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Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities

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Dear Rachel,

My husband and I have been married for eight years. I am very expressive and outgoing and he is the silent type. Even among close friends, he is never the life of the party. We have three children, and although he loves them very much he hardly spends time with them. He leaves all the dealing with the children to me.

I accepted the situation all of these years because in his own quiet way we did communicate and I love him very much. However, for the last six months my husband has been even more closed than usual. He comes home, greets us briefly, then closets himself in his study and works until late.

When I ask him if something is wrong, he ignores me. I am at my wit’s end. How do you talk to someone who refuses to talk? I asked him if he is happy at work and he said he is. I told him that I can’t go on like this and that I and the children need him and he needs to spend some time with us.

I practically begged him for us to go out for our anniversary, and we did. We went to a restaurant and when I tried to talk about us, he asked me if I brought him out to spoil everything.

On Rosh Hashanah I prayed very hard for sholom bayis and to feel warmth and love from my husband, but I don’t know what more I can do. I am certain that there is no one else in his life, because he is home when he is not working and does not have late nights at work, and he is never away on weekends.

Shabbos after shul we eat and then he goes to sleep; Sundays he spends at home in his study.

Do you suggest that I just continue to live like this? Should I threaten divorce even though I don’t want to leave? Should I go for marriage counseling alone? I asked him if he would come with me to a therapist and of course he said he doesn’t believe in it and he never heard of it helping anyone.

I have not discussed this with my mother or my sisters because I thought that would make things worse, and that leaves me feeling very alone.

Any advice you can give me would be immensely appreciated.

Lonely Heart

Dear Lonely Heart,

We have to marvel at how truly amazing it is that two people – usually complete strangers to one another and raised separately – join together with the expectation of living harmoniously under one roof, sharing meals, ideas and the same bedroom, and are committed to love one another above everyone else for the rest of their lives. Whew!

Granted, a concerted effort to establish some commonality and compatibility is made beforehand, but in reality it is a deference to, and mutual respect for, one another and each other’s differences that keeps the relationship on track.

In just the second line of your letter you inform us of the distinction between the two of you; you are the “expressive and outgoing” kind while your husband is the “silent type.” In other words, you are saying that he is this way by nature and has been since the time you got to know him.

You also say you love him, that “in his own quiet way” you communicate, and that you have no interest in divorcing him. While you’ve let him know that you need more than he offers you and that you lack emotional fulfillment, at the same time you are comforted by the fact that he spends all of his non-working hours and weekends home. (Incidentally, you are wise to keep your private life private, but this needn’t prevent you from seeking professional guidance on your own.)

The sketchy details in your letter paints a picture of a man who comes home and escapes to his study — to avoid being confronted by his dissatisfied and fault-finding wife, perhaps? Not very conducive to drawing him out of his shell, if so…

In my humble opinion, the best chance you have of encouraging your husband to be more communicative is by being yourself, by showing him that you are at ease and comfortable in your environment and genuinely eager to share your day and the latest happenings with the person whom you consider to be your best friend.

His lack of response or reaction does not necessarily mean that he’s not listening or that he fails to appreciate your openness. Some of the best marriages are made of couples that complement one another. Try to imagine both of you as chatterboxes or each of you tight-lipped. Besides, placing too much emphasis on what you perceive as missing in your marriage may be camouflaging all the good. I’ll bet that plenty of wives – especially those suffering from verbally abusive or loudmouthed men – would consider you one lucky woman.

I personally know of a man who said very little and let his wife do all the talking. She’d update him on all the latest doings in their immediate and extended families and was always the life of the party, while he seemed to tune out most of the time. (She once confided, after sixty years of marriage to the same man, that she knows he loves her even though he has a hard time showing it.)

One day she was unexpectedly called back to her Maker and their home became deathly still. He said little, as always, but it was obvious that the pain of her loss and her absence made things go dark for him. His health began to deteriorate and he slid steadily downhill. Though his children rallied around him and his grandchildren made him smile, he actually verbalized his desire to go to sleep and not awaken in the morning; that’s how badly he missed her presence. Before long, God granted him his wish.

Show your husband you love him and care for him, even if he does not reciprocate. Accept him for what and who he is — a caring spouse and father (despite the fact that he is unable to express himself). There is no perfection in this world, but you may want to keep in mind that the continuous dripping of soft water can indent the hardest rock’s surface. One day he may yet surprise you.

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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