Chassidim And Divorce

Why chassidish divorces in the Jewish Community turn so ugly, so fast

For those of you in the ultra chassidish circles, you may understand this very quickly. Those of you who don’t understand, I hope to offer come clarity.

Girls usually are the second or third year on the job when they get engaged. They marry a boy who was flown home from Yeshiva specifically to get engaged. He then flies back to finish his zman (Talmudic Semester). The chasunah  (wedding) is scheduled so that he doesn’t break a zman, usually Yomim Tovim time (Holidays: Shavuos, Rosh Chodesh Nissan, After Sukkos, etc.).

Then the fun begins. They have learn each others names… and the next thing you know, she is throwing up in the morning as she rushes to go to her measly teaching job for $300 a week… he arrives to kollel (Rabbinical College) at 11:00. He compares the lunch that his new wife packed for him, with his ‘learning’ partners. He realizes that although she made fresh brownies for him, his friend has cantaloupe. It’s now her fault that his suit is now plotzing (exploding). At night, she moves the buttons over half an inch. He breathes easier. He is turned on by watching his ‘wife’ do mommy things, stuff his mother did when he was growing up.

She continues to throw up. He now learns that when she sends him an urgent text, it means that she needs to go to the doctor. He comes running. She gives birth. She is pressured to get clean quickly, she was taught that withholding him for any extra hour is wrong and not her wifely duty. She takes vitamins… anything, to get clean (see laws of family purity). Finally, nearly not making it, she goes to the mikvah at 5.5 weeks. She is throwing up again.

He gets turned on by watching her nurse the baby, because that’s what his mommy used to do. He gets mad that she is losing her milk and not able to nurse the baby efficiently. He is mad that she is supplementing with formula. Go to the lactation consultant, here’s $300. Go take vitamins, drink beer. Do something!

She feels miserable. Then she finds out that she never really got her period since the baby was born… and suddenly she throws up. Bam. Positive.

They consider getting the husband a job at B&H, because over there, they hire guys with accents who cannot read or write past first grade level. He says yes. She does all the phone calls for him. She gets him a job because her uncle works in the camera department…

He starts working there. Learns stuff about life. He begins to resent that she is working. He now feels manly. His self esteem has grown. He learns about which movie is good to watch. She is plotzing. He starts renting 24, CSI… all the shooting gory stuff. She is appalled.

She stays silent. Finally, when he stays overnight in Monticello with his friend Yitzchok on ‘business’ on some bungalow colony they might invest in for next summer… she calls the Rav (Rabbi) who gave him his chosson (groom) lessons before the chassunah. She tells the Rav that until this marriage is stabilized, she needs a heter (Rabbinical okay) for birth control. The Rav has a screaming fit, and yells at her for even thinking so dirty.

It takes ten more years and 3 or 6 children later until the relationship turns into a ‘if I don’t do his laundry and he doesn’t eat my food so that he doesn’t have to comment, I think I can survive another hour’. There is no longer any communication, no intimacy… and nobody knows! But the children get older, and they are now pre-teen. This one is failing yeshiva. That one is beating her classmates…. It’s misery. She does all the phone calls with the Rebbeim, teachers. He is now working 18 hours a day.

Finally, he gets a call from the Menahal (principal) at the Yeshiva – did you know your son is now doing much better with the tutor that your wife hired last year? HUH? WHAT? He gets mad that a “man’ was hired to do totty work, and he had no idea. They start fighting… it never ends. Every rav gets involved. Nobody can make peace anymore because of all this underlying tension. It’s a mess. This is not the straw that broke the camel’s back. There never was a camel. There is no foundation in a marriage like this. So when you add any tiny pressure, there is zero communication, no skills. It’s a dead end. There is nothing to build from.

The Chassidish boys are immature, not educated with any secular subjects, and have no self worth outside of Kollel. The girls are over skilled, overeducated. They become “mommy’ too quickly… and nobody knows anything about relationships, chemistry, intimacy, fostering communication. They turn to movies and get the wrong idea about romance.

