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Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities – 7/18/08

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Dear Rachel,

Why is our society, both the secular and Orthodox, so fixated on looks and in the materialistic aspects of a spouse’s worth? I am responding to the recent letter from the wife (Chronicles 6-20) who no longer feels attracted to her husband despite his mentschlichkeit.

I would give anything to have a mentsch in my life. I am a single mother, and I’ll say this much: I certainly did not get divorced because I grew tired of my husband’s looks. What I did tire of was his verbal abuse and his invalidating my feelings at every turn and allowing his parents to run our lives.

We all naturally age, Baruch Hashem, and can’t be expected to look in our 40s like we did in our 20s, as much as some of us would want to. Not that I was particularly enamored of my spouse’s weight gain over the years, or with his graying and receding hairline. But it was his lack of midos – not looks – that caused the decline of our relationship and eventual split.

I’d have given anything for him to have a better character, and to have been able to avoid all the shalom bayit conflicts that were part of our marriage. Instead of brooding over the lack of romance in their relationship, this woman should be thankful to have a decent and caring husband.

To this day, I pray to Hashem to alter my ex-husband’s personality so that he can be a kinder person and more effective father to our son − so that we can perhaps one day even remarry; and if that is not meant to be, I pray for Hashem to bring me a kind and compassionate soul mate.

Hoping for a second chance

Dear Hoping,

You are right in that materialism and external beauty should take a back seat to one’s character traits. Any clear-headed individual will place the essential quality of good midos at the top of his or her priority list when seeking a shidduch. That being said, even with the greatest scrutiny and caution, one can sometimes be fooled until it is too late.

For our own survival, we must have faith and trust in Hashem and believe that He is in charge and that any misfortune that befalls us is for our own good in the long run. The hardest lessons in life are often come by the most trying experiences.

Human nature is persistent: The woman living in an abusive marriage wishes she can trade places with the wife who is bored with her humdrum hubby; the unencumbered divorcee is the envy of the woman who feels trapped in an unsatisfying relationship; and the aging never-married single wouldn’t mind if she was as blessed (with nachas) as the single mom.

The moral of these ironies…? Happiness is a frame of mind − be happy with your lot, our Sages advise. One should, furthermore, never hanker for what another seems to have − not only can appearances be deceiving, but what’s good for another will not necessarily work for you. Each of us has a unique “slot” in life and we are all given the wherewithal to grow and develop our potential within that special compartment custom made for us by our benevolent Creator.

Finally and foremost, let us count our blessings and keep on praying for an even brighter tomorrow.

Dear Rachel,

Didn’t you miss something important in your response to the woman who is bored in her marriage to the graying gentleman?

I don’t really think this woman has a good chance of communicating your suggestions effectively to her husband and for him to receive them positively − OUTSIDE a therapist’s office.

If she really loves him as she claims, and he’s really that great a guy in many ways, then surely she can say to him, “I want you to come together with me to a good therapist. I [the emphasis on I] feel there is something missing in our relationship”

In the safety of the therapist’s office she will allow herself to reveal all those things that bother her (other than her personal fantasies about other men). In the therapist’s office he will be obligated – even if only out of politeness – to respond.

One of the biggest advantages in going for therapy is the atmosphere of a therapist’s office, which is conducive to dialogue and where communication is not an option but a given.

A Canadian admirer of your column

Dear Canadian,

Point well taken. I do tend to get carried away in trying to convince others to use their own talents and intelligence in solving their problems. But I admit that in many instances, no matter how ingenious a man or woman may be, intervention is necessary to make them see clearly when they are mired in their own muddle.

Thank you for reading and for taking the time to remind our reading audience of the value of therapy.

About the Author: We encourage women and men of all ages to send in their personal stories via email to rachel@jewishpress.com or by mail to Rachel/Chronicles, c/o The Jewish Press, 4915 16th Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11204. If you wish to make a contribution and help agunot, your tax-deductible donation should be sent to The Jewish Press Foundation. Please make sure to specify that it is to help agunot, as the foundation supports many worthwhile causes.


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