Dear Dr. Yael,
I am writing you to share my painful life as a divorced father. I am altering details since my situation may be somewhat public. I thought I was happily married to an amazing, beautiful, financially successful woman. A year ago she asked for a get and a divorce, and my own parents supported my ex-wife’s decision. I didn’t want to get divorced, but I reluctantly gave in because it seemed like I didn’t have a choice. My wife and I were married for over ten years, with a few young children. I started out learning and my ex-wife supported me. I then went into several businesses, and lost a lot of money. Both my in-laws and parents gave me money to start each business. In the meantime, my ex-wife started her own business (which I prefer not to mention in this column), and is unbelievably successful. So, we bought a beautiful house and my ex-wife supported our family in style. I kept getting jobs and losing them. Unfortunately my in-laws passed away suddenly, quite young, and my wife became very close to my parents.
My ex-wife is very beautiful, successful, and a great cook and housekeeper. She has full-time help. While we were married, we became very close to another couple. The husband is extremely successful in his multitude of businesses and the wife was a stay at home mom, who became best friends with my ex-wife. Six months ago, this best friend was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer, and all three of us took turns doing shifts at night to care for this woman. She passed away a few months after my divorce. I continued to do my shifts, even after my divorce, and my wife’s best friend told me that my ex-wife has done everything to help her and is basically raising her children, shopping with them, etc. My ex-wife is truly an amazing person, and I still love her. Since her friend was niftar, this friend’s husband and children eat every Shabbos and Yom Tov by my ex-wife and my parents are there all the time as well. My ex-wife is so nice that when she sends the kids to me for Shabbos, she sends me all the Shabbos food and freshly baked challah. We have an amicable divorce, but I see that once the year of aveilus is over, I think my ex-wife will marry her friend’s husband and adopt his children. These children love my ex-wife, who is a superwoman.
I am extremely depressed. My ex-wife actually gives me support financially since she was the main breadwinner when we were married. Everyone is really nice to me, and I live in an apartment very close to my ex-wife and children. When my children come to me for Shabbos, they often end up walking back to my ex-wife’s house, saying they miss Mommy and all the action. My parents are so close to my ex-wife that they prefer to go to her house for yomim tovim than to my brother and sister-in-law. My parents never had a daughter and my mother often says she is like a daughter to her. In fact, my ex-wife even finds time to take my parents to doctor appointments and since she lost her own parents, she gives my parents a lot of love. I am in therapy and on antidepressants, and I feel like a total loser. I think that her friend actually told her husband to marry my ex-wife and co-parent all the children with her. Please give me some ideas on how to survive this mess. I don’t know what to do or how to find happiness again.
I am so sorry to hear about your divorce and the death of your wife’s best friend. It sounds like you had a very difficult few years. You are dealing with an extremely difficult situation, so it makes sense that you are feeling depressed. It is possible that your lack of financial success was a key issue in creating a rift between you and your ex-wife, but perhaps she wasn’t as happy all these years as you were.
In your letter, you do not mention any of your own virtues. Does your therapist work on building you back up? If not, maybe you need to find a therapist that can help in building you back up. It would also be helpful to you to find a job that you enjoy and that gives you emotional satisfaction as well as financial compensation. I am sure you have a lot to offer someone and it would be good to start focusing on your positive attributes in order to help pull yourself out of this depression. You may not be ready to hear this, but there are many good women who are also single, either divorced or widowed, and who would appreciate a loving husband. In order to be able to have your own life, you must first love yourself more. Do you enjoy learning? Perhaps getting a chavrusa or joining a daf yomi class will help you focus on something positive and help you grow. Do you exercise? Do you have any hobbies? All of these are important in rebuilding yourself and your life.
Our community is very focused on being married. Single people, in general, feel they have no place in our community. If it’s in fact true that your ex-wife is ready to move on and get remarried, then in order for you to move on as well, you need to work on trying to put your love for your ex-wife in the past. Once you work on loving yourself, you will be ready to find a new wife to build a life with and to have a healthy future.
I know life seems bleak right now. Please find an ego-building therapist, focus on your own strengths, and do things to find self-fulfillment. Exercise is the best antidepressant. Once you feel better about yourself, you will be able to rebuild your life. With Hashem’s help, you will find the strength to pull yourself out of this depression and build an amazing life for yourself! Hatzlocha!