Thursday, July 26, 2018

Marriage Tips For Men Part V: What To Do When You Can't Fix It

Dedicated By Dr. Ezra and Lauren Kest 
In honor of Dr. Leon and Rochelle Brooks 
Who teach us how to navigate the world b'simcha. They should be blessed with good mental and physical health for many years to come, enjoying their beautiful family and all the fruits of their labor.

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In a marriage, it is possible for there to be hard times. Sometimes the difficulties can be dealt with and other times they are insurmountable. In my life there are insurmountable difficulties, and it is not just me that has to deal with the hurt, my wife Dina probably has the brunt of the hurt, difficulties and anguish. In our case, it is dealing with a sick spouse, which means that not only does she have to take care of me, but she is also taking care of the family. On top of that, everything I used to do, has now fallen on her shoulders as well. To make it all worse, being that I can't move, she doesn't have the comfort that normally comes with touch, that a normal husband can provide for his wife, so that can make her feel alone, and it is worse, because I am right there. 

We recognize that our situation, as bad as it is, it is not the worst. Because for starters, I am here, and I get to be part of the family. Also, my wife and children have a husband and father that loves them, although it is expressed in a limited way. There are far more difficult situations than ours. For example, childlessness, having a child who is sick or the passing of a child, etc. But we have to realize that everyone has difficulties, and for some reason, the way Hashem created the world, a person's personal problems are all consuming. It doesn't matter how big or small, we all have some issues that cannot be fixed. 

The first thing to know, is that a person's problem should not be brushed aside as small, even though in contrast to another's problem, it may sound petty, and downright meaningless. Because it is their problem, and to them, it's big. 

Sometimes you have the ability to deal with an issue and fix it, but other times the difficulties are unfixable, and heartbreaking. What are you to do in those cases? And what should you not do? How can you help your wife deal with the difficulties and heartbreak, when you might be suffering as well? How can you be a good husband, in unfixable situations? 

I don't claim to have all the answers, I certainly do not. And every woman is different, so different things will bring them comfort. I can only give you some basic rules, and you, knowing your wife, will have to bridge the gap and find a way to help her. 

I use the word help, because it is her life and you can't make her happy. You can only help in the process, or refrain from doing things that will make her unhappy. But it is not your soul responsibility to make her happy, she has the major part in that, and there are some people, who by nature are unhappy. 

Here are a few things that will help. Being a guy, I am not sure why they work, but they do. I guess women are just different. 

Don't Try To Fix It 

Women, like men, have inner struggles and inhibitions, and that is their nature, it is part of who they are. If you try to fix your wife's inner struggles and inhibitions, you are trying to change her, and that means that you are not happy with who she is. In a sense you are saying that you don't like her, so it will backfire on you and she will become more unhappy. 

For men, there is us and our problems, and they are two separate things, that is why we love to fix our problems. However with women, their inner struggles and inhibitions, is part of who they are, and they rather learn to live with themselves, than deny who they are, because it is betraying themselves. Only your wife, can choose to change who she is, and if and when she does, be there to support her in her endeavor. 

If there is a tragedy that you both are facing, don't make light of it, and don't fake being happy. Just let it be what it is, and be comforting. 

How To Be Comforting 

Understand Her 

Listen to her and understand what she is feeling and going through. To her, if you don't take the time to understand what she is feeling and going through, you simply don't care about her, and you are making light of the issue. This will bring her to be more hurt and resent you. Just listen and understand, and feel her pain, this itself will give her a lot of comfort. 

Be With Her In Her Pain 

Being that there isn't much you can actually do to help the situation, you should do the few things that you can. One of the things that you can do, is to be with her and be available to her in her pain. 

If you suffer with her, she won't be alone, and that will help her deal with the hurt, because it is easier to go through it with someone else. 

If you try to cheer her up, you will probably fail, instead, allow her to feel what she is feeling, and let her know that you are there for her when she needs you. This way, her feelings are respected, and validated, and that is comforting. And because she knows that you are there for her when she needs you, it will be comforting as well. 

What does it mean to be there for her? To listen to her vent her feelings and to be vulnerable enough to cry with her. 

