MK Tzipi Hotoveli, one of the more activist voices in the Likud party, has a lot more to celebrate than just her recent reelection to the Knesset.
On Saturday night she announced that she got engaged to her boyfriend, Ohr.
Mazel Tov Tzipi and Ohr.
MK Tzipi Hotoveli, one of the more activist voices in the Likud party, has a lot more to celebrate than just her recent reelection to the Knesset.
On Saturday night she announced that she got engaged to her boyfriend, Ohr.
Mazel Tov Tzipi and Ohr.
Do you have any secret funds or debts that your spouse doesn’t know about? I’m referring here to a hidden bank account or an unknown credit card or debt that you have never told anyone about.
If you do, then you are definitely not alone, as a recent Prudential Insurance company survey showed. When the British newspaper The Telegraph published the results of the survey at the end of November, it revealed that around 20 percent of British citizens have debts that they have not disclosed to their partners. Additionally, a slightly smaller number of people admitted that they had hidden investments and savings that were totally unknown to their spouses.
Those asked gave several reasons for concealing their debts. Many times, the underlying cause was a combination of bad monetary habits and embarrassment – over borrowing money to cover everyday living costs, or needing to pay off debts that shouldn’t have arisen. Some said their overspending had been caused by emotional distress, leading to financial problems. In many cases (22 percent), the reason for hiding savings was the fear of a breakup and making sure that there would be some money if this would occur. Eight percent even said that they hide these funds because they simply don’t trust the way their spouse handles money.
As a financial adviser, I often work with couples who argue with each other about money or who don’t trust each other when it comes to financial matters. Indeed, I noticed that attitudes to money are a huge cause of domestic disharmony. The statistics above definitely bear this out; they certainly don’t provide a very positive view of money or relationships.
The best way to combat these difficulties is to meet them head-on and prevent them from happening right from the beginning. If you have a son or daughter who is about to get married, sit down with the young couple and discuss financial habits, such as budgeting and saving. At the same time, emphasize openness and good communication in marriage. Trust and honesty are not only good values with regard to money, but also for marriage in general.
I recently discussed these issues with Sherrie Miller, co-founder of Choice of the Heart, an organization that prepares couples for marriage. And even if you have been married for twenty-five years, it certainly does no harm to review your financial habits with your spouse and to listen to some good and useful advice. Watch the video of my interview with Sherrie to learn more about financial fidelity and other tips for creating (and improving) a strong marriage.
According to an article on the OU website by Rabbi Shlomo Slatkin, the answer to the question asked in the title of this post is yes. The specific culprit according to Rabbi Slatkin is individual therapy. A therapist will counsel only one spouse in a marriage. That – he says ends up becoming an advocacy for that spouse instead of a balanced approach to finding solutions to a troubled marriage.
While I think that is an oversimplification (as I think would Rabbi Slatkin) there is merit to his argument. But if one is to read the comments to his article one would think that this internationally renowned relationship therapist was guilty of professional heresy.
Most of those commenting on this article are themselves professionals. But I think they mostly missed his point. He did not say that individual therapy is never effective or beneficial. What he said is that it can and often does leads to erroneous conclusions about the client’s spouse… and that the marriage could be saved if both husband and wife were counseled together. And as a result divorce is encouraged when in fact that marriage might be saved.
Of course it isn’t individual therapy alone that is the problem. A lot depends on the cultural biases of the therapist. For example, if a couple begins their marriage committed to a specific religious way of life and later one of them decides to alter their commitment in ways that contradicts what they agreed upon, a therapist with a cultural bias against the pressures of religion may support that spouse’s desire to break the bonds of that religion in favor of self actualization. This also breaks the commitment made at the beginning of the marriage. If this is done without any input from the other spouse – it rises to the level of professional malpractice.
Not that there aren’t often other problems pressuring a troubled marriage. But a therapist that focuses too much on the personal autonomy of a client may inadvertently be destroying a salvageable marriage. That is much more likely to happen when there is no input from the other side.
This does not mean that every therapist that practices individual therapy in troubled marriages will make bad decisions. Nor does it mean that in some cases freedom from some of those strictures isn’t warranted. But without full input from both sides – a fair and unbiased evaluation of a marriage is impossible. It is therefore easy to understand why Rabbi Slatkin feels so strongly about it.
It is also true that there are incompetent therapists who give bad counsel a couple when treated together. So the bottom line for me is competence. But I also share Rabbi Slatkin’s concern.
