In your letter (which appeared in last week’s column) it didn’t seem as though you were seeking advice as much as simply needing to air your frustrations and pent-up emotions repressed for the many torturous years of your dysfunctional marriage.
Surely there is much more to this fiasco than the details in your letter reveal, yet you can rest assured that reader sympathy leaned heavily in your favor. How could anyone help but empathize with you and the miserable situation you endured for so long?
At the same time, we are somewhat puzzled. For instance, for most of your letter we are led to believe that your spouse was an uncaring, ungrateful, unfeeling and selfish witch. Then about three quarters of the way into your letter, we are suddenly exposed to your ex-wife’s suffering from an “eating disorder.” That tidbit of information out of left field shifts the force of our emotions, for a person thus affected cannot be held totally accountable for his/her actions.
And of course the question that begs to be asked: Why didn’t you put an end to your distress by ending the marriage long before 14 years elapsed? (You indicate that it was your wife who finally took the initiative to dissolve the marriage.)
Though you don’t state so outright, we are given the impression that you have availed yourself of some counseling, but presumably only towards the very end of your marriage or after you found yourself alone. Consulting a reliable therapist early on would have sooner brought home the realization that you were not to blame for the shabby treatment your ex doled out on a regular basis. Plus, a professional counselor would have steered your wife to receive medical attention for her debilitating condition. And if your relationship had proven to be unsalvageable despite professional guidance, you would have at least been able to resolve to break free of your misery, perhaps at a much earlier time.
If your ex was, in fact, ill when you married her (as you imply), how did she manage to have children, and how badly did having them further wreak damage to her already delicate mental and physical state? Where was her family (who must have been aware of her eating disorder) while all this was transpiring? Where was yours…?
Your story offers some vital lessons.
(1) At the top of the list: Every shadchan (or anyone playing the role) has an obligation to divulge any medical and/or physical condition to the interested party. Withholding such important information will inevitably lead to heartbreak and serious repercussions for the couple as well as their families.
(2) Constant putdowns can affect a victim’s self-worth to the point where s/he will feel deserving of the abusive spouse’s wrath. (Your feeling at fault was a normal reaction to your wife’s abnormal actions.)
(3) Professional marriage counseling can help avert or mitigate the agony of a victim’s “battered person syndrome” (see #2 above).
(4) “Eating disorders” are serious ailments often accompanied by depression and anxiety. They can cause irreversible organ damage and can be fatal if medical attention is not solicited in a timely manner.
(5) You made it clear in your letter that you and your ex-wife were not on the same page in your religious standing. Though this may not necessarily have been the undoing of your marriage, it nevertheless contributed to the discord and underscores the importance of seeking a mate with whom one shares common values and goals.
(6) Every divorce action leads to heartache and emotional upheaval, particularly where children are involved. Badmouthing one’s ex (lashon ha’ra) only serves to compound and prolong the misery all around.
(7) Embitterment and hope cannot co-exist. To get on with a meaningful and purposeful life, one must purge all bitterness from the heart. Life may at times seem unfair, but it is wrong and senseless to judge all of man (or woman) by the actions of some.
(8) A newly divorced person is greeted with Mazel Tov for having dissolved a hopelessly unworkable union and is wished good fortune from here on in – something that can be realized only by leaving the past behind.
You end your letter with a unique observation: “… the first woman on earth gave the first man on earth to eat of the apple so he should not live and so that she could marry someone else.” You then ask, “So who is selfish – man or woman? Who was wronged? Who had the problem, and who is the snake?”
It was, indeed, the first woman who gave the first man to eat of the forbidden fruit, but it was the snake on two feet who instigated the whole spiel, hoping to gain Chava for himself (for he thought that she would first offer the fruit to Adam who would then die).
A forgiving Creator spared the lives of Adam and Chava. The serpent, however, was immediately condemned to lose its legs and to slither on its belly and eat the dust of the earth for eternity – for it had spoken lashon ha’ra against Hashem (when it tried to convince Chava that a jealous G-d did not want man to possess the knowledge only obtainable by eating from the Etz HaDa’as).
Hopefully, you are on the road to a full recovery from your ordeal and are receiving both therapeutic and legal counsel in order to cope and deal with the unfortunate circumstance of your children’s unhealthy living conditions.
Preparing for the Purim holiday brings to mind a most remarkable woman – our brave and beautiful Queen Esther, the Megillah’s heroine who used her attributes and then some to help bring about a miraculous outcome for her persecuted people.
Esther HaMalkah’s beauty shone from within; her outstanding trait of discretion, both in her bearing and speech, is one that every woman should make note of and strive to emulate.
Hatzlachah for a better and brighter future… and Simchas Purim!Rachel