Latest update: March 2nd, 2012
Dear Dr. Yael:
I love my husband, a great provider and excellent father who is loving and devoted to me in many ways. He is an askan in the community and has a heart of gold. So what is my problem?
He is attached to his cell phone, blackberry, and Hatzolah radio. Everyone who knows us thinks I am lucky to be married to such a special person. While he truly is special, I never really get to talk to him or be alone with him.
I always feel like I’m playing second fiddle to all of his phone calls, business deals, medical emergencies, and everyone who needs him so desperately. Somehow, when it comes to our children, he will shut off his phones and give them his undivided attention. He feels that this is important since they are young and need him. But what about me? I also love him and very much need his attention.
He will try to be nice to me by taking me out to dinner, but during dinner he will be interrupted by a myriad of phone calls, business problems and Hatzolah emergencies. He is more the director than the one going on calls, but this nonetheless disrupts our lives, as he seems to always be busy with everyone else’s problems and needs. This makes me feel so unloved and alone.
Although I have shared my feelings with him, he says that I should appreciate all the chesed that he does and that I do not have to worry about money. He buys me beautiful jewelry and gifts, we live in a stunning house, and I have a lot of help with the cleaning and babysitting. However, all this does not substitute for the intimacy and warmth that I crave from him.
My husband feels that I do not appreciate how hard he works and that I should stop nagging him all the time. But I feel alone even though it appears I have everything a woman can want. I am, Baruch Hashem, a very pretty, thin and well-dressed woman with beautiful, bright and well-behaved children who I love very much. I get much joy from our wonderful children, from whom I often try to find solace in the midst of my loneliness.
I know that Hashem has given me many brachos, but why can’t I just get some more attention and feelings of love from my husband? Why do other needy people get preference over me?
Even on Shabbos, when he tries to talk to me, his Hatzolah radio interrupts us all the time. How can I feel that I count in his eyes if he is always distracted when I try to communicate with him? I feel so unimportant in his life. Perhaps, Dr. Respler, you can guide me in my efforts to attain the intimate, warm relationship that I long for.
A Lonely Wife
Dear Lonely Wife:
Reading this letter, my heart goes out to you and I feel your pain. You are not alone in this type of situation, as many women and some husbands suffer the same dilemma as you. While your husband appears to be special, his priorities in life need to be reexamined. Although he listens to your complaints, I do not think that he hears you or realizes the damage that he is causing with his behavior.
In his mind he is providing well for you financially, buying you jewelry and gifts, as well as providing you with a home and all the needs that come with it. But your husband does not realize that despite all the wonderful things that he does for you, you need his neshamah – a true dual connection that will likely make you feel totally fulfilled.
Not knowing you, I do not know if you are contributing anything to this situation. For example, do you make him feel special and valued? Does he need all of these outside chesed projects to validate himself? Are you always complaining and therefore unknowingly pushing him away from you, so that he seeks satisfaction by helping others? Is it possible that his work and chesed build his ego, while you do not? Do you nag him and discuss his shortcomings? If you are subconsciously doing the things I’ve mentioned, he may be avoiding you because you do not make him feel loved. Since you may not make him feel good about himself, he may be looking to gain satisfaction through his other activities.
It is possible that you are not directly contributing to your problem, and that perhaps his mother was critical and overbearing. If this is the case, his image of a woman might be poor. He may therefore be transferring his anger to you from the issues he had with his mother. You may be bearing the brunt of his unresolved relationship with her.
As you can see there are so many variables in your situation that are unknown to me, I implore you to seek professional advice in an effort to figure out precisely what is going on.
I can however suggest to you what I tell my clients: spouses must treat each other like friends.
Sometimes people tend to treat acquaintances, friends or clients better than they treat their own spouses and children. I recall once hearing this story: a wife was so desperate to spend time with her husband that she called his secretary pretending to be a potential client and set up a business lunch. When she showed up her husband was at first angry, but then enjoyed himself and realized that he was not giving the wife he loved enough attention.
Although I gave you a variety of ideas to explore, I really do not know precisely why your husband is behaving in this manner. He probably does not even realize the pain you are enduring due to his behavior. The professional help I recommended earlier will help you figure out what is really causing the problem you face and what you can do to change your mutual communication for the better. I advise you to seek help, even if your husband refuses to join you. In my experience marriages can be improved even if only one spouse is willing to seek counseling. I’ve taught the individual client different countermoves in order to save his or her marriage.
You may be able to make the situation better simply by figuring out how you can change your communicative skills and countermoves. Please keep in mind that even if your husband refuses to get help, you can still get the help you require. You can still change your marriage by learning new moves to counter his moves, thus creating a totally different – and hopefully positive – marriage.
You are not powerless! Please get the help you need by seeing a therapist that is positive, not someone who focuses on the negative. Hatzlachah!
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