Dear Dr. Yael:
As an occasional reader of your column, I cannot claim to be well versed in your overall approach or attitude. However, I must express disappointment in your response to the letter in the April 5 column, How About Husband Schools? You referred to the letter as “humorous” and as “comic relief from some of the more serious issues addressed in this column,” and asked that men not be offended by your comments. Here is my response.
As I see it, the problem is that women can write letters like this without receiving a critical response, or by having it described as “humorous.” In contrast, I suspect that men who would write a similar letter about “wife schools” would be roundly condemned. If they did, women would then be encouraged to maintain and articulate their critical, insensitive views of men through the types of responses provided by professionals like yourself.
With all due respect, you may have offered a more valuable service to men, women and marriages in general by asking letter writers why they think their husbands behave toward them the way they do. Instead of putting it all on the men, saying for example that they are “trained” (a poor choice of word) by “society” to feel, think and behave as they do, perhaps you could have encouraged these self-described happily-married women to look in the mirror and try to figure out why their husbands seem to act insensitively toward them. Maybe you could have suggested that they utilize their higher levels of understanding and abilities to articulate emotions to sit down with their husbands and express not only what they want and need, but to inquire as to what their husbands want and need.
Without having statistics before me, I strongly believe that most workshops (at least in the Orthodox Jewish community) address the limitations of husbands, as opposed to those of wives. Because men are more often in shul than women, rabbis usually address their critical or constructive comments at men – while the wives are at home writing “humorous” letters.
Finally, I wonder how happy these women who have been married for 35 or more years really are. I wonder even more about their husbands’ levels of happiness.
I hear your point and now realize that perhaps not everyone would find the letter humorous. My answer possibly lacked the sensitivity that you so clearly brought to my attention.
I absolutely agree with you that marriage is a two-way street. Both husband and wife need to make a 100 percent effort in the building of a positive and loving marriage in order for it to be successful. Most shuirim for women on shalom bayis will support your view and stress what women can do to improve their marriages. Additionally, you are correct that when rabbanim talk to men in shul, they are likely imparting how important it is for the men to work on themselves in the quest to be better husbands. If the women are taught ways to improve themselves and the men are taught how to work on themselves, the beautiful specter of shalom bayis should ultimately prevail.
I received positive responses to that column, as many women felt good to read about other wives experiencing similar behavior from their husbands. It helped them better appreciate the men they were married to. For some women, and even for some men, this column was humorous and helpful.
As I’ve noted before, husbands and wives should always ask themselves what they could do to make their spouses happy, along with inquiring how they can be better overall spouses. This approach can increase the chances that both husband and wife will feel special and cared for.
The point of the “husband school” column was to help relieve some of the frustration women feel. If a wife understands that her husband thinks about things in a different way than she does, she may not get insulted or upset by some of the things he does. The best-selling book, Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus, illustrates why some of the miscommunications in marriages occur. Men and women are socialized differently and have different genetic make-ups. Thus, they may not always realize that they are not meeting the needs of their spouses.
It could be helpful if men and women would realize that their spouses might not be doing something to deliberately hurt them; rather, they are doing that specific something because that is what they would want their spouses to do for them and, at the same time, they do not realize that it is hurtful. Overall, though, your point is well taken.
We must always be careful to refrain from making what could be construed as hurtful jokes. And I am sorry if anyone took offense at the “husband schools” column. I will try to show greater sensitivity in the future. Hatzlachah!
Below are recommended websites with information on creating and building one’s emunah: www.lazerbrody.net, www.breslev.co.il, and www.divreichizuk.com. Please e-mail me with any other suggestions or with names of books that could potentially help others raise their levels of emunah. I will be happy to publish them. Hatzlachah!