Mr. Bernstein, a fabulously wealthy man, went into a yeshiva and asked to speak to the Rosh HaYeshiva (head dean). He said that he had a daughter of marriageable age and wanted the best-learning guy in the yeshiva for his daughter, Chaya. He would give the couple a fortune of money so that the fellow could continue to learn Torah. The Rosh HaYeshiva said he had just the boy, who was excellent in learning. The boy, Shmerel, was called in and given the proposition and he agreed.
At the wedding, the rich father-in-law, true to his word, presented to the couple an enormous sum of money. Just when Chaya gave birth to their SEVENTH CHILD, the money ran out. Shmerel said to his wife, "If I have to go work for someone, let me work for someone I love, not you," and he divorced Chaya promptly. He had gone after the externals. Mr. Bernstein went after the fashion of judging a boy by his intellect, without regard for the important qualities. Chaya was caught in the middle; together with seven perplexed, broken and abandoned children. And there never had been any heart. There was nothing of any substance there. We see from Shmerel that even if one is brilliant in the mind, if one isn't also brilliant in the heart, one can be very stupid in how one uses one's brilliance.
[This case describes a woman who is certain that she is devoted to working on herself, is fine - if not superlative - and she "just needs a special guy who is good enough for her." I have heard this theme, especially from women, many times. True, there are a lot of men with, let's call it, "room for improvement." Some complaints by well-adjusted women about men who are "out there" are valid. But I have often heard women with "room for improvement" say that "there are no good men." They claim to be flawless and wonderful, and every last man is a loser or bum. Such universal complaints by members of either gender against the other gender typically indicate need for more self-scrutiny. The following "blemishless" and defensive woman grew downright abusive.]
I spoke with a certain woman in her mid-thirties several times. Much of the subject matter surrounded her experience in seeking a compatible man. She told me that a major part of the difficulty of finding a match is that people don't take to working on themselves enough. She told me that she introspects frequently and seriously. She works hard on her midos (character). She is a "deep" and refined person. Shallowness and boorishness are far too common. It is hard for her to find a man who similarly works on himself. She needs a "very special" guy. She has developed the ability to communicate and express feelings and she wants a man with whom she would be able to communicate and who can express feelings. She stressed how important it is to be a fine human being.
After about seven cumulative hours of talking, over several sessions, she evidently became comfortable with me, and her guard was not on alert.
She told me about a relationship she had had. The fellow was quite chivalrous and loyal. He brought her presents and flowers with regularity. He was supportive and communicative and patient with her. These were all valuable qualities to her. One time when her car had broken down, he came out in a rainstorm to save her an hour away from his home. But, he didn't have financial prospects or motivation that suited her. She claimed that he was not able to hold a steady job, so she told him that she was through with him, after a year and a half. She said that he pleaded with her and professed sincere and serious love for her. I was struck by her description of her abrupt conclusion of their relationship. She said with no emotion that she ended by saying to the man, "That's it." There was a callous, blindly unempathetic rigidity, which is, in my professional judgement, an indicator of emotional problem in her that she runs from facing.
I can understand her not feeling secure with a guy who had not held steady work for a year and a half. But her way of dumping him was extremely abrupt and callous, especially after a year and a half of giving her generous and devoted treatment. She was only working part-time and I believe she had anxiety about money that she was taking out on him somewhat. I have some reason to believe that she grew up in a non-affluent home. She told me that her family was not able to engender security about money and that presently they were not supportive, either emotionally or financially.
She was too defensively preoccupied with not having gotten from the relationship what she wants from one. I think that she was not nearly as "worked out" as she would like to have one believe. She doesn't need a guy who, as she said, is so special. She needs to be less needy.
She told me about some of her work. She felt very emotionally involved in her work. She casually mentioned that she had been criticized by other religious people for a certain aspect of her work. I mentioned that facet of her work seriously violates Jewish law. She called me, "Stupid," and told me that she was too tense to continue talking with me.
[This shows how a person can get caught in a web of conflicting values and in immature self-interest that can wreak havoc on a relationship THAT THE PERSON WISHES TO BE A SERIOUS RELATIONSHIP.]
One of the series that I did at Lincoln Square Synagogue on Manhattan's Upper West Side was a six-week version of my man-woman relationship course. At one of the presentations I spoke about dealing with fights and anger. At the end of the session, about a half dozen people came up to the podium and surrounded me to ask personal questions.
