. Honoring one’s wife is not a situational obligation. (In the book Rabbi points out the same obligation to G-d exists regardless of what life’s challenges one faces.)
For those searching a greater understanding of this and other principles google: Rabbi Shalom Arush, The Garden of Peace, and pick the gender that applies and buy it. The issues that arise in this article regarding honoring one’s wife have a parallel theme, that is the subject of future articles: Emunah and Healing. (Roughly the term Emunah translates into the English word, Faith, but is actually much more.) There are times in a marriage when honoring one’s wife seems absolutely impossible, hence the process of improving one’s marriage also involves emunah. You can’t go wrong and you can’t imagine how far every dose of Vitamin H can go.
Gershon Freedman, M.D.