Dear Mrs. Bluth,
I’ve been happily married for seventeen years – or so I thought. During these years we brought five children into the world, made two bar mitzvahs (twin boys), one bas mitzvah and shared a number of other milestone events. There have been bumps in the road, job losses that forced my stay at home wife to go back to work, some health issues and the loss of a parent on both our sides, which strained our tranquil family life and caused a few lengthy emotional separations. Since I lost my last job things have gotten worse.
Of late, my wife has taken to going to bed as soon as the two youngest have done so. I understand that she’s tired after a long day at work (she’s a pediatric nurse in a large hospital), but so am I. I spend all day, going from interview to interview so I can return to being the breadwinner and she can go back to being a full time mom. So far, I’ve not been successful and each time I come home empty handed, the empty look in her eyes gets deeper, her silence louder and the distance between us grows by miles.
We have curtailed going to simchas because we cannot give a gift, and, even though my wife has always loved going out and having company for Shabbosim, she has stopped inviting family and friends over due to our financial situation. I know how devastated she is by this.
Meanwhile, our bills are growing – the older kids will be going to schools and yeshivas abroad in a year or two, and there is camp, braces and regular tuitions eating up whatever my wife brings home and what little is left of our savings. Then there are the mortgage payments, utilities and minor incidentals like food, clothes and medical bills.
However, I can deal with all of that, Mrs. Bluth, it is my wife’s distancing herself from me that I cannot bear. I love her with all my heart and wish things were as they had been six years ago, before my company closed.
At first, she was wonderfully supportive, taking charge by returning to work even though it meant leaving the kids with a baby sitter when they got home from school each day. I knew how much being there for the kids meant to her and I’m sure she knows how much I appreciated the sacrifice she was making. It kills me to see the look of disappointment in her eyes each time I had to tell her that nothing has come from a day of interviews. Somewhere along the way she stopped asking, stopped talking and stopped looking at me altogether.
Our children know what’s going on, the silence is palpable. They know, too, that money is scarce to non-existent and ask for very little. The older three do odd jobs after school and on vacation, using the money they earn to buy what little they need. In fact, my oldest daughter has become quite a savvy shopper at the local thrift store, for herself and for the rest of the family and her clothes do not outwardly reflect our financial distress. I’m so proud of my children and know that they turned out this way only because of their wonderful mother, who put her heart and soul into their upbringing. I wish I could find a way to reconnect with her again, to have that close, loving relationship that we used to have. I miss my wife, my life partner and my best friend.
It pains me to read your letter, but it also makes me wonder: Why did you stop communicating? People lose their jobs every day, but is that a reason to stop speaking to each other? Your wife graciously supported you during the early days and months by going back to work full-time. She encouraged you and, by her physical act of leaving the home and children, she portrayed a loving loyalty and strong belief in you. Yet, the months stretched into years and your lack of employment did not change. And she became tired and disillusioned – and possibly depressed. So she slowly stopped asking you about work, quietly withdrew from your disappointing rhetoric, where you complained about how hard it is to find work or how tired YOU are, how YOU can’t seem to catch a break – and slowly receded into her own silent place where she didn’t have to listen and correspond to all things YOU!