Tangentially there is something else I find troubling. Often when a Rav is consulted about getting therapy he will recommend that only a religious therapist be consulted. Being religious is nice but it should not be the primary concern. Again, competence should be. As long as a therapist has respect for the ways of others and is not judgmental about the strictures of their religion – the therapist’s religion or level of observance should not be a concern. I know some pretty bad frum therapists and some top notch secular therapists. The suggestion that a therapist be first and foremost a religious Jew is bad advice.
Getting back to Rabbi Slatkin – his goal is keeping marriages together. And for good reason. Divorce can be devastating on children in so many ways. Including but not limited to their Yiddishkeit. It can also permanently affect the way their children see marriage… as a negative state of being. It can also cause them to go OTD. It can affect their progress in school and their social skills.
Rabbi Slatkin is therefore very upset that divorce is so often the solution recommended by individual therapists who urge their clients to free themselves from the bonds of marriage.
The fact is that a good marriage does take a lot of work. It takes a lot of compromise and sacrifice. There is a lot less me-ism and a lot more we-ism. When two worlds collide in a marriage it can cause a giant explosion. And there are always two worlds. No two people are exactly alike. They each bring their own baggage to a marriage. And often when two people get married they do not always look for the most important qualities in each other that will make the marriage work. Like temperament and the ability to compromise. Or compatibility of ideals.
If there is one area of orthodox Jewish life that is truly messed up and needs fixing it’s matchmaking. In our communities we eschew the recreational dating scene of the secular world. As a counselor in that world and someone who once served as matchmaker-in-chief for JDate, I agree that it is too flawed. External qualities like beauty and money play an outsized role. People don’t date to commit but to have fun, except that there is nothing ultimately pleasurable about relationships that are expected, from the outset, not to last. Who needs a broken heart? Life has enough uncontrollable pain not to have add the self-inflicted variety.
So what is our solution? Is the alternative that we offer in orthodoxy of young men and women never meeting at all and connecting only through matchmakers a viable alternative?
Well, it once was when the orthodox community was, say, a tenth of the size it is today. But let’s be proud of our growth. From the time I got marriage nearly 25 years ago, thank God, to today the orthodox community has absolutely exploded in growth. We’re having a lot of kids, which is wonderful but it has strained the shidduch-matchmaking system to the limit. Some would say it has broken it almost completely. How the heck are a few, mostly volunteer matchmakers supposed to cope with this vast demand? Are young orthodox men and women really supposed to sit around, preparing their resumes, as if their on a job interview, and badgering shadchanim to prioritize them amid so many others clamoring for the same attention? Is it a workable system? Is there any dignity in it?
I am the proud father of nine children thank God and I just became a grandfather. My first three children are daughters, all raised with my standards of dating to marry and dating within the shidduch system. This is particularly important to me given my considerable exposure to the romantic and sexual challenges, not to mention the sky-high divorce rate, that is prevalent in mainstream culture and which I address. However, I’m not the kind of guy who believes in delegating life’s most important responsibilities to others. But here I am, as an orthodox father, forced to relegate my daughters’ dating life to matchmakers who are very well-intentioned and who care but who cannot possibly know my daughters well or prioritize them, given the vast demands on their time and energies from so many other parents.
In the Chabad system it’s especially challenging because of the absolutely vast increase in the size of the community, thank God, how spread out it is internationally, and because most of the shadchanim, trying to be pure of heart, offer their services in a volunteer capacity rather than professionally. But that also means there is no real accountability.
So, I am being fair to my daughters when I tell them, based on my personal values, that they should only date within the shidduch system? Should they be reduced, like so many other young Chabad men and women, to friends and matchmaker’s introductions? Should their involvement in their own dating life really be so passive?
I have to admit that my own experiences within the shidduch system has caused me to question it considerably, though my own children would probably disagree and say the system functions well enough. They would say that being ‘frum’ means certain things and they embrace the shidduch system, whatever its shortcomings. But Yeshiva University, where my daughter is an undergraduate, does events that brings young men and women together. It is not seen as scandalous or secular. Indeed, I applaud it. Chabad and the more ‘black hat’ communities would not countenance such interactions. And there is a part of me that not only understands that and agrees with it but even, for years, advocated it.
When a leading Chabad Rabbi with unquestionable credentials suggested a few years back in a column that Chabad begin limited interactions between the young men and women, in a controlled environment, to have them meet for the purposes of marriage, I attacked the suggestion as being a slippery slope. I who counsel so many secular singles and know how screwed up the singles scene is in secular singles-events and party communities.
