Dear Dr. Respler:
I am a frum man with a wife and several children. My wife is a balabuste and takes adequate care of our children. My problem is that although we are quite frum, my wife has a great attraction to soap operas and romance novels.
We never had a TV in the house, so my wife bought a tiny computer that she keeps in our bedroom closet. She pulls it out during the day to watch these soap operas, unrealistic movies and other shows – and she reads the romance novels the whole night. She also reads the novels on Shabbos instead of spending time with the children and me. So as to ensure that the children do not see her reading material, she uses book covers. The end result of all this is that we hardly communicate.
I feel that my wife, who is a wonderful person, lives in a world of fantasy. Her unrealistic expectations of relationships affect all aspects of our personal life. She compares me to her romance “heroes,” and I seem to always fall short of her expectations. I try to be a loving husband, remembering to buy her gifts, i.e. perfumes and chocolates for Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day (which are non-Jewish concepts to me).
Baruch Hashem we have parnassah, and I try to give my wife everything. She has full-time help in our beautiful home, along with beautiful clothes. But mindful that our children are young and that our family will hopefully grow, I can’t bear my wife’s values. I can’t understand why she isn’t satisfied with all that Hashem has given us, and feels the need to fill her time and mind with this garbage.
Dear Suffering Husband:
You are not alone in your dilemma. The damage done by these shows and books is incalculable. I know of a store in a frum community that sells an inordinate amount of books of this nature to frum women. Additionally, it is incredible how many books like these are taken out of our local libraries and brought into frum homes.
Romance novels and soap operas do not portray real life. Soap operas are stories about people with little moral values who are forever engaging in illicit relationships. The concept of being an “eizer k’negdo,” a wife who is loyal to and supportive of her husband, is not espoused in this genre.
Romance novels tend to have the same harmful themes. There is generally a male “hero” – characterized as rich, powerful, stubborn, difficult and somewhat abusive – who drives the female “heroine” crazy with his confusing messages and abusive ways. Then they fall in love and he becomes the sweetest, most sensitive, loving man.
This depiction of truly abusive husbands is totally unrealistic. An abusive man in the dating process generally turns out to be an abusive husband, not a sweet and loving one. It is sad, but true, that many young girls fall in love with abusive boys and convince themselves that once they become husbands, they will treat them well. It is imperative that we teach our dating children to be aware of certain character traits in a boy that may hint of an abusive personality.
As for your relationship with your wife, the problem might derive from her childhood years or your marriage.
In order to improve your situation, please think about and answer the following questions:
1) Do you compliment your wife?
2) Do you value her feelings and her as a person?
3) Is she using fantasy as a way of not dealing with her emotional wellbeing or the emotions that a strong marriage requires?