Where to begin? I have so much I want to say about this topic and I have a feeling it’s not all going to fit into one post. But here goes.
A lot of my friends know the cute story of how my husband and I met. So forgive me if you’re hearing this for the umpteenth time. I was in Israel visiting my parents for the summer and my husband was in Detroit where he’d lived all his life. I wrote a blog back then too (a different one). He found it. He told me he loved what I had to say and that I should keep writing. From there we dated via gchat, email, skype, and phone for 3 loooong and never-ending months. We met for the first time in New York when he picked me up from the airport, so I could attend my second year of college. I was so scared to meet him in real life. I was afraid things would be different. I so badly wanted the incredible connection we fostered through technology to be tangible in real life. And on our first date, he was cute, but I didn’t feel the chemistry. I was devastated. I felt so sure he was my one and only, and then everything just fell flat. I didn’t tell him this because I wanted to keep trying. I had heard of people who didn’t feel it until their sixth date. So, of course, I wasn’t just going to give up after just one. And I’m so glad I didn’t. The second date was magical. I don’t even remember most of it but there was a lot of fancy clothes, fancy food and fancy New York City lights involved, and I was smitten. From there it was just a big blur. I wasn’t in a state to be making life-altering decisions, because in my eyes, he was perfect. He could do no wrong.
Yeah, we got into fights here and there. Like when shomer negiah became too hard to keep. And we agreed that, of course, next time we would try harder to stay away from each other. But easier said than done. (Side note: I was under the impression that we were the only two people in the history of frum dating to ever break shomer. Later, of course, I found out that BOY was I wrong.) I ended up feeling so high off being truly loved by someone else (something I wasn’t used to), and so guilty for breaking halacha, I figured, whether or not I was thinking straight, no one would want me after having touched my soon-to-be husband, and no one would love me as much as he loved me, so we might as well get married. I look back sadly on that thought, because I know now that that is not the case. But this was where my head was at, back at the ripe old age of 21. And so we got engaged. The next few months were another level of blur. Wedding planning and functioning, let alone attempting to do school work, don’t really mesh too well.
We got married in my hometown even though my parents wanted Israel and I was happy as a clam because I got to get married with a significant portion of the people I love surrounding me. After the wedding, we’ve roughed some pretty intense ups and downs. But even from the start, when we were dating, I insisted we go to couples counseling. We have been in and out our whole married lives. We’ve learned a lot about ourselves and about each other and I cannot even imagine what life would be like without therapy. That being said, there were definitely a few therapists along the way who we were probably better off without (like the one who told me my problem was that I was Jewish). Kinda goes to show how important finding a quality therapist is. And by the way, there is no shame in therapy. Asking for help is probably one of the biggest things you can do for yourself and for others.
There were several times throughout our marriage where I thought to myself, is marriage supposed to be this hard? And as hard as it is to admit, there were many points where I was close to getting a divorce. These times put me in a very dark place. A place where I wasn’t answering my friends calls. A place where I wasn’t taking care of myself, my house, my husband, or my child, except for the absolute bare minimum. I honestly wasn’t functional for a good part of the marriage. My husband and I were diagnosed with our own individual mental illnesses, and while trying to grapple with ourselves, we attempted to grapple with each other. Unfortunately, that did not go so well. We have recently just come out of one of these dark places. And although I’m not sure we’re fully out yet, I’m seeing some light at the end of the tunnel, and my, is it good to see.
Here’s my conclusion on the matter. Marriage is complicated. No two marriages are ever alike. No matter how happy two people may seem together, you have no idea what it’s like behind closed doors. That being said, divorce should not be taken lightly. Technically, I’ve been thinking about it my whole married life. I was never really sure I made the right decision to get married. But I do feel very strongly, that if someone is truly unhappy in a marriage, even if there’s no physical abuse involved, they have a right to leave. And that’s the thing. I can’t predict what my husband’s and my future will look like. I hope and pray it will be together, because, well, I love the guy. But if the future holds only misery for us, then it’s okay to want out and to separate. I really believe that. Also, he and I have changed so much as people these past 6 years. I am no longer the same naive 21 year old I was when I first met him. Back then I didn’t think I could make it alone. Now I know I can. It’s very empowering to know that, if I had to, I could leave. And I would make it. No one ever wants to be stuck. Ironically though, knowing that I can leave, just makes me want to stay. “If you love someone, set them free.” Truer words have never been spoken.
I hope that if you are in a not perfect place in your marriage, you don’t feel alone. And if you feel like giving up sometimes, you’re in good company. Because I feel like in secular society, it’s so much more common to hear details of someone’s married life and whether it’s going well or not. But as an orthodox Jew, I was always taught, “keep your married life private…from everyone.” And that I did. Until now.
Wishing you all lots of luck in navigating this tricky thing called life. And P.S. If I could go back, I would do it all again. I’ve learned so much about myself and about life. I got my precious son out of this and I wouldn’t trade him for the world. And of course, I’m looking forward to making lots of happy memories together with my husband in the future.
All the best,