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July 15, 1988 - Image 39

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1988-07-15

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

28 Buick Reattas

Available for immediate delivery

and external conflict. "In
some ways, modern women
may be better off," Shulem
says. "Their place is the work
plate."
Orthodox couples don't
have some of the coping
mechanisms that are avail-
able to secular couples during
times of stress. Separation,
for instance, isn't really an
option since the community
doesn't support it. In fact, in
many cases even divorce isn't
an option.
"There are two kinds of
divorce," Shulem explains.
"Actual divorce and the
threat of divorce. Actual
divorce is rare because it isn't
an option."

"The woman is
usually fed up with
her husband and
her marriage. She
wants more from
the relationship."

The reasons are simple: 35-
year old mothers of five
children are not considered
very eligible in Orthodox
circles, and men have veto
power in the Bet Dins
(religious courts) that issue
divorce decrees.
"The threat of divorce,
unlike suicide, isn't that
serious," Shulem says. "It has
to do with the legal status of
women in divorce court. All a
man has to say is 'no' and
that's the end of the pro-
ceedings."
Most wives sense that their
husbands aren't afraid of
divorce. They feel hurt and
angry and end up dragging
their husbands to marriage
counselors like Shulem. "In a
thousand couples I ask the
husbands why they came, and
they all look at their wives,"
smiles Shulem.
But many Orthodox men .
are not receptive to counsel-
ing. They take an authori-
tative stance, turning to
halacha and Bible to support
their behavior."When he's
pressured emotionally he
turn to `psukim' (verses),"
Shuleirii 'explains.
While both the husband
and wife have a history of be-
ing hurt and disappointed,
the husbands are more willing
to say "I'm sorry, let's start
again." Women usually are
not willing to let it go at that.
"Women are walking calen-
dars and have a mental shop-
ping list of all the belittling

comments made in 15 years
of marriage," Shulem says.
In one exercise Shulem uses
in his counseling, he tells the
wives to imagine that they
have the ability to take
revenge on their husbands,
enough so they can say "we're
even. They are told to go
home and think about what it
would take to reach that
point. "They come back and
say 'there's nothing that can
be done, it just wouldn't do it.
They feel they've been ripped
off:
A Bnei Brak woman, whose
children were grown and gone
after 25 years of marriage and
who complained that her hus-
band was "such a nebesh,"
accepted Shulem's sugges-
tion — after consulting with
her rabbi — that she sit shiva
for her marriage.
"She mourned the loss of a
marriage. Sitting shiva al-
lowed her to declare herself
hurt, to admit it was never
going to get fixed up and
drawing blood every other
week from her husband
wasn't going to help," Shulem
says. "She told people who
came to visit her, 'I'm mourn-
ing a dream of marriage and
what will never be.' "
Neither her children nor the
neighbors were surprised that
the marriage was not a hap-
py one and when she got up
from shiva, she felt free of
anger and hatred. Incredibly,
the couple went under the
chuppah again in a second
marriage ceremony and made
a new start at their
relationship.
There is no doubt that
couples who observe the laws
of `nidda," which impose a
complete ban on physical con-
tact during menstruation and
a week after, are at an
advantage.
"Nidda helps a couple in
stress," Shulem explains.
"The woman doesn't have to
say no. It is the major
mechanism to teach men to
stay close but to be far away."
But the Orthodox today
lack the strong community
support that the European
shtetl provided. According to
Jerusalem psychologist Yis-
rael Perlmutter, the shtetl
had a "bonding" effect on
couples.
"If a wife felt she was being
mistreated or ignored, she
could turn to the town `dayan'
(judge) or rabbi, who would
immediately summon the
husband and call him to
task:' Perlmutter says. "But
the past 70 years or so has
seen breakdown in the tradi-

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