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Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities – 11/09/07

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Dear Rachel,

I’m married for quite a number of years now, and I guess you could consider our marriage pretty good. We have our ups and downs, arguments and romance, but the main thing is we work at it constantly and discuss every issue that comes up or that bothers either of us – even the issue I am writing to you about.

I’m not sure whether my problem stems from my shaky self-esteem or my extreme sensitivity or maybe both, but it is definitely putting a strain on our relationship and on my sanity to some degree.

In a nutshell, I feel very hurt and rejected whenever my husband looks at or talks to any other woman (even my sisters), especially if she is attractive and pretty. By nature a people pleaser, I’ve always tried to fulfill my husband’s needs on an intimate level. But truthfully there’s another reason: I realize that as pretty as I am I can never be the most beautiful, thin and attractive woman and am gripped with fear that my husband would choose another woman over me.

My husband is puzzled (and offended) by my irrational fears. Cognitively I know how silly they are, but emotionally I feel hurt and rejected every time my husband even looks (or if I think he looked) at any other attractive woman. He constantly reassures me of his love, but it is hard for me to internalize and believe him.

I hate going to my parents for the holidays because my very pretty sisters will be there too.

Whenever we go to any family gathering I am constantly stressed out and looking around to see which other woman looks better than I do. I can hardly enjoy myself when we eat out or even take a walk together. I know he won’t be disloyal to me (at least I hope he won’t), but my desire is that he consider me the most beautiful and that he not look or talk to another woman. (As I write this, I’m embarrassed at how immature and irrational this sounds.)

I get upset and moody in these situations, and my husband understandably likes me happy and upbeat. So you see why this puts a strain on our relationship and why I feel my sanity is at stake. (Another side issue: my level of tzniut has fallen tremendously as a result.)

Basically, I am writing to you because I can’t stand being like this. I just want to be normal

You will probably refer me to a therapist, but there is no way I can afford that now. Maybe you can advise me or refer some self-help books, but mostly – is there anybody else in the world that has issues like this? Does this “disease” have a name, or am I the only one?

I appreciate your taking the time to read this and am hoping for a response.

Thank you.

Losing it

Dear Losing It,

Without knowing you personally, there is little for me to go on regarding why you suffer such a severe lack of self-confidence. Your growing years, your upbringing, is likely to offer some clue as to the source of your insecurities and discontent.

The reference to your “very pretty sisters” gives one the sense that comparisons were made between you and your sibs early on, thus fostering a jealousy that steadily eroded your self-esteem.

Or, perhaps you were privy to a relationship that soured when a fickle spouse abandoned his partner for someone seemingly more attractive.

Ideally, it would take one-on-one in-depth counseling to get to the bottom of your ills. I can only offer you some practical advice, with the hope that you will take the words to heart and seriously work on yourself to alter your mindset.

Presumably, when you and your husband courted, the chemistry between you ignited a mutual attraction before you agreed to commit to one another. I take it that no one held a gun to his head to force him to marry you. The fact is that Hashem created zivugim and instilled in us a special chein for one another. This unique appeal, coupled with the laws that govern the Jewish marriage, make for a solid, lasting and binding relationship.

Your “side issue” is most disturbing. If I read you correctly, you feel the need to “expose” yourself in order to garner attention. How sad and counter-productive to flaunt your “wares” to the public, to appear as though you have something to sell! You should be reserving your physical prowess for the privacy of your bedroom, for that special man in your life – a privilege accorded you by the rite of marriage.

Two books that may enlighten you as to the function and meaning of a true aishes chayil: Beyond Pearls and Merchant Ships: Finding the Woman of Valor, by Rivka Zakutinsky, and From Sarah to Sarah, by S. Feldbrand.

I would be remiss if I failed to caution you, woman to woman, to calm down. Your self-dignity – and much more – is at stake. If you persist in “accusing” your husband of having a roving eye, he will eventually tire of assuring you of his loyalty and trustworthiness. Furthermore, by constantly conveying the message that you don’t trust him, you are placing yourself in a precarious position: One day he may just get around to feeling that he has nothing to lose… and you will find yourself on the losing end.

External beauty is superficial. (You don’t really believe that your husband married you solely for your looks, do you?) In a meaningful relationship it is one’s inner qualities that stand out – as any man worth his mettle will attest to. Keep yourself well groomed, be devoted, attentive and loving to your spouse without hanging onto him for dear life, and start focusing on your blessings.

Confidential to Chedva: “Happiness” is your name; make it your claim to fame – today and forever. Happy Birthday!

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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