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April 19, 2014 / 19 Nisan, 5774
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Why Do They Stay?

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(Names Changed)


 


         Last week I tried to give some insight into the real existence of a well spouse. “Existence” is mostly their word, because not many of the well spouses I interviewed felt they had a life. They just existed, caring for their spouses and those around them. Their needs, and even their presence, are invisible to those around them. They often have no time for themselves, and when they occasionally find the time, they either have no energy to use it or have completely forgotten what they used to enjoy doing. And so the question of “Why do you stay in the marriage?” always comes up. Here are some of the answers they gave me.


 


         Hinda: I don’t have the courage to leave. My community would condemn me. “How can you leave a sick man like that?” they would ask. They would shun me and probably shun my children, as well. I couldn’t do that to my kids. They wouldn’t understand. I couldn’t deal with that condemnation after giving up 20 years of my life to that illness. I feel guilty about staying too. I know that most of my problems and my kids’ problems − medical, physical, and emotional − would disappear if I got out of the marriage. I just don’t have the guts to be more alone in my community than I already am.


 


         George: I love her. She was always there for me when I needed her. I can’t leave her now when she needs me. Thank G-d I can afford to get help. I’m 70 after all and can’t deal with her physically. But I’ll always be there for her emotionally. I love her.”


 


         Malka: I don’t know. I just don’t know.


 


         Fraidy: It just doesn’t seem right somehow. I don’t think I could cope with the guilt. “For better or worse. Isn’t that the American slogan? I just got the “worse.” I know my life would be better if I divorced, but I just can’t. I don’t even think his life would be worse if I left him. The fighting would stop. The tension and anger would be gone. His needs would still be met, just not by me. But I just feel it’s wrong.


 


         Mark: It’s against my religion.


 


         Susan: I’ve threatened to get a divorce. I even went to see someone to get information. But, yesterday, he finally said, “thank you”to me. It’s been years since he’s said that. He told me how much he appreciates what I’ve sacrificed for him. He even sent me flowers. I feel like maybe, it’s a new beginning. All I’ve ever wanted was to be appreciated by him for what I’ve given up. Just acknowledged. And now, I finally got it. If he keeps it up and continues to appreciate me and show me he does, the whole idea of divorce won’t even enter my mind.


 


         Chaim: We were on the verge of divorce before the accident. But after the accident… I just can’t leave her like this. I couldn’t live with myself.


 


         Minnie: I’d lose the little security I have. I’d lose my house, part of my income. How would I live?


 


         Cybil: I would feel disloyal. I couldn’t be disloyal. I have to stay together for the kids. I have to keep my family together.


 


         Rosey: We started counseling. Things got better. I think the problems most of us have is that the illness disrupts your life so much you both don’t know how to deal with it. Counseling has helped him see what I’m going through. It helped him see that the illness doesn’t affect him alone. It affects the kids and me as well. He is not free of caring for us just because he’s sick. He has to do his share by doing as much as he can for himself and being extra kind and caring of us. If he gets that, I’ll stay. Who am I kidding? I’ll stay even if he doesn’t get it. That’s just who I am. But…I hope he will get it.


 


         Lieba: You know that saying, “When one is sick, two need help.”  I changed it to “when one is sick two must suffer.” That’s it. I accept it.


 


         Moshe: This is my test. Everyone has a test in life. I hope I pass in my eyes and in the eyes of G-d.


 


         As we went around the table I noticed a young woman sitting in the group who looked in shock. She had not participated as yet. Her husband had just been diagnosed with a chronic illness. She had a young family. This was her first support group meeting. Her husband had been diagnosed only two months ago. Finally, she spoke up.


 


 


         “I don’t understand any of you. I love him. I married him. He is the father of my children. I can’t believe what I’m hearing. You all seem so miserable. Is this my future?”


 


         Most of the group didn’t want to tell her it probably was. They didn’t want to scare her away. They knew she’d need their support more than she realized. This was the only place no one would condemn her for her feelings, her inner thoughts, her fears. No one would judge her here. As time went on, as the illness took over her home, she’d need to be able to talk of her ambivalence and get support. As time went on she’d need to have this very discussion with someone. She too, eventually would probably, deal with the question of “Why do I stay.”


 


         You can reach me at annnovick@hotmail.com

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