Dear Dr. Yael,
This letter is long overdue. I sat at our Pesach seder and I thought of you. My husband and I had our beautiful children, in-law children and grandchildren with us. I don’t want to give too many specific details since I don’t want anyone reading this to recognize my family.
I often wonder if you even remember us. Every time one of our children gets married, we think of you. Every time we are zoche to another grandchild, we think of you. We came to you 25 years ago for marital therapy. We had seen another frum therapist who told us to get divorced after one session. We were young and devastated, but if a therapist thought our marriage was irreparable, we felt he was right and there was no other option. However, someone close to us knew that you were good at saving marriages and begged us to give therapy one last chance. We did and it was a tough year. My husband had to work on anger management and I had to work on effective countermoves. I learned that I was very “passive aggressive” and you taught me how not to do things that would trigger his anger. Till today we have our therapy notebook.
I am not going to tell you that being married is easy. However, we have a couple of friends who got divorced, at our age. Guess what? Their lives are a mess and they are still struggling with various issues. We were lucky to have made amazing shidduchim, and I am not sure these families would have considered our children if we had not stayed married.
Our kids grew up in a home with great shalom bayis. Neither my husband nor I grew up seeing a good marriage. I remember you kept telling us, “You must work against a tough Imago.” We did! None of our siblings have the great nachas we have. Our siblings remained married, but many of them have shalom bayis issues, which of course affected their children.
Over the years I have met you and thanked you, but after our amazing Pesach I decided to write this letter and my husband helped me. He is a changed person; no more crazy anger. When he gets upset we have a private conference and I help him calm down. The best part is that he admits he has to work on his anger every day. He is so sweet that sometimes I forget how hard he is working. The few times we regress, we run to pull out our therapy notebook and review everything we learned and make sure to quickly get back on track. I am not a malach. Sometimes I find myself doing my passive-aggressive shtick. However, we have tools. My husband gently points out my behavior to me and I then work hard to stop it. We continue to have date nights and we actively put time and effort into our marriage. It is hard work.
I look around at all the heartache that people who did not choose our path have. Some of them stayed married but are always fighting in front of the children. The funniest thing is when our friends tell us, “You are the happiest couple of us all.” They have no clue how close we were to divorce years ago.
Dr. Respler, I have followed your career and sent you many clients whose marriages you saved. I wonder how you are doing with the current generation with divorce on the rise. How are you dealing with these young couples who think marriage should be easy? I wanted to write you this public letter. My thank you when I bump into you is not enough. I guess I want to give you chizuk and thank you from the bottom of my heart. Your therapy changed our lives and our children’s lives forever! Thank you!