(Yerushalayim 7:30 pm. The sun is setting over Yerushalayim as a young mother lovingly places her 10 month old into the pack-n-play in a 2x4 apartment in Nachlaot. The young mother is gentle but her energy is strained as she retreats to the other side of the room while the infant sleeps. She sits on the bed seemingly waiting for someone... )
"Where were you?" she asks lightly, remonstrating, "I thought you would be home for bedtime..."
"I was helping my sister, she needed my help with something." his voice trailed off.
(A spasm of disbelief crosses the young mothers face) " I just don't ...."
Yes, this was a bit melodramatic, but as the main actress here I take full liberty when writing my own autobiographical vignette. Yes, this was my story and yes, I am the mother who did expect my husband to be home to help me put our one child to sleep that night... (Side note: It took me years to realize my mistake in this story. “Your mistake!?” you ask, astounded. “Yes mine!” I will respond sagaciously. For when my daughter was born, whenever he offered his help, I was always responding definitively, "it’s fine, I'm ok, I got this." Letting him know that I didn’t really need his contribution here and that I could handle it and whilst simultaneously somehow expecting him to still help me with bedtime… Unfortunately, in my situation, I didn't even know what I wanted! But as I said, this is an irrelevant side point.)
Some of you may be thinking 'one child? try 8 on your own!' and others may be countering that with, '1 or 8, it doesn't matter, he should be there for her!' and someone else will counter that with, 'but she is being unreasonable!'
But then again, does it really matter if our expectations are reasonable or not? What is reasonable for one, may not be reasonable for another. Because reasonable is absolutely subjective! And reasonable or not, the disappointment is just as real, just as painful, and affects the relationship just as much as any other reasonable expectation.
It is so challenging, for example, to feel like you have a husband who is happy to help everyone else and somehow doesn't seem to be around when you need his help. It could feel so confusing when a woman sees her husband volunteering to rescue people on the Hatzolah team and then doesn't get up to help clear the Shabbos table. It hurts when the neighbors' BBQ grill malfunction seems more important than helping you do homework with the kids.
So then the conclusions step in.
"He needs to be there for the klal, he is that kinda guy."
"He prioritizes everyone over me."
"He is not good at math, so he wants to avoid it."
Sometimes these conclusions are generous towards our husbands, sometimes they tear at our core, sometimes they ease the pain, sometimes they don't.
The problem is that once you have a conclusion, it feels like you have discovered the Reason. But now what? What to do when married to a husband who needs to save the klal, doesn't prioritizes you or is terrible at math? How does that help?
And that is where we all get stuck. Where do I go from here? Should I just accept my fate as a Klal man's wife? Should I feel hurt forever? Should I get my husband a tutor?
So while the conclusion may make me feel more secure because now I have a Reason, it still doesn't actually help me. In fact, it might make me feel more alone, hurt and hopeless. Not only that, now that I have this Reason, I am starting to see it everywhere, in every part of our lives!
So how to get unstuck?
Here is a different way to look at things and maybe throw a lifeline into the hopeless loop of unending disappointments or dismal Conclusions.
Step one: Get to know those Conclusions. Start listening to their voices in your head. When you get to know them and recognize them easily enough, call them out on their bluff. Let’s see what that looks like:
(Los Angeles 6:00 pm. The sky darkens outside the window as four rambunctious children clamor for their mother’s attention. The mother glances at the clock and then at the front door seemingly expecting someone).
ENTER...her conclusions! "He is always late!"
Step two: Be voraciously truthful. Cross examine that Reason and question the veracity of the judgment! Is it really true that he is always late?
(Her face is thoughtful for a moment)
She muses, 'No, I cannot say that is true, there have been times that he has come on time, sometimes even early...'
Step three: Once you have swept away the "always'" and "nevers" you can now find proof that he does show up for you in different ways.
'There was that time that I called him at work and he helped me sort out the...."
Well, how do you feel? A lot less stuck, lonely and hopeless. Instead of carrying around the heavy burden of a Conclusion and Reason. You now instead have evidence that your husband deeply cares about you and shows up in many ways.
What happens if you keep repeating Steps 1-3. Instead of constantly seeing what he is not doing, you may start seeing all that he is doing! You might not have noticed that he took out the garbage because it disappeared, but now you are noticing it. And you also see that he filled your car with gas and paid the bills and greeted the kids with a huge bear hug even after a long day at work.
Where will all this take you?
I couldn't tell you, because that is not my vignette, that’s yours.
Hindi Kalmenson is a certified Relationshift coach based in Los Angeles. She is passionate about relationships and self growth. She educates women on Torah’s perspective of marriage at her workshops and retreats, and helps women around the world through her coaching program. Hindi lives with her husband and four children in Los Angeles