It's a favorite dating spot. The first time I'd been in the Hilton lobby was to celebrate an anniversary; my husband and I spent the evening away from home and, with cell phones yet years away from popular use, we were alone.

Tonight the lobby is teeming with women. Hundreds upon hundreds upon hundreds coming through the doors, waiting for elevators and escalators to take them upstairs to the international conference of women who head Chabad centers. Twenty-two-hundred women of all ages. Young women, newly married; young mothers with their babies in snugglies and strollers; middle-aged women; senior-citizen-status women...mothers and daughters, grandmothers with their grand- and great-granddaughters all attending the same professional conference, all passing through this lobby.

I've left the main dining hall for a few minutes, and at the entrance I am met by a face from the past. Newly arrived in New York two decades ago, she'd been directed to my husband to satisfy all of her burning issues of Torah, science, theology and art. We two had spoken on a number of occasions; our relationship hardly more than an acquaintanceship, she nonetheless asks me now if we can talk, and we find a quiet spot in the lobby downstairs.

It's grown dark outside, and I'm sitting across from a large window. Behind me is a mirror, before me I see both her, and her reflection. She is an attractive woman; for all the handsome beauty in the strong lines of her face, there is anxiety and tension. She's silent for several minutes, and I wonder what she's thinking. "I'm afraid," she tells me. "I'm afraid of being found out."

Married for more than a dozen years to a kind and intelligent man, she speaks of an underlying tension that, over the years, has grown to a palpable presence between them. Little disagreements have somehow become monsters of emotion. Differences of opinion have solidified positions that see no common ground. And now the children are old enough to be aware of the sea of troubles between them, seemingly unbridgeable. And, yes, they'd spoken with rabbis and even spent time in mediation with a counselor, but she is living, she says, in a state of fear. Twice now she's alluded to being fearful, but when I ask what she fears she deflects the question.

And now I'm fearful, fearful that she is being harmed in this relationship. And I wonder how, in these moments that I have her ear, to impress upon her the need for her personal safety.

But she goes on to speak of her husband and her marriage, and I sense no fear of him at all. And yet a third time she says to me, "I'm frightened." Of what? I want to ask again, but I remain silently listening. She speaks of their many arguments; to me it seems over issues relatively easy to navigate. And she says, more than once, that she's determined to "hold my ground" "not give even an inch" not let herself "be controlled"...and then, later, speaks of her determination to not relinquish "power."

Something's not in sync. She speaks strong words, "control," "power," and yet when she speaks of her husband there's no sense on my part of a man who is controlling or unrelenting in any way. Something's there that frightens her, but it's not, I feel, this man.

She speaks then of feeling lonely. Here in a room of over two thousand women, she feels alone. She speaks of feeling different from everyone. And then, again, she speaks of her fear of being found out. By now I'm convinced it's nothing to do with her husband.

I need to open this door, and as carefully as I can, I ask her if there'd been ever a time, or an occasion, somewhere before her husband, when she'd been made to feel powerless. If she'd been, ever, made to feel without control.

It was as if she'd been holding her breath...waiting...waiting to be asked this. Barely an instant's pause before she burst out, "Yes! Yes!...And I'll never let it happen again! I'll never be without power again!"

And there it was. After all these years of holding this terrible secret, there it was.

I would have expected tears of relief, or sudden remorse, but all I saw was lines disappear. Now she sits back in her chair. Relaxed, she seems. Composed. Outwardly, anyway. Her outburst was loud, but now she sits still. She's looking straight at me, but not seeing me. She's looking, I'm sure, inward. She is looking, I hope, at her future. She's named the monster. And now she's looking, I hope, at fearlessness.

I give her a few minutes, then say, "Let's talk further. Tomorrow, or when you're back home, we'll discuss finding someone whose expertise will guide you. You'll come to know deeply that it's not about him or the marriage together with your husband, you'll create a new dimension to your marriage. You'll be free to love him, and to let him love you..."

As we start walking back towards the escalator, she puts her hand in mine. Like a child, she lets me lead as we enter the dining room.