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Not Seeing Eye to Eye

Not Seeing Eye to Eye

Living A Jewish Life When Your Husband Isn't Interested


Almost six years ago I attended my first Torah class. The connection, for me, was immediate. I felt as if all the questions I had been pondering for most of my life had answers, and they were all contained inside the pages of the Torah. I was so excited I could hardly contain myself, and who better to share all of this with than my husband?

When I began telling him Torah stories, his reaction was not what I would have wanted. He said that he was just not interested. Well, clearly he must have misunderstood me. "How could you not be interested?" I would say, "This is all about our ancestry." I ignored his protest, knowing full well I would try a different approach at a later date.

Clearly he must have misunderstood me So as my learning intensified and expanded, I began to teach the meaning behind the Torah stories, explaining that the Torah is not a history book, rather it's an instruction manual offering us timeless lessons of how we are supposed to get the most out of our lives. This approach also failed miserably (since, as any woman knows, you should never give a man instructions on how to drive around the corner- let alone how to live his entire life).

This pattern continued for months and months. All the while, I had rabbis and rebbetzins from Pennsylvania to Israel giving me advice on the situation. The commonly held opinion was as follows: Don't pressure him. Just continue to grow and evolve into the best person and wife you can possibly be. When he sees how happy you are and what a better person you've become, he'll want to come along.

So I tried this approach, and incorporated Shabbat dinners both at home and with other families in the community. I cooked like I had never cooked before, and our social life boomed. Still, he was just not interested. I even managed to get him to travel on a mission to Israel with other couples from our community. At times it seemed like there may be some progress. However, within no time, he would pull back and reinstate his claim of disinterest.

Within a few years, we moved to a new home. While the move was great for our family for practical reasons- my kids were closer to school and my husband was closer to work- it also placed us smack in the middle of the religious community. Now, not only did my husband have a wife who wanted him to grow spiritually, but he was also surrounded by people who held these same beliefs and practices.

As our household observances increased, so did the tension between me and my husband. How could this be? I couldn't understand how growing closer to something so positive and meaningful could cause such stress for my husband. I thought I was following the advice of those many sage rabbis and rebbetzins who all but assured me that as long as I continued to grow in a positive way he would soon join me on my journey. Well, it wasn't happening. As a matter of fact, his original commentary -stating 'I'm not interested'- had actually taken on a much more negative tone and seemed to be heading towards resentment.

In recent months I began to take a closer look at the situation. I had to acknowledge that since my husband was clearly not on this journey then it would seem likely that the difficulty I was having had to be a challenge tailor made for me. I felt certain that only I could possibly have the solution to this problem, and I was determined to figure out what I had been doing wrong.

As I took an honest accounting of the past six years, I began to see where I went astray. First, when my husband told me for the first time that he wasn't interested in Torah, I should have kept my mouth shut. Instead, I tried at every possible turn to show him the way—my way. I should have thanked him for supporting my decision to learn and grow through Torah, and I should have ended the discussion there.

Second, was I really showing my husband all the positive things a torah life had to offer? While my journey has been undoubtedly life-changing and enlightening for me, was my husband the recipient of all these changes in only a positive way? The answer to this question is a resounding no. Sure my friends and family have seen me become a more patient, kinder version of myself, but more prominent from my husband's point of view were all the negative changes our lives have undergone.

For example, we left a house he loved to move to a more religious neighborhood and into a house where he is now required to use different silverware for meat and dairy; and as for those fun Shabbat dinners? They were now part of a 25 hour Shabbat experience which he did not want to participate in. Our social lives rarely ventured outside the community that I had created for us, and though I hate to admit it, it is so obvious that there was not much fun in it for him.

I should have thanked him for supporting my decision This conclusion took some time for me to reach, but the moment I was actually able to accept and internalize the reality of our situation is the moment when I began to see some improvements. After acknowledging the concessions my husband had actually made, I was able to begin to show him that I appreciated his sacrifices. I had spent so much time focusing on how much he wasn't doing, that I was never happy with what he was doing.

Torah teaches us "Who is the rich man? He who is happy with his lot." I had been learning Torah for years, and yet I was obviously not living it. If I wasn't living it, how could I expect my husband to have any desire to join me on my journey?

While not much has changed with our situation on the outside, the inside looks dramatically different. I have finally become the more evolved, kinder person I had thought I had been all along. My patience for my situation is greater, and my reactions to things that don't go my way are much better. I have a deeper understanding of what I need to do to ensure shalom bayit (harmony in the home), and I am committed to doing it. I feel more confident that with these modifications in place my husband will come to appreciate the journey I have chosen for myself and feel more comfortable with his part in it- whatever that may be.

