Question

In my continuing research on the sugyah of divorce I have reached the following question. Assuming the following paradigm:

  • a dysfunctional male,
  • either inept at providing emotional feedback/support to the wife,
  • completely egocentric and/or selfish to the point of dysfunctionality,
  • constantly critical and blaming,
  • moderately emotionally abusive,
  • and who is either unwilling to or has (based on the assessment of a reliable professional) no prospect of changing.

A woman who is thus frustrated, unfulfilled, miserable, and finding it difficult to deal with the prospect of such a life forever, but hasn’t yet reached the point of refusal to be with the man because she is totally repulsed by the thought of being with him. She could be taught to learn the skills of survival in this setting but will likely never reach fulfillment and life will be bearable at best.
Bottom line: Is there a value, a principle, a hashkafah, etc., that says: Just stay married even when it is hard and unhappy rather than get a divorce? On what basis , which sources, etc is the answer based. I know it is case by case but I am trying very hard to isolate the yesod – what is the value and weight of staying married as opposed to virtual certainty of lack of happiness and fulfillment and even suffering but not unbearable?

Answer

It would depend on what she came to ask me, how much she can tolerate the situation, and whether (and what age) are her children, and on the general atmosphere of the home.

I understand that your question is whether I would pressure her to remain in the marriage under the circumstances you mention. I would not pressure her to stay married, but would encourage her to go to a good therapist to carefully work through her issues and the ramifications of her decision. (From experience with dealing with therapists, I consider most of them only quasi-competent at best). I do know of rabbonim who will place much pressure on her to stay in the marriage, even if she is being physically abused, because it is best for the children.

  1. I am not convinced that their assumption is correct.
  2. Even if it is, she is not required to endure this.