Dear Mrs. Junik,
I have something that is bothering me very much and is something on my mind that I would like to share with you and get your input about.
I was married in the past for quite a while, and now I am divorced. I know everything is Hashgacha Protis, and I know that I have a very bright future ahead of me, but I would like to pour out my heart to you on some of the experiences that I went through, and to get some perspective on how to make sure that such a thing will not happen again ch”v.
This is my story in short:
When we dated, I thought of him as a chassidishe guy who was into the right things and was a guy who wanted to go on shlichus – he displayed a very big passion and will for it.
But as time went on, he really had no interest in going on shlichus. And to work wasn’t an option either, so I had to work my tail off, while he was home watching youtube clips and other things.
No matter how much effort I put into the relationship – I came home with a paycheck, really cared for him, cooked and all – I didn’t feel the “Kamayim haponim el ponim.”
My husband always used to put me down. He was constantly on the phone with his friends and his parents – and as time went on we grew further and further apart.
His mother was very much a part of our marriage in a negative way; always had to have input and a say in everything about our lives.
Soon enough he started touching his beard, and watching movies, and hanging out with friends in places that were not appropriate, (i.e. bars, that I thought were not something a yungerman should be doing.)
So really, what I thought I got in a husband I didn’t have. I didn’t feel that he was proud of me when we walked down the street together, he didn’t respect my upbringing or anything about my family’s minhogim etc. Basically we had a very different value system.
But I went along with all of this, I tried to stay positive and do whatever I needed to do as a wife. All I got in return was criticism and comments how I wasn’t good enough for him and that I was too controlling – when in reality it was the opposite.
When we both realized that things were not good in our relationship, we went to therapy after much discussion and deliberation (with the advice of our individual mashpiim). However, that didn’t help.
I think the core of the problem was that we each had a different understanding and ideology as to what marriage is, and how it should be viewed.
So, the answer was clear that it was time for each of us to move on with our lives, unfortunately in different drections and that hopefully one day each of us will meet our real bashert.
Please give me your thoughts on how to avoid making such a mistake again in the future.
Mrs. Sarah Junik’s Answer:
I am very sorry about the turn your life has taken. I am sure you know all the bumps in our life are there to help us grow and strive to reach higher.
I cannot address your particular case because it would not be correct to judge without all the facts from both sides, but I will address a point you made which is very valid: how can a girl avoid being deceived by the true nature of the boy she is shidduch dating.
It is an unfortunate fact that young men who have serious flaws, know very well that they must hide them when they are in the dating process and show only an idealized fake version of themselves. (I say young men because that is what your letter addresses, but it happens with young women too).
I have never understood why a person would go into marriage having given a totally false impression. It is like someone buying a suit 3 sizes too small. What use is the suit? It can’t be worn!
As you say in your letter “….therapy … didn’t help because the very core of our marriage had not just been damaged but it didn’t have a foundation whatsoever.” You thought you were marrying someone with completely different values that would match yours. A person that you could help in his growth while he would encourage you in yours, which was not possible, as his values and yours were diametrically opposed.
Some people go into marriage hoping it is a magic wand that will cure all their problems. That is not so. As Rabbi Avraham Twersky writes in his books, marriage is not a hospital; problems should be resolved before marriage.
Before I mention some practical advice to discern character and try to avoid such pitfalls, let me remind you and anyone else that sometimes this too is beshert. It does not say anywhere that marriage must be happy. Nowhere are we told that out Besherte will be the “man/woman of our dreams”.
Sometimes a person has to go through a less than positive experience because that is what is “Beshert”. As we have just learned in Parshas Toldos, Hashem gives us Nisyonos and it is up to us to get through them. We do not know the Aibishter’s Cheshbon. People go through a lot of tragedies in their lives; they learn, get chizuk and continue on. No one said life has to be “fair”.
That said, I believe that today’s society subscribes too much to making things easy, putting as little effort into our endeavors as possible. This affects all areas of our lives. If something does not work as we want it to we throw it away. If something is too hard, do something else. We are tremendously influenced by this worldly ethic that is not the Torah way.
What this means in this case is that when people do research for shidduchim, they do not put the effort necessary to make a proper research.
(I know that there are obsessive families that have to speak to the first grade Rebbi or Morah to be satisfied, and that is not what I am addressing.)
Within the norm, one should call friends and friends of friends to get a feel of the girl or boy’s character. One should also call the boy or girl’s references. Write down the information, listen carefully when you are on the phone. Listen for hesitations, for bland, un-descriptive adjectives such as “nice” “good” “interesting” etc. If a question is not answered ask again in a different way, and always remember to define where you are coming from. What for one person is an intellectual may be a barely literate for another.
I have written at length on the type of questions to ask in my blog, so I will not repeat myself. The important thing is to ask the questions, and when in doubt ask some more and if still in doubt ask a Rov or a Mashpia. Do not gloss over something that does not sound right just because we are so anxious for it to work out.
When going out on a shidduch date, a person can put on a face but it is hard to maintain it, time after time. There will be some discrepancies between what s/he says and s/he does. Keep an eye out, and ear out. It does not do to become paranoid but do not be blinded either. Discuss your experience with a Mashpia, let someone who is not directly involved give an unbiased opinion.
And even after all these precautions, it may happen that one is taken in. To minimize this, daven constantly to be shown the right person for you. Be specific and clear in your description. Ask for Siata D’Shmaya, ask for the person who you can build a Bais Neemon. Daven before Lichtzen, say tehilim, give Tzedokah especially for Chossen and Kallah organizations and learn the Rebbe’s sforim on shidduchim and marriage – Eternal Joy in English for example.
May you have much mazel in the future,