This is the third part in my report on the conference, “The Jewish Community Confronts Violence and Abuse.” Part IV: Dr. James Cantor on Pedophilia and the Brain.
Today I’m taking a break from discussing abuse to share Rabbi Cherlow’s remarks about marriage and divorce. After the presentations by Rabbi Cherlow and Rabbi Blau, someone asked about a young woman whose near-fiance told her that he expected to be the one to make the rules in the family. The questioner wondered whether this was a red flag for a possibly abusive relationship. Rabbi Cherlow declined to answer, saying that he didn’t have enough details. Instead, he shared his conclusions from an informal survey he conducted on the reasons for divorce in the religious Zionist community.
Rabbi Cherlow answers halachic questions on the Moreshet website and aims to answer within 24 hours. Every time questioners mention that they are divorced, he writes them privately and asks if they would share their stories with him. Most of the time the question is not about the divorce itself—for instance it might be a woman asking if she needs to continue covering her hair after divorce. So far he’s collected about 250 stories. He summarized his conclusions regarding the top three reasons for divorce:
- High expectations. We, and Rabbi Cherlow as an educator includes himself, emphasize the positive side of marriage too much. We need to let our children and our students know that marriage will also have unexpected challenges. Before his mother died a couple of years ago, her grandchildren came to pay their last respects. They all asked her whether she could have predicted how her life would have turned out, when she married just before World War II. Her marriage was nothing like she could have ever imagined. He called marriage”a journey into the unknown.”
- Keeping secrets before marriage. According to Rabbi Cherlow, the problems are not caused by the secret itself. Rather, secret keeping engenders a lack of trust that ensues when one partner enters into the marriage without sharing important information about him or herself or the family.
- Lack of communication. Rabbi Cherlow didn’t elaborate, but we are all aware of the difficulties this can cause.
So do you agree?
If you enjoyed this post, you may also enjoy my series on marriage within the religious Zionist community, including: