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May 6, 2015 / 17 Iyar, 5775
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Help Me, If You Can


Herskowitz-Moishe

Dear Moishe,

I am writing to you because frankly, I just don’t know where else to turn at this point. I know that statement makes it sound as if I have been married for years, but the truth is I have only been married for six months, and the changes that are taking place are scary.

I am quite aware that Shana Rishonah is supposed to be the hardest year, but the problems I am having are breaking my heart and my will to stay married. My husband and I dated each other for about six months and we were engaged for another five months, so I thought I knew him quite well. What I was not prepared for was the way we fight. We have had less than five fights throughout our short marriage, but each one is still a burden on my soul. When the first fight happened, in the heat of the moment he suggested divorce. I was so devastated; I was shocked to a complete silence. “Divorce?” I thought, “It’s just a fight!” so I calmed down, he apologized, and it was forgotten.

Or so I thought. About a month later we had another intense argument, and when the argument had reached its boiling point, he again said that we should get divorced. Again I let it go. But the third time we fought, he insisted that we look into divorce and I realized that something was really wrong. We had a very long talk and he told me that he does love me, but he is just not happy. I can’t understand why he can’t imagine working out our issues, and the only reasonable option for him is divorce!

When we aren’t fighting we have a pretty nice marriage, but the minute that we get into a sticky situation, he wants right out of our lifelong commitment. I am afraid to really speak to my own husband. It breaks my heart to imagine divorcing the guy of my dreams, and to know that he does not want to continue our marriage when we reach a stumbling block.

I feel so helpless and so depressed, because I don’t see how I can continue my marriage with someone who is unwilling to work through problems along the way. I just don’t know what to do. It’s all I can think about, all the time. I cry myself to sleep every night, and I wake up in the morning with a knot in my stomach from fear and stress. I just don’t see how this marriage can work if I am the only one actually willing to put effort into it.

Is there anything you can do to help me?

Dina Dear Dina:

Disillusionment is a common factor for newlywed couples, especially in the first year of marriage, a time period the Torah states as the Shana Rishonah. Soon after a couple gets married, they come to the conclusion that the person they knew before marriage is not the same person they had married. More so, I often hear couples in my office remarking to one another: “you know, you’ve changed…” “No! You’re the one that changed!”

The reality is that no one has changed. Let me explain: When you and your husband first met you were both in the Romantic love stage, a stage of anesthesia that Hashem provides couples with when they get engaged. At T.E.A.M we divide this into two stages; A. Romantic love, and B. Acquired love.

The Romantic love is based on taking, meaning, what you can give me to make me happy. Acquired Love is based on giving, meaning, what I can give you to make you happy. For most of us, when we were growing up, our parents were the givers and as children we were the takers. This is the normal cycle of family relationships and rightfully so. Hashem set this life cycle in place so that one day when we get married we too will be in the position to give, and act as role models for our children.

Now here is where it gets interesting. We watched our parents give, but we were programmed to take. This is why when looking for a partner in marriage, we look for what we can get, not give! In fact, if we really knew ahead of time how much we would have to give, we would never get married! This is why Hashem gave us Romantic love, in order to ease the transition of giving as a stage in our marriage.

As a marriage counselor I find that couples often make the mistake of thinking that the healing process will only take place if they take, and as a result they never seem to get what they want. In every marriage, some healing and growth must take place. This healing and growth is only possible if a couple is willing to work through these stages of love as a team.

Some of the properties that Romantic love has to offer is that it numbs you, and makes you feel better than you ever felt before. Even if you are programmed to take, in the Romantic stage you will have no problem giving. Yet please keep in mind that in time, this love stage will start to wear off, and this is what has happened to the both of you. As a married couple this is a very scary stage, because for many couples like you, there is a time lapse of when the Romantic stage ends and the Acquired stage begins. Your husband does love you but he feels trapped between both stages of love, and does not know what to do! He is afraid to go forward and has chosen to return to never-never land, which no longer exists.

Your husband is lost in the love journey and yearns for the anesthesia he once knew when you first dated and, wants the Romantic stage back right now! This is where he believes he was most happy – and he was – but like a drug, it’s a temporary fix, or a short-term solution, while marriage is a long-term commitment.

Let’s now address the next stage called Acquired love. This means loving your partner the way he/she want to be loved, not the way you want to love him/her. This is the re-programming stage of unconditional love that many couples find very difficult, because you have to place your partner’s needs before your own, and give as you have never given before. Guess what- Chazal tells us that the man must be the one to start the process of giving, not the woman! As a couple, you need to be willing and able to do this ASAP so that you can break free from this stage and move onto the next stage where the Shechina rests. This way you can have the best marriage possible.

Moishe Herskowitz will be speaking at Binyan Adai Ad. For more information call 1-718-419-6366.

Moishe Herskowitz MS., LCSW, developed the T.E.A.M. (Torah Education & Awareness for a better Marriage) approach based on 20 successful years of counseling couples – helping them to communicate effectively and fully appreciate each other. As a licensed clinical social worker and renowned family therapist, he developed this breakthrough seminar to guide new couples through easy-to-accomplish steps towards a happy, healthy marriage. Moishe Herskowitz holds a certificate from the Brooklyn Institute for Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis in couples and marriage therapy. He is an active member of the New York Counseling Association for marriage and family counseling.

T.E.A.M. is endorsed by many prominent Rabbanim, including Rav Pam zt”l, Rav Belsky, Rav Dovid Goldwasser, Rav Herbst, Rav Lehrfield, Rabbi Pikus, Rav Ralbag. If there are any topics you would like me to discuss in my articles, or have any questions, please feel free to contact me at CPCMoishe@aol.com or at 718-435-7388. You can also log on to CPCTEAM.org to download past articles and for more information about the T.E.A.M. approach.

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