I was told my husband cried under the chuppah, holding onto his father’s hand. My father-in-law stared at me, almost leeringly, I thought, as I made my way down the aisle. I thought it was my imagination, even thought it made me feel very uncomfortable and I had to look away because it made my skin crawl. The ceremony was mercifully short, not that I remember any of it; I was juggling all these newfound fears and trepidations that had suddenly begun to spring up.
In the yichud room, my new husband would not sit next to me; he kept mopping his brow and said he was not feeling well. I took his hand, which he promptly withdrew, and gave him some ice water and said once we were alone in our apartment, I’m sure he would feel better. No sooner had I said those words, than “Mommy” burst into the room and took charge. My husband fell into her arms like a long lost child and clung to her, as I was beginning to feel nauseous. I realized I had married a “Mama’s Boy” and Mamma wanted it that way! So, at that very moment, I took the challenge, determined to make her son my husband.
Life was not easy for me those first few weeks. I was constantly butting heads with her. She backed off when I threatened to go to a rav. It took time, but I thought my husband and I were getting closer, not having anything to gauge it by, I assumed that it was not uncommon for newly-weds to encounter difficulties in marital intimacy, so life took on a sort of normalcy in an abnormal environment. Until the day my father-in-law tried to force himself on me. He had come over to fix the washer and my husband wasn’t home. I managed to get away from him, just as my husband came home. Days later, I tried to tell my husband what had happened, thinking he would get angry, irate and storm off to defend my honor. No such thing! He said it must have been an accident, and that his father was a good man who was known in the community for his good deeds and scholarly ways. Another revelation! I had no champion in my husband; he was a little child in a man’s body and married to his parents! However, I was still not ready to give up on my marriage and decided to double my efforts to make it work.
Unfortunately, that was not the only time he assaulted me and I finally went to Beis Din and shared my story. At their advice, I called my mother-in-law and told her what had happened and let her know that if she did not have her son give me a get immediately, then I would tell my story to whomever would listen! I had my get in two days!
I have been in intense therapy ever since. But I’m getting better with each day and now live in another part of the New York area, where no one knows my past. I still attend a support group and have forged some good friendships. I feel like I belong to a family of people who understand and accept me without judging me.
So there it is in a nutshell. Though I dreamt of, “Once upon a time…” there wasn’t any “happily ever after,” although the story did include a witch, a werewolf and a dolt… along with a naive and simple “princess.” Fantasy imitating life…or life imitating fantasy, what does it matter? The end result is the same.
As stories go, yours has now taken the lead. Never have I heard anything remotely related to what you have imparted in your letter, and my thoughts are racing to formulate some sort of reply that will do it justice. I have spoken to one of my colleagues just to get his take on your letter, and he too was taken aback, but felt, at the risk of erring, that your letter was genuine and your story worth telling. So I will treat it with respect and without question, in the event that another reader is going through something vaguely similar to what you’ve experienced.