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Dear Dr. Yael,

My heart is breaking since I just heard that my husband’s friend got divorced. However, the situation in my opinion could have been avoided. The couple was crying when they went for the get and they only did it because they were advised by a “Shalom Bayis Macher” to do this. This person as far as I know has no license, is not trained and does this ‘special work’ at a discounted price. Why did they listen to this person? I do not know them well, but my husband knows the husband and he is so upset. They have two children and the husband is not a Kohen. Our divorce rate is soaring, why do people go to such people for ‘help?’ Is there anything I can do at this point? We are so upset.

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Anonymous

 

Dear Anonymous,

This is not the first time that I have heard such a terrible story. A rav that I am close to feels that these ‘Shalom Bayis Machers” often do more harm than good. If a person goes for help this means that they want to improve their marriage. Since this husband is not a Kohen, please try to help them get appropriate professional help. Maybe they will be able to work things out and remarry.

Helping divorced couples remarry may seem unorthodox, but I have actually been involved in such cases and have, with siyatta d’Shmaya, helped divorced couples, who wanted to reconcile, remarry each other successfully.

In general, unless there is severe abuse, I do not recommend divorce and am quite persistent in helping couples reconcile. Couples who are determined to get divorced often stop seeing me for marriage counseling as they realize divorce is usually not my end goal for them. I also have had many clients who were told to get divorced after a short time and then come for therapy and remain happily married. Since the frum community is a small world, I often see former patients at simchas, where they tell me that they are still happily married and have many children and grandchildren baruch Hashem! I remember one client who had a beautiful family and many grandchildren who met me in the street and told me. “Listen Dr. Yael – It was many years ago that we went for therapy with you, so we only had a few children. At the time, we were told to divorce. I remember my relative told me to leave that therapist and go to Dr. Respler for help. Baruch Hashem we listened and have so much to show for it! It was a year of therapy and we both needed to make changes. It was not easy. I am not going to tell you that our marriage is perfect, but I look at our lives and overall we are happy together. Our children turned out amazing and they all made great shidduchim. We have wonderful grandchildren.

Then, I look at my friends who chose not to work on their marriages. They are divorced. Their children are confused. Some of their children are not frum. Some of their children are married, but our friends don’t have the 100 percent success rate with their children’s marriages that we have. We work on our marriage till today. We review the techniques that we learned in therapy so many years ago and we keep working every day on our marriage. Our children learn from us and they work on their marriages. I always tell them, ‘Abba and I are always trying to work on our marriage as you see and you must try too. So, the therapy gets transferred to them. But I know that life is not easy and life is not perfect. I am happy we chose the path that we did.”

I am not sharing this conversation to applaud myself; rather, I hope that my readers see that while working on a marriage is difficult and painful at times, it still yields a happier outcome most of the time. Yes, sometimes it may seem easier to divorce; however, anyone divorced will tell you that it is a very challenging and painful process. There is a place for divorce if either spouse is abusive and refuses to go for help; however, I truly believe that most marriages can be saved.

I have very strong feelings about your story. I wonder about these people who preach divorce. Don’t they know the mizbeiach cries over every divorce? Don’t these people realize the damage that they are doing? I always tell people if someone wants to get divorced they will go to a bais din, not to a therapist. As long as they are going to a therapist, they want to remain married.

Even if you are not close to this couple, please tell them to go for therapy and try to reconcile. Don’t close your eyes. Get involved! You can save a family and generations of families. Hatzlocha!

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Dr. Yael Respler is a psychotherapist in private practice who provides marital, dating and family counseling. Dr. Respler also deals with problems relating to marital intimacy. Letters may be emailed to deardryael@aol.com. To schedule an appointment, please call 917-751-4887. Dr. Orit Respler-Herman, a child psychologist, co-authors this column and is now in private practice providing complete pychological evaluations as well as child and adolescent therapy. She can be reached at 917-679-1612. Previous columns can be viewed at www.jewishpress.com and archives of Dr. Respler’s radio shows can be found at www.dryaelrespler.com.