Dear Dr. Yael:
Despite being happily married for several years, there is one thing that has been bothering me for a while.
When my husband and I first married, we were basically on the same wavelength regarding halacha and hashkafic values. We wanted the same things out of life and wished to raise our children similarly. However, we moved into a community where there are Jews of all persuasions, and over the years I feel as if my husband’s values have changed.
For example, my husband has recently asked me to dress differently and go with him to places we both used to find inappropriate. I want my husband to find me attractive and I want to make him happy, but I do not agree with the way he wants me to dress. While I feel more attractive in those outfits, I know deep down that they are not following the “spirit of the law” when it comes to being tzniusdik. I also understand my husband’s desire to go to a movie or a comedy club, but even if we have a good time together I feel guilty afterward, as this is not something I envisioned us doing.
I know that changing can be a slippery slope – and I am afraid of falling. How do I continue to be happy in my marriage while maintaining my inner sense of modesty? How can I relay this message to my husband without hurting him or our marriage? If things continue as they are, how do I raise my children to have a certain hashkafa when I am not acting in a similar manner?
A Confused Wife
Dear Confused Wife:
Thank you for your honest and heartfelt letter. You are indeed in a challenging predicament.
This question should probably be posed to a rav with whom you are close. However, a problem will arise if your husband is too embarrassed to agree to this. I deal with similar issues in my practice and, at times, marital therapy can bolster the marriage by accentuating certain agreements that the couples make in their attempt to please each other. This can help ameliorate the situation. Please understand that I can only respond from a psychological viewpoint, even though this sounds like a hashkafic shailah as well.
If your husband sees other women in your community dress in a certain manner, he may want you to do likewise because some men have a competitive streak when an issue concerns their wives. This is not always a conscious desire. It is also possible that your husband would rather see you, as opposed to other women, dressed that way. Perhaps you can explain to your husband that although you love to dress that way, you do not always feel comfortable doing so in public. Thus, consider dressing up in your husband’s desired outfits – in private. If your husband is unhappy with that arrangement, find outfits he likes that you feel more comfortable wearing in public. It may take time and effort, but you may be able to find some outfits that are stylish and attractive to your husband.
As for going out together, take turns deciding where to go. This will show your husband what kinds of places you like. I can’t really address this issue since it is more up your rav’s alley; perhaps, though, you can limit the movies to ones with certain ratings. While it is important that the two of you enjoy going out together, you are correct that everything you see and hear impacts you. So think of some alternatives that you know your husband will find to be fun activities. If these alternatives involve group outings, find new friends with whom to share them. In general, it is not a good idea to always go out in groups or with the same people. Once in a while, this is fine; going out alone with your husband, though, is definitely much better for enhancing your relationship.
Regarding your husband, try to find a shiur he can attend that is given by a rav with a great sense of humor or one who is very charismatic. Your husband sounds like a fun guy who has possibly lost some of his connection to frumkeit. This reconnection with Torah must be done very subtly. (It may be more successful if your husband goes with a friend.) Be very careful when gently pushing your husband to participate in this reconnection, as no husband likes his wife to be his mashgiach. But with much love and some subtle, non-threatening hints, you should get your point across. Say something like this to your husband: “I heard of this great shiur that is being given on Wednesday nights; maybe it would be something you would be interested in.”