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Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities – 4/14/07

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Dear Rachel,

At times, we ALL let life’s obstacles get us down, putting us in paths that are not necessarily guided by our better judgment, but are instead the misguides of our hearts. Although the responses showed no pity for Anonymous but Not Ashamed (Chronicles 1-19), I doubt the responders are free of sin themselves, albeit a different type of sin. Part of being Jewish is giving benefit of the doubt and certainly not judging anyone when they make any sort of plea for help

With all due respect, maybe you are fortunate to be married to someone normal who pays attention to you and treats you the way you want to be treated. Let’s assume this woman has tried everything that you generally suggest, therapy included − but to no avail, and she does not want to jeopardize her children by making them the victims of divorce.

I suppose we must all be stereotypical and terse when both authoring a column and submitting a post to one. While this woman should certainly not be PROUD of her accomplishment of having an affair − and be so nonchalant about it − for a woman to resort to this type of behavior while she has children and a husband certainly makes me think that she must have been at the end of her rope. She seems to be risking it all, and I highly doubt she is NOT ashamed. She is not ashamed because nobody knows – if someone were to know, she would most certainly be ashamed!

I’ve met more than a handful of people in her situation. The women I’ve encountered are you and me − loyal mothers, devoted wives, sincere Ovdei Hashem, with snoods well past their foreheads, Tehillim in hand, chesed-oriented pillars of communities… trying to make the most of their marriage; hard working, positive people who love and fear Hashem but are, quite frankly, at the end of their rope with the lack of love (and luster) in their marriage. The concept is not unique to those without morals. (Perhaps that is why you printed it.)

Partners need emotional and physical connection. These go hand in hand. If emotional needs are not met, physical needs cannot be properly gratified either. That does not mean that one who is deprived should run off with the first man/woman that one fancies. Even this woman seems to be desperately looking for attention and comfort that her husband is completely uninterested in giving.

Her writing to you is not a “shout out” to tell the world she is having an affair. She is asking for help, admittedly not directly or in the most productive manner she could have chosen. Surely she knows the affair is an escape from reality – to make her actual reality manageable. Not so unthinkable.

The underlying factors are that spouses (both husbands and wives) need to attend to one another’s needs and work to meet them happily. Not as an “effort” − but to give as the other needs to receive, and to be gratified when the recipient is happy. Only if EACH partner is focused on giving with sincerity, will they feel love again.

My response to you then would be, what about the many instances where it is one-sided – one is giving and giving, and the other is happy to take? If the other does not give back, what is one to do? Where should one go when options are exhausted and no modification of behavior is forthcoming? If this woman had been receiving the attention she deserved and needed, she would not be looking outside. Granted, she did not portray herself as someone in pain, or in need, but let’s give her some credit and try to help her instead of putting her down and judging her.

If we address this issue with compassion, people will be willing to receive guidance.

Anonymous and Giving Benefit of the Doubt

Dear Giving,

Thank you, first of all, for putting so much thought and heart into your feedback. We are in accord − a therapist’s role is to guide the troubled soul in a patient, caring and compassionate manner. Anything less would be a gross misuse and misrepresentation of one’s credentials and would place a client’s mental/emotional stability at risk.

Chronicles of Crises is precisely that: chronicles of crises. This column functions as a forum for the concerned, anxious and distressed to safely air their grievances and receive feedback in the same anonymous manner. Notwithstanding that we have never professed to be assuming the role of therapist, our responsibility lies in being as candid as possible (based on the particulars the writer is willing to lay bare).

By the same token, albeit at our discretion, readers are welcome to respond with their differing views, share their own experiences, and/or express empathy. If you are not new to this column, you’ll have noted the numerous times the writer is advised to seek counseling.

You write, “…The concept is not unique to those without morals. (Perhaps that is why you printed it.)” That is precisely correct. Heedful of the many minds that absorb each word conveyed in this column, we gear our responses accordingly. Suppose we had indicated (to Not Ashamed) that she might have had good reason to be carrying on (as she claimed to be). What message, pray tell, would such a perspective have imparted to other unhappy and unfulfilled spouses?

It is up to one’s personal therapist/mentor/rabbi to “make nice” − ours is to tell it like it is, even if the message may sting. Skirting the issue or deviating from the truth may end up hurting much more.

Confidential to “…Help me”: We regret that your long handwritten letter cannot be published. Please rest assured that a professional and reputable therapist can be trusted and, contrary to your fears, will not be shocked by your story. If you can contact us by e-mail, we will direct you in the best way we can.

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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