Reply to Lonely at the Core and Finally Free To Do Something About It…
In last week’s column, your riveting depiction of your marital relationship no doubt left readers reeling from the sheer chutzpah your husband has displayed over the many years of your marriage.
Keeping in mind that G-d gives each of us no more than what we are capable of enduring, your meticulous rendition of the wretchedness you have tolerated for years on end paints a picture of a strong, resolute and composed woman who has sacrificed tremendously in order to provide a solid upbringing for the children she gave life to and spare her Holocaust-surviving parents the heartache of a break-up in the family.
You had everyone in mind, it would seem, except yourself. Now that your youngest child has married, the misery of the loneliness that’s been eating away at you becomes more acute — to say nothing of the detrimental effects the ongoing stress unleashes on your health.
Now that you finally have a chance to do something for yourself, you wonder whether it isn’t “late in the day” to take the drastic step of ending your marriage in hopes of gaining “a measure of peace of mind.”
Surely there isn’t a therapist, counselor or religious leader who doesn’t aim to salvage a broken marriage. But positive outcomes can be realized only when each side is willing to invest the work and energy required to save the marriage. One spouse alone, without the other’s input and cooperation, cannot succeed.
Well, it’s not as though you haven’t made every effort to make a go of it. You’ve been to counseling together; you’ve called him on his misdeeds; you’ve suggested and proposed ways to spice up your marriage, and yet your other half has stubbornly persisted in his selfish, thoughtless, immature and hurtful behavior.
Your husband’s acts cannot be minimized or downplayed. One cannot even make the argument that he just got carried away in an Internet chat room (bad enough), or has simply allowed himself to seek out pornographic web sites (despicable), or has merely neglected his wife in every way a man can conceivably shun his woman (disgraceful).
The man you married over 34 years ago and had your children with has actually had no qualms about frequenting bars and strip clubs, dating and flirting with women and partying away as the mood suits him. To boot, he has the temerity to look you in the face and insist that you should not be bothered by or begrudge him his “harmless fun.”
It would be easy for me, or for anyone else, to tell you to get up and get out, as fast as you can. Realistically speaking, however, things are not that simple. In our personal e-mail correspondence, I’ve already advised you to take someone into your confidence, someone you can trust and who would be able to give you some guidance and moral support.
You ask whether you should leave “in the hope of a better marriage” or stay “in this painful but practical arrangement,” but you essentially answer the question yourself — by divulging that you are “thoroughly repulsed” by him, are ashamed to be his wife, that you “neither trust nor respect him” and consider your marriage relationship dead. Is it at all feasible to stay put in this type of atmosphere?
You did for years, true, but you were driven by a goal, a purpose that has Baruch Hashem been achieved with the help of an inner strength granted you from above.
Notwithstanding your strength of character, you should be forewarned that freedom comes at a price. Though the stigma of divorce is not what it was some decades ago, the sense of security a marriage license provides (false as that security may in essence be) dissipates with the divorce papers.
Sad to say, we live in a world where the divorcee becomes a vulnerable member of society, regardless of her courage or resilience. Not only is she prone to be preyed upon by vultures (disguised as men), but she could also find herself being snubbed by some of her married lady friends (who fear her as too attractive to be in the company of their husbands).
The divorced woman will furthermore encounter misplaced pity, as well as inevitably find herself “odd man out” at many get-togethers.
In addition, unexpected reactions from your loved ones – born of a genuine concern for your safety and wellbeing – may be forthcoming, as when mixed feelings surface regarding your decision to leave behind a “comfortable” existence to go it alone.
But all of these drawbacks are relatively minor inconveniences when placed against the heartache you suffer endlessly. To your credit and advantage, you seem to have an organized mind and golden heart, and you speak of supportive family and friends. Your husband has long ago made up his mind about how he wants to live his life; it’s now time (and about time!) for you to decide how you don’t want to live the rest of yours.
A message for the husband who may see himself in this woman’s letter: The words in Pirkei Avos — Kol Yisrael yesh lahem chelek l’olam haba (a portion of the next world awaits every Jew) are reassuring, aren’t they? But there’s a catch… each Jew is responsible for maintaining and nurturing that parcel of real estate that will be his at the end of his days here on earth.
The Chofetz Chaim cites a parable of a king who apportioned acreage to each of his servants; every piece of land was fertile and had much growth potential, but the fruit it would bear would ultimately be contingent on the care and input invested in the property by each new owner.
So it is with each chelek of Olam Haba prepared for us; the choice is ours — it is within our power in our lifetime to render it lush and bountiful or barren and empty.
Your self-indulgent tendencies and mindless pursuit of fleeting physical gratification speak volumes about your choice.
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