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Dear Dr.Yael,

My husband and I read your column often and enjoy your advice very much. We are married for five years and are b”H very happy. There is one issue though that is a constant stumbling block for us. I grew up in a home without any shalom bayis. My parents were constantly arguing and fighting. They tried to be good parents but they were always in bad moods because of their relationship. I often hated being home and was embarrassed to bring friends home because of what they might witness. With maturity and a lot of soul searching, I finally understand their issues. I am stopping to blame them for what they put us through and instead try to respect them for the efforts they put into raising us kids.


However, when it comes to my marriage, every time my husband says something that remotely resembles what my father may have said, I find myself responding the way my mother did, even if what he said doesn’t bother me when I think about it calmly. My husband understands the way I grew up and tries to be patient with me, but his patience is growing thin.

My next issue with this is I keep thinking that even though we’re happy now b”H, I’m worried that we will be unhappy as we get older. I keep thinking that my parents were probably also happy when they were first married, and their unhappiness developed with time. I also start doubting that we are actually happy now. All of this is taking a toll on us and I’m not sure how to deal with it. I’d also like to know if these are normal fears or is something is wrong with me.

Thanks in advance for your advice. We are looking forward to hearing your suggestions.

A Reader


Dear A Reader,

Thank you for your letter. You appear to be experiencing transference in your relationship with your husband. Transference is when you transfer the negative feelings that you have towards someone important in your life onto someone else. I believe that your attitude is a key issue in your marriage. If you believe that you are happy (as you seem to start off your letter saying), then you actually will be happy. Happiness is a state of mind. It is not healthy for you to think negatively. You sound like you have worked on yourself as a person. The fact that you have so much awareness regarding your issues demonstrates your strengths. Can you attempt to work on yourself not to respond to your husband in an inappropriate manner? Can you work on replacing these negative thoughts with positive ones? If you hear yourself saying that you’ll probably be unhappy in your marriage soon, or that you’re probably really not happy now, you need to stop yourself and change that narrative. Replace those negative thoughts with positive thoughts such as, “I am very happy with my husband b”H, and with continued positive communication, we will always be happy together!” Say this until you feel the anxiety recede. You can also tell yourself that these are just anxious thoughts and are not true, which will help you replace them with more accurate, positive statements. Additionally, one argument or fight does not mean your marriage is doomed. Remember to tell yourself that you have a good marriage and always continue to work at it so it remains a positive marriage.

There is something called the Imago Theory which I often use in therapy in working with clients. Basically it is a theory where people recreate their imago “The image of their own childhood in their lives and in their marriages.” What often happens in the dating process is that you are attracted to someone who may actually in your mind resemble one or both of your parents and present those challenging issues to you in your marriage. Subconsciously, you may want to recreate the problems in your childhood and work them out through your marriage. Sometimes even if your husband does not actually behave like your father, but does certain things that remind you at times of your father, you may overreact because of your childhood. Your question about whether this is normal is an important question. While many people struggle with these types of issues, you must try to fight this negative cycle.

In your situation your husband is attempting to not allow you to recreate your childhood in your marriage. It appears to me that you may need individual therapy at this point, since your marriage is good, but you are sabatoging it with your negative thoughts. Additionally, you mentioned that you are falling into the trap of responding the way your mother responded to your father. Much of what is transpiring is not on a conscious level. I think that you need to seek a therapist who will build on your positive points. Personally I try to be positive and look at my client’s strengths. Try to seek a therapist that works on building your strengths instead of being problem focused. Through building our strengths we can overcome our nisyonos [challenges] in life.

It will be difficult for you to change the way you respond to your husband without professional help, but you can absolutely try these techniques and see if they help! I would suggest that the best person for this specific case may be a therapist who is cognitive-behavioral and solution oriented. Try to focus on all your strengths and on being positive in order to conquer this problem. If you decide to seek individual therapy, your husband can also be involved and try to be helpful in replacing your worrisome thoughts with positive thoughts. Please seek professional help to accurately assess the situation as it is difficult to do from a letter, but I hope that these suggestions have been helpful! 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 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 and archives of Dr. Respler’s radio shows can be found at