I’m having a conflict with my husband. I’ve been happily married for a few years and my husband and I are very committed to each other. But recently my husband has asked me to distance myself from men I’m friendly with. There’s a male co-worker who I chat with over lunch at work; there’s an ex-boyfriend from high school who I keep in touch with through social media; and there’s a male neighbor who I run into when I’m walking the dog and we shmooze sometimes. I don’t see the problem with these relationships and I even share the conversations with my husband so it’s not like I’m hiding anything. But he tells me that my friendliness with these men makes him uncomfortable. This is just the kind of person I am and it annoys me that he is asking me to stop. I feel that he should trust me. What do you think?
Dear Awesome Woman and Wife,
I hear your disturbance. You’d love for your husband to accept you as you are and feel safe that you wouldn’t do anything improper outside the bounds of your marriage. On a philosophical level, this makes sense, but……
your husband is actually right on this one. Besides the fact that he is feeling uncomfortable and as spouses, we try to accommodate each other’s feelings, your husband isn’t lacking trust in you—he is actually understanding a Torah concept and wanting to keep a fence around the sanctity of his marriage.
The Torah’s perspective regarding men and women is that there is a natural, G-d given attraction between them. Adding to this, there is something called “ruach shtus” which means a spirit of foolishness. This is not just plain foolishness which we are all capable of, but this is a spirit of foolishness, which can override our better judgment. It is as if an irrational force grabs us and we get lost in it. The combination of our natural attraction and the effect of ruach shtus creates a dangerous situation when it comes to men and women being friends and hanging out together—the unthinkable can happen.
Maybe you’ve heard stories about normally wise men and women from good marriages breaking trust with their spouse to indulge in a dream/fantasy that falls apart immediately when exposed. The women especially do not understand what they were thinking to have engaged in this sort of behavior—they broke all integrity and will claim that they are not that sort of person. They will admit that they weren’t even attracted to the affair partner at the beginning and not even understand what change came over them. Chalk it up to that natural attraction and that spirit of foolishness. Torah, the blueprint of life, warns us about this and has laws regarding friendliness between men and women.
Even though you are a trustworthy woman and your love for your husband is strong, it’s worth lessening your friendliness with these other men. You don’t need to be unkind, but a formal distance would be wise. Drop the unnecessary chatting. This may feel uncomfortable and odd for you at first, but recognize that you are putting a fence around the sanctity of your marriage. And if the men that you have been friendly with comment about your new distant behavior, you can let them know that your marriage is very important to you and you prefer to lessen your casual interactions with other men. If they don’t get it or say something rude, then just let it be. Those who understand will do just that and those that don’t, won’t. You’re being a great role model by upholding a new standard for yourself and your loved one.
Just two more things that I’d like to add:
Desire and romance are not the glue that keeps a marriage together as Hollywood would like us to believe—these feelings come and go. Commitment is the glue. Gratitude for what you have and never taking anything for granted is an incredible bond.
Philosopher Alain de Botton says “..the classic Romantic model has sold us on a number of self-defeating beliefs about the most essential and nuanced experiences of human life: love, infatuation, marriage ..” As opposed to this, the Torah’s philosophy is long-lasting and never goes out of style. It’s worth taking a chance on it.
Beware of “compare and despair.” Social media is a loaded gun. Thankfully, you are happy in your marriage. Some people are not. And seeing pictures of happy couples on social media in addition to Hollywood’s constant broadcast of glossy marriages can be deceiving to the reality of life.
“Never compare your insides (challenges, dissatisfactions, self-judgments) with others’ outsides.”As happy as a couple looks, and G-d willing, they actually are that happy, never underestimate the effort that it takes in real life to keep a marriage going. Acts of kindness, appreciation, compromise, humility, holding your tongue, overcoming your emotions—all this makes a difference in creating a healthy partnership and joyful home.
May you continue to enjoy your marriage and recognize the blessings of having a husband who cares for protecting the sanctity of your home.
~ Miriam Racquel Feldman
Miriam Racquel is a somatic healer/clarity coach. She works with women in the Building Great Marriages Couple’s Workshop and independently as well. To book a session, visit her online at: miriamracquel.com