Photo Credit: Jewish Press

Dear Mrs. Bluth,

I recently attended a lecture meant to heighten awareness to the signs of abuse at the hands of husbands and/or during the shidduch prospects. While I can’t speak for everyone present, I was deeply offended that these speakers were encouraging women to look for problems in their marriages that don’t exist and offering them resources and solutions for which there was no basis.  I am happily married for thirty-six years, baruch Hashem, or so I thought going into this lecture. However, at the end of the evening, I found myself doubting my marriage and my husband.  Why plant such destructive seeds when most of us women are happily married and, perhaps, only a few may have problematic marriages, if that?


I don’t live under a rock and think that everyone is happily married, but I do believe that most marital discord can easily be remedied if the couple truly attempts to make changes in their behavior towards each other.  I have helped two women resolve issues with their husbands, one of whom is my own daughter and the other, a close friend.  If we, as women and keepers of the home would understand what we need to do, how we need to behave and speak, and how to please our husbands, then there would be little need for these organizations that offer shalom bayis advice by telling women about safe houses and shelters, family lawyers and “as a measure of last resort,” options for divorce. These people do more harm in planting seeds of destruction and mistrust in the dissolution of a Jewish home.

Every marriage goes through rough patches; what we need to emphasize is that it is in the woman’s hand to calm a volatile situation with love and understanding.  It is in our power to maintain peace in our homes and keep our husbands and children happy and content.  Instead of arming our young and impressionable daughters with the ugly side of things, there should be more lecturers sending the message that it is up to us to keep our homes peaceful, our husbands proud and content to come home to a clean house, a hot, home cooked meal and a loving, attentive wife.  This is the environment that will serve to show our children what marriage should and can be.

I know full well that you will not agree with me because you champion the cause of “abused women” and divorce, but after listening to all the dirt at this recent lecture, I felt the need to protest and vent my displeasure.

Happily married in Brooklyn


Dear Happily Married,

I usually get letters like yours from men who complain about coming home after a hard day’s work in front of a computer to a house full of noisy kids, a wife who came home from her own job just in time to get the kids off the school bus and is juggling baths for the babies, homework with the older kids and scrambling to prepare dinner for the king of the castle.  These geniuses can’t figure out why their wives can’t stifle the kids, do the other fifteen tasks that all seem to need attention at the same time and still welcome him home looking rested, polished and put together with a six course gourmet meal atop a candle-lit table.  And here comes you, with your own very novel brand of “unbelievable”!  That you really haven’t spent most, if not all of your thirty-six years of marriage under a rock is truly debatable.  However, you have given me the chance to showcase the very real need for women to understand that marriage is not servitude of one gender and superiority of the other.

If you don’t consider yourself abused, why did you go to the lecture? Perhaps you wanted to satisfy your curiosity, to hear about the suffering of others who live in fear, pain and hopelessness on a daily basis.  You sound like an extremely sheltered woman who grew up with a mother who role modeled subservient traits and carried the entire obligation of shalom bayis on her shoulders, negating your father any responsibility toward that end.  Ezer k’negdo implies that a wife should be a helpmate to her husband, not a physical, mental or emotional beast of burden. 

While I commend you if you are indeed content, but I must tell you that even though you can’t or won’t see it, very few women can hold themselves to your standards, nor should they.  A marriage is a partnership and as such, should entail equal or close to equal amounts of love and consideration, and certainly an abundance of respect and support between both spouses.  If you wish your children to see a truly balanced and caring example of marriage, show them that both their parents know how to say “I’m sorry.” Let them see that when Mommy is late coming home from work, is sick or just plain tired, Tatty will take over, make supper (even if it’s just sandwiches), do homework and bathe the kids and put them to bed. 

But back to that “meeting for abused women” to which you took offense. I have worked with women in this parsha for close to 30 years and what I have heard and seen is horrifying. There is so much misery, evil and fear that many women have to live with, often suffering in silence because they don’t know where to turn for help that I could fill countless volumes with their stories.  Because you live in a bubble and cannot or choose not to believe such horrors exist, does not alter the fact that they do and in massive numbers.  There aren’t enough organizations or wonderful volunteers to help these traumatized women and there certainly aren’t enough funds to cover the costs of sheltering women and children in danger of losing their lives.

Abuse is not “a marriage going through a rough patch.”  And no amount of talking to a spouse or keeping the house spotless or serving a warm meal at the end of the day will change that. 

I do not like to suggest divorce without at least trying all possible avenues to keep the marriage and the family together, however, this is not always possible, and that is why gittin is part of Yiddishkeit.

Please understand that the world you personally live in is not everyone’s reality.  Find compassion in your heart for those who are suffering.

I wish you continued joy and fulfillment in your marriage, ad me’ah ve’esrim shanah, and may you be zoche to help other achieve the same.


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