Beyond the Huppah

Mayyim Hayyim is pleased to offer its successful program, “Beyond the Huppah: Creating the Jewish Marriage You Want” beginning this Sunday, March 4 (a few spots still remain!). Enjoy this reprint of a blog post from the program’s facilitator, Judy Elkin, describing one of the remarkably insightful exercises she employs in the program to help couples relate to each other.

For more information about the upcoming program, go to or contact Lisa Berman, Education Center Director, 617-244-1836 or

Imagine it.  Ten couples sitting around a table, munching on Terra Chips, hummus and carrots, mixed nuts and Peanut M&M’s; some engaged to be married, some already married, in their late 20’s and older, gay and straight, Jewish-Jewish and interfaith, and all interested in raising Jewish children.  They want to start their marriages on the right footing.  What that means is gaining tools for having productive and meaningful conversations, how to argue in a way that strengthens the relationship, and wanting to know how to stay curious about each others’ lives.  This is what Beyond the Huppah is all about.

One of the fun things we do that hones in on one of the most serious issues marriages face is becoming familiar with:

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse which is Dr. John Gottman’s terminology for the 4 toxins that show up during conflict.  The toxins or horsemen are:  blame, defensiveness, contempt (which is the most toxic) and stonewalling.  Now, we ALL do ALL of them, it’s just the degree to which they exist that is of concern.   Gottman tells us that healthy couples have a 6:1 ratio of positive to negative interactions.   One of the best antidotes when a horseman appears (besides naming it) is to build positivity in the relationship. One way to do this is so simple, and like many simple things, so hard – to acknowledge/appreciate your partner, out loud, each day.  Even if the something seems mundane, do it.

To learn about the horsemen we get up out of those comfy chairs and go into the lobby of Mayyim Hayyim to find the name of each horseman inside squares on the floor.  Participants stand in each one and recall times they experienced each one. They are asked to pick “their favorite”, and talk to others who share that horseman with them.  They then move to the one they think their partner uses most.  There’s laughter, new awareness, and a deepening of what goes on when they fight.  Couples then sit together in a private place to talk about what they learned and how they’d like to help each other when the horsemen show up.

Finally, we look to our tradition, where in the siddur (prayer book) before the Sh’ma we’re reminded that each day God renews creation. The rabbis understood that we’re going to fight AND we need to remember that tomorrow is another day, a new beginning, another opportunity to create and maintain positivity.

Judy Elkin M.Ed, PCC, ORSCC, facilitates Beyond the Huppah and is a certified coach having received her training from The Coaches Training Institute, and The Center for Right Relationship.  In her coaching practice Judy works primarily with individuals interested in transitioning to a new career and couples looking to create a more fulfilling relationship.   Judy also combines her skills as a coach and her previous training as a Jewish educator in Jewish parenting courses she teaches in the Boston area.  To learn more about Judy visit


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