Physical Comfort 

You should know what physical expressions bring your wife comfort and a feeling of being together in harmony, and satisfy that need. 

It could be a gesture as well, that makes her feel loved and cherished. Small or big, if the gesture is done lovingly, and sincerely, it will bring her comfort, at least momentarily. Momentary comfort has value. 

Make Sure That She Has The Time And The Means To Take Care Of Herself 

It is common that in this situation, your wife will be so involved, that she will neglect her own needs, and her emotional and physical energy will become depleted. If this happens, all of the challenges she is facing will become magnified, and the pain she will feel inside will be unbearable. 

Help her set things up, that she will be taken care of. Work things out, that she will have the time and resources necessary to take care of herself. Meaning, the right foods and supplements, and things that make her feel like a mentch, like clothing and beauty needs. Things that will relieve the tension that builds up in her body, like time at the spa, massages, etc. A vacation to a place that makes her feel happy, and a retreat from all the problems. In other words, give her a chance to feel like a mentch. 

If she is already depleted and at the end of her rope, then you have to arrange what is necessary, immediately. Once she is feeling a little better, you can plan to make sure it doesn't happen again. However, life isn't perfect, in these situations, you will have ups and downs, and you will have to be flexible and take the punches as they come. 

Sometimes she will just need something small to lift her spirits. If you know what makes her feel good, then arrange it. For example, if she likes to watch the waves at the beach, send her there. If there is another place that makes her feel good, send her there. If all fails, new shoes and chocolate usually help for a quick pick-me-up, whatever you know that works you should do. You might think that it is silly, but if it works it works. You might think that it will be short lived, but momentary comfort has value. 

When Nothing Is Going To Work 

There are sometimes that you can tell, that nothing will work. Even the thought that chocolate or shoes will help, is insulting. In that case, be there for her and recognize that it's an impossible situation. Remind her of who she is, and take her to a place that makes her feel close to Hashem. A place that is beautiful and serene, where she can melt and become one with the world that Hashem created. 

The Power Of Music 

There are sometimes that the heart goes numb, and nothing seems to penetrate it. In that case, music, the language of the soul, could be the best way thaw a frozen heart. So if you know the kind of music your wife likes, or the song that gets to her, turn it on.

It is truly amazing, how music can help. How many people have said, that music is what got them through the most difficult of times. It really works, and if it works for your wife, use it.

A Project 

When things are unfixable and it seems that it will stay that way for a long time, barring some miracle, breakthrough, or the coming of Moshiach. It is a good idea for your wife to be involved in something that she likes, something that will take her mind off the pain. It could be anything that she likes. 

In this case, your job is to be supportive of what she is doing. Your support will be a comfort to her. 

My Final Words On The Subject 

After all this, there are times that I see Dina falling apart, I see that the suffering is unbearable, and there is nothing that I can do or say. Sometimes I know that it is so bad that she has no tears left to cry, and she is beyond the end. There are times that I am paralyzed and unable to do anything to help her. It breaks my heart to see her suffering and hurting, and feeling alone. Because I can't do anything, I just cry, and ask Hashem to help us. I never make light of her pain, I know it’s real and raw and excruciating, but I also know that she will bounce back and I am always so relieved and happy when she does. 

May Hashem take away the pain and suffering from all of us, may He take away the reason for our suffering, this dark and bitter exile, when "Hashem will erase the tears from upon every face." May it happen soon.

I want to thank my wife Dina, for her help writing this article. I couldn't have done it without you. 

Marriage Tips For Men Part III: What to say to your wife and how to say it 
Marriage Tips For Men Part IV: Making A Home   


  1. cryng and rejoicing at the same time. love you both for lighting our way.

  2. Your beeing at her side touches me deep and "to be' means" everything even when we don't know all the answers

  3. Your comment at the beginning reminds me of when my wife had kidney stone surgery a few years ago and all of her friends told her "it's just minor surgery no big deal." she was very nervous still. Her Dr. told her something very smart: the difference between minor surgery and major surgery is if it's happening to me or to someone else. When it's 'me' it's major surgery.

    Strangely, those words reassured her more than every one else saying it's minor surgery.

    I so agree with what you say that realizing that 'my' problem is big actually helps people deal with it.