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No Respect Left

No Respect Left


Dear Rachel,

I have been married over 10 years. I must confess that while I was never head over heels in love, it was pretty good until recently. However, the last couple of years I have just become sick of all his excuses for why he can’t get a job, can’t do things, isn’t motivated, etc. He is so terrified to fail that he cannot bring himself to try most things that people attempt to do in life. He is very negative and can be very cool and remote to me. If I try really hard and I swallow all his insensitive behaivor, I can break through to him and actually communicate. But, lately it doesn’t last too long, and quite honestly, I don't have the patience anymore either. I am so fed up with him not working hard. And with his constant refusal to try anything which he deems, risky or too hard. I only stay because of my children. I feel very little love left for him, if at all, and not too much respect. Please help me. I want to save my marriage for my kids’ sake, but I am finding it hard to change myself and become like he is. I love life and I want to drink it all in, but his attitude and laziness are driving me to distraction. Please help.

Fed Up

Dear Fed Up,

The issues you raise are definitely not minor and must be dealt with. I would begin by suggesting that you attempt marital counseling, though it sounds like your husband may not be open to that as you mention that he does not like to try new things. Does he know how unhappy you are? Have you tried speaking to him about it? Is there anyone he respects, a rabbi, friend, relative, who could get involved and speak to him on your behalf?

Respect for the other is essential in a relationship. He needs to find a way to behave that you can respect once again. At the same time, if you want your marriage to get better, you need to look for the things in him that you can and do respect. Is he a good father? Does he help around the house? What does he do that you do admire? This doesn't mean that you don't also need to work together on the problems, but at least if you can try to rebuild some positive feelings for him, that will be an incentive.

Don't forget that he most likely knows that you look down on him, whether or not you verbalize it. Often, when we feel that the other person thinks poorly of us, we don't even want to try. Sometimes we even feel that we can't win. If he feels that no matter what he does you won't be happy, then he won't even bother trying.

I also think you need to stay strong that the goal is not for you to become lazy and follow his lead, but just the opposite. You need to pull him out of his rut. You need to motivate him and give him opportunities to prove himself. And you need to be patient while he tries.

This is the power of the woman, to take the latent potential in another, and to help actualize it. This is why we are taught that in marriage there are three possibilities. There is the statement that a good wife "osah ratzon baalah" which can mean one of 3 things. It can mean that she "does" the will of her husband. Or it can mean that she "makes" the will of her husband. As both "to do" and "to make" are meanings of the word "la'asot."

But the highest meaning of the word, as is explained by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, is "to rectify." And this is something that takes work, but that you are able to do. You don't want to be giving in to your husband's laziness, and you don't want to be telling him what to do and leading him around. Ideally, you want to work with him and help him rediscover his strengths and reveal his potential, and in doing so you are able to rectify his will.

And while it is clear that you want your marriage to work, I think it is important that you shift your reasons for wanting that. While it is wonderful when children live in a family unit where both mother and father are together, children are not the sole reason for two people to stay married, when the atmosphere is one that is cold and negative. Granted, there are people who stay together “for the kids” but what you are describing doesn’t sound like merely a loveless but civil and decent marriage, it sounds like one that is on a downhill and becoming more and more tense and negative as time passes.

If you want your marriage to work, you need to want to be married to your husband, and not solely for your children. Only when you put the focus on each other and to rebuilding and strengthening the trust, love and connection that the two of you need to share, will you be able to have a healthy marriage, and then you will be giving your children the greatest gift of all, which are happy and healthy parents in a home filled with love and optimism.

I wish you much strength and hatzlacha in this situation.


"Dear Rachel" is a bi-weekly column that is answered by a rotating group of experts. This question was answered by Sara Esther Crispe.