But having said that, I now have a much more open mind. I do not believe it’s fair to my daughters, and my sons when they come of age, that the limited interaction they will have with a potential spouse will come from people who really don’t have a lot of time to commit to the endeavor. Less so do I believe that such an important stage in life become so fundamentally disempowering that one cannot take any kind of personal initiative but is forced to rely on the kindness of strangers.
Indeed, a few years back I was prevailed upon, by young Chabad men and women writing to me, to host a small Shabbos gathering in Englewood where I would offer talks on Judaism and dating and where young Chabad men and women, thoroughly committed to the shidduch system, could have the opportunity to meet. I did it as an experiment. It worked well. It was very educational and, though I don’t know what couples resulted, I know it gave people hope.
And this is but one idea about how to fix a broken system. I welcome all other positive suggestions.
In the final analysis, the Jewish people are still here, after thousands of years of persecution, because our young people have married and produced strong families. This crisis, therefore, is an existential crisis that must be courageously addressed.
Self esteem is one of the most important factors influencing human behavior. Despite what some people believe, self esteem can be a critical issue in marriage, where unresolved identity issues from childhood can place unwanted stress on a relationship.
Low self esteem can be very painful and difficult to overcome. Our sense of self is something we come into the world with and it follows us through life like a shadow. If we lose it, we are lost. If we have we it, we can face all of our trials and tribulations and maintain our sense of satisfaction and emotional well-being. Most parents understand the role self esteem plays in childhood. When children grow up, we teach them how to take losses in stride and how to win and lose with grace. We teach children that it’s them, and not just their grades, that matter.
Once childhood passes, unresolved self esteem issues can last for a lifetime. For example, in marriages where one person suffers from low self esteem, both parties may feel that their spouse never properly fulfills their emotional needs. And, where both suffer from feelings of low self esteem, there may be perpetual disappointment in the relationship.
Expectations make this issue even more complex. Couples tend to enter marriage with the belief that any hurt they may have experienced in the past will be healed by their spouse. They may also hope that their spouse will somehow make them feel good about themselves and nurture their self image.
A couple once came to talk with me about difficulties they were having in their marriage. The issue burning in their minds was the negative behavior of their teenage son. The father found it difficult to parent his rebellious teenager with confidence, and the wife had given up hope in her children and in her marriage as well. Overall, they were both visibly angry at one another, withdrawn and disappointed in their relationship.
I sensed there was more hiding below the surface. The husband, it turned out, had lost his mother at a young age and was raised by his father, who was too preoccupied with their financial survival to pay much attention to his son’s emotional needs. The wife had also had a very difficult childhood. She grew up with a father who had a temper and would often yell at her without reason. Early on, she had learned how to adapt and “disappear” from the house when he was around.
Years later, these two individuals would continue their childhood patterns and be caught in an endless cycle of emotional turmoil. Here is how the self esteem issues spiraled out of control: whenever he sensed that his wife was not responsive to his emotional needs, he would start yelling at her. His wife, who was mistreated by her father and had learned how to avoid conflict, would physically and emotionally withdraw from him and try to hide. This would intensify his feelings of rejection and make him even angrier.
To break the cycle, I suggested that both work on their self esteem. They could begin by exploring how their childhood traumas were now influencing their present-day behavior. Through becoming aware of these inner issues, they would be better equipped to respond to their deeper emotional wounds and start healing their feelings of rejection and neglect.
Here is a list of childhood family issues that may be interrupting your ability to have a happy marriage as an adult:
* Learning disabilities
* Lack of friendships
* Physical or emotional abuse
* A sick parent
* A death in the family
Children who are exposed to conflict at home (which tends to coincide with a negative and hostile relationship between the parents) are more at risk for aggression, internalizing by withdrawing, depressive symptoms, and feelings of low self esteem.
Also, an adult who lost a parent when he or she was a child may feel a sense of loss that can carry on for a lifetime. Losing someone at a young age can diminish self-confidence, create feelings of despair, and leave individuals with feelings of anxiety and uncertainty.
Part of the healing process is to become aware of these inner issues and to begin discussing them with one’s spouse. Talking about them in an honest and open way can help them become aware of each other’s feelings of abandonment. Here are some tips on how to nourish each other’s level of self esteem:
Dear Dr. Yael:
I am writing to you in regards to your article, “Easing The Trauma Of Divorce” (Dear Dr. Yael, 11-16).
Now in my 30s, I am the product of a divorced home in which my parents made me, an only child, a pawn. Throughout my life the trauma and hatred I witnessed between my parents was unbearable. As a result, I am terrified to get married, despite the desire to do so in a normal and happy setting. I have gone for therapy, but this great fear is hard to overcome. I wonder if this feeling will ever leave me.