For all of you out there sadly nodding your heads, my heart goes out to you. My suggestion to you – build your man. Make him a human being who has discovered a healthy outlet for the things he likes in life. If he loves nature, keep sending him for those hikes. Alone, if that’s how he likes it. I know a friend whose husband is obsessed with spreading nissim related to his donations to Kupat Hair… in his spare time, he loves going around collecting their pushkas. She lets him. Gosh, if it makes the guy happy, and if helps him feel like a man? Please, by all means. Let them become a happy person. And they will shine, and rise above it all. And exceed beyond your wildest imagination. I highly, and I mean highly, recommend the book, “The Five Love Languages”. Better yet, I have the 30 minute DVD and whoever watched it says, it saved their marriage.

You ask, why couldn’t I save my marriage? Unfortunately, mental illness cannot be incorporated into a marriage without treatment. Sad.

So now, with divorce – this is the saga. The men, who were told their entire lives – get married, have babies, do us proud… that is all they know, and that is all the aspire to. If their wife is not happy, they think that she is leaving him because SHE is not happy. They have no idea what role they played in the decline of this relationship. So it’s all her fault. Now, they must save face in their shul.

So they do one of two things. They spread stories that either she had a mental breakdown, or PPD, or BPD, or Depression… or, they tell people that she was sleeping around.

Then, they rally up the entire community to work with them. And then, when the courts hear that she is nebach so meshuga (they hear from neighbors, school teachers, her own friends…) the courts swiftly grant the husband’s custody. Hurray. Mission accomplished

I cannot tell you how many women have reached out to me, women who went through this cycle. The only thing we can do is NOT FIGHT BACK. You cannot fight this system, because the men will then find how to make you even more miserable. They will use the kids as the ultimate pawns in this war. Walk away, and they will find no reason to use the kids against you. Horrible, but true. If you want your kids to live in peace, somewhat, walk away! For those of you who haven’t been through this, may you never have to make that decision.

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6 thoughts on “Chassidim And Divorce

  1. moments says:

    I agree with a lot of what you wrote in this article, but I too went through a divorce from a hasidic men who fought me in court for 2 years belittled me making all those claims how I am mentally unstable and unfit to be a mother to my kids, but after all that I endured in courts (mind you alone with out any support of my own family) I now have sole legal custody of my kids and I also don’t lead a religious lifestyle anymore so in a way I disagree when you say people should walk away, to me that would have been the worst thing I could have done to my kids, in fact by not walking away I gave my kids a chance to have a better life and not to have to go through this messed up system you talk about. I get that not everyone has the strength to fight but kids deserve that you should fight for them no matter how hard it is..

  2. Scriptor Obscura says:

    From what I gather of your perspective and your background after looking through your blog, Pondering Prose, I think that you may be interested in reading about Deborah Feldman, who comes from the same background but has since left the Hasidic community that she was raised in and has gone on to a successful career as an author. She has written a book about her experiences within the community, and how she got the courage to divorce her husband, leave her oppressive environment, retain custody of her son, and establish herself in the outside world. Here are some links to her websites and to an article about her that you may be interested to look through:

    http://www.deborahfeldman.com/

    http://deborahfeldman.tumblr.com/

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2010/aug/29/deborah-feldman-hasidic-once-upon-a-life

    http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4860073.Deborah_Feldman

    Thank you very much for sharing your perspective, Pondering Prose.

  3. been there says:

    This isn’t just in the chassidish world, same thing happens in the litvish/yeshivish world!!!

  4. Lately I’ve viewed my inability to form relationships as being a blessing (in disguise.) If you are able to live alone without being lonely, the peace of liberation and release will envelop, protect and maybe even enrich you. Yet I always wonder about what an alternate, or “normal” lifestyle would have been like for me. The longings persist along with these benefits.

    • Pondering Prose says:

      Something alternative and outside the box is always an adventure, but fundamentalist perversion of religion to control women is never healthy. I advise a fair medium for all cultures, to bring peace and prosperity to the world. And of course, emotional health and wealth being to all.

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