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Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities – 6/19/09

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Dear Readers,

In last week’s column, a “Wife in silent suffering” bares the pain and anguish of discovering to her horror that her husband, whom she adored and admired, has been living a double life. While she wishes to keep secret from him her knowledge of his liaisons with women he has connected with via the Internet, he seems to be going about his illicit undertakings confident in his belief that his wife is none the wiser.

Dear Wife in Silent Suffering,

If your letter makes one thing clear, it is the amazing acting ability the two of you share. It is difficult, in fact, to ascertain which of you is the better actor: Is it your husband – who on the surface appears to be the perfect spouse and father as the head of a “magnificent” family, while he furtively yields to the enticement of the smut readily available on the Internet? Or is it you, the silently suffering wife – who, while aware of her husband’s duplicity, pretends that everything is as rosy as can be. “I act even nicer to him,” you write, as you endure unremitting heartache.

You claim to know “with 100 percent certainty” what your husband has been up to. While we are not privy to the details by which you have discovered your husband’s disloyalty, one must be cautioned that a betrayed party’s imaginings become boundless once suspicion has been aroused.

That set aside, let us address your dilemma with the presumption that your suspicions are indeed well-founded.

You open your letter with a gripping cry for help: “My husband is slowly killing me!” Surely you must realize that by playing deaf, dumb and blind, you are abetting your husband’s seedy agenda and are helping him “kill” you. (Please don’t interpret this to mean that you should throw a tantrum. Some men are liable to use such a reaction to paint the wife as a violent wacko and/or to justify their escapades. Besides, s/he who loses it loses the upper hand.)

Still, without confrontation, explanation and genuine mea culpas – without getting things out into the open between you, there can never be healing or wholehearted trust and you will forever be looking over his shoulder.

Your need to remain anonymous, at least as far as your family is concerned, is understandable. But one has to wonder how you manage to maintain an intimacy level with a man who you know for certain has bedded someone else and who you fear might be bringing disease into your marital chamber. In our refined culture, marital intimacy is a culmination of true love and devotion, the ultimate expression of endearment, and an affirmation of oneness.

You leave little doubt in the reader’s mind as to your dread of tarnishing the veneer of your relationship — and this dread is what keeps you stranded in your awful predicament. “What an unpleasant way to live!” you lament – putting it rather mildly. And yet you seem determined to maintain the image of “the perfect family” at any cost. Do you mean to say that if your husband puts a halt on his philandering ways you would forgive him in your heart and be able to move forward as though nothing ever happened?

You express the hope that the appearance of this letter in the column will stir something in your husband and shake him up enough to come to his senses. Can you really afford to rely on that hope? Will you take a chance at guessing, hoping, waiting, and endlessly wondering…?

Realistically speaking, one can carry on for only so long under the stressful conditions you are experiencing 24/7. You emphatically state that there is no one you can turn to. How about turning to the man with whom you forged a lifelong bond, a person whose strengths you still rave about (despite his weakness)?

Compose a letter to your husband. (Committing your thoughts and sentiments to paper will also serve to alleviate your emotional burden.) In writing, elucidate your feelings of love, hurt and heartache, as well as your hope of repairing the cracks and renewing your commitment to one another.

Elicit his help in identifying deficiencies and flaws in your relationship that you may not have been aware of, alternately letting him know that his actions are undermining the foundation of your bayis ne’eman and that you would rather set him free than live a wretched existence of deceit.

Once things are brought out into the open between you, discussion can expand to mutual agreements. Immediate measures need to be implemented – assuming that your husband no more wishes to destroy his family and his reputation than do you. Serious undertakings must include the installation of an effective Internet filter. And don’t delude yourself: regardless of promises, as genuine as they may come across, it will take time to recover from the devastation wrought by betrayal. To ensure a path toward total healing, professional counseling is highly advisable.

Dear Husband:

In case you’ve missed the message… your wife thinks the world of you; your children adore you and look up to you; your sons wish to emulate and model themselves after you. You are their rock, the person your family feels they can count on for support in every area, under all circumstances.

In case you’ve failed to notice… your wife is making excuses for you, even while she is ripped apart, her heart sobbing silently at your breach of trust. Poor you… deprived for two weeks of every month… she rationalizes.

In case, your sechel is being diverted… but as a learned man you have no doubt taught your children and others how Hashem has elevated the human being by imbuing him with a sense of right and wrong, the ability to distinguish between good and bad, and the capacity to conquer his animal instincts.

If your yetzer ha’ra has indeed gotten the better of you, it may be high time to face yourself in the mirror (so much easier than having to save face down the line) and to ask yourself how it will feel when your secret life begins to unravel (as it inevitably will), leaving devastation in its wake. No excuse in the book will diminish the pain in the eyes of your trusting loved ones.

And if you are tempted to believe even for a moment that it will not unravel, think again. Men of distinction, in high stations in life, have been brought down in disgrace by their foolhardiness, even as they, too, believed they would never be found out.

Make no mistake: as your wife stated in her letter, women are smarter than you think. Add to that a heavy dose of instinct they were divinely blessed with and you can be sure that while you may be fooling the world (for now), the person whom you undertook to love, honor and be true to is tuned in to every nuance of your behavior.

Fortunate is the fool whose wife loves him enough to forgive, who hesitates to confront him with what she knows for the sake of his self-dignity, and who would be merciful enough to allow contrition and healing to take the place of (his) double-dealing.

Even as your wife feels that she has bent over backwards in trying to make you feel like king in your castle, you may have perhaps felt stifled in the role she has designed and defined for you. (A straying spouse will usually find justifications for his actions… it’s the nature of the beast.) Grazing in forbidden pastures may seem soothing for the moment, but think of the ramifications your temporary illusion of fulfillment will carry over for a lifetime and beyond.

Think about the words of our Sages who warn to be careful of a wife’s honor, which you are surely familiar with.

Think about it. But don’t take too long, for it might be too late…

Please send your personal stories, thoughts and opinions to rachel@jewishpress.com

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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