Dear Dr. Yael:
My heart is breaking; my husband’s friend has gotten divorced. While this type of situation is always sad, here I do believe it could have been avoided.
The couple, advised by a so-called shalom bayis macher to end the marriage, were crying during the giving of the get. To my knowledge, this macher is not trained for this type of work and does it at discounted prices. Why then, I wonder, did they follow this person’s advice?
My husband said that his friend, who has two children and is not a kohen (thereby giving the couple a chance to remarry), is very upset. So are we. Is there anything we can do?
Unfortunately, I’ve heard this story before.
A rav with whom I’m close feels that these “shalom bayis machers” often do more harm than good. After all, if someone seeks marital assistance, the person is obviously seeking to improve his or her marriage. So why would this shalom bayis macher advise the opposite of shalom bayis?
Since your husband’s friend is not a kohen, he can remarry his ex-wife if they decide to do so. If they both want this, you can suggest to your husband that he help his friend get appropriate professional help to address the core issues between the couple. Successful mediation can help them resolve their differences and they can then start over.
In all my years of helping couples sort out their differences and attempt to remarry, I have rarely recommended divorce. (Uncontrolled abuse cases are exceptions.) Thus, if a couple is intent on getting divorced they are not likely to seek my help, as they know that this is not my goal.
Knowing this, a couple may go to the aforementioned shalom bayis macher or another therapist who they know is not against divorce in principle. When the couple goes this route, they regret the divorce that ensues.
Many other clients were advised to divorce but received successful marital therapy and are now happily married. This proves that with commitment, hard work, and flexibility, a troubled marriage can be repaired – even when things seem bleak.
To accentuate this point, here’s how one situation played out: Recently I met a woman who had come to me for marital therapy years back. She said, “After being advised by a therapist to get divorced, my husband and I decided not to give up and sought your help. While our marriage is not perfect after making difficult changes, we are now basically happy.
“Our children turned out amazing, having made great shidduchim. And we are blessed with wonderful grandchildren. I’m so grateful when I see how the children of some of my friends who got divorced are unfortunately confused (some are not even frum). And they don’t have the success rate we have regarding their children’s marriages.
“My husband and I, using the therapeutic techniques you taught us, still work on our marriage every day. Learning from and being urged by us, our children also work on their marriages. So your therapy is helping them as well.”
We can all learn from this example that while it takes hard work to overcome marital challenges, the rewards of ultimate happiness are real. And while not all couples can stay married (their differences might be uncorrectable), every effort should be made to save the salvageable marriages.
Do those people who preach divorce know that the Mizbeach cries each time a marriage breaks up? Don’t they realize the damage they are causing? Children of divorced parents can certainly become amazing adults, but it’s clear that divorce destroys the fabric of a family. Statistics show that children from stable homes, with good marriages, fare better than children from divorced homes. Researchers have consistently found that high levels of parental conflict are likely to lead to poorer life adjustments in children. That’s a major reason why it’s so important for couples in troubled marriages to seek help, with the ultimate goal of attaining marital harmony.
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