Shalom Bayit - Waiting Out the Storm

By Elisheva Maline

Did you ever ask your grandmother how her mother felt about her therapist?


She didn't have a therapist.

If you're wondering why that is, let me just tell you she wasn't suffering in silence. She didn't need a therapist. But people in today's world do because they have a harder time dealing with pain. 

Now, why is that? What happened to us? 

"In 2000, psychologist Jeffrey Arnett coined the term “emerging adulthood” to describe extended adolescence that delays adulthood.* People in their 20's no longer view themselves as adults. There are various plausible reasons for this, including longer life spans, helicopter parenting, and fewer high paying jobs that allow new college grads to be financially independent at a young age" (Brooke Donatone). 

The instant gratification movement has a part to play in all this - it's made it harder for people to cope with discomfort. 

Not only that but over the years, there's been a societal shift where results are demanded, NOW. 

The end result is that people can't deal with a process. If hardship could be balled up and thrown at someone else in the form of blame, we would be tempted to do it very quickly. And we usually do. 

Looking for quick solutions has also led to band aiding uncomfortable feelings instead of treating the source of infection. Husbands (or wives) would rather work overtime to spare themselves facing frozen dinners and an empty house instead of sitting down with a counselor and listening to their spouse's disgruntlement. Others prefer popping sleeping pills to banish nighttime pacing since insomnia just isn't an option. But what's causing the insomnia? It doesn't matter. All that matters is that we don't have time for that dreaded alternative, falling apart. And we shove the pain under a carpet because we just don't know what else to do. 

But what if there was a Plan B, one where we could face pain without our broken emotions hijacking our ability to cope?

In a lecture on the sefer (book), Duties of the Heart, Rabbi Lawrence Kelemen talks about the importance of holding onto pain without allowing it to rip us away from our intellects. The word for patience סבלנות contains the word for suffering סבל. Building character, nay, building life skills, is all about growing THROUGH pain and not around it. Rav Fischel Schachter, a fabulous New York lecturer and teacher, summed up, "Your pain is your salvation," and John Bradshaw, author of Healing the Same that Binds You said, "Liberation was there all the time... but it was in the darkness."  

So how do we wait out the storm without getting soaked through the skin?

One of G-d's thirteen divine attributes of mercy is called ארך אפים  which literally means a lengthening of the nose. Can you picture the smoke coming out of a person's nose when s/he get upset? That's the allusion Hashem (G-d) was going for. Rashi, an eleventh century sage, explains these words, saying that when we transgressed G-d's law by the Sinai Experience, He gave us the means by which to ask for mercy. Be patient with us, G-d. Give us time to correct our wrongs so that punishing us becomes unnecessary.    

How does this characteristic enter the marriage scene? When one spouse crosses a boundary and hurts the other, what would be the appropriate response so that long term marital harmony can be secured? What exactly does 'waiting out the storm' mean? Waiting for sunnier weather? Waiting for the abuse to stop?


No one professional will tell you to be a doormat, to just lie down and take it. However, when that voice inside your head advises you to open your mouth and give him a piece of your mind, otherwise, he'll just walk all over you... when your blood has reached boiling point and only salvation will come when you stand your ground, you tell that evil voice to take a twenty minute recess AND then you'll defend yourself. Most people find that when the red haze has cleared, they no longer feel the need to defend their territory. Or, if they do, at least they can do it in a clear headed fashion. "Honey? We need couples therapy."

And that voice who was howling that you have to stand your ground because 'it's the principle of the matter'? Fuggedaboudit.

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