Like women, men crave to feel loved and appreciated, M. Gary Neuman says. But unlike women, men compartmentalize what goes on in their lives, and, whatever those compartments contain — marriage, work, or their favorite sports team — they love to win.
So, in light of these “secrets” about men, his advice to wives is: “Make your husband feel like a winner.”
Those secrets may sound simple, he told an audience of around 500 women in Livingston on May 8, “but if you didn’t need to be reminded of them, you wouldn’t be listening to me.” He urged his audience members to bear them in mind, and to fight for their marriages as hard as they would fight to live if they had a serious illness.
Neuman, an ordained rabbi, counselor, family mediator, and best-selling author, was the keynote speaker at the sixth annual Mikvah Chana Annual Event, a dinner and raffle held at the Westminster Hotel to benefit the ritual bath in Livingston.
The fund-raiser for Mikvah Chana — which is affiliated with the Synagogue of the Suburban Torah Center and Congregation Etz Chaim, both Orthodox congregations in Livingston — drew a mixed crowd; Orthodox, non-Orthodox, and some non-Jewish women attended. Some said they had come because they are regular users of the mikva; most said they had come to hear the man Oprah Winfrey described as “one of the best psychotherapists in the world.”
Neuman was virtually the only man present. That didn’t seem to bother the amiable Floridian, married 25 years and the father of five. He crisscrossed his pronoun use, from a “we” that included himself and his female audience members to a “we” acknowledging that he too belongs to the baffling breed of men.
“We need our egos stroked,” he told his nodding, smiling listeners, acknowledging that women also often feel under-appreciated. “You can both focus on what’s wrong, but focusing on what’s right is a way to become appreciated yourself.”
Neuman stressed the humanity everyone shares, despite some perplexing gender differences, and the mutual need members of couples have for one another. “We love each other,” he said, “because we need to love, and we must be able to love one another and feel connected.”
Communication, he said, is crucial. “The reason Jews live on this earth is communication.” He pointed out that there’s no word in the Torah for physical intimacy. “It says Adam ‘knew’ Eve and she conceived,” he said, because it is so important to know one another on the deepest level.
Neuman recommended that spouses have at least 30 minutes a day of uninterrupted time together. “Skype with each other if necessary,” he said. Having “date nights” is important too, “rain or shine, tired or not, with at least two hours to talk about everything — except money, work, or children.”
In his final remarks — echoing those of the speakers who preceded him — he emphasized the value of visiting a mikva. Tammy Blau, a mother who lives in Millburn, described to the audience how the ritual bath has helped her overcome the stress and isolation of looking after a child with developmental problems. Mikvah Chana attendant Joyce Weinberger spoke of the “many miracles I’ve seen firsthand from these sacred waters.”
A number of audience members said they had heard Neuman on television — he appeared on Oprah’s TV show 11 times — and were excited to see him in person. Some said they’ve been to his other talks and wanted to hear more.
“He doesn’t go along with the modern way; he respects marriage and tradition,” said one woman who chose not to be identified. “He wasn’t parochial, but he still promoted religious values.”
Toba Grossbaum, who ran the event together with Dara Orbach, said afterward, “How often do you find a speaker whom absolutely everyone likes? He was wonderful.”