Our mothers taught us many lessons growing up. Although we probably did not realize it at the time, those lessons have greatly impacted our own behavior as adults. This is especially true when it comes to relationships. Those early messages of interaction form an imprint on us as children and guide us as we build our own homes. Here are three lessons about relationships that I learned from my mother:
1. Always be loyal to your loved ones.
One of the first lessons that I can remember learning about relationships from my mother is to always be loyal to your loved ones. My mother was always on my side. If she felt someone wronged her children, she would always be the first one to defend them and even be unforgiving of the perpetrator.
Her behavior contrasts the attitude of other parents I know who sometimes second-guess their kids, saying, "Well, you must have done something wrong. What did you do wrong?"
Once I became a husband and father, my mother's behavior became my own. When I see my wife or children hurt, I hurt. I validate their pain instead of blaming them for their hurt feelings. This helps them feel that I am there for them.
Even if they did in fact play a role in the situation, my first reaction is not, "What did you do wrong?" That would be a callous response to their pain. Thanks, Mom, for sticking up for me with all of your understanding.
2. If you really like someone, you would do anything to spend time with them.
Dating can be challenging. How do you know if someone is the right one for you? My mother did not believe in wishy-washy feelings.
For those who are in the midst of a relationship and unable to figure out if he/she likes you or not, use my mother's advice: If he loves you, he'll move the moon to be with you. If she is hemming or hawing about spending time together, she probably isn't the right one.
This advice has helped me in my professional work with singles who are often confused about whether to continue dating with the hopes of progressing towards marriage. While everything may look good on paper, it is important that the feeling be there as well. When Maimonidies (hilchos T'shuvah 10:3) describes the commandment of loving G-d, he says that one should love Him so much that one thinks about Him constantly as if he is love sick, like someone who can't stop thinking about the woman he loves. So, Mom, Maimonidies agrees with you.
3. Respect your closest family members.
There's a saying that goes, "treat your family like guests and treat your guests like family." Many people are careful about respecting others who are not related to them, but when it comes to respecting close relatives like our kids or our spouse, we aren't as cautious. It's easy to be a little more relaxed with those whom we feel most comfortable.
My mother modeled the importance of respecting those closest to her. Whether it meant always speaking to my father in a respectful tone or how she refrained from talking about her marriage with her friends, his honor was always sacrosanct.
Without having to reprimand us children, we would never even think twice about disrespecting our parents, because we saw with our own eyes how to treat one another.
This has also helped me in my own marriage. Unfortunately, it is not a quality that is present in every family. Don't be discouraged. Whatever stage of relationship you are in, you can start now and implement these lessons that I learned from my mother.
If you need further help with your own relationships, download your free sample chapters of Rabbi Slatkin's new book, The Five-Step Action Plan to a Happy & Healthy Marriage.