The inspiration for Rabbi Sheldon Moss’ new book came during a car ride with his wife, Barbara, in the passenger seat.
She was complaining about his driving and at one point, he turned to her and asked, “Do you want to drive, or do you want to bitch?”
The phrase “triggered a contagious laugh between us that grew in intensity because it could fire on so many levels at once,” he writes in the book’s prologue. “Did we choose to create what we wanted or complain about its absence; be the cause or suffer the effects; create the menu or be on the menu? It all came down to a choice: drive or bitch?”
Moss, the rabbi of Temple Beth Shalom in Sun City and president of the Area Ministerial Association, whose “Do You Want to Drive, or Do You Want to Bitch: Driving Under the Influence of the One You Love” ($16.50, Strategic Book Publishing) was released in February, has worked nearly four decades as a research psychologist. He is an ordained Reform rabbi, has a Ph.D. in psychology and another doctorate in divinity.
His newest book – this is his fifth – uses examples from the thousands of couples he has worked with throughout his career. “To protect their confidentiality, I’ve kind of morphed all these people into classical kinds of issues that most people face,” he tells Jewish News.
“The goal of my work is to deepen the bonding between people who are emotionally committed to each other,” he says. The deeper the bonding, the quicker the conflict resolution.
“The importance of bonding is that it makes life worth living,” he says. Moss also advocates for couples to use humor as a tool to bond. His “bonding through humor” concept is presented in his book “Love and Laughter Forever After” and the companion seminar “When We Laugh.”
This coping skill proved valuable a few years ago, when Barbara was diagnosed with mantle cell lymphoma (MCL) in 2008. Moss credits her remission – it’s been six years now – with the couple’s proactive stance. “Instead of bitching, we were going to collaborate and partner around each trial as it came up. And we got her through it. … That which can’t be cured can be endured in a much better way if you can talk about it openly,” Moss says.
The theme throughout his newest book focuses on couples driving together, with chapters reflecting the theme, such as “Rough Starts Before Accelerating Confidence,” “Windshields are Thirty-Five Times Larger Than Rearview Mirrors for Good Reasons” and “Fighting Gridlock.”
The book also contains several exercises for couples to do together.
“A lot of couples will tell you – if they’ve been married 40, 50, 60 years – that they’ve had about three relationships with each other during the time and they renegotiate and reinvent,” says Moss, who has been married 29 years. These new “relationships” are brought on by different stages of life, such as having children, times of illness or gaining or losing a lot of money.
As for the name of the book, Moss recognizes it as “kind of a bold word for a rabbi to use. The word is so wrong and it’s also so right because everyone knows what I’m talking about.”
This article first appeared on jewishaz.com.