Dear Dr. Yael:
I can relate to A Confused Wife (“Restoring Proper Values To Your Marriage,” 11-8).
I am a 27-year-old married woman with three children. I love my husband but I’m very nervous about where our marriage is headed. The reason why I am nervous is not because we don’t care about each other, but in my heart I fear that he’s not really frum.
Publicly, he seems to be frum due to his daily attire of black hat, white shirt, and black pants. However, I often see him doing things that I wouldn’t expect from a frum person. He hardly ever wakes up on time to go to minyan, he will tell me that he davened Ma’ariv when I know he didn’t (as I was with him all night). I never see him learning, and he doesn’t have a set learning seder. And whenever I ask him a halachic question his response is always, “Yeah, it’s fine. It’s not a problem.”
The final straw came not long ago. After my husband spent an hour and a half on the computer (supposedly “doing things for work”) I went online to check on what he was really doing. I saw that he was logged onto very questionable websites. I feel I can’t trust him anymore and, as you can imagine, it’s taking a real toll on our marriage.
When I think my husband is doing something wrong I often get into a very bad mood and treat him poorly. I’ll stop talking to him, no longer cook dinner for him, and stop being with him. He doesn’t understand my actions and gets upset. He calls me moody and disgusting. I know I am being mean to him, but I can’t help myself.
I thought I was marrying a different person. My husband was a full-time kollel learner for the first three years of our marriage. Now, four years later, I’m lucky if he even davens once a day. I feel cheated and resentful. I’d prefer to not get divorced, but feel it is my only option. After all, how can I be married to someone I don’t respect? Isn’t respect more important than love? How can I let my children grow up with such a poor role model for a father? I’m embarrassed to feel this way, but I simply can’t help it. I feel that if I don’t do something quickly, my life will just crumble. Please help!
To get divorced and thus break up a family is terrible, even under the circumstances that you describe. Not everything you are thinking may be true, and although you are losing respect for your husband because of his behavior, your disrespectful attitude toward him will possibly drive him further away from Yiddishkeit.
You need to have an open discussion with him – in a loving and caring manner. You may think that he is not davening, but maybe he is. And even if he is not davening right now, making him feel worthless is not going to get him back on track. Remember that life is all about growth, and that by treating him poorly, you are stunting his. Unfortunately your dilemma is not uncommon today, as I often deal with this issue in my practice. You need to find a positive way to reach your husband.
You are dealing with many issues that are similar to A Confused Wife. But your concern is more about his behavior than his attempt to change you. It is unfortunate that the Internet appears to be an issue in your marriage as well. (The Internet is affecting so many marriages.) Encourage the usage of blocks on your Internet or, if possible, get rid of it altogether. Doing this is generally not so simple, so consider putting in a filtration system and an accountability system.
Here are some available products and services to accomplish this: eBlaster.com, NetNanny.com, CovenantEyes.com, Accountable2You.com, and WebChaver.org (you can inquire about other services by checking Internet Filter Review).
Many rabbanim recommend the use of more than one product, but everyone should have a filter on his or her computer so that inappropriate things do not mistakenly appear. Even if people are not worried about a family member purposely visiting inappropriate websites, one can either Google something or type in a website address and something inappropriate can come up because of a typographical error.
Your negative attitude toward your husband will unfortunately make him want to do even less regarding Yiddishkeit. If you focus on his negative qualities he will have nothing to aspire to in terms of growing. As you started out as a kollel couple, both of you must have had similar aspirations. Do you know if he has maintained any close relationships that were formed during those years? If so, can you somehow contact those people and ask them to reach out to your husband?
It is imperative that you find qualities in your husband that you respect. He is clearly feeling a lack of respect, giving him less motivation to aim higher in his pursuit of Yiddishkeit growth. While you seem to be firmer in your commitment, you appear to be reacting to his lesser commitment with an angry, critical attitude. Neither approach will ultimately help you. As in all situations, people must find ways to enhance others in order to help them grow.
Some of my suggestions in the article you referenced will hopefully be helpful to you as well, namely that you must change your moody and angry attitude. This stance will only destroy your marriage. Emphasize your husband’s positive attributes by complimenting him. And if he does something that you do not like, address the issue in a loving way. Be careful to not be critical, but firmly tell him that there are certain boundaries in your marriage and that you do not want him to visit any inappropriate websites. Keep in mind that by distancing yourself from your husband when you are upset, you are pushing him toward doing other things that may be inappropriate.
You must act lovingly toward your husband even if he does not go to minyan or learn. You may have to take a bit tougher line on the Internet issue – but act calmly and lovingly when dealing with this matter as well.
It is also a good idea to seek outside therapeutic help along with counsel from a trusted rav. Positive encouragement to return to learning and davening is the best way to proceed in your marriage. I wish you hatzlachah in your challenging situation.Dr. Yael Respler
About the Author: 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
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