After my last article about a spouse essentially giving up frumkeit, several people expressed surprise to me about my suggesting that people must put in a tremendous amount of effort and do everything possible to resolve their differences, even if the result will be far from ideal. Indeed, that is the case in many marriages, though appearances may suggest everything is fine. Has anyone not gone through periods when things were difficult, or faced problems that seem impossible to solve? Some of you right this moment are tearing out your hair in intractable marital problems. But generally no one knows. You’re perhaps embarrassed to talk to your friends, you probably don’t say anything to your parents (likely a good idea), and you are left alone in your misery. What would happen if your spouse was in an accident that left them permanently disabled and unable to function? What if you accidentally find out that your spouse is spending a lot of time on disgusting, horrible websites? What if your spouse confides in you that he/she is gay? These cases are certainly extreme, but they happen much more frequently that any of us would like to imagine. And they seem impossible to even consider trying to navigate. There’s no question that such terrible cases call for an immediate decision to divorce. Or do they? Is that what kiddushin is – something that hopefully is wonderful, and if not, off to the bais din. I am NOT saying that divorce is always wrong. I Am saying that divorce is always a very last choice, only even considered after much much effort, much begging, much pleading, much forgiveness and understanding (even if that seems impossible), much seeking help, much consulting rabbis and/or therapists, and much accepting of impossible compromises that you previously would have thought unthinkable. And really doing that for a very long time, unless the children are suffering terribly. That is not a pretty picture, but it is infinitely better than a divorce that isn’t absolutely necessary (with its own awful sequelae.)
I have seen many such marriages over the years. In most of them, people give up after “convincing” me that it’s all the fault of the other spouse. In some they fail even with herculean efforts. And some are somehow able to come to some kind of accommodation that allows them to continue their marriage and even, perhaps, to end up with a marriage that is wonderful. May we all be blessed with the ability in our marriages and lives to face these challenges in a way that has meaningful and positive results.
Please feel free to contact me regarding this (or any) topic. You can do so anonymously by writing to mordechaiglick_gmail.com . Dr. Glick was a clinical psychologist in private practice for 35 years as well as a rabbi of Congregation Ahavast Yisroel. If you would like to submit a question, or contact him for an appointment, he can be reached at mordechaiglick_gmail.com
By Rabbi Dr Mordechai Glick