Dear Dr. Yael,
I am writing to you in order to help other people from getting into the situation I unknowingly put myself into.
I am married for 16 years to a smart, pretty wife and, baruch Hashem, we have beautiful and healthy children. Of course, we have our issues, as many couples do. However, my greatest mistake is that instead of focusing on her good attributes, I repeatedly criticized her and the things she did. I was not the team player I should have been.
We are currently separated, even though I still love her and miss our family.
Since our separation I have gone into therapy to work on my middos in the hope of being able to reunite with my wife and family. I only wish I had done this sooner. However, I did not take my wife’s needs seriously or work to prioritize things so that life would be better for us.
I am writing this letter for two reasons: the first is that I hope my wife will see this letter, recognize me and realize that I truly want to make our marriage work and am committed to doing everything I can for her and our family’s needs.
The second reason is to prevail upon your readers to wake up and take action to help their marriages before it’s too late.
A Hopeful Husband
Dear Hopeful Husband,
Thank you for your letter. It is a timely topic and one that affects many in our community. While you are not the only person who waited until late in his marriage to make changes, it does sound like you are taking pro-active steps now. I hope that the changes are permanent and that your wife will be willing to try again.
As a therapist I very often deal with people who only realize they need to make significant changes when their marriages are falling apart. They get caught in what we refer to as a vicious cycle and can’t identify the issues that are causing the problems.
With the major challenges that exist in today’s world we need to fight harder to preserve our marriages. However, built-up anger and resentment that sometimes exist when couples do not communicate well can make it very difficult to find common ground. Most people begin marriage with high and often unreasonable expectations. When those expectations are not met, we feel disappointed, but it’s not always easy to communicate this disappointment in a positive way. Thus, disappointment and hurt feelings are not communicated, and anger and resentment begin to build. While most couples face problems in their marriage, those who know how to discuss things in a loving and productive manner will be able to weather any storm.
Oftentimes people who struggle with these issues are coming from challenging backgrounds; the role models we all generally use to build our marriages is that of our parents and if we did not see open and smooth communication between the two of them it will be difficult to create it with our partner.
While this column has a large readership, do not assume that your wife will read this letter and recognize herself. Perhaps if you write her a more personal letter, telling her how you feel and the changes you have made, she will be willing to listen. However, you must give her time to see that the changes you have made are permanent. You must also remember that all that hurt and anger cannot be resolved just because you have decided to change. It will take time for your wife to recover from the hurt and be able to trust you again.