I still speak to both of my parents (neither of them remarried), who, to this day, hate each other so much that they cannot even be in the same room. Thus, how can I even have a wedding? I believe that had my parents divorced peacefully, my childhood would have been normal.
I work hard on my middos, am well educated and have a fabulous career. Without wanting to sound arrogant, I am confident that there are women who would be interested in me. Unfortunately, I am convinced that it is my deep fear of turmoil and unhappiness that is stopping me from getting married.
Dr. Yael, I strongly urge divorced parents to heed your sage advice to not turn their poor children into pawns during their divorce. If parents are getting divorced, they must try their hardest to make it as peaceful as possible, working together for the benefit of their children. I have happily married friends with divorced parents, but those parents did everything they could to keep things peaceful.
These friends seem to have come from homes similar to what you termed “the best possible divorce situation,” whereby their parents remarried and had an amicable relationship. Like you wrote in your column, my happily married friends from divorced homes felt the love and devotion from both parents as well as from their stepparents. I, on the other hand, think that my parents are emotionally not well – with that probably being the core issue in my situation. Having never remarried, they are extremely angry and negative people. I am sure that their emotional problems have also affected my view on marriage, as I do not want to end up like them.
I hope this letter inspires parents who are getting divorced to think carefully about their behavior as it pertains to the emotional wellbeing of the children they love. Only responsible behavior will spare their children the emotional destruction I’ve been forced to experience.
Thank you, Dr. Yael, for your helpful and informative column.
My heart breaks for the predicament in which you find yourself. Even though you had a difficult childhood, Hashem obviously gave you other tools which you have used to create a life for yourself. All of these talents and your evident ambition should certainly make you very attractive to women.
As you seem very bright, please try to overcome your deep fear and get married. I would hate to see you live alone for the rest of your life. Learn from your parents’ mistakes and build a different life for yourself. If you feel that therapy has so far not worked for you, find another therapist who can help you. It is important to click with a therapist to the degree that you feel comfortable enough with him or her to share your insecurities. This will permit the two of you to begin the process of changing your views on marriage.
It is extremely difficult to want to get married and know how to make the marriage work, if you never saw a healthy marital relationship. But you can learn how to have a successful marriage through therapy. And once you feel equipped to enter into marriage, the concept will not be as frightening as it now seems.
You may also have to revisit some of your painful childhood memories and work through your anger toward your parents. When you succeed at doing these things, you may feel more comfortable with the idea of getting married. There are many children of divorced parents who are successful at overcoming their fears and insecurities, and are then able to build beautiful and happy families.
The David Petraeus scandal, where a national hero betrays a solid, devoted, soul mate of a wife to be with a young hot thing who gets his blood pumping seems as old as time itself. In earlier times a general or king would usually have two women to being with to fulfill two very different needs. The pedigreed wife for children and to rule as a consort – and recall that Petraeus married the daughter of the Superintendent of West Point – and a mistress for passion and excitement. But Petraeus had to resign because our society does not tolerate unfaithfulness. It expects men who are accomplished in their public life to be equally accomplished in marriage by finding find both dimensions in one woman, namely their wives.
The Biblical story of Jacob and his two wives, Rachel and Leah (which we read in last week’s portion) provides insight into what men search for and the tragedy of not orchestrating disparate needs into one indivisible woman.
When Jacob first meets Rachel, he seeks to impress her by moving a giant stone, then kisses her, and breaks into tears. He then offers Laban, her father, seven years of work in return for Rachel’s hand in marriage. The years pass by so quickly that ‘they appeared in his eyes as if they were just days.’
Jacob’s love for Rachel is one of deep passion and yearning. It is love as covetousness, lust, and desire. It is the fieriest kind of romantic love. It is also the most tragic. Romantic, passionate, lustful love that is balanced by partnership and intimacy nearly always ends badly. Either because the fires die down, or because the fire burns so brightly that it consumes both participants. Fiery, lustful love rarely ends up with a happily ever after. Jacob feels in his bones that his passion for Rachel must end disastrously. Thus, he is drawn to kiss her, but he immediately weeps. He recognizes that in this imperfect world, perfect love is impossible to attain. He wants Rachel to be his soul mate, but he intuits that he will never fully possess her is destined to lose her.
