Should we keep trying?

October 3rd, 2017 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 6 comments

My wife and I have had a pretty rough few years of marriage.  Issues like conflict between her and my family, and the two of us having different personalities are the main reasons for these problems.  I feel like some of my screw ups, (weak communication, insensitive at times) are part of  being a male, and not at all an intentional disrespect to her.  She feels that having 2 opposite personalities never lets us “click,” and she is ready to move on.  We have 2 kids, 6 & 8, and have been married for 14 years. 

 I don’t feel God would have  brought us together, only to give us a yearning for a “soul mate” after we have been blessed with so much.  Is the thought that there is someone who is more compatible, a legitimate reason for divorce?  Any resources you can point me to would be greatly appreciated.  I love your podcast and books.  

Thanks for your wisdom!

Matt M. 

Dear Matt,

It sounds like you and your wife have been on a downward spiral for a while. We do have a book recommendation based on your question, “Is the thought that there is someone who is more compatible, a legitimate reason for divorce?” The fact is that in our culture, one doesn’t need a “legitimate reason for divorce.” However, it sounds as if your wife is hesitating to move forward with ending the marriage perhaps because, even deep down, she believes that she made a covenant for life. Diane Medved’s readable and powerful book, Don’t Divorce: Powerful Arguments for Saving and Revitalizing Your Marriage, might give her reasons to rethink her picture of divorce in addition to whatever spiritual and religious views motivate her. Especially with two children in the picture, in our view, divorce should always be seen as the very last resort and only for the most extreme reasons.

There are many good books out there with wise advice for marriage. One we like that deals with having two opposite personalities is Chana Levitan’s, That’s Why I Married You: How to Dance with Personality Differences. However, books and other resources with great information don’t always translate easily into action.  We do think that the right marriage counselor  can be invaluable. The tricky part is finding the right one. Too many counselors end up facilitating the end of marriages rather than bringing couples together. Recommendations from people you trust are invaluable as well as doing your own research and asking a potential counselor some pointed questions.

It’s always painful to throw away a significant financial nest egg you’ve been accumulating for over a decade.  Not only does it hurt but knowing how hard it will be to make it up hurts even more.  Well, throwing away fourteen years of time that you’ve invested is far more painful.  What is more, unlike money, you can never recover time.  You’ve got shared memories and you have two children.  We feel it is well worth serious effort to resculpt your marriage.  It is very hard to break free of old habits and paradigms.  Even ways you address one another, let alone how you think of one another.  But all this needs to be done.  All this and more, can be done.

If your wife is willing to work with you, we strongly encourage the two of you to aim, not for settling for a mediocre life but for a renewal of love, affection and friendship.

Of course, the power of prayer mustn’t be ignored,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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6 comments

Mark Dealy says:

Thank you for the info on marriage Rabbi Lapin.
We would like to encourage you and Mrs. Lapin to check out Retrouvaille marriage ministry, so you have it in your tool chest to share with couples like this that are in distress. This is a program that started in the late 70s and has saved thousands of marriages that had lost all hope. Our marriage was one of those. We had been married for 23 years and there was no hope left after years of counselors, a few marriage retreats and many sessions with pastors over the years. Today it has been 5 years since we went thru the program and these are the best 5 years of our 28 years of marriage and getting better everyday. It is a 7 week program ( the program differs in different communities but generally starts with a full weekend fri evening- sun, then get together for 4 hours each following sunday for 6 weeks to work on the fundamentals that were taught over the weekend) to make sure the tools that are taught are developed into the relationship before the couple moves on.
Thanks for the great work you do sharing with us!
Blessings my Rabbi and Mrs.
Mark & Ronica Dealy
P.s. we are very involved with the ministry and would be very open to communicating with you if you would like to reach out.

Bluma, Israel says:

I wanted to also recommend the book “the 7 principles for making marriage work” by John Gottman. The issues you deacribed are things i see in my practice regularly-and are definitely worth trying to resolve. God speed!

Susan Lapin says:

We always appreciate hearing from those on the front lines.

WILLIAM J BROWER says:

Miss Susan,
I work on the “front lines” of marital problems on a daily basis in my law practice. The value of counseling can not be understated, but it must be with someone who does not have an agenda. Both the husband and the wife must want to work on saving the wonder that is being married to another person, whatever that person’s personality. We pledge to God almighty That in sickness and in health, for better or worse. in good times and bad, until death us do part. I suppose that some consider those are just words you repeat by rote in the rite of marriage, but many of us take them to heart. I have been married for 47 years to a wonderful woman . We have had good times and bad, we have enjoyed health and suffered illness. We have had long periods when we had conflict between the two of us. But we know that God put us together for a reason and we worked on the communication we needed and now we are looking forward to sailing in to the sunset together.
Marriage is work. It is not to be entered into carelessly, but with reverence and a firm determination to love and support each other.
I procure divorces for those clients who seriously have had an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage, those cases where it would be worst for the marriage to continue. But I urge counseling and communication before the parties take that final step. I sometimes wonder what God thinks of my role in ending a holy sacrament. I do not know.
A wise older lawyer told me one time to ask my divorce clients if they still enjoyed physical intimacy, because if they do, the marriage still has a chance. Unlike the first thought, it is not just the sexual relations he was thinking of, but that secure feeling you have of being in the same room, the satisfaction you feel when you accomplish a task together. The hand you reach for in rough times. If any of these still exist there is a basis to build on to resurrect the marriage.
I am so sorry that I went on sooooo long, far too long, but it is a subject close to my heart, and my mind. I hope I was not too rambling. Thank you for all you and the Rabbi do.
Bill Brower

Susan Lapin says:

I would classify this as wise words, not rambling. Thanks for writing, Bill.

Mountain Queen says:

Great advice.

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