Photo Credit: Jewish Press

Dear Mrs. Bluth,

I am writing about a decision I made three years ago that has greatly impacted my life.

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I am the eldest of six girls and was the first to marry – right out of high school. The dating period is a blur in my mind, except for the feeling of excitement. My chosson was the second young man I was redt to and I remember that we seemed to click right away. In fact, we got engaged after seeing each other three times.

My new husband showed himself to be a wonderful, loving, and caring person, and we had what I thought was the perfect marriage. Children came soon after in two-year intervals, and we were able to buy a house when most of our friends were still in small apartments. My husband proved himself to be a valued employee in a large company, working hard and long hours – even on Sundays – to merit his rise to the level of partner and life was good. I was a stay-at-home mom, the envy of most of my friends who had to leave their young ones with babysitters to go to work. We lacked for nothing and I felt so blessed.

The years passed and I was so busy tending to the children and being involved in community functions that it never occurred to me that anything was wrong at home. However, at some point I noticed that we hardly spoke to one another about anything other than finances, camps, social invitations and the like.

Soon after, my husband began staying late at work, often having to be in the city overnight. And then I discovered that there was more going on. My husband was very apologetic, but I couldn’t go on. For many days I was completely depressed.

I knew something had to change. So, I found a wonderful therapist who, at the beginning, worked with me alone and then suggested that I have my husband come to the next few sessions.  Feeling secure enough, I agreed and when he walked through the door looking haggard, broken and miserable, I felt an abbreviated sense of compassion for him. Over the next few weeks I worked to try to forgive him because I still deeply loved him and the kids missed him.

However, as much as I have tried to genuinely forgive him, there is always that inner voice reminding me of what he has done. He is living at home, yet life is very stunted.  Although he bends over backwards to please me, buying me gifts, leaving me little notes of endearment and surprising me with theater tickets and trips, I cannot regain that feeling of trust in him.

Whenever he’s late coming home, whether it’s from work, shul, or an appointment, I get jittery. It is a horrible weight to live under and it does little to secure our marriage.  My therapist says that it takes a lot of work, willpower, and willingness to forgive in order to move forward.  Is she right? Am I in the wrong for not willing to forgive and forget?

Dear Friend,

When communication and conversation absent themselves from a marriage, it is a sure sign that things are wrong. For some reason, you missed the signs until it was too late.

Looking back, can you pinpoint when the two of you stopped having loving, inclusive and enjoyable conversations? You were busy with home, children and social obligations; he was building his career and working overtime leaving you both little time for each other. But that doesn’t mean that he hasn’t learned his lesson.

Your therapist is correct. Regaining faith in someone is a monumental task to achieve, but not impossible. Forgiveness is like an awful tasting, healing medicine for a terrible hurt. It may be hard to swallow at first because the bitter aftertaste lingers, but as it begins to work, you get used to the taste, until both the pain and the flavor disappear.

I would take a chance here, without having met your husband or you, that he genuinely wants to make it up to you and that he is truly repentant.  I also believe that you still care for him deeply, but are so afraid of failure that you won’t give him a second chance.

I keep thinking that every Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, we go before the Almighty and beg His forgiveness for the many sins we committed during the past year, some of which we will repeat again and again, and we beg to be forgiven and to be accepted back into His love and good graces.

Teshuvah is for everyone who is remorseful and genuinely wishes to repent, but how can we expect forgiveness if we cannot forgive?  I hope you can find it in your heart to try and forgive (maybe forgetting will take longer) so that you and your husband can create a new and stronger marriage and find the joy, love, happiness and oneness of those early years. Good luck. I’m rooting for you!

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