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December 28, 2014 / 6 Tevet, 5775
 
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Sara Freund’

Marriage; Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010

Zelda woke up with a start, the silence eerie and disorienting. She has been waking up this way for almost a year – since shortly after Ruchy and her husband left for Eretz Yisroel. “I can go back to sleep,” thought Zelda. But she lay in bed, straining to hear the sounds which for so many years began her day. The banging of bathroom doors, the shouting for lost and then found shoes, tights and seforim, the noise of phones and doorbells ringing, the house filled to the brim with comings and goings.

Now only she and her husband occupied the space that had once been filled with all that is associated with a balabateshe home. Her day stretched endlessly, without any noticeable change from yesterday or tomorrow. The silence was deafening. Suddenly, with a sense of relief, she remembered that this was the day she picked up her mother from the Y and took her out to lunch. Once upon a time, it was hard to fit in the time for lunch with her mother.

Life had changed so drastically. The hectic, driven mother, who didn’t have a minute to spare, now had the weight of empty hours pressing in on her. Zelda confided in me that the only sparkle she has left in her life is when her daughter arrives from Israel to give birth in the U.S. She is busy 24/7, but then when they go, she is devastated.

Till now Zelda was instrumental in helping her spouse and their children reach their goals, often at personal sacrifice. Women at this stage of life have accomplished a lot. They see the fruits of their labor; children and grandchildren blossoming, but at the same time the feeling of triumph on a day-to-day basis is lost. It is not surprising that they feel adrift. This sharp loneliness is often referred to as the “empty nest syndrome.”

In this article, I would like to explore how women can achieve great personal growth and true simchas hachaim at a time when many feel they are “all washed up.” One can face the challenge of reorienting to the new realities of life and reach deep and soul-stirring moments. Focus can now shift from seeing oneself primarily as a mother of children to a woman in relation to a man. The new task is to reinvent the marriage – to spruce up the relationship between husband and self. This is the next stage of our lives: establishing a revitalized and meaningful relationship with our husbands.

A cherished mentor, Mrs. Gross, who lived to the ripe old age of 90 used to say, “I had at least 4 husbands in my life: the young ardent husband/kollel man who rushed home eagerly to eat dinner with his young bride; the hard working father who rushed home from work to spend quality time with our children; the less haggard, but more serious grandfather, who loved taking the grandkids to the park; and more recently, the wise, settled gentleman who accepts what life has to offer with gratitude and grace. Mrs. Gross was a smart woman who went with the flow and enjoyed each different phase of life. She was a very wise woman because she knew how to appreciate her husband in every stage of their lives.

Not all women are so blessed with this insight. Many couples lose their awareness of each other as the needs of maintaining a home take center stage. They forget how to relate to each other in that truly personal way. If relationships are of paramount importance to women, it is especially true of the relationship of marriage. The success or failure of a marriage lies at the core of our being; it defines our feelings of success.

At this stage of life, enhancing and reinvigorating the marriage must become our priority. It is my fervent belief that women can use their innate power to learn new skills and create positive energy between themselves and their spouse. These skills have been lying dormant inside every woman, but have not always been accessed.

Yossi, Zelda’s husband, comes home. He opens the door, mumbles hello and picks up his mail without a glance at his wife. Zelda is on the phone. She waves at him absentmindedly, continuing her phone conversation. What is going on? An aura of indifference has set in with no real connection or awareness between them. They are like two ships passing in the night. This couple is not getting anything from each other emotionally. They are merely occupying space together. There is no flow of positive energy passing between them.

This couple has moved away from the ideal of what a marriage is meant to be. Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler writes on the roots of love, “We are givers. This is hidden deeply in our human soul. We think it is love which causes giving, because a person showers gifts on those that he loves. But it may be the other way around. Giving brings about love, because by giving you invest something of yourself in the other person.”

The first step in the reconnection process is to look at your husband and really see him; his emotional state of being. Look at his body language, listen to his tone of voice, hear his verbal and mental message. Had Zelda taken note, she would have seen a different picture. Did her husband come home with drooping shoulders; sadness etched on his tired face or was he joyful, eager to share his day?

What about you, a typical middle-aged woman? Can you be empathic and understanding? Can you pay attention to his stories and jokes? Can you show interest in the things he enjoys; can you make him feel that he is important to you? If you answer yes to these questions, then you are creating an atmosphere of emotional safety.

Here is an illustration of how a typical situation can turn into a disaster when couples are not tuned into one another.

