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Dear Rachel,

I just can’t take it anymore! I’m in an extremely verbally-abusive marriage. My husband belittles me in front of the children, calling me all kinds of disgusting names. For example, he tells them, “Your mother is an idiot; she’s stupid, lazy, ugly, fat; let her get out of this house already!”

My kids feel so sorry for me. They are young, and they are so confused as to what is going on.

Are they thinking Totty is right? That I am lazy and stupid? I’m beginning to have extremely low self-esteem, because I’m thinking that maybe I am all those things. But how is that possible if I have a high-paying job?

The crying doesn’t stop! I am not lazy at all. I cook and clean, work full-time (outside of the house), do laundry, etc. I’m going crazy because the verbal abuse doesn’t stop.

How will my sons treat their wives if not the same way? I want to get out of this marriage immediately, but I don’t know how to go about it. Do I hire a lawyer and spend thousands of dollars?

My husband obviously hates me, and I really don’t know why. All right, so I am fat and possibly ugly in his eyes – is that a reason to break up a family?

What is the ultimate sacrifice we mothers have to endure to keep the peace and our precious children happy? I am in my 40’s and not really looking forward to starting over, but what choice do I have if I want to have mentally healthy and stable kids?

Rachel, being that you are an insightful woman, I would like to get your input as to why he is treating me this way.

About my husband, I don’t know what to say. I used to like him, but that flew out the window after everything I’ve been through (including affairs that I found out about). Trust me when I say I swallowed a lot of garbage. I want to keep the peace, but somehow it is extremely difficult because my husband’s already made up his mind to end it (with his actions).

Can’t Endure Anymore

Dear Can’t,

No woman should be made to suffer such horrendous abuse and humiliation. Your husband’s been getting away with using you as his punching bag for too long now, and it’s up to you to put a stop to it.

You ask why he treats you this way. You also mention that he’s had affairs outside your marriage. By belittling you, he may be giving himself an excuse for his infidelities. His twisted rationale for justification of his disloyalty: If you’re all that he says you are, he is not to blame for looking elsewhere.

You’ve been conveniently available for his assaults, and this only serves to further empower him. I realize that it is easy for another to advise you to stand up for yourself, but there is absolutely no reason for you to remain fixed in this sham of a marriage. And to say that your children are adversely influenced by the goings on is a gross understatement.

The best course of action is always the civilized kind. If you can dry your tears, pull yourself together and summon the courage to straighten your spine and lift up your chin as you confront your husband and declare “the end of the line,” that would be super.

If you fear your husband and/or feel you cannot face him down to let him know in no uncertain terms that you’ve had it up to here and want out, make an appointment to see the rav or rebbetzin of your shul/community and ask for his/her/their guidance.

Uncontested divorce proceedings can be filed by a paralegal, whose cost is way lower than an attorney’s. If you haven’t had marital relations in at least a year, you can sue for divorce on the legal grounds of “constructive abandonment.”

Whichever route you take to remove yourself from the destructive course you are on, make sure your children are at the top of the list of take-alongs. If you’re going, they’re going with you. Whomever you will use as your confidante and/or intermediary should be apprised of your husband’s propensity for verbal abuse – detrimental to young impressionable minds and a factor that should figure negatively in his possible bid for custody. (Under a joint custody agreement, the children can live with you and have visiting rights with their father.)

My dear woman, there are many good years still ahead of you. You are young yet and can have a fresh new start in life. The first item on your agenda is to delay no more in setting yourself free from your chamber of horrors. (You have the advantage of being financially self-sufficient.) A recommended close second: therapy to help you rebuild your shattered self-esteem. That special someone who will appreciate you for all that you have to offer will come knocking when you’ll be ready for him.

To husbands everywhere: It is your duty to provide spiritual direction in your home, by way of promoting peace in your household. Our Sages furthermore say that a man is to love his wife as much as he loves himself and respect her more than he respects himself. He is not to intimidate her, and his manner with her should always be gentle. He would do well to remember that a man’s home is blessed only on account of his wife.

To wives everywhere: Do not assume that a marriage license in hand entitles you to let yourself go in slovenly fashion. Maintaining your appearance and a healthy lifestyle is vital to marital wellbeing. Note: It is far more important to be attractive for your spouse than it is to dress up for the outside world. Take pride in your bearing (as you did during Sheva Brachos week) – and watch him have eyes only for you.


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We encourage women and men of all ages to send in their personal stories via email to or by mail to Rachel/Chronicles, c/o The Jewish Press, 4915 16th Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11204. If you wish to make a contribution and help agunot, your tax-deductible donation should be sent to The Jewish Press Foundation. Please make sure to specify that it is to help agunot, as the foundation supports many worthwhile causes.