Photo Credit: Jewish Press

Dear Dr. Yael,

It breaks my heart to say that inappropriate websites and material on the Internet have ruined both my husband and myself. We have been married for 6½ years. It seems that my husband was already Internet addicted before we got married.

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There should have been red flags. Since our wedding, I did feel that there was something wrong. My husband constantly criticized and put me down. I was not pretty enough, enticing enough and attractive enough. He never liked any of my clothes and there were other issues as well. I can’t describe the amount of verbal abuse he put me through, how he made me feel like I am the ugliest person in the world, worthless and incompetent in every area of life. I was, young and naïve; I knew our relationship was off, but I could not put my finger on what exactly was so wrong.

At some point, I suggested speaking with a rav, but he refused. However, it was at that point that he confessed to being addicted to the Internet.

We did go for therapy, but it did not help. I was his perfect maid and he was completely self-absorbed, selfish and emotionally distant. I was so alone all these years. I took care of all his needs, cooked his favorite foods, did his laundry to perfection, bought him gifts and pushed him to help himself and was very supportive – yet all that mattered to him was that I didn’t “measure up” to the fantasy world he had created based on what he saw online.

We did have a child together, a son, and even with him, my husband could not build a relationship.

He grew more distant, from me and from Yiddishkeit. He never went to shul during the week and eventually stopped going on Shabbos as well.

After more than 6 years, I finally said enough and moved out.

The separation and subsequent divorce shook my husband. He gave up his iPhone and started a 12-step program and working with a therapist who specializes in this area. He also started going to shul. He cried a lot over the damage he caused and acknowledged all that he had done wrong – to me and to God.

Dr. Respler, I am writing today in the hopes that other couples, other men in this situation won’t wait until the damage is irreversible. We all have the power to change if we want to. My ex-husband had to hit rock bottom to help himself. Do you really want to be split up from your loved ones? Do you want to go through separation and divorce rather then develop real relationships with your family? Professional help is of course important, but the first step is acknowledging your reality and being determined to change.

I am writing because I care. I care for you, your wife and children. And I don’t want anyone to experience the pain I did.

If my letter helps anyone struggling with addiction to realize the extent of the damage it causes, and sets him or her on a course to get help, my pain will be lessened.

A Wounded Wife

Dear Wounded Wife,

Thank you so much for sharing your experience to help others. I am so sorry to hear that you suffered and that your husband did not make you feel special and loved. No one should ever be abused and belittled the way you were.

Addiction to inappropriate pictures and videos is a terrible thing because like all other addictions, it consumes you and makes you hurt the people who love you. Unfortunately, frum people who are exposed to these things early in life get sucked in quickly (people exposed at any age and from any religion can get addicted, but young innocent boys are the most vulnerable). Young children or innocent teenagers generally view inappropriate material online accidentally by clicking a link or mistyping something in a google search. Others are exposed to inappropriate material by “friends” in yeshiva. Most parents would be shocked to know how easy it is to accidentally view inappropriate things online and even more shocked at the young age of children being exposed.

Baruch Hashem, our children are more protected than the general public; however, the exposure is happening in our homes as well. Prolonged exposure to inappropriate material can have long-term damaging effects on your child. While there is nothing that can be done to help your child “unsee” what he or she has seen, it is best to address it in an age-appropriate manner and to filter any devices your child has access to.

If your child has seen inappropriate material, it is imperative to share with him or her what a healthy, good marriage is really like – this “fantasy world” can be very destructive. It is important to explain to your children that this is not a sign of a healthy and happy relationship and to share with them age-appropriate ways to express love and affection to others.

If you are someone who thinks you may have an addiction, please listen to this writer and get help! If you are not sure if you are addicted to inappropriate material, ask yourself the following questions:

Do you spend far more time viewing inappropriate material than you originally intended?

Do you have a hard time when you want to stop or limit your consumption of inappropriate material?

Has your time spent viewing inappropriate material interfered with, or taken precedence over, other personal and professional commitments, hobbies, and relationships in your life?

Do you go out of your way to keep your consumption of inappropriate material a secret? (e.g. deleting your web browser history, lying about viewing inappropriate material)

Has viewing inappropriate material caused significant problems in your intimate relationship?

Do you spend a significant amount of time thinking about inappropriate material, even when you are not watching it?

Has viewing inappropriate material otherwise caused any other negative consequences in your personal or professional life (missed work, poor performance, neglected relationships, financial problems)?

If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, then your viewing of inappropriate material may be problematic and you may have an addiction. If you are addicted to inappropriate material please seek help immediately before you end up in this terrible predicament and it’s too late!

To our writer, thank you again for trying to help others and hatzlocha with finding your own path to happiness.

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Dr. Yael Respler is a psychotherapist in private practice who provides marital, dating and family counseling. Dr. Respler also deals with problems relating to marital intimacy. Letters may be emailed to deardryael@aol.com. To schedule an appointment, please call 917-751-4887. Dr. Orit Respler-Herman, a child psychologist, co-authors this column and is now in private practice providing complete pychological evaluations as well as child and adolescent therapy. She can be reached at 917-679-1612. Previous columns can be viewed at www.jewishpress.com and archives of Dr. Respler’s radio shows can be found at www.dryaelrespler.com.