Dear Mrs. Bluth,
I attended one of your group meetings before Pesach and it was an eye opener for me. The room was filled with about twenty women of various ages, but I do believe I may have been the youngest one there. I had no idea that so much pain could be capsulated in a room so small and cramped, or so much warmth, compassion and understanding. As the women, some of them old timers to this group and many new attendees like myself, gave up as much of their pain as they felt they could, I was amazed at the various kinds of torment that can be suffered in a bad marriage, or how much strength one needs to survive from one day to the next.
I had been married almost a year and a half in a severely dysfunctional marriage. My husband, as it turned out, was a meek and subservient son and, as I now know, could never support or stand up for me. You see, the person who was abusive and violent in this union was not my husband, it was my father-in-law! Because I live out of state, I had never met my husband’s parents while we were dating. We are both older – I am thirty and he is thirty-nine – and I am not a beauty (not that he is a movie star), so the fact that he was interested in me blinded me to many things I should have paid closer attention to. For example, how often he mentioned that his mother picks out his clothes and does his laundry and the way he defers to her on almost everything. I think I wanted to get married so badly that I put that down to “good sons make good husbands.” I also didn’t mind that his mother picked out the gifts and the ring he gave me.
I now recall that when he proposed, he excused himself to make a very important phone call and was gone for nearly ten minutes, returning seemingly much calmer than when he left. It was only after we were married that he admitted calling his mother to give him confidence to go through with it, as he really had no desire to get married. I guess being alone – my mother passed away three years ago and I haven’t seen my father since I was a baby – I didn’t quite see everything I should.
My first meeting with my husband’s family was after we were engaged. His whole family seemed a bit odd, and his mother was overbearing and intrusive, wanting to know everything about me and telling me that G-d had sent her to be my “second mother.” She would attend to all the wedding details, pick out the apartment for us and take care of all the details. Missing my mother terribly, especially at such a time, I blindly welcomed her brisk overtures as loving gestures toward her soon-to-be daughter-in-law. His two brothers were there, unkempt and hippy-looking and a sister, who couldn’t make it, was represented in the form of a photograph on the dining room table. We agreed that I would move to New York just before the wedding and stay with a close family friend of theirs.
The wedding was a simple affair, almost completely comprised of my husband’s relatives and the very few friends of mine who could make it to the wedding. I had chosen a lovely, modest, wedding gown, but it did not meet my mother-in-law’s standards. She had taken the liberty of buying a gown for me, an ugly ivory satin thing with a neckline that ended under my chin. That’s when the relationship took a nose dive – when I told her I would wear the one I had brought with me. Suddenly, her gray blue eyes turned steely and, between clenched teeth, she said if I chose to wear my gown, she would be mortally offended. I said no more, which may have given her the idea that I would capitulate to her demand. When she saw me at the wedding hall, bedecked in my lovely gown, her face went dark with fury, and, while walking around the chosson, purposefully stepped on my train, tearing it almost half way off the back of the gown. A kindly guest managed to reattach it, but the battle lines had been drawn.