Latest update: March 6th, 2012
Lonely At The Core…
My husband and I are in our mid to late fifties and have been married for 35 years. I am an attractive woman, warm, sensitive, intelligent, personable, outgoing and funny. My husband is a nice-looking gentleman, very practical, responsible and stable. He takes care of the house, the car, the boiler, all the bills, taxes, and so on. He fixes things around the house and will gladly shop and run errands for me. He provides for us financially, and although we are not wealthy, we have managed to save enough over the years to be able to go on trips, help our children, and I can buy myself and my children gifts such as clothes, jewelry and sheitels without a problem.
He is quiet, patient, hardworking and non-demanding, a competent professional and a respected member of the community. He attends shiurim and davens before the Amud. We married off all our children and are surrounded by them and loving grandchildren, Baruch Hashem. To any outsider, it would seem I have the ideal life and the ideal mate. I have no doubt that I am the envy of many. So what is the problem?
At the very beginning of our marriage, I discovered that my husband has a secret dark side to his otherwise outwardly baalbatishe appearance and demeanor. To start with, my husband has always indulged in pornography. Before the Internet days, he would keep a secret cache of magazines hidden away, and I would find stubs to x-rated movies in his belongings.
Today, of course, the Internet has made it easy for him to indulge from the comfort of his office. My husband has visited strip clubs and the like and has enjoyed trading romantic e-mails via on-line chat rooms and dating sites. He has even progressed to dating some of those women.
In addition, my husband has frequented bars and has indulged in meeting with all sorts of women, drinking and flirting with them. At work, he enjoys the company of many young and pretty colleagues and associates where he is encouraged to take them out to lunch/dinner/drinks to foster good working relationships. Although this is a common phenomenon across corporate America, he enjoys it to the max and does not look to minimize contact or flirtation.
When he comes home from yet another office function smelling of liquor, all flushed and excited, he just smirks into my face, saying, “I am not doing anything wrong! I am not a Tzaddik, but I am not doing anything wrong!”
As far as the e-mails and bars are concerned, he waves it away with his hand and does not understand why it should bother me. He says he is married to me, has his children with me, gives all his money to me, has his whole life with me, and the rest is just a fantasy, some harmless fun to alleviate the boredom of a marriage of many years, and it all means nothing to him.
When I ask him if he would like it if I would act the same way, he lowers his head and quietly says, “No” — yet he still refuses to acknowledge the pain and emotional damage he has caused me throughout the years.
We have gone to counseling where he cried and promised to be better, and professed his love for me and only me, but within a short period of time, he is up to his old tricks. I also need to add that he has never brought me flowers, written romantic letters to me, nor given me compliments. He refuses to take me out to dinner or have a “date night.” Over the years, whenever I suggested these things in an effort to spice up our lives, he would stubbornly brush my suggestions aside, saying that it is nonsense.
No amount of prodding on my part could sway him. All the while, he would be enjoying himself with others. It would seem that I was there to provide all the important and practical aspects of his life, while the other women were there to provide the fun. And in his orderly mind, fun could only be had with other women, not with his wife. The secrecy, the danger and illicitness made it all the more exciting for him in a way that it could not be with me.
Although I was aware of his behavior for the past 35 years, I never acted on it other than to force him on several occasions to go to counseling — which was useless, as I described above. He hurt me and neglected me emotionally, yet I bore my pain privately and secretly. I chose to provide my children with a solid upbringing and not to break up the home.
There was minimal fighting done in front of the children, and they do not know until today about their father’s dark and secret side. Baruch Hashem they are very well-adjusted, refined, successful, loving and respectful children and they have all married fine individuals.
I do not regret nor consider my time and life wasted because, no matter how much I hated my husband, I always loved my children more. Also being the daughter of Holocaust survivors, I always felt very protective of my parents and I would never do anything to hurt them. In general, the climate of 30 years ago was such that divorce bore a huge degree of shame and stigma and was a much less common occurrence than it is today.
I am writing to you now because my youngest child got married recently, and perhaps it is finally the time for me to be true to myself. Although I have children and grandchildren Baruch Hashem, a circle of close friends, a job and hobbies that I enjoy, and I lead a comfortable life, I still feel an aching emptiness and loneliness deep inside that cannot be quieted. It is like applying band-aids to a bleeding heart.
My husband senses something is different with me and, in his own way, is trying to make amends. But he still refuses to acknowledge the pain and destruction he caused and he still continues to carry on in a secretive manner. I neither trust him nor respect him and I am deeply resentful of everything he denied me all these years.
I am thoroughly repulsed by him and his antics, and I am ashamed to be his wife. I feel that the marriage relationship is dead and I have no one with whom to really share my life and heart. The tremendous stress level that all this causes is slowly starting to manifest itself in various physical ailments.
Although they would be shocked, my children would understand my decision to leave, and my family and friends would be supportive. I would have to learn how to live on my own, and perhaps enter the dating world again and all that it entails. It is definitely late in the day and it would be very difficult, but I still feel somewhat young enough, and hopefully Hashem will give me enough years to find and enjoy a measure of peace of mind, if not marital happiness.
Would it be foolish of me, at this point in my life, to finally set the record straight and leave my husband in the hope of a better future, or do I stay in this painful but practical arrangement? Is it too late for me… or is it better later than never?
Lonely at the Core and Finally Free To Do Something About It
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About the Author: We encourage women and men of all ages to send in their personal stories via email to firstname.lastname@example.org 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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