Monday, March 26, 2012

the D word

Don't shoot me down for bringing the dreaded 'D' word into my blog. We all know it's out there, we all try to avoid it like the plague, after all, we, as singles are looking to get married, why would we even speak, even think of Divorce? But with it becoming so common these days, it's sorta hard to ignore/avoid it.
I should know, I have a friend who is the object of a very messy divorce where her parents use her as a pawn in court, in the papers, heck, in the media even.
I also have another friend who got divorced after just a few months of marriage.
I've been suggested to boys from divorced homes, and boys, who themselves were divorced.
So I guess you can say it's all around and happening more often these days.
The reason I bring it to this blog though, is a different reason altogether. You see, this past Shabbos, I was unfortunate to find myself in the midst of a yenta fest. Picture this: you're at a local Kiddush on your way home from Shul and it's just a 'five minute drop in' (hopefully) where you find the Baal/as Simcha, say Mazel Tov, maybe sneak in a few rugelach, and then leave, before all the pity-eyed wellwishers come your way.
Now picture this: me-the 5 min drop in, trying to get to the baalas simcha, but stuck in a corner behind a cookie table, between 3 yenta women, and with no way out as the baal simcha is talking to the caterer and waiter at the entrance.
Yes, folks, I had to stand there and listen to the yentas and their chat. So after the basic talk about the tablecloths, food, decor and set up of the Kiddush and then how the Baal/as Simcha looked and where they got the outfits, shoes, and hairstyles, then came the D word. They got up with the recent divorces, the ones that weren't so recent that they just heard of, etc. Then Yenta A told the other two yenta ladies about this woman who just got divorced, but apparently realized something was wrong with her husband shortly after marrying him. In fact, she said, the woman called her Rabbi and told him of her concern but the guy's family sorta blinded him and he advised her to stick with him. Atleast 15 years and a whole lotta kids later, after the abuse finally got to her and she had some sorta breakdown, then he went to court, got custody and now she is suffering alone, in a depression, with a mental illness, all due to something that either could've been stopped back then or prevented, had someone just said something.
Yenta B told of a divorce she heard of, where the girl got divorced after just 6 weeks, all quick and quiet, without the parents even knowing. She just came home after a 'honeymoon' and went on.
Yenta C listened in, gave her mini-saga of a divorce she knew of, (where the girl knew weeks after her wedding that something was seriously wrong with her husband, but then found out that she was pregnant and stayed until she had the baby) and then concluded by stating that this is why the Rabbonim are now saying that the girls should protect themselves (aka be on the pill) for the first 6 months, until they are sure, or until they are comfortable knowing they want kids with a guy.
I stood there, trying not to listen, but with nowhere else to go, let alone move, or even look, I sorta had to agree that the 6 month thing made sense to me. We live in a scary world. People aren't as honest and upfront as we would like them to be. I, certainly, have trust issues, after being misled so many times with guys, be it from the shadchans, the references, or even the guys themselves. At the same time, who would want to go to their chuppah, still not feeling sure of the whole shidduch, or with a 'what if' feeling. Why take the extra chance. And, if, even the Rabbonim are suggesting this, it must be because they feel that at this stage and with everything going on, it is necessary.
We live in a real scary world, where no one wants to face the facts or even hear about them, yet, unfortunately, they are more common than not and more closer than we think. We have to see the reality in the situation and even if this 6 month thing is not a solution, but a small suggestion, it still is better than the alternative, if G-d forbid anyone gets stuck in such a situation.
May we all merit to only be surrounded by loving and happy marriages and only share in Simchas.


  1. easiest way to solve this problem. Take the potential spouse to a therapist for screening. that's what i did. And don't take no for an answer. You have a right to be worried.

  2. By the way, just to clarify your statistics:
    While divorce was on the rise in the frum community, it was going from almost nothing to about 10% and is pretty stable there for the meantime. However, in the secular world, it is hovering around 50% (54% in NY state).
    Why the rise in the frum world? Several reasons have been cited:
    - it is more acceptable in the secular world so it seeps into our world.
    - we are part of a disposable generation.
    - people are not as mentally stable in our community (and we don't address psychiatric issues at all).
    - we lie

    Sometimes, divorce is the best option. It is not all terrible and depressing- sometimes it is liberating, especially when there is abuse involved. I do not promote divorce, but have seen it be just better for all involved (so long as the children are kept out of the fighting).
    While one needs to be sure of their spouse, one never knows until they are married what someone is truly like. However, dating for longer periods of time will give you better idea of if you have to be really worried about their mental health ect.

    -Marriage Counselor

  3. Totally hear ya on the scary pervasiveness of divorce nowadays....It definitely seems like it's becoming more common to hear about couples who are not only splitting up, but seem to throwing in the towel pretty quickly. That's not to say that one should stay in a marriage that is abusive, but when there are divorces after only several months of marriage it makes you wonder if the couples tried to work out the issues (assuming the issues could be worked out).

