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The Courage to Start Again

Avigail Rosenberg

Four women tell their stories about how they were able to believe in a new relationship again, after being divorced or widowed

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

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"Therapy helped me stabilize myself, and eventually I started dating, but reasonable suggestions were few and far between."

Starting a new chapter of life when the previous one ended painfully requires superhuman effort and boundless courage.

Four women share how they reached deep within to uncover the emotional resources they needed for remarriage — and the joy they achieved .

Rivky

Dreaming of the Future

My story begins with a typical Bais Yaakov upbringing and marriage at age 21 to the man of my dreams. I was sure of the path our life would take: My husband would stay in kollel forever; together, we’d raise a large brood; I’d support him and be an eishes chayil; and all those seminary ideals would come true.

Well, the dream quickly turned into a nightmare, as my ben Torah husband turned out to be anything but. Four years and three children later, I had a get in hand, and it was time to rebuild my life.

Despite the urgings of my parents, friends, and mentors, for years I steadfastly refused to consider shidduchim. Before I could look outward and form a new relationship, I needed to know that I was stable inside.

Externally, I seemed to be doing fine: My kids were growing up, I was successful at work, I had lots of friends. But inside, I knew, I had a long way to go.

There was the loneliness that seared through me at the end of each day. I dreamed regularly of my ex-husband realizing his mistake, doing teshuvah, and coming back to me. I knew it was ridiculous, but the dreams were real, and I’d often wake up in the morning shaking, only to realize that it had all been a fantasy, and he hadn’t returned.

>"I know I was only able to embrace the future because of the work I did to heal from my past."

Therapy helped me stabilize myself, and eventually I started dating, but reasonable suggestions were few and far between. I busied myself with work, kids, friends. Underneath it all, though, I felt like a failure. Intellectually, I knew my divorce hadn’t been my fault; emotionally, it was another story.

Several times, my therapist suggested EMDR, a treatment I’d heard and read about in various magazine articles. I always brushed her off, saying I was “fine.” But I wasn’t. I cried when a bus driver yelled at me, and occasionally I flew off the handle with clients. I’d read an article about shalom bayis or go to a shiur where the topic was raised, and the guilt would surge through me. If only I had done this or that. If only I could have changed the path my marriage took….

After several years of dating, with no end in sight, I finally took a deep breath and told my therapist, “Okay, I’ll try it.”

Letting go of the “I’m fine” facade and agreeing to try something so totally out of my box made me feel weird and shaky. I finished the session off kilter, unsure of myself, unsure if I’d done the right thing. But that night I had a dream. My ex-husband was there, and I was packing up my old home. “I’m leaving,” he said, words he’d never actually uttered in real life. “Goodbye.”

EMDR wasn’t a one-time thing; it took almost a year for me to work through all the guilt and pain and baggage from my short, failed marriage. But over time, I found myself less reactive to the minor inconveniences of life, to the reminders of my failure.

And then a shidduch came up that sounded more promising than any suggestion I’d heard before. We met, once, twice, three times. (Excerpted from Family First, Issue 565)

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