What would you say if you had one shot to give your kids advice about relationships as they head toward marriage?
This past week, I got my chance, at an engagement party for my firstborn son, Uriel, and his lovely fiancée Erika.
Inspired by Erika’s request that I design a monogram for their wedding invitation with the letters Aleph, Aleph, and Bet – the initials of their names and the first letters of the Hebrew alphabet – I spoke about some “Aleph Bets” of relationships. From there the leap to ABCs was fairly short. After sharing some ideas about the weekly Torah portion, Rabbi Akiva, and different mathematical equations that could be used to describe marriage, I took advantage of my captive audience and offered the young couple some unsolicited relationship advice for the months, weeks, and years to come.
My tips took the form of an acrostic with a string of verbs from A to Z, in the spirit of the liturgy of the High Holidays, since the wedding is planned for just before Rosh Hashanah:
The ABCs of a Good Marriage
Admire, adore, be attentive, accommodate, and apologize.
Build, believe, and don’t forget to buy flowers!
Compromise, communicate, and commiserate. Be calm, considerate, and choose your battles. Cherish, care, and cuddle.
Don’t forget birthdays and anniversaries. Be devoted and dream.
Empathize, excite, and enjoy!
Fight fair, forgive, and be faithful. Be flexible, be friends, and have fun!
Give, be generous, gracious, grateful, and genuine.
Be honest, helpful, and happy. Hug and hold hands. And really hear.
Invest in each other, inquire, and identify. Be intimate and independent.
Love, laugh, and listen. Lust (but only for each other) and be loyal.
Make love, mellow out, meet, and merge. Make each other the best people you can be.
Nurture and nourish.
Be open and open-minded.
Be passionate, positive, polite, and playful. Be partners and pacify. And for God’s sake, put down the toilet seat!
Remember to be quiet together. Find quality time.
Respect, reconcile, repair, and be romantic.
Be supportive, sincere, share, and see each other’s needs. And never mind what they say in Love Story: don’t forget to say sorry.
Trust, be tender, be tolerant, and take out the garbage!
Be understanding, unite, and love unconditionally.
Validate! Validate! Validate! Both thoughts and feelings.
Don’t worry and be warm.
X-cite, x-plain, and x-press.
Yield, and be yourself.
Take it eazy and zei gezunt!
Hopefully, my son and his bride will be able to find extra layers of meaning in these recommendations over time, amending the text as desired, adding their own words and insights, and making the guidelines their own as they continue their journey through life together.
What are your ABCs?