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My wife doesn’t see the Torah way of life the way I do

Question from category:

Dear Rabbi,

I am 35, have been married for 15 years and Baruch Hashem have 5 children.

Recently, I have started to feel frustrated over the way my family is being run. I feel that my wife does not see the Torah way of life the way I do. The main issue is with modesty. My wife is not so strict with her modesty (short skirts, bordering on too short; going out on the balcony with short sleeves, even though the neighbors can see her, etc.) and it really bothers me. I am really frustrated, especially since I feel that it affects our children. This feeling distances me from her, and I am beginning to wonder if I got married too young (at age 20) and that this is not what I really want in my life.

I don’t get angry with her, and don’t argue with her, I simply feel a disconnect and it’s hard for me to relate to her.

Answer:

Dear Questioner,

Before I address your important question, I want to share with you how much I appreciate the very fact that you posted such a sincere question. This is something that takes courage, both internally and outwardly.

I also want to apologize for the long delay in answering you, and hope that you are well.

Now to the crux of the matter. You describe a disconnect between you and your wife, and write that it is because of the gaps between your and her perceptions of modesty and sanctity. I will offer you three avenues to explore, which I hope will be helpful: 1) Your wife’s awareness 2. Your respective spiritual levels 3. Interpersonal differences.

 

Your wife’s awareness

You wrote that your wife is behaving in a manner that is not to your liking, but you didn’t say whether you have spoken to her about this. Any relationship between two people starts with discourse and the disclosure of desires and expectations from one another. This does not necessarily mean that you will achieve everything you want from the conversation you initiate concerning this issue, but the distance and disconnect will most likely be alleviated to some extent. That is why I am putting this at the beginning of the answer, as a direction of action that could help you. And if you feel that this is too difficult for you, or that you have already tried this – even though you didn’t mention it in your question – and it didn’t help to improve your relationship, maybe one of the other two ideas will help.

 

Different spiritual levels

This is the second point that you mentioned, and it is obvious to both you and me, from your description of what is bothering you. This means that from a purely spiritual perspective, the issue is theoretically between your wife and Hashem, but your letter makes it clear that you are having difficulty with the way your wife relates to you and what you think and feel, with respect to modesty and in general. There a few possible solutions, so please allow me to challenge you with a few questions. What exactly bothers you about this? That she’s not following the strictly religious path? Her behavior embarrasses you? That she’s not exactly like you? That what’s important to you is not important to her? Is she doing something that contradicts the basics that you both agreed to? Each of these questions can lead to further questions, but for now I suggest leaving the preoccupation with the religious aspect aside, not because it is unimportant or otherwise, but because when we speak about religiosity, we infer that the problem lies with an external factor unconnected to the couple relationship itself, but is something that bothers you. I want to suggest a different approach, and that is that you are having difficulty with your different spiritual levels, with this difference being expressed mainly in matters of modesty.

 

Interpersonal differences

This change in your wife’s behavior may not seem fundamental, but it certainly points to the need for introspection, a look at the roots of your couple relationship and the main reasons that you chose one another. You wrote, for example, that you blame yourself that marrying young caused the interpersonal difference, even if the focus is on the couple relationship itself. This means that the same thing that is troubling your couple relationship would have happened on one level or another, and perhaps concerning different issues, in every couple relationship in which you and your wife would have been. Each person from his or her own perspective. For example, the fact that a complicated difficulty in a couple relationship causes a disconnect that is getting worse is one of many possible reactions to your current situation. The reason you are acting this way, and not starting an argument over her behavior, or getting back at her in other ways, or all sorts of ways that would cause an argument, is because you are the way you are. You have your couple relationship mechanisms, and she has hers. 

I am proposing that you search for and try to improve the parts of your couple relationship that are not working well enough for you. It is quite possible that with serious work, perhaps with a couples therapist, you can heal, preserve and renew your relationship. Even though you were young when you got married, I assume there was something that was meant for you and attracted you and that can be a basis for you and your wife working things out together.

One more small point. Sometimes there are many difficulties in a couple relationship, but there is a tendency to get stuck on a specific definitive point that becomes the focus for everything. Perhaps in your case too, there is an accumulation of incidents, disagreements and difficulties that have become funneled into the modesty issue. I suggest that you consider that direction too.

After all of the above, here are a few words of encouragement. Even though you wrote about a disconnect, I hear your pain and frustration from this situation, that you yearn for a better couple relationship. I hope that your pain will motivate you to search for the way to reconnect. Remaining disconnected will lead to the withering of the part of you that could gain strength and flourish in a relationship of togetherness. The path to this may not be easy, but I hope and believe it will be worthwhile.

If you would like to ask more questions and correct anything I may have misunderstood, please write again.

I wish you much success.

Yours,

Tzvika

buterman1@gmail.com

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