    Concerning the suggestion you made about birth control for the first months-- You wrote, "At the same time, who would want to go to their chuppah, still not feeling sure of the whole shidduch, or with a 'what if' feeling."

    As a happily married woman, just want to put out there that walking down the aisle isn't about being "sure". Committing to someone is huge, especially when we've had so many rich experiences in our lives that make us who we are. I believe that many of us have an ongoing identity crisis when we are single; the men we meet challenges us to examine our values, perspective, and even observance. That's how we learn a lot about ourselves and get a better sense of who we we are looking for.

    The elasticity we had while dating led us to getting to know different kinds of guys, with different eventual lifestyles if we would have married them. Once we commit, that elasticity is no longer necessary and it takes some time for the brain to catch up to that and settle down. Essentially, the ideal guy is someone you are content with, but at the same time you are always want to grow with them. Sounds paradoxical, but it's a beautiful aspect of marriage.

  4. It's interesting that the logic behind birth control is that it would enable to people to essentially have a 'trial period' before deciding whether to make the relationship permanent. What if there's another dimension to it- that you could marry the right guy, but getting pregnant right away could bring on a stress to a marriage that is still so young and fragile, and then cause it derail? I'd like to look at this birth control shift as more of a positive thing; that you are just starting your life together and learning how to build your marriage. Is it so bad to wait a few months so that you can bring a child into a marriage where the parents are a strong unit? I think that marriage today is an endangered species, and there are philosophical, sociological, emotional, and financial reasons why. Thus, having some time to build a strong foundation can be helpful, so that when you do find out your're pregnant you can actually be excited, as opposed to feeling 'locked in'.

    With aldo respect to Devorah Leah Leopold, if there was an 'easy' way to solve this problem of divorce then I don't think it would still be going on- and even increasing. To think that one trip to a therapist to 'screen' your spouse will 'solve the problem' is not so simple. I have several friends who are divorced, all who were in therapy before getting married, and brought their fiances to session. Therapists are not psychics or mind-readers, and so of course these girls were not told by the therapist not to marry the guy. And that would be assuming that red flags came up at the session. Some of the worst husbands are the most charming men to the public. It's not very hard to fool a stranger for 45 minutes. And even if the therapist is concerned, it's not always the therapist's role to tell a client whether they should marry the guy. As a therapist myself, it's about helping clients be honest and clear-headed to figure out for themselves if the relationship is right for them. When I am in this situation, I direct the discussion to the real parts of the relationship and the true character of the guy (as opposed to the surface stuff relating to the engagement and weddinfg hoopla), and I hope and pray that the client will realize that something doesn't feel right. And they usually do. Not necessarily in that session, but they'll go home and come back the next week saying that they couldn't stop thinking about something we had realized together.

    Do I think that people should bring their fiances to therapy? Perhaps. Nothing wrong with it. But it sure ain't an easy solution.

    Bottom line: Make sure that you have a few people in your life who you trust for advice. Preferably a little older and wiser than you, who have some better perspective on longevity of marriage. Tread carefully in turning to your own peers for advice. While they may know you well, all they have to say is 'I don't see it' and you could easily be passing up someone right for you. Frightening thought.

  5. The newest OU magazine has an article that talks about this (I haven't read it yet, but ASoG did and told me about it). One of the rabbis/counselors asked for a response said she recommends 6 months of premarital therapy and 6 months of couple's counseling after the wedding. That makes a heckuva lot of sense.

    I've also seen a number of friends/people my age divorce, a few with kids unfortunately. That's the biggest reason to use birth control for the beginning of marriage, in addition to making sure that the couple can really build their lives together, the worst thing is to involve a child who will permanently be affected by this and permanently link the divorced couple together for the duration of their lives.

    One Rabbi at YU is a proponent of the 6-month model, giving a heter for 6 months and then requiring the couple to visit him and discuss how they're doing and if they're ready or not. If the couple is having issues, he won't hesitate to continue the heter. Having a child, which adds mountains of stress to an already stressful transition of becoming a married couple, does not in any way make the process easier.

    I'm hoping to write a post about this sort of thing in the near future. It's very important that people learn to not be naive about potential red flags that could lead to divorce.

    One thing I wonder about is how still-single daters approach dating divorced people. There is a whole mess of baggage involved there - the divorced person getting over the first spouse, the new spouse being concerned that he/she isn't quite replacing the first spouse well enough, etc.

    What do you think about that?

  6. Rach-as a marriage counselor, perhaps you have some advise/insight for us singles reading & posting on this site. I'm sure with your experience & knowledge in working with couples, you can help us in our dating process to understand a bit about the upcoming situation...

  7. Although I see some benefits to delaying getting pregnant until after the couple have had more time to solidify their marriage, on some level this seems like a bandage solution. Rather than taking a 6 month "trial run" at marriage, why not date for longer periods of time and actually try getting to know each other a bit better?