My wife and I have been married for 3½ years now, and have one child. Recently we went to meet with a rabbi in New York to discuss some marital issues that keep coming up. To my surprise he suggested that we get divorced and start all over with someone new!
I don’t want to get divorced; I love my wife and my son. Besides, our purpose in meeting with the rabbi was to make things better not worse. However, since we met with him things have gotten out of control. It seems my wife is smitten with this rabbi, and listens to every word he says. He told my wife not to go to marital counseling because this may change her mind about getting divorced. I would just like to add that this rabbi and her father have very similar personalities and traits and my in-laws seem to be supporting the divorce decision. The rabbi and my father-in-law both have a very firm “it’s my way or the high way” attitude.
Let’s start with the family profile. It would seem that your father-in-law, the rabbi and your wife share a similar personality temperament, one we call “SJ.”
Let me explain. There are four temperaments listed in the Myers-Briggs Temperament Inventory; NF – Ideal Seekers; SP – Action Seekers; NT – Knowledge seekers; SJ – Duty seekers. People with “SJ” temperaments are, at their best, capable, organized, focused on the task at hand, conscientious, and hard working. At their worst, they are judgmental, controlling, rigid, inflexible, and close-minded. In plain English, this means that your wife’s temperament is very much similar to the rabbi and her father, and what’s worse is that all three, from your description, function on the negative side of an “SJ.” In general, people with this type of temperament have high expectations of themselves and others. When stressed, they can be pessimistic, and see no way out of difficult situations. This is why you’re getting very little support from your in-laws.
Now here is where it gets interesting – it’s not by accident that opposites attract. In fact Hashem sets up couples that have opposite traits as an opportunity for each to help, learn, and heal the other. This healing takes place in the following manner: your wife was attracted to you for the very same reason she is upset with you – you are flexible, adaptable, and like to be negotiable. At first she was intrigued because it was so different from how she grew up. Now after 3½ years of marriage she is no longer intrigued by your differences and wants out.
Please keep in mind that the brain does what’s familiar. Your wife is an “SJ” which means she needs structure, and structure equals safety, and since she no longer feels safe in the relationship, her brain is searching for where she once felt secure – home. You must also remember how your wife perceives the situation. She loves her father, and has tremendous respect for him, even if there were times when he was distant. Your wife has created an emotional safety net that sounds something like this: “Why can’t you be like me? Why can’t you be like my father, why can’t you be like the “SJ” rabbi we just met who makes me feel safe!”
It seems that the “SJ`” rabbi and your “SJ” wife have much in common as they are both functioning at their worst temperament style, and as a result have formed an emotional attraction – with each other. What further complicates the problem is that both the rabbi and your wife have formed some sort of transference with each other. What this means is that your wife sees the “SJ” rabbi as her “SJ” father, and the “SJ” rabbi sees and your wife as his “SJ” daughter. That means that your speaking with this rabbi will not do any good.