May 25, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

A Marriage Accumulates Many Things

They seem to have had a great marriage, but the last few years she has been very concerned with her husband talking about leaving her. Though he’s doesn’t talk much about his marriage to his friends, he occasionally mentions that conditions in his house are terrible, but then changes the subject. What’s going on?

They’ve been married for about 15 years and have three children. Her friends thought that he was too uptight or controlling, but somehow it sounded like more than that. On top of the marriage, the kids seem to be having problems as well. They don’t ever have their friends over, though they do seem to have a fair number of friends. Are they worried about the friends seeing their parents fighting?

In actuality, they did have a pretty good marriage. But a number of years ago, her mother died, and it has been downhill since. She took many of her mother’s things into her home, though her home is small, and this led to much less space for everyone else. She refuses to throw anything away. It began to reach crises proportions, and he became more and more upset. He was having problems just getting into the home–it was so cluttered, and he couldn’t find a spot to put things down. The counters, the closets, the bathrooms and every room in the house was overflowing with an enormous amount of useless things. Her two dogs are all over and have been leaving dog poo and urine everywhere! He, in desperation, began talking about leaving her.

If you haven’t yet realized it, she has become a hoarder. Not a clutterer, but a hoarder. There is a big difference between the two. Most of us are clutterers to one degree or another. I have a drawer that I have been accumulating a small amount of stuff in for some years. Every once in a while, I go through it and throw away some things that I clearly have no use for, but end up keeping a lot that I know I will probably end up finally getting rid of.

It takes me an inordinate amount of time to actually throw some of those things out. Like a dinosaur age Apple phone I once used many years ago. But I keep thinking that maybe it has stuff stored on it from Montreal that I won’t be able to find (though I don’t think I used it once since leaving Montreal.) Or the countless small thingamajigs that I’ve accumulated over the years. Though it’s annoying, it doesn’t interfere with my life in any way, it takes up a small amount of space, and I know I will eventually part with most of it. That’s probably true of most of you. You may have piles here and there of papers, forms that you don’t know what to do with, and old articles that you once thought were interesting. It’s really hard to go through it, because you don’t know what to do with a lot of those things. So you just leave them lying around. They generally don’t create too many problems (though you have periods of looking for something you know is probably in one of those piles, but can’t find it.)

Hoarding, though, is a major disorder that tears lives apart. If you are suffering from it, you probably haven’t allowed anyone into your home for years. Your spouse probably has left you, or eventually will. And worse of all, it is YOU who is suffering the most. People blame you, say terrible things about you, and you bear an enormous sense of guilt and confusion. While many people are now more aware of the issue because of the media fascination with it, it remains a terrible malady that no one fully understands. Over the next week or two, we will look into it more fully.

Please feel free to contact me regarding this (or any) topic. You can do so anonymously by writing to [email protected]

Dr. Glick was a clinical psychologist as well as rabbi of Congregation Ahavat Yisroel. If you would like to contact him for an appointment, you can do so by writing to him at [email protected] or calling him at 201-983-1532.

By Rabbi Dr. Mordechai Glick

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