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Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities – 2/08/08

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Readers Have Their Say Regarding ‘Deeply Distressed’ (Chronicles 1-4)

Letter #1

Dear Rachel,

First I would like to say how much I appreciate The Jewish Press and especially the “Family Issues” section of the paper in which your column appears. It is so important for the frum world to have a place to air sensitive issues and receive advice from individuals committed to Torah and professional standards in the areas of counseling and mental health.

I feel, however, that your advice to “Deeply Distressed” was off the mark.

She writes with desperation, “I have no one else to turn to anymore. I am crying just writing this… Words cannot describe how I feel. I’m at my wit’s end…I desperately want to see a psychologist but I can’t afford it.”

This woman needs immediate referral to an organization in the community who will provide therapy free of charge. Jewish Family Service can provide free counseling, and it has specific programs set up for the Orthodox community.

While dan l’kaf zechut is always important, men don’t easily wean themselves from sexual sites. In fact, until a man resolves to avoid these sites altogether (with professional help), it is logical to assume that he will be increasingly enticed each time he goes on line.

Volunteer work, an exercise course, taking better care of oneself are all fine suggestions for someone feeling a little down in the dumps, but they won’t address the issues this woman is facing.

The rabbi she consulted needs some sensitivity training. There are plenty of men who cheat on wives who look like models, and an equal number of men are faithful regardless of their wives’ appearances. This is not a matter of weight, but a matter of character. The Rav should be encouraged to speak with the husband.

This woman is in crisis and needs help now.

Thanks for listening

Letter #2

Dear Rachel,

“Deeply distressed” attributes the lack of her husband’s attraction to her own weight gain following the birth of her son. Her husband seems to believe that not finding his wife “attractive” gives him license to search elsewhere. Furthermore, he views this behavior as a valid alternative to improving his relationship with his wife, and not as a problem requiring professional help.

Her husband is either exceedingly selfish, self-involved, emotionally cold and hurtful, or suffering from a sexual addiction and in serious denial about it. I would venture to say it is probably a combination of all of the above.

I find the rabbi’s advice – that once she loses weight her problems will go away – to be not only naïve, but also irresponsible. Blaming a wife for the actions of a man who does not know the meaning of marriage and commitment is a dangerous course. Losing weight (as you also advise), may give her more confidence, but it will certainly not keep her husband from seeking out other women.

I strongly disagree that she should “put the past behind her” without seeking professional help and dealing with the issues at hand. This is likely to perpetuate the cycle of lies, suspicions and broken promises, and lead to more, possibly irreparable, hurt and distrust.

To Deeply Distressed: I have two children and am the same weight I was when I got married. I am a thin, attractive, and a relatively confident person. My husband sought out pornography on the Internet and even went as far as to engage in illicit behaviors with prostitutes. Thankfully, when he realized he was out of control, he revealed his weakness to me and we sought help together. As it turned out, his problem far preceded our marriage, and as many times as he tried to stop (without help), he was unsuccessful.

Your husband’s problems are not your fault. And though losing weight, volunteering and improving self-confidence is always good advice, it will not make his problems go away. There are plenty of men with wives who are overweight, who do not seek the company of other women.

Yes, therapy can be expensive, but there are places such as Jewish Family and Children’s Services that have sliding scales. To determine whether your husband has a sexual addiction, you may want to check out the website www.sexualcontrol.com. It is more likely than not that your husband’s problems preceded his marriage to you and that he would have engaged in these behaviors no matter whom he was married to – regardless of her weight.

I wish you luck in your endeavor and sincerely hope that your husband comes to terms with his problems before he loses your trust, respect and confidence for good.

Rooting for you

Letter #3

Dear Deeply Distressed,

When you say “…for some reason I don’t believe that my husband will stop doing what he’s doing because it’s something that’s forbidden and exciting,” I couldn’t agree with you more. Actually, there is no excuse in the world – not all the weight gain ever – for your husband to do what he’s doing. And, basically, HE doesn’t have a problem, because you’re allowing him to have his cake and eat it too. He has a wife who’s trying to please him, PLUS all his fun. Why in the world should he stop?

Sooo…. go out there and get involved in activities that interest you, take care of yourself, call friends, buy some new clothes, get a job. As you do so, hopefully you will start feeling better about yourself.

Also, stop pursuing him. Try to turn the tables on him and have him start wondering about pursuing you. It is questionable how much your husband will change, but at least you will start liking yourself better. You will then be able to make further decisions and interactions from a strength perspective.

Supporting you all the way!!

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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