Forced into divorce

“And another one bites the dust.
And another one goes, and another one goes.”

That’s the theme song of this epidemic in the frum community.

I won’t be completely discreet, but I will not make this too personal, as this story is not only my own, it also belongs to my x.

I will speak of only what pertains to me and only what I have experienced from and with others.

So Facebook. I was recently added on a third frum divorce group… The first two were helpful sometimes, maybe, but this third one was over the top. Someone today posted a picture of themselves receiving their Get in their hand. Talk about posting intimate scenes!! I wish her well and a mazal tov, but it was uncomfortable, as a stranger, to see that picture. As my eyes are opening wider and wider, I see the destruction of divorce spreading like wildfire. Each time I hear a new story, I think, another one bites the dust.

Some of my very good friends, three of them close friends from childhood, got divorced in the last two years. That’s not including all the divorcee friends I made after I myself divorced.


This question is asked by so many. The organization Frum-divorce is unfortunately flourishing, the Agudah Convention last month focused on this topic for this year’s theme, and frum publications are frequently talking about the topic. All one needs to do is look, and they shall find families breaking apart all over the place.

Why? Why? Why?

We all, in this situation, have our personal and obviously justified reasons. Some of us were severely abused, emotionally, psychologically, mentally, or sexually. Some of us were unhappy; simply unhappy. Some of us were cheated on or lied to. Some of us were lazy and unwilling to put the effort marriage necessitates. Some of us always need to do the in-thing, and let’s face it, it’s popular to be divorced these days. Some of us needed the attention, and this was a great way to get it. Some of us needed to be in control, and couldn’t manage in the marriage. Some of us lost all ability to be attracted to our spouse. Some of us were gay, and just finally opened up to our partner. Some of us were living with addicts, whether alcohol, drugs or sex. Some of us felt unsafe, used and abused. Some of us couldn’t live with someone who had mental illness. Some of us couldn’t agree with our spouses whether it was where to live, a life style, how to raise kids or religion. And some of us, but very few, made the decision together with their x amicably, wishing each other well with a goodbye hug. But only one of us (that I know of) tried to actually set up her x with her friends because he was such a great guy- just not for her.

No one can judge. And I certainly can’t because I have my own story. We shouldn’t have to justify our reasoning to anyone. It was a decision. Well, sorda.

See, people think we made this decision. Well we did, obviously, because it’s a choice. But many of us felt we couldn’t go on. Hoping, praying, segulahs, brachas, rehab, meds, seeking rabbinical advice and marriage counseling all have a limit. At some point, we all faced that reality: going on like this isn’t a choice. So we were forced to divorce.

I know, I know. It’s not like we were forced in its connotation, or even in it’s typical definition. However, when the choice is to “die” or divorce, is choosing not to die a choice?

A guy who kills a terrorist. Did he choose to kill? Yes, it’s a choice. But no, because the only other option was to get killed or see others get killed. So he was “forced” to kill. And he did the right thing! He’s even a hero!

When you look at us divorcees, please don’t think: well, she got what she wanted. True, we might be happier now but don’t think for a second we signed up for this. All of us (I hope) got married to someone we loved and cared about and hoped to spend the rest of our lives with. Those of us who had children, from choice, didn’t bring kids in the world thinking they would be kids of divorced parents.

We tried our best and when it couldn’t go on any longer, whatever the reason, the person was forced to divorce… Not seeing another way out of whatever form of hell they were living in. And for that, they might just be a hero!

I recently heard Rabbi Zecharya Wallenstein’s speech that he related at the US Agudah Convention. He said that we proclaim our love for Hashem in Shema Yisrael– “ואהבת את ה אלוקיך”…but every single time we say Shema, we proclaim Hashem’s love for us first. “אהבה רבה” or “ אהבת עולם בית ישראל עמך אהבת” proceeds it. Why? Because before we claim our love to G-d, we first have to feel we are loved by Him. This, said Rabbi Wallerstein, is why the concept of divorce lives amongst us, on a global level. Each person awaits for the other person to proclaim his/her love to the other and after long periods of time waiting for someone to be first, the couple falls apart. (I’m talking selfless love, love of true-giving of one’s self without thinking/hoping they’ll get back- and not being taken advantage of!) We can’t proclaim love for the other until we feel loved, but it’s a catch-22, because we both need to be first.

That’s from a birds eye view. On a national level. But like we all know, a sum is made up of all it’s parts. We are all, married or single, a piece of this nation.

So why? I’m still asking.

We all have our personal reasons. And that’s OK. It’s all ok. But let’s remember, as a nation, most of us divorcees are brave strong people, that were sad to have been forced out of their marriage, and they are hopeful to have a chance to set a good example of what a relationship could be. So look at us favorably and set your own example in your relationships.

Soon, I hope, we all will be “forced” to celebrate wedding after wedding, remarriage after remarriage, proclamation of love after proclamation of love, and a stop to this terrible epidemic in our community.

About the Author
Sarah Nathan made Aliyah in 2007 from NY- single and passionate. She has two kids and lives in Jerusalem.
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