Lori Averick lives in Merion, Pa. with her husband Brett and three children; Brooke, Noah and Gabrielle. Lori enjoys Torah study and participates regularly in local classes.
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Shoshana-Edut California April 3, 2014

Not seeing eye to eye In 2009 I submitted a post discussing my journey towards Judaism and my then husband resistance to my change. The harmony which I believed to exist in our home became a raging storm. The underling current of discontent began again to show its biting head. I became weary of criticism from my husband and rabbis who non validated my conservative conversion. I felt lost and hurt in many aspects. I still love Torah, and the G-d of Israel. My kashrut observances have fallen by the wayside as well as any of the Mitzvot requirements. I feel as though I have miscarried and experienced the pangs of a peculiar spiritual death. Now six years later I have divorced this man and now I am facing my own spirituality . I pray for guidance and have the opportunity to become a Jew according to Halacha . Reply

Lisa Canada April 3, 2014

My husband an Israeli Jewish man just told me the other day that he doesn't like the religious person I have become...married civially by someone from our synagogue (as per advice of our chazan) allowed us to be together until I completed my conversion classes with the chazan. Now- only two months away from entering the mikva my husband has voiced his dislike of my spiritual growth..his words keep replaying in my head, I do not like the Jewish Lisa, I like the Canadian Lisa...never have I felt such an array of feelings..not knowing how to process them..and so this article has served a great purpose in my life-it has given me hope. Hope that the life that my husband and I have choose to share will flourish and not diminish even though I love Torah. Reply

Anonymous June 15, 2013

This is very encouraging as I grew up in a home of non-Torah observance and have only recently begun observing Torah. It killed me at first that my family did not want to listen to me, but I was going about it in a completely forceful way. I need to live by example and focus on MY observance of G-d's commands, not my family's non-observance. I need to pray for them and continue to love them. Maybe they will eventually become curious and join me, but it is up to G-d to decide on that. Reply

Diane Holly April 9, 2013

Spiritual Journey I hope that you will come to an awareness that your spiritual journey and your love and obedience to G-D is just that. It is personal and YOURS. Quit focusing on everyone elses journey and let go of trying to control them. Your journey is yours alone. Enjoy it, grow in it, and honor G-D. Reply

Adam May 3, 2012

Male Perspective I found this very interesting. I am having the same problem but the other way round (I’m a man whose wife is not interested in becoming more observant). I went on this site to try and get an idea of my wife’s perspective.

Do you think a reversal of the gender roles affects this scenario?

As a man it is difficult to impose standards on cooking and the general running of the house. Like a lot of Jewish husbands I am chased out of the kitchen should I dare try to muscle in. I have been told that I’m the one that has changed and that she wouldn’t have married someone who wanted to be Torah observant. I have managed to make some strides and outside the house I attend Shi’ur got to Shul etc but in the house we have non kosher food on the basis she wants to eat it (i don't).

Selfishly I don’t like being held back on what I consider to be a rewarding path. Will G-d look past the areas where I fall short on the basis that we are slowly moving in the right direction toghether? Reply

Cline mechanicsville, Virginia February 6, 2012

Thank You Thank you so much for sharing as I am going through the exact same thing now. It is nice to know that we can exist on different observant levels, it is just finding that common ground. Reply

JDV NJ October 12, 2011

MY HUSBAND'S NOT INTERESted i had a similar experience, going to Shabbat services by myself for 20 years. it was only until my friend asked me to sing in her CHURCH choir (I'm not a member of their church) that my husband instantly felt so threatened that he now goes to services with me regularly, plays in the synagogue band, sings in the HHD choir with me whereas before i was there by myself for 20 years and he even gets up early on sat. mornings to go to torah class. what do you think of that?? (PS. I hadn't planned any of this.) Reply

Chaya toronto, canada April 11, 2011

Amazing Wow, its is so nice to know you're not alone. I am dealing with a similar situation and unless your in it you can never truly understand it. The love you feel for your husband and Torah and so strong and some people make it like you have to choose but you show that you don't and that it can work out. I appreciate you sharing your story. Reply

Laura Boston, MA April 4, 2011

GOOD FOR YOU! The person who posted before me was insulting and harsh and your tale seems to have hit an obvious nerve. That said, my opinion is quite the opposite! Congratulations on realizing that you were being a bit selfish. Sadly, in your zeal and enthusiasm for Torah, you lost sight of how it was truly affecting your husband. Now that you are aware, you have grown and matured to a deeper level and that is what will make your husband interested in the things that make you interested. Nice job evolving! One doesn't need to believe in Torah or Judaism to learn from your story. Thank you! Reply

Lisa Providence, RI January 6, 2011

Not Seeing Eye to Eye You should have discussed living a religious life with your husband BEFORE marrying him.