By contrast, he experiences none of the same passion for Leah. When he is fooled into marrying her, he accepts Leah as a partner and eventually the mother of his children. But his yearning is for Rachel. Leah feels hated and names the first of her three children after her experiences of rejection from Jacob. Reuben is for the God ‘who saw my affliction and granted me a son.’ Simeon is for the God ‘who saw that I am hated.’ Levi is the son whose birth ‘will bring my husband closer to me.’ Only with the fourth son, Judah, which means ‘praise to God,’ do we begin to see a name that gives the child an intrinsic identity rather than one that relates instead to the relationship of his father to his mother.
Leah longs for Jacob the way that Jacob longs for Rachel. But for Jacob, Leah represents a maternal, practical partner with whom he shares a life but has no passionate connection. It reflects, arguably, the way Petraeus viewed his own loyal wife. They have intimacy but no intensity. They have a family but no fervor or fire. He loves her but does not long for her. He does not want bad things to happen to her. He wishes to protect her but she is not the delight of his soul.
Yet Jacobs knows in his heart that Leah, rather than Rachel, is destined to be his soul mate. (No doubt Petraeus knew in his heart as well he was always destined to return to his wife, if she would accept him back). She is destined to bear most of his children, share his life, and share eternity with him by being buried at his side. Leah represents stability and order. She will be Jacob’s anchor. She is his permanence. The woman who tethers him to family. Yet he will never make peace with love that is only functional and not romantic, stable but not passionate.
Rachel is playful, girlish, and evinces, at times, immaturity that is often characteristic of women whom men desire mightily. She can also be callous about Jacob’s love for her, so confident is she in the of his desire. When Reuben brings flowers for his mother Leah, Rachel strikes a deal with Leah to exchange the flowers for a conjugal night with Jacob. What Leah longs for, Rachel treats as mere currency. Unlike Jacob who understands intuitively the tragic nature of passionate, romantic love, Rachel thinks they have endless time to be together. One night will make no difference. But Jacob knows the clock is ticking.
Women like Leah ultimately both triumph and suffer. They triumph because in their stability they end up gaining the commitment of men who build families and lives with them. But they suffer because they never feel the passionate desire of their husbands. They never really feel wanted. They never truly feel special. And a woman wants to be lusted after even more than she wants to be loved.
But it is the amalgamation of both types of love that is meant to characterize the successful marriage. Not a man in a relationship with two women, but a man and woman whose marriage incorporates both dimensions. Husbands and wives are meant to have passion and practicality, fire and firmness, lust and love, desire and durability. Rachel and Leah are meant to be one.
The Jewish laws that will follow with the giving of the Torah at Sinai will prescribe half of the month devoted to passion and sexual fire, and half of the month devoted to soulfulness and intimacy. The orchestration of the two is what makes a marriage whole. We are meant to be lovers and best friends, paramours and soul mates, people who ache for each other but settle down with one another to create a life of stability and permanence. Our wives should be our mistresses and our companions, our excitement and our anchor. We never wish to lose our lust, but we also need to accompany lust with love.
It was Jacob’s inability to value both dimensions that lead to many problems in the life of his own family. Jacob seems scarred from his childhood. His father favored Esau, so from his earliest age he tasted rejection. Later, he will repeat many of these mistakes in favoring Joseph, creating even more dysfunction and sibling rivalry among his own children than he experienced with Esau. Likewise, he favors one wife and one type of love. He struggles to appreciate the stability of Leah and gravitates exclusively toward the drama of Rachel. With Rachel he fights and argues. She accuses Jacob of being responsible for her not falling pregnant. He fires back that he is not God and is not responsible for her infertility. But dramatic relationships are addictive and Rachel is the drug of choice. But in favoring Rachel so exclusively Jacob risks becomes emotionally monolithic, never quite mastering the art of relationships. He is, interestingly, far better at adversarial relationships than intimate ones. He outmaneuvers the wily Esau to take his blessing as well as his immoral and cunning father-in-law Laban. He wrestles with an angel and defeats him. He has learned from an early age to survive on his wits.
Like many a man who has experienced insufficient love in his childhood, Jacob finds intimacy challenging. Love for him is more of a high than a deep sharing of self. He seeks the deep thrill of love that comes from a woman of passionate nature like Rachel rather than a woman of deep emotion like Leah. Jacob gravitates to the romantic love of the poets rather than the practical love of real life.
But, whatever man’s plans, God often intends something different. Jacob lusts for Rachel but his future is with Leah.
We men of the modern era can draw the appropriate lesson.
Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/columns/america-rabbi-shmuley-boteach/david-petraeus-and-the-biblical-lessons-of-why-men-want-two-women/2012/11/27/
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