Dear Mrs. Bluth,
I am not a substance abuser; I have never touched a cigarette or drug and only drink wine to make kiddush and havdallah. I am no deadbeat – I earn over $300k per year. I learn on a high level every morning and every night and enliven our home with songs, divrei Torah and creativity. So why does my wife treat me like dirt?
She has already spent every dollar I will make twice; she constantly criticizes me and attacks my every parenting move. I have essentially outsourced parenting to her for fear of her belittling remarks towards our children and towards me. Therapy? Another topic she’s screamed at me about (how can we waste money on that when we have things to buy?!), so I’ve given up on that.
I may have asked why she treats me this way, but I think I know. Her parents have a lousy marriage and her mother was always trying to control her father.
Your columns are filled with the pain of women with bad husbands. While I acknowledge that women, given their weaker nature, are more naturally the receivers of sympathy, there are thousands of good husbands who are doubly cursed – society doesn’t care if women mistreat their husbands and we are expected to be silent. We just keep going somehow, desperately trying to create meaning for ourselves through work, avodas Hashem and friendships.
I am not just writing to vent, but with a constructive thought in mind. When people speak about sholom bayis they all too frequently skew their suggestions to the men. Men help with the dishes (of course!), and a great number of other tasks, and this outlook should change. Rachel, women are also Yidden and should be held responsible for and chayav for their role in sholom bayis!
Thank you so much for writing in and sharing your plight with me. It is so very rare that I get the male perspective in a bad marriage, and for that reason abuse is seen as a woman’s issue. I know very well that there is a stigma about “reverse spousal abuse,” but I also know it exists.
I have invited male victims to write in, as there is power in numbers, and brings about a heightened awareness to this problem as well as an understanding that male abused spouses deserve the same empathy, consideration and help as do women. Your letter has opened up that forum for men reading this column who find themselves in an abusive situation and, hopefully, will give them the courage to reach out for help.
I can almost see the look on countless faces as they read your letter and think your wife must be brain-dead to find fault with a husband as near to perfect as you appear to be, or some may think your letter is a fraud.
I chose to print your letter because, in my thirty-five years of helping people try to resolve their issues, I have seen enough downtrodden men who have chosen to suffer the abuses, both verbal and physical, inflicted upon them by strong-willed, controlling and demanding wives. They don’t readily (if at all) come forward because they already feel so humiliated and diminished, they don’t want to appear to be wimpy and spineless by their peers.
Truth of the matter is, I do believe you and I think I can help? The reason for her dysfunction, as you said, is due to her upbringing – she saw her mother be aggressive and dominant, and her father meek, tolerant and obedient. This carried over into your marriage. It appears to me that there is very little fight left in you and this only adds to her strength and control over you. She would never suspect that you had the kind of courage it took to write this letter and that’s what will work for you! At the risk of losing her marriage and the good life you provide her, she will have to seek help to understand and correct her terrible character traits and be sure she doesn’t create a situation where your children will copy her as well.
I urge her to go for counseling as soon as humanly possibly, you as well, so that you can find your self-esteem and sense of entitlement and learn to value your strengths and place in the family. Your family is infected by what is going on at home and you need instant dose of “antibiotics” through therapy in order to begin healing.
Leave this in a place where she can’t help but see it (like in her checkbook!) and don’t be afraid of what she may do or say when she reads it. Stand up for yourself and demand that both of you get help. Stand your ground, don’t back down and see if she isn’t shocked into reality by your newfound courage!
Oh, and by the way… do you have a few single brothers like yourself?