Sara Esther Crispe, a writer, inspirational speaker and mother of four, is the Co-Director of Interinclusion, a non-profit multi-layered educational initiative celebrating the convergence between contemporary arts and sciences and timeless Jewish wisdom. Prior to that she was the editor of and wrote the popular weekly blog, Musing for Meaning. To book Sara Esther for a speaking engagement, please click here.
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Anonymous September 12, 2016


I have been married 30 years to this type of man. First I stayed for our daughter, later for the grandchildren. The daughter has remarried and the grandchildren are getting ready for college and I am now 65 years old, fed up, very angry, and filed for a divorce this week.
Seven years ago he forced his employer to fire him. They were tired of putting up with his negative behaviors and lack of motivation. He has been sitting on the sofa for the last seven years.
It is hard to respect a person with these types of behaviors. I was once young, positive, and a pleasant person. I have been drained and feel that friends and family do not enjoy being around me. I can’t be the same person I once was I have been through too much. Please don’t waste your life as I have done. It does not get easier as you get older.
I still believe in marriage. Marriage can work between adults who are willing to work at it.Love and respect go together. Reply

Anonymous July 13, 2015

From a therapist I realize that my perspective is different from Sara's but I am a therapist and it is my experience that when respect is gone, the marriage is over. Most people enter counseling way too late, when there is nothing left to salvage. Respect is fundamental in any healthy relationship. Think about it: when we lose respect for a person who was a friend, that person is a friend no longer; or if we lose respect for a boss, well, its time to find another job. It is very very sad to live in a marriage where there is no respect; and one can love a spouse but not have respect, and this too is really a done deal. A healthy marriage needs two healthy adults; not one adult and one "child". Reply

Anonymous Los Angeles April 17, 2017
in response to Anonymous:

I agree. Married 16 years, because I got pregnant, in a moment of weakness by a friend. 2 beautiful kids. My husband is a child. I am not being mean, cant tell if he is mentally inept, selfish or both. He's kept a job for 3 years & helps around the house that his father left him, but we dont make enough to keep up the house. Im dying with him. I was on own since age 14. He came from wealthy single father household w/maid. We are complete opposites but I cant live on my own (I gave up career w/2nd child born - working back up but not enough for cost of living). Im staying till kids get into college (16 & 13). I am so angry all the time. I dont know what to do anymore. I have no respect for him. He is kind but I cant even have an adult conversation with him. Family expects me to work full time, care for kids, house & live like we have help (we dont). I give my entire paycheck to him & still cant pay our bills. He lies to get whatever he wants. Wont live w/budget Good dad bad husband. Reply

Anonymous Madison wi April 19, 2017
in response to Anonymous:

You do not have a husband by anyone's definition of husband. You do not "die" with him; if you try to help a drowning person and he pulls you down, you let go. You need to find an attorney and be apprised of your rights. The family expects these things of you because if you were not there, THEY would have to deal with him.Staying til the kids are in college may make it easier for you, but it wont make it easier for your kids, the older the kid, I believe, the more difficult a divorce can be. I dont believe it is written anywhere that a woman, or a man, has to sacrifice her life, her well being, her health, and/or her mental health to remain in a marriage. I realize your situation is very difficult and painful, but it is not impossible. My heart goes out to you. Reply

Ai August 2, 2013

Could be medical issues There are number of reasons men, and women, lose their drive or motivation. One huge factor that is so neglected is hormone imbalance. With what We eat in this day and age and what with all the toxins in the air and water, etc., it is so easy for our body to lose balance. Lack of testosterone can cause lack of drive and vitality, and ends up with apathy and lethargy. Candida alibican, heavy metal and chemical poisoning, etc can do the same to us. Vitamin and mineral imbalance can cause similar symptums. I would take your husband to a naturopath doctor or environmental specialist and have him checked. Do not go to traditional medicine doctors. They are not trained to diagnose or treat these things. Reply

vengeance June 27, 2011

These comments are all whining. Did this all happen because of one persons participation irate you willing to take some responsibility Reply

Anonymous somewhere January 31, 2011

General v. specific [First: There are a lot of negative responses on here. Please try to consider that your husband is a person too.]

I am going through some similar issues with my husband right now, but I know that Hashem selected him for me. It is my job to figure out why.

I just wish that there was more information on this article about HOW to help our husbands better themselves. Clearly whatever I am doing is having the opposite effect and I need some guidance.