Mendy came home very late one night – much later than usual. He hadn’t called. It was a snowy night and Shony was frantic. By the time he arrived she was an emotional wreck. She lashed out at him the minute he stepped through the door. Angry recriminations ensued, finally giving way to hurtful silence. Years before when Mendy came home late, Shony hardly noticed because she was busy with supper and bedtime for the kids. In fact, she was even relieved as it gave her a chance to put the house in order. Today it was very different. Her hours were empty and she was looking forward to some companionship. She had expected to spend a pleasant evening. Shony felt not only scared and disappointed, but rejected as well.

In my practice, I am currently using the pioneering work of Dr. Stephen Gilligan Ph.D., who has developed the therapeutic theory of “Self Relations”. He teaches that we have the ability to leave behind the old patterns of frustration and turn these patterns into an opportunity for positive new growth. A person can reinvent and transform himself to meet the changes in his life, instead of reacting to the changes with suspicion and despair.

In the aforementioned example, when Shony was in that frustrated place, she could have used it as a stepping-stone to regenerate her mind to a new pattern of responses.

Shony might have remembered that Mendy’s past experience was similar to her own: He understood that Shony would not notice if he was late and might even be relieved. Or she might have been in touch with her own feelings of disappointment. If so, she could have used this opportunity to get closer to her husband. She could have altered the outcome by rephrasing her worry, “I am so relieved you are home. I was worried sick. Tonight more than ever, I realized how important you are in my life. You must be exhausted being out there on this awful night.” The episode would have brought them closer together instead of further apart.

Another component of “Self Relations” therapy is employing the “technique” of tenderness. Dr. Gilligen advocates sprinkling tenderness into the spousal relationship in small ways. Within a Torah context, a husband and wife who treat each other with tenderness and kindness are fulfilling an unbelievable level of chessed bein odom l’chavero. In this positive state we move through life with a sparkle and zest that is euphoric.

After years of living together, many couples develop a kind of “taking for granted” attitude towards each other. Here is where little tender acts can change this cycle of indifference. One woman recalled, “For years my husband told me he loves a certain bean soup, called shipkele/bundele, that his mother used to cook for the family. I was not always attentive to that longing because I was so preoccupied with the children, but now I make sure to serve him the soup that brings those good memories back for him. This small gesture makes him feel that I care and I do.”

Another woman recalls shyly, “a little thing like having my coffee freshly brewed and ready for me makes my day start in a happier frame of mind.” Tenderness also means not taking anything for granted and saying thank you; showing hakoras hatov. Tenderness means speaking softly. When you ask for something in an angry, impatient manner, the message often does not get heard, but the tone does.

Dr. Gilligan adds a third piece to the “Self-Relations” theory which encourages creating an atmosphere of playfulness and fun. Make time for joy and laughter. Go on a date with your husband. Clink glasses during a romantic dinner. Play games such as Scrabble or Rummy on quiet nights. Go for walks; travel if you can and learn together. These small and simple activities build relationships and enhance companionship.

Have a sense of humor, allow yourself to play and be a child again. Create fun situations where you can have the freedom to relax and feel the comfort of someone who is accepting of you. Don’t let little things annoy you or upset you. Know how to let go. Laughter is really a great medicine; a sustained belly laugh releases endorphins into the brain, creating a sense of well-being.

When we receive blessings for a binyan adei ad at the time of our wedding, it doesn’t stop when the last child leaves the house; it is meant to last till 120. With a fresh and different perception, the “empty nest syndrome” can be turned into a time of rejuvenation and renewal. Adopting the philosophy of tenderness/playfulness and reinventing ourselves can transform our marriages to a new, unprecedented level of sharing and connection. Bein Adam l’chavaro, v’ish l’ishto; there is no better way to embrace Hashem than by bringing tranquility and joy into our home.

Sara Freund, LCSW has been practicing psychotherapy in the frum community for the last 25 years in her private practice. She has been trained in E.M.D.R. and Hypnotherapy. She helps individuals, couples and families with problems such as: Depression, Anxiety, Phobic Fears, Bi-Polar Disorder, and Sholom Bayis problems. She can be reached at 718-692-1650 or you can send a e-mail to sarafreund@yahoo.com.

Being A Good Wife Is Sometimes Not Enough

Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010

Sometimes a few sessions of marital therapy can solve problems that were festering for years. The married couple have often locked themselves into such a struggle; they need help to simply untangle the knot. This has a lot to do with the high level of emotion they are feeling – just think of the expression “I am so angry I can’t think straight. The husband and wife often cannot think logically or clearly. Every issue between them is filled with layers of anger, hurt, betrayal and fear that has built up over the years due to miscommunication. Clearly, turning to an objective, trained third party is the way to navigate the troubled couple out of the dangerous waters they have drifted into. It was traditional for yidden to turn to a third party like Aharon HaKohein who was reknown for helping people to live in peaceful co-existence.

