An honest divorce

The young woman was married for just under two years when she officially filed for a divorce.  In that time she found that her husband was an abuser of prescription pills, ecstasy and marijuana and that he frequented prostitutes. He never got out of bed in the mornings and usually lounged around well into the early afternoons while she worked. He was supposed to be learning in yeshiva in the mornings and working at a sales job in the afternoons and evenings. He did neither.  

When they were dating everyone encouraged her to marry him. His then future wife was told that he would be a wonderful husband; they described him as dedicated, involved and warm. He had actually acted that way while dating – a period that lasted about two and a half months – and for the first week of their marriage. As she tells it, by the eighth day of their lives together he was out with his friends all night, every night. When she confronted the people who encouraged her to marry him with what she had learned about her husband they all had similar reactions. They all claimed to have received their information from a reliable source and had no reason to disbelieve the information. Perhaps, they suggested, if she behaved differently with him, “maybe be a little nicer”, dismissing the fact that he had many addictions for years prior to their meeting and implying that somehow she caused them, his problems would go away. The problems did not go away. As anticipated, they got worse. There were a few people who said to her that he always had these issues, he never took care of them and his family only wanted to marry him off to a good girl from a good family as a way to cover it all up. Those individuals, however, were very much in the minority.

Early on she told him she wanted him to get help. She took him to several professionals. Most of the professionals said that he was not willing and was therefore unable to engage in the process of getting better. Eventually she told him she wanted out of the marriage but he was in too much of a stupor to agree to a divorce. He kept saying that there was no problem and he did not want her to leave. She spoke to his Rav and to her own Rabbi and received different suggestions. One said his problem is minor and will go away the other said she should get out as soon as possible.

The civil divorce process dragged on for over two years. She attempted to have him give her a Get. He evaded her requests and deflected the summons to appear at a Beit Din. She again sought help from a number of rabbis. Most of the rabbis told her that they cannot be of assistance. They too deflected. One was more honest suggesting that she seek therapy from a therapist who would “lie” for her and make claims against herself, to make the divorce her fault perhaps that may help her to speed the process. Perhaps without realizing it the rabbi also added that for financial reasons he could not help her. Ultimately, without any physical coercion or the support of his or her religious advisors, after four years she was able to obtain both a civil divorce and a Get.

He is reportedly continuing his ways living in his parents’ home. She has begun to move on with her life. We speak occasionally. She worries that she will be blamed for his failures and will have a hard time moving forward and getting married again. I assure her that as Oscar Wilde said “If one tells the truth, one is sure, sooner or later, to be found out.” Her experiences are far from unique. She is not alone; too many young people are in a very similar predicament. Sometimes it is the wife who was lied to sometimes the husband and most times both are. And, they have so little time to honestly get to know one another because of the pressure to seal the deal. My concern about the pain that is a result of the overall lack of candor is broad and deep.

As I have written in The Shidduch Crisis: Causes and Cures, in the process of making a shidduch people take liberties with the truth. There are times when the truth is bent to the point that it cracks in pieces, yet, no one seems willing to honestly confront this. Then there is the issue of being honest about the problems that are known to exist, and getting help for them so that they may be rectified. Additionally there is the issue of the money exchanged and the financial incentives that may dissuade against complete honesty. I have much to say about that and will perhaps address it at another time.

About the Author
Dr Michael Salamon ,a fellow of the American Psychological Association, is a 2018 APA Presidential Citation Awardee for his 'transformative work in raising awareness of the prevention and treatment of childhood sexual abuse". He is the founder and director of ADC Psychological Services in New York and the author of numerous articles, several psychological tests and books including "The Shidduch Crisis: Causes and Cures" (Urim Publications) and "Every Pot Has a Cover" (University Press of America). His newest book is called "Abuse in the Jewish Community: Religious and Communal Factors that Undermine the Apprehension of Offenders and the Treatment of Victims."