I just finished reading about Deborah/her hubby. According to the Midrash, she was an intellectual type--he was a fieldhand. Rather than ask him to live up to her aspirations, she gave him a way to serve that he was suited for (making wicks for the temple menorahs) and he excelled at it. Sounds good in thoery, but HOW to put it into practice?


Lisa Providence, RI January 1, 2011

No Respect Left Fed Up, you should NEVER stay with a man you don't love because of children. He has serious problems, and the children are affected by it.

If you're smart, you'll divorce him NOW! Reply

Anonymous somerville June 18, 2010

Get Out Of This Marriage Now Take it from one who knows -- you'll be the only one really working on this marriage, and this man will not change. The marriage will not improve -- it will only wear you down and use you up. Take the children and go before you waste years of your life. Focus your energy on your kids, and on maintaining a good relationship with the husband/father after the divorce. At least that will be productive. Reply

Anonymous stamford, ct June 13, 2010

I'd like to know How old the last two commentators are? How long have you been married? Men are not children -- maybe we all have childlike tendencies -- but husbands and fathers must be responsible adults, as must wives and mothers -- which first and foremost means taking responsibility for one's health and wellbeing.

Children suffer in a home where hope has been lost. How can they not? Reply

Anonymous June 8, 2010

Sounds familiar It is hard to have a good mariage, but whatever happens in it, it is not only men's fault. I am sure that we also make mistakes that make them be bad husbands or good husbnds, Men are like children, and we as woman are supposed to have the intelligence to build a good marige, and i am not saying that it is not challenging, but it is part of our life and Hashem is testing us all the time. Reply

Anonymous Seattle, WA October 23, 2009

Praise works! When he does something that you are pleased with, lavish him with praise so that he may do it again. Pray often. I have had similar issues, but my husband is a pretty positive person; however, he is set in his ways and does not like advice. Reply

Anonymous Lakewood, NJ USA July 29, 2009

You're doin your best I understand how you feel. It's not your fault that you can't respect him. He should earn your respect. If it makes you feel better I'll let you in on my little (huge) secret. I do not respect or love my husband at all. I'm learning not to feel so horrible about it. My children are bet. 18-6 and I am counting down the days of staying in this very lonely marrige. As soon as my daughter is an adult, I'm gonna buy me a happy little condo in Miami and never look back. Reply

Samantha Austin, Tx July 7, 2007

feels like my life When I read this, i felt like I was listening to my own heart. My husband is in the same situation, in and out of jobs for the past few years. I work so hard, and I have lost so much respect for him. We have a two year old son, and he loves him dearly, but I feel like I am sacrificing so much to "act" happy. Reply

Anonymous stamford, ct April 25, 2007

no respect left Unfortunately, some mentally ill people cannot accept that they are sick and will not take or stay on medication. A wife cannot insure that a husband gets or follows up on treatment -- and if that is the case, insisting on shouldering the responsibility for someone who won't help himself is likely to lead to the demise of the wife, and therefore the whole family. Reply

Anonymous April 1, 2007

No Respect Left The possibility of clinical depression cannot be ignored. Unfortunately, too many family members treat depressed individuals with anger, hostility, and disrespect, ostensibly because they are ignorant regarding the true nature of the affliction. I recently reminded a patients' wife that if yelling and berating someone was all that was necessary to cure depression, then I've just wasted four years in medical school....but seriously, it's something to think about. Your disrespect and impatience only make the depression worse. There's no shame in being treated for depression; it's simply a biochemical event that happens in the brains of some individuals. Would you treat a diabetic with disrespect and anger? Of course not; you would try to understand and help with his disease.... Reply

Anonymous December 15, 2006

I would worry about the possibility that the husband is suffering from depression, which can make people act negative, unmotivated, reluctant to try new things and emotionally remote. If he does have depression, then his wife may be the best person to help him seek professional help. Reply

Tamar brooklyn, ny August 23, 2006

I am very impressed by this response, I like how that it touches on the complexities and depths of a relationship instead of presenting things as just being black and white. Thank you! Reply

Anonymous August 22, 2006

thank you for this. i really needed to read this. Reply

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