Unfortunately, the success of marital therapy in modern day society has not always been so assured. The literature on marriage counseling indicates that it often fails; it takes years of training and hands-on experience for a marital therapist to truly become an objective third party. The therapist learns to see the way into each couple’s core; to zero in on the main issues and finally, the therapist must not be sucked into their way of thinking or be put into a position in which he or she takes sides.

I would like to share a story of two wonderful, kind and loving people. Through a series of misunderstandings and miscommunications they were almost on the verge of divorce, which would have been tragic, since they were perfectly compatible!

From the moment I spoke to Esty I felt her warmth. Her voice had a rich and soft sound that was soothing. I was eager and curious to meet her as she sounded so pleasant on the phone. “I hope you can help us because I don’t know who to turn to. I tried everything, but my marriage is falling apart. Please don’t get me wrong; my husband is really a good, good person. He will buy me anything I want, it’s not about money”. It all came tumbling out in a jumble. “I don’t know if my husband will want to come but I want to. I have to try to save my marriage even though I am almost ready to give up.”

Esty was a well-dressed, attractive, young woman in her late twenties. Despite her pleasant smile, her face bespoke patience and suffering. She told me that she didn’t think anything could help her marriage. She just couldn’t go on living the way she had for the last six years. She remembered her high resolve to be the best wife she could be and to make her husband happy. She was never one to complain or make demands. You see, her parents, both good people, had never gotten along. She wanted to have a special closeness to her husband and for him to be someone who would share her life and someone to talk to. But instead, Yanky, her husband, is withdrawn and rarely talks about what he is feeling. He comes home angry or upset and won’t discuss what is bothering him.

“It’s really so hard for me to talk about him like this, because he is such a good person and constantly does favors. I never have to ask for money; he just gives it to me,” she said tearfully.

Esty felt torn emotionally. She appreciated that Yanky was a good provider and was quite cognizant about the importance of financial security in a marriage. But in every other way, she is living alone with her children. She has no husband. He is almost never home. He comes in for an hour for supper and leaves almost immediately. She never knows when he comes home because she is sleeping by that time. They very rarely get together physically or emotionally. Physical intimacy is often the glue that keeps a marriage together, especially if the couple is having other problems. Missing this ingredient in the marriage can easily destroy it. The weekends were also difficult. On Shabbos, Yanky drank too much in shul. When he came home he was emotionally unavailable. This made the Shabbos seudos unpleasant, the drinking made him belligerent and the children looked at him with frightened eyes. “I would try to smooth over the situation because I like things to be pleasant. I am not someone that can speak up. I hate to complain, so l let everything slide.”

It seemed to me that she was virtually on her own in bringing up her three children. Five year old Ari was getting increasingly more difficult to handle. He worshipped his father who was not around enough to be an effective and loving parent and when he was around, he became livid the minute the kids were mischievous and wanted to slap them.

Esty was sad during the first session. She cried a lot, but she said, ” I try to keep smiling for my children. I don’t want them to see me upset.” After the session, Esty was calmer. She had poured out her heart, but she felt she had betrayed her husband. This was the first time that she told anyone about her sholom bayis problems. I reassured her that she did the right thing and now there was hope that it could be worked through.

Esty called me the next day saying that Yanky was going to call me to make an appointment. He was ready to come in and discuss their problems.

Yanky came in the following week. He was about 30 years old, a tall, well built young man with a trimmed beard, dressed in navy blue slacks and navy sweater with a white shirt. He looked a bit uncomfortable in finding himself in this situation. “No, no I am okay. I don’t mind being here,” he said “I want to do anything to make my wife happy. She is a malach (an angel). She never complains and everything is okay with her. But I really can’t tell her anything. We have nothing to talk about. I don’t blame her, but she is usually too tired to be with me. Anyway, she is not really interested in me, so I leave her alone. She is only interested in the children and too busy to be involved with me. She leaves me alone and I leave her alone; I don’t like to bother her for anything. We go our separate ways. She likes to say Tehillim all the time. I have no patience for that. I work very hard; I am a computer technician and have a store where people bring their computers. It took a lot of hard work to be where I am and to make this kind of money, but I have been working with computers since I am 16 years old and am really good at solving computer problems. Nonetheless, it’s very hard and people drive me crazy sometimes and I feel like telling them off. I have a lot of work related pressures because of this. At night, I go out with my friends a lot because I need to just chill out and I feel restless at home. I have no zits fleish (patience to sit). I have to keep going.”

