In her Jpost column Uncommon Sense, Geulah responded to readers’ letters.
I am a “modern Orthodox” man, age 30, who got married about 8 months ago. My pals and I like to get together without our wives, because we’re more relaxed that way. My wife is not enthusiastic about this (to put it mildly…). She says we got married to have fun together, not apart. I do this only once every few weeks, not every day, so what’s the big deal? She can use the time to be with her girlfriends .
— Feeling Shackled —
Dear Shackled ,
Although the first year of marriage is exciting and fascinating, it isn’t always easy. Often, especially if their courtship and engagement were short and busy, newlyweds discover that they have different, or even contradictory assumptions about certain things. One couple I know met in the fall, got engaged in the winter, wed in March, and had a mini-crisis in May, when the husband came home from Friday night prayers and was shocked to discover, instead of steaming chicken soup, an elegant light dairy meal (virtual heresy!). His wife was no less stunned: “You MUST be kidding. Your family actually has a heavy meat meal at 9 PM on summer Shabbatot ?”
If even menus can astonish, imagine what happens around more significant issues. For example, the fact that you and your pals like “guys’ night out” doesn’t automatically mean that your wife and her friends would enjoy something equivalent .
Superficially, “who to spend time with” is a practical question, answered by “The best ways to use our limited time to meet our needs, as individuals and as a couple, are…” However, this seemingly neutral issue is often very loaded, inviting statements like: “Spouses who spend free time with others are selfish, inconsiderate and disloyal”, or “If my spouse wants to be alone with other people, he/she doesn’t love me .”
Both the technical matter of time allocation and the emotional echoes of each choice are worth discussing. First, figure out how much time is really at your disposal. If both of you are working and studying, with barely a moment to breathe, your hours alone with friends may really be stolen from what little time you can spend with your wife.
Is it possible that each of you is influenced by “ancient history”? Maybe your wife feels that her parents led separate emotional and social lives, and your desire to see friends alone makes her worry acutely that this will be the fate of her marriage as well. Or maybe you are so miffed by your wife’s objections because you felt suffocated (shackled!) by a family did everything together ?
What about your basic natures? Some people need and want a lot of social stimulation, while others prefer time alone and contact with just one or two close friends. There is also the matter of habit. As an Orthodox male, you may have left home for yeshiva at 14, and become used to having your social needs met largely by friends, whereas your wife’s experience might be quite different.
Talking openly about hidden assumptions and fears will help each of you see the other’s styles and needs as legitimate and not intentionally threatening, and will have the added benefit of enriching and deepening your relationship .