Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Not Driven Into Another Woman's Arms

While I would not do anything that would ever endanger our marriage, or the relationship we have (not to say anything about our family and the children), I completely understand how some men are driven towards extramarital affairs.

I work most of the day and most of the nights too now, and I am working from our little apartment in Beitar, Israel.  I still work Colorado hours, so my days begin late, and they end late.  I would say that I am experiencing "cabin fever," as I rarely get the chance to leave the house.  With all this, however, my only daily source of companionship are the guys from my community, and at home, my wife.

I come down to greet my wife late in the morning after the kids are in school.  My work day ended at 3am or 4am Israel time, and so I am waking up just as my wife is getting off of her "morning shift" of dressing the kids and getting them on the bus.  I come down the stairs to say hello, make us a brewed cup of coffee, and hopefully exchange a few meaningful words.

However, being a husband of almost TEN YEARS, she takes much of what I do for granted.  If I bring in a client that pays the bills for two or three months of our living expenses, and that client pays up front, she is not excited about this.  If I close a major case that I am working on, and the firm gets a large pay day, she is similarly not excited.  If I talk to her about the news, she is not excited and doesn't want to hear about it.  If I talk about a hobby that I am interested in, she is not interested in talking about it.  If I speak about something relating to our home, or what someone in the community was speaking about in shul (synagogue), she is not interested.  If I speak to her about something that we have similar interests in, she criticizes every one of my thoughts.

It is hard not to feel invisible or unloved in our family, but I am really feeling unloved.  I've reached out and have tried to make friends -- and I have been successful in doing so -- but this does not fill the deep void and the distance I feel between myself and my wife.

I don't know about you, but I need to feel wanted.  I feel loved when I am appreciated for the hard work that I do.  I feel connected to someone when I can have a coherent conversation with them -- about anything!  But each of our conversation devolves into a "you're wrong, you don't know what you're talking about" comment from her, and I politely end the conversation and retire into my own space, and I feel hurt and disconnected from her.  I could speak about the pigeons in Brooklyn, and she'll disagree that they are annoying.  I could speak about how the sky is blue, and she'll disagree that I don't know what I am talking about.  You know, this hurts.

For these reasons, I could totally see how a man could make the mistake of getting seduced by another woman and how an affair could happen.  Meet a woman in the bagel shop, and she laughs at your offhand joke, she finds you to be incredibly smart and sensitive, she finds you physically attractive, and any level-headed man could say, "Hey, I imagine that life could be better with this person.  My wife doesn't love me, doesn't respect me, doesn't care about me anyway.  How much could it hurt to start up a conversation with this woman who seems to be interested in me -- I know my boundaries and I would never let it turn into an affair" and then the man would tempt a platonic relationship or a friendship.  One conversation would turn into two, two would turn into attending an event, a movie, a dinner, or a wedding together (while the wife thinks you are "going out with the guys,") and then seclusion or a moment would inevitably occur as luck has it which would catch both off guard with a spark of chemistry or passion which would lead to an accidental touch, a kiss, an embrace, and then an affair which would end up destroying his family and all those around him, and then it would be his fault for doing so.

Anyway, I do have a head on my shoulders, and I am happy that Judaism provides a man with halachas of Yichud (Jewish laws of seclusion with women), and that a religious man knows his limitations, and knows that by spicing up relationships with the opposite sex, and getting into secluded scenarios with women, he, she, or they together might make the drastic mistake of cheating on their spouses with the other, a move which would destroy their lives, the lives of their spouses, and the lives of their children (not to mention their bank accounts after fighting a divorce, not to mention their freedom because all of a sudden they need to stay chained to their family's location, their time because now the father needs to allocate days, weekends, or large blocks of time for "focused attention" with his children, namely, visitation, whereas when he was married, being present generally and spending a few meaningful minutes here or there playing with one or more of his kids, or learning with his kids, sitting at the dinner table, or just sitting with them with a coffee in his hands would have been more than sufficient).  So no, it makes no sense to seek satisfaction in a mate elsewhere.  Even more so, it makes sense to keep conversations with the opposite sex limited to friendly and simple.  Some orthodox Jewish men avoid conversations altogether with women who are not their wives, and while I think this is a bit extreme, they are probably smarter for doing so.

But then what to do about the home life which is lacking meaning?  What to do about the wife who chastises and criticizes, and who neglects to pay attention or give value to her husband?  I don't have an answer to this, and while the answer of "go take steps to form a connection and make the marriage better" *is* the answer, it is easier said than done.

In our relationship, there are good days, and there are bad days.  Unfortunately, more days than not, we are just living our lives, and my wife finds more interesting things than "dealing with me."  I know in my brain that I am important to her, and I know that in her heart she loves me, but in my heart, I very often don't feel love from her.

I sometimes think that it is *me* that is broken -- that I have a proclivity towards feeling inadequate, or being more needy than the average husband would be.  I often wonder whether it is me who is bent towards feeling sadness and being unable to receive love from another.  But I am very, *very* easy to satisfy.  Give me one hug, say one positive comment towards me, compliment me once, and I am flying high for days.

Now let's be real.  I am never "flying high."  You know what I mean.  Compliment me once, or be kind to me, or ask me about my day, and I am happy.  I am very easy to satisfy.  But when many days or weeks go by without a spark or even an attempt to connect, and when my own many attempts are scolded day after day, week after week, it hurts.

NOTE: It just so happens that my wife came over to me just now with a smile and said a few cheerful words.  So while I am content, I am still affected by the conversation earlier today when my feelings were hurt.  So now I'm sad, but I really don't have a reason to be, or do I?  Who knows.

NOTE: Image taken from Pixbay, CC0 Public Domain, Free for commercial use, No attribution required.  Link.


Anonymous said...

Here's an idea that really works. When you say up and your wife says down, or you say black and she says white (these are argumentative habits you can break), say...."you know, you're right." Then be quiet. Almost guaranteed she will stop in her tracks from shock, and because this is not the script you guys use. Or, "of're right." I do this with my husband who argues about everything and he stops and backs up and says, "well, no it could be what you said." Or some type of mea culpa. It's actually amusing:) Try it! The bottom line though, it stops the negativity from bouncing back and forth. Hatzlacha raba.

Zoe Strickman said...

Hahaha that was great advice! I tried it over Shabbos and it totally diffused what would have been a tense situation. It also made her think twice about what was said, and I know "winning the argument" is always NOT the goal, haha I prevailed! A small victory.