Dear Dr. Respler,
My parents did a lot of research before allowing me to date anyone. In addition, I was a very cautious dater. I never allowed myself to lose my head in love, so that I would be able to clearly assess my date’s true character.
When I was dating my husband, I saw and heard a bit of his hostility towards his mother. I had often heard that the way one treats his mother, is the way he will treat his wife, and I brought up this concern to him. He replied: “This is a different situation. My mother treated me terribly and we have serious issues that need to be worked out. I will never, ever treat you this way.” Despite his reassurances, I insisted on speaking to marriage counselors on my own, as well as with him (pre-marriage counseling). Both counselors, each frum, assured me that I need not worry. After all, he treated me like I was a queen.
Within a couple months of marriage, the old saying was proven true. Knowing what I know now, I would like to warn every innocent girl to never, ever marry a boy who is disrespectful to his mother! Even if the mother is impossibly difficult to get along with, and you are as sweet as they come – he will treat you that way. A child who has not learned to control his anger grows to be a husband who cannot control his anger. (Besides for turning vicious while fighting, my husband cannot control himself enough to wait until the children are not present before taking up an issue.) Additionally, a child raised by a controlling and difficult mother grows up to be an emotionally disturbed adult. Being married to someone like this is a punishment. I hate my husband; even when he is nice to me, it is hard to let go of the hostility.
Some people may think it is cruel to not marry a boy because of their family background, but be forewarned: even if he is remorseful about the way he treats his mother, he will most certainly repeat it with you. He knows that he’ll lose his friends if he treats them disrespectfully; a mother and a wife are stuck with him. Ongoing and intense counseling may teach him the proper way to respond, but he will continually be fighting not to return to his default setting – anger, hostility, sulkiness, silent treatment. And you will have to live through the relapses.
My husband and I are still going to counseling. I am staying married for the children’s sake. And guess what? I see him reacting with the same anger when our well-behaved three-year-old occasionally does something out of line. For my children’s sake, I have to stay married to him, so that I can force him into counseling and anger management classes. Remember – once there are children, even after divorce, you are forever tied. Except – at that point – the wife has no ability to intervene in her husband’s dealings with the children. Maybe, maybe, with Hashem’s help, there is hope for a peaceful marriage… but there is no reason why someone should willingly choose to be the martyr to stand by a man’s side while he learns how to be a mentsch.
If only I knew years ago what I know now.
Thank you for sharing this powerful letter. I am so sorry that you are suffering and respect so much that you are trying to make your marriage work despite the hardship. Perhaps you would benefit from seeing your own therapist as well to help support you during this difficult time and help you work through your emotions, so that you do not hate your husband.
As much as you are trying to put on a show in front of your kids, children can see right through most “shows.” If your husband is truly working on himself, as you noted in your letter, maybe you can try to heal so that you can attain the happy marriage you wish for one day. This will be very hard work, but you deserve to be happy! With a lot of support and working through your pain, you may be able to forgive your husband, and more importantly, forgive yourself for “making the mistake” of marrying him.
I wrote making the mistake in quotes because it seems as that is the way you feel, but you cannot blame yourself for making the best decision you could with the information you were given at the time. I wish you hatzlocha with this difficult matzav and am printing this letter at your request to share with people your message. I hope one day to hear from you again with a happier ending!