I wish I'd been told this wasn't normal
Dear Kallah Teacher,
Mazel tov! It’s our fifth anniversary!
It’s been a while since we’ve been in touch, and I want to update you on my life. You taught me with such warmth, and gave over your lessons with love; you filled me with anticipation and excitement for my marriage. You taught me about the importance of being mevater and creating a home where my husband feels well taken care of.
During my engagement, when I called you with knots in my stomach and said, “I feel so, so nervous,” you replied, “Baruch Hashem! If you didn’t feel nervous, you wouldn’t be normal!” And so I quieted that voice inside me that was screaming for me to delve more carefully into my doubts and listened to the voice that told me I must have more bitachon.
As a young woman, I wasn’t in tune with my emotional needs; I didn’t understand what I’d need as a wife, or know what attributes would contribute to building a home where I’d feel loved and secure. I was calling out for help, but I was told I didn’t need any, that everything would be fine.
I approached you after our lessons, telling you I had a bad feeling about things. I shared some of my concerns, and you peacefully crossed each one off my list, assuring me that my concerns were normal. You told me that yes, we may experience clashes in our communication, but we will surely grow together, and you were confident in your ability to detect real issues.
When I called you after our marriage and asked you for advice on how to deal with the pervasive cold shoulder that was cast upon me for any “misdeed,” you encouraged me to stay upbeat and positive. You reminded me that the road to shalom bayis took work, and promised me that if I just showed my husband more respect and showered him with care, things would improve.
Here I am, five years later. I’m writing this letter a few hours after returning from our third therapy session with the third marital therapist we’ve tried. Yesterday, I worked together with my son and his therapist on his aggression and anxiety, and the day before I had a painful session with my individual therapist. I’m struggling with PTSD, anxiety, and low self-esteem. We have gone from rav to mentor to therapist and back again, trying to find someone who can give our marriage some hope. This third therapist finally does… for a fee of $250 an hour.
As a family, we’re in a process of repair. I’m trying to heal from years of trying to be the ishah kesheirah, and not knowing the boundaries of healthy and normal. I’m working on rediscovering myself after years of being completely mevatel myself to please my husband.
A year ago our first marital therapist asked me, “You know that this isn’t normal, right?” And actually, I didn’t. I’d had a hunch, but I’d long ago stopped listening to my inner voice.
I know that ultimately it was Hashem who put me in this situation, and I can see how it has helped me grow. As painful as it’s been, and as alone as I feel, I know Hashem is there for me and I see His hand constantly within the fog.
I don’t blame anyone for my situation, but I wish that instead of being pushed deeper into the black hole of an emotionally abusive relationship, I’d been told that these characteristics were not normal and been given hadrachah to seek help before the unhealthy dynamics became so ingrained within me and before my self-esteem was fully crushed.
I wish you continued hatzlachah in your beautiful work, and hope you can use my story to help other young women like myself.
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 648)
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