Not everyone wants the same things, and if your husband wasn't interested, you shouldn't have married him in the first place! Reply

Phyllis Dallas, TX December 31, 2010

WOW! Thank you for posting! Same EXACT situation with my husband and me. At my urging, we moved into the heart of the Torah observant community here, and people have reached out to us for many years, but he just isn't interested in a Torah life. What strength for me just to know that another woman is in the same situation and has made her peace with it. I cannot tell you how much of a breath of fresh air it was to read this article and your honest insights! May Hashem give you strength and Shalom Bayit, peace in the home. Reply

Sharon Olney, MD October 20, 2010

Change If you cannot change the heavens, you cannot change another person. Your spouse (and your children, too, by the way) will come and grow to his own level of Torah observance. It may not be the same level as your observance; it may be lower or it may be higher. Concentrate on appreciating him for who he is now - the growth will come at the right time with Hashem's help and without anyone forcing the issue. Pray to Hashem to give your spouse the strength to grow in Torah according to Hashem's Plan and not the plans of mere humans. Reply

Anonymous ft.laud, fla October 15, 2010

love of tora G-D will put love in his heart if you pray on his behalf Reply

Shoshana Missoula, MT July 29, 2010

Too religious??? I thoroughly enjoyed this article and its responses. However, this can be said for any "religion". There are many out there that have this same problem, that are not even Jewish. It is a frustrating problem for all involved, Im sure. I loved the part of the Torah that says Who is a rich man? A one that is happy with his lot! This is soooo true, thank you for bringing up this very heartfelt situation to all of us to ponder. Reply

Sarah Virginia Beach July 21, 2010

Maybe he doesnt have a Jewish soul? Just like there are Gentiles born with Jewish souls, or a spark of a Jewish soul, so too there are Jews born with Gentile souls. Reply

Anonymous Phila, USA July 21, 2010

There are no easy answers Thank you for sharing your story. My situation is reversed: It is my husband who become observant and ME who wasn't so keen on the idea. Let me back up by saying that our journey began 10 yrs ago. Like your family, we moved from a secular to a more religious community (in order for him to walk to shul). Currently, we keep a kosher home and observe Shabbat. Our children attend Jewish day schools and I go to the mikvah each month. On the surface, it might appear that I am completely "on board", but the truth is: I feel like I am in a perpetual limbo state, neither here nor there. I miss my old life. I miss being "normal" (ie eating whatever I want, going out on a Friday night) And then there are times that I don't miss any of it at all. I think the smartest thing my husband did (and continues to do) was encourage me while never "pushing" me to do or be something false. Who knows where I'll end up religiously? But the point is it IS possible to coexist at different observance levels! Reply

mommyof5girls Livingston, TN January 27, 2010

Conversion to Judaism In response to the comment on B'nei Noachs- my family and I are Noahides and this has been a good start for our own Torah observant lifestyle. We enjoy our challah on Shabbos, say kiddush, keep basic Kosher, celebrate all the holidays, etc. Someday we may convert but for now taking small steps through our Noahide observance has been a joyful path for all of us, especially our children. Reply

Anonymous Boston, MA September 29, 2009

not so fast - baby steps Lori, you are right the issue is not so much time but that he doesn't want the kids to be too religious and not look up to their father but rather an Orthodox rabbi whose level of observance he has no desire to emulate. Over RH and YK I made some compromises and also bit my tongue on several occasions. My husband did interact with Orthodox Jews and saw how "normal" they were. For Neilah we all went to the shul my husband is not pleased with but that my children attend regularly and stayed in the service all together for about an hour 1/2.I hope that the beautifully sung prayers touched his soul and those of our children as much as they touch mine. He just doent like davening but realized from some other regulars at the shul that neither do they. Not really the results I am looking for but it made him feel better. Reply

Anonymous Brooklyn, N.Y. September 10, 2009

not so fast Dear Anoymous,
I feel your heartache.. I admire you for following your hearts desire to know Hashem. G-d knows why your husband is so reluctant.. This inner struggle of his is between the Al-Mighty and himself. Again, let go, and let G-d continue to perfect his Jewish soul. We are made in the image of the Divine, and let us pray for your husband to sit still long enought in order that HaShem may draw a perfect portrait of the Divine reflection within him. Now with the Grace of G-d, let you and your beloved children rejoice in the infinate good work that G-d is performing in Abba's life. You are beholding a master piece at hand. May this happen soon in your lifetime. As for you dear ones, continue going to Shul. It is written,"He who hungers and thirsts for Righteousness shall be filled." Reply

lori Averick September 10, 2009

not so fast I feel your pain. Weekends are challenging around my house as well. However, I have made some discoveries over the past few months. I realized that there is often more there than what meets the eye. In other words, what is your husband really upset about? Ask some good probing question? If time is really the issue, designate some other time on the weekend to do something special. In my situation, there were other hidden issues that contributed to his unhappiness on shabbos and time less spent was an excuse. Once the problem is accurately identified, it is easier resolved. This is just food for thought. Good luck Reply

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