I felt tremendous empathy for both of them. They were so alone, so isolated from each other. They were trying to reach out to each other but were not equipped with the modalities to do so. I was convinced that with Hashem’s help I could help them find their way back to sharing a life together.

The next session was with the two of them. The first step was that both simultaneously expressed their willingness to work hard at getting closer to each other. Yanky was amazing because he immediately acknowledged that he had to stop coming home so late and that he needed to stop drinking alcohol. Esty began trying to take a nap with the baby during the day so she would not be so tired when Yanky came home. She was to be more awake, alert and attuned to him and not be so preoccupied with the children. Hopefully, he would start feeling less excluded and alone.

I saw Esty and Yanky separately; encouraging and helping them implement their stated goals. It was not easy. Yanky fell back into old patterns and then went back on the wagon. He was embarrassed to say no to his old cronies who couldn’t accept his new behavior at first. Many times Esty had so much to do at home that she didn’t get a chance to nap and was completely exhausted. Slowly the pattern changed as she made a real effort to be there for Yanky. She learned to be more pro-active. In the past, when Yanky called to say he would be late she responded with an angry silence. She learned to request that he be home at a decent time. Strangely enough, this made him feel good, because he felt wanted by her. He had wanted her to need him and to show it! Another important aspect of their life changed when Esty showed him that she was interested in being a wife in every way.

It seemed funny but she really didn’t know his likes and dislikes. He never told her that he hated spaghetti and meatballs. It was something she made once a week and wondered why he never ate it. He had never said, “I don’t like spaghetti; don’t cook that for me.”

After six years of marriage the tragic reality was that they hardly knew each other. My instruction to both of them was get to know each other. In the past she had rejected him or just barely acknowledged him; not even paying any mind to how her icy behavior impacted him. In the past, when he came home in a bad mood, she would ignore him and hope it would blow over. Now, she smiled and said, “Bad day, huh?” and quickly served him supper and sat down with him, while telling the children to go play in the other room and let Tatty eat and relax. Later he would play with them. This was a major change in their marriage.

One day Yanky came in and said, “I have fallen in love with my wife again. I am the luckiest guy in the world. I don’t have to run around. I have found peace in my home.” Esty told me that he had given up alcohol completely and told his old cronies he would not be available to hang out with them. He went so far as to ask them to lose his number! His buddies’ empty chatter, loud laughter and boorish, unrefined behavior were replaced by his glowing beloved wife, Esty. Yanky still worked very hard and often came home 8:00 or even 9:00 o’clock but now the rest of the evening was spent at home; only going out for Maariv. Because the new found time spent with his wife was so meaningful for him, he made an effort to come home earlier so they could eat supper together. The children learned that Mommy and Tatty needed quiet time together and respected it. Shabbos became a day of true menucha. The anger and the shouting were gone. Yanky and Esty began doing things together, like going out to eat once a week and even a game night. They started taking the children to the park or to the zoo on Sundays. Five year old Ari was much calmer because the atmosphere in the home had changed for the better.

In their last session with me there was an incredible glow about them and they were smiling endlessly. “I can’t believe that this happened,” said Esty, “our whole life has changed.” Both Yanky and Esty feel it’s easy to revert back to old and destructive patterns and as such, they work assiduously to maintain this level of giving to each other. It was Yanky who said, “when I give my wife attention or display how much I care about her, I am really giving to myself because she gives me back a hundredfold.” Rabbi Dessler expresses this concept so beautifully. “The best relationship between husband and wife will be obtained when both achieve and practice the virtue of giving. Then their love will never cease and their lives will be filled with happiness and contentment for as long as they live on this earth.

I must say that I did not work hard with this couple. They were incredibly cooperative. They are two normal, well meaning and loving people who had lost their compass and needed to be put back on the right track. I thank Hashem that I was able to be the right shaliach.

Sara Freund, LCSW has been practicing psychotherapy in the frum community for the last 25 years in her private practice. She has been trained in E.M.D.R. and Hypnotherapy. She helps individuals, couples and families with problems such as: Depression, Anxiety, Phobic Fears, Bi-Polar Disorder, and Sholom Bayis problems. She can be reached at 718-692-1650 or you can send a e-mail to sarafreund@yahoo.com.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/family/marriage-relationships/being-a-good-wife-is-sometimes-not-enough/2010/06/02/

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