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The following is in response to “Lonely stay-at-home mom…” (Chronicles 8-31). I am an avid reader of your column and wish you brachah and hatzlachah in your important work! Thank you.
I don’t know you, but I know your pain. To be married and lonely can feel like the worst emotional curse. As married women, it is normal for us to expect love and affection. When our expectations are not met, we are faced with a harsh, painful reality – life not treating us the way it is supposed to. And it hurts badly.
The agonizing loneliness leaves us feeling desperate for any sign or signal from our partner that will tell us if we are loved at all. The mere fact that you crave affection and feel lonely means that you have a heart that wishes to receive. And if that is the case, you also have a heart that can give.
You probably tried giving to your spouse early in your marriage but got frustrated, because “emotionally cold” people usually do not know how to release love either. My husband has other issues that also affect our marriage, but I certainly know what “cold” means. And it’s not much better to hear “I love you” in the bedroom and then be screamed at the next day or be shown disrespect in front of your children. So if your husband is “decent” to you, don’t minimize this. I’m not attempting to downplay your pain, but as Rachel so aptly put it, your cup may be half full.
When I’m down, I think of my single friends who are not only unmarried, but don’t have children either. Use your emotional energy to give to your children. Make eye contact, hug and kiss them. A noted educator once told me that it’s not enough to love them. Don’t underestimate the power you have in your home to instill the much needed love and warmth. A healthy dose, even from one parent, will enable them to grow into normal, productive adults.
Believe in yourself. It’s not easy to summon that inner strength, but I’ve embraced this as my test in life, ever since I have concluded that being single is not less lonely than being married to a cold man (except for not expecting the love anymore).
Unfortunately, there is no guarantee of getting married again (especially with children), and as Rachel noted, you definitely trade one set of problems for another with the family all split up and kids bounced back and forth for visiting, etc.
Allow your friends to fill some of that lonely space – a couple of solid friendships that are mutually supportive (and I don’t mean using your friends to talk about your rotten marriage; find a good therapist to unburden yourself to if need be). Friends who truly care can be there for you and lighten your day. Being there for them will open your giving heart again without you even realizing it! Ignite old friendships; make time for a lunch date with a friend. It will give you that extra boost you need to face the challenging household.
A talent or hobby you enjoy is also great as an outlet. So put the music on during the day – that always helps. And when the pain strikes at night when you put your head on the pillow (and I know it will), think of all the people who do care for you – who would reach out and give you the hug that you need. And you’ll probably develop a deeper appreciation for anytime that anybody does do something nice for you.
Ultimately it’s obviously your decision to stay or to go. (By the way, my husband and I actually switch off weeks with the same therapist. It’s less threatening than going together.) As you may have already done, try communicating to your husband that you believe in him, that he has the ability to make you happier (no doubt he feels like a failure inside, which for men is a trap they find impossible to escape sometimes), and that he needs to learn the right tools, even if he hasn’t yet.
I ask myself the same question you do: will I regret my decision to stay when I am old? I don’t know, but at the moment it’s one day at a time. I daven to Hashem to help me make the right choices – and I pray for you, that you find enough other resources to comfort your aching heart and make your life bearable and at times joyous again. Yes, a happy mother is a happy child, though of course much easier said than done.
I know you are lonely, but you are definitely not alone.
Also lonely but so far staying in it too
Dear Also Lonely,
Thank you for your moving words and for sharing your pain – painstakingly written in longhand. It is obvious that you have a giving heart.
You also submitted a touching poem that you composed, but the column’s space limit prevents me from including it here. I will save it for a future column.
The many reactions precipitated by “Lonely Mom” and her forerunners (Feeling hopeless 5-14; Wishing it could have been different 6-29; Still feeling hopeless 8-24) testify to the fact that despite the loneliness, she is far from alone.
On an entirely different note: I would like to inform my wonderful reading audience that the Agunah in Agony (chronicle of 9-21) has Baruch Hashem been freed – as she herself puts it, “3 years, 3 months and 10 days later, Chasdei Shamayim!” MAZEL TOV!!! May your heart know of no more sorrow, only the strains of sweet melody.
To the big-hearted readers who reached out with offers of help – there are no words. G-d bless you all!