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Dear Rachel,

I am one of those women in a lonely, lonely marriage. A therapist once told me, “Staying in a marriage for the children’s sake never works, because then nobody is happy.” How true this is in my case. (Quite some time ago I decided to stay in it for the children.)

Even mikveh night in my home is lonely; the deed gets done in silence in the pitch black and is over before you know it, until next month. Professionals have advised me to stay, since he’s Baruch Hashem a fantastic provider and a decent father, and he is not mean to me at all, etc., etc.

I have one very, very nagging thought: Right now I’m young and so are my kids. When I’ll be 50-60 years old, am I going to bang my head in the wall for having stayed all these years and never had my needs filled? Am I going to berate myself for wasting all these years living with such a cold, cold man? Never, ever, in all my marriage did I hear “I love you” or a good word. My children don’t see a happy home; it’s cold, cold, cold all the time!

My dilemma is my parents, who are very well respected and a highly regarded well-to-do Boro Park family – who would probably want to kill me, because they are clueless to the whole situation. In public we look just fine. I also care a tremendous amount for my siblings, and they will shut me out since divorce is so frowned upon. But is it worth staying and being so miserable?

Therapy is not the solution. In the past when we’d gone, it always came down to, “It’s his nature.” Frankly, I’m sick of hearing it!!!

One last thought: I know that when the mommy of the home is miserable, so is the rest of the home.

A lonely stay-at-home mom seeking advice

Dear Lonely,

“Staying in a marriage for the children’s sake” while wallowing in misery is a waste of a life and can leave children emotionally scarred for a long time to come. It can however work out – if you can work on yourself to alter your perspective and approach.

While I nor anybody else is in a position to tell you to stay or to leave or how you should be feeling in your particular situation, you may want to take some time to reflect on the following:

The storybook marriage: Each partner fulfills one another’s needs and expectations. Parnassah worries are non-existent and mental telepathy makes for no arguments or hard feelings, ever. Love and romance are in full bloom on each new day, and kvetching – on the part of parents or children – is unheard of.

The ideal marriage: Each partner strives to fulfill one another’s needs. He is her best friend, she is his, and each can count on the other for support, come what may. Effective communication figures heavily in the success of the relationship, both in and out of the bedroom.

Needless to say, the ‘storybook marriage’ is a rarity. While every person dreams of the ‘ideal marriage,’ it is unfortunately not as prevalent as we would like to believe. Any number of circumstances (usually unforeseen) can place a burden on a relationship (the outsider being totally unaware of the struggles that take place ‘behind the drawn shades’ of one’s home).

Let’s suppose you choose to act on the concept that has you so preoccupied. What guarantee do you have of securing a husband #2 – and moreover, that the second time around will be trouble-free?

Actually, none. You may get lucky, and you may not. You may end up swapping one set of problems for another – plus having a splintered family to contend with.

Or, you can make up your mind to start focusing on your blessings. Your husband has never been mean to you (some women reading this would trade places with you in a millisecond). He is a ‘fantastic’ provider. (Countless of marriages suffer simply on account of parnassah woes.) You have children, a wonderful blessing in itself (that some would give their eyeteeth for) which can yield a lifetime of endless joy, nachas and fulfillment. He is a decent father. How will your children feel about being separated from their daddy (now and in the long run)?

This in no way goes to say that yours is not a legitimate need – every wife is entitled to her husband’s attention and affection. But we do not live in a perfect world. No one has it all, and it is up to each individual to determine what s/he can put up with and what will never work.

If you can bring yourself to rejoice in what you have, to view your cup as half full rather than half empty, the positive vibrations will rub off on your family and you’ll all be better off for it. Your husband may even ‘lighten up’ a bit. (There’s no way that he doesn’t sense your despondency, which does nothing in the way of motivating him to at least try to satisfy your needs.)

On the other hand, if your bitterness is eroding your self-respect and any feelings that may still linger for your spouse, and you can’t see yourself emerging from the depths of despair, then nobody is benefiting from this union.

Divorce is never a pleasant undertaking, but it is a viable, Torah-sanctioned option when all hope is lost. Certainly, the stigma once attached to ‘divorce’ is no more, and to live one’s life for everybody else is foolhardy. Hopefully your family can prove themselves worthy of the “high regard” they enjoy and will stand by you in your time of need.

A word of advice: Proceed with dignity, along whichever path you were meant to take – and remember to place your faith and trust in Hashem, Who is there for anyone sincerely seeking Him out.


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We encourage women and men of all ages to send in their personal stories via email to [email protected] 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.