One woman, I'd estimate in her mid-thirties, had a dilemma. She and a medical student were seeing eachother fairly seriously for almost two years. She had grown up in fairly affluent style in a wealthy suburban environment. Her beaux was living in poverty and was interested going into medicine to help people. He had a number of years to go till he could be employable and was not, anyway, motivated to exploit medicine for material gain.
They would fight like cat and dog about materialism - her needs for it and his repulsion to it. They didn't want to fight and, otherwise, their relationship was serious, loving and caring. She started crying while talking to me, even though it was in front of the four or five remaining people who were huddled around me to ask their questions.
They obviously had strong and conflicting values, expectations and goals. I did not suspect that she was open to breaking the relationship off even though they were stagnating and suffering for so long a time, so I couldn't recommend a break-up. Marriage would be, as things stood, a disaster, so I couldn't recommend that. I told her to get professional help to see if the couple could work out a mutually agreeable compromise. Give it a reasonable but finite amount of time. Do not think in terms of either breaking up or of getting married in the meantime. Note whether there is progress and at what rate it comes. It has to get to where both can define and accept a unified plan for life.
My personal opinion is that the girl, based on what she told me, was too unable to give up being a pampered and spoiled little girl and there would be no lasting or mutually agreeable resolution
unless and until she would give in on the immature and excessive need for materialism. Show was torn by her natural feelings for a man and her strong tie to a life of creature comforts. If the human elements of the relationship were that strong, then she is separated from her heart - her human qualities - if materialism could block her from marrying a guy who she has loved and who has loved her steadily for two straight years.
Be that as it may, the thing that struck me most deeply about this is how classic an example this is of a single in "commitment block." She is losing precious time and youth. You would think that at her age she would prioritize marriage to a guy with human virtues enough to make it happen. I stress that the human ingredients, the love, the bondedness and two years of serious involvement were all in place. You could have a thousand reasons to marry someone. But it only takes one "killer obstacle" to block it.
After having attended a couple of my public workshops, Binyamin came to me for private counseling. He had been married and divorced twice. Both divorces were very ugly. I asked him to describe his parents relationship. He told me that they had a good relationship and he gave me an idealized profile that would seem to constitute a role model and inspiration for him that would set the stage for choosing and conducting a marriage successfully.
The story did not match. When Binyomin told me about his marriages, there was extreme incompatibility between what he said was his role model and the way he conducted the choosing and conducting a man-woman relationship.
I told Binyomin that his idealized role models and his gut-twisting relationship-track-record was analogous to someone coming over to me, bleeding, purple with bruises, hunched over from massive beating, moaning in pain with wounds, ready to fall down, looking like a bunch of brutal muggers in a dark alley had a field day on him.
Although his every-day facial expression was heavy with emotional drain and detachment - indicating considerable emotional disturbance and pain - he said he's fine, he feels great, he's healthy. But he's ready to fall over. If the purple, bloody, swollen, shaky, wounded person (who was mugged and is ready to topple over on the floor and faint) told me he felt fine and is in great shape, it wouldn't fit. The "cause and effect" didn't add up. Two rocky divorces and a beleaguered facial expression that advertized emotional brutality did not match his story. He would not see how deeply he deceives himself.
Binyomin said to me that he is attracted to women with bad midos (character traits); emotional problems; are selfish, materialistic, rigid and non-communicative.
In my opinion, because of that which was emotionally missing in the home during his upbringing, he is attracted to relationships that cannot work.
I told him that he has got to work on these emotional conditions and motivations within him. Only that will unify the story of the guy who looks like he's been mugged with a recounting of having been severely beaten. Only this way can he be reality-based about what is going on.
Binyomin said he wanted to make a list of the faults in the woman he has been attracted to, then make a list with all the opposite virtues. Instead of bad character - good character. Instead of rigid - adaptive. Instead of self-absorbed - mature.
I said to him that what is going on is deeper than what is on the surface. He can make his list if he wants, but it's an abstraction. He will continue to be attracted to the kind of woman he'd been attracted to. He can make this list all day long, but he is going to be uninterested - on an emotional level - in every woman on his new list. It's on the emotional level where responses, attraction and behaviors are motivated.
Until he works on the underlying internal emotions that had been effected by the deprivations, shortcomings and hurt in his upbringing, nothing will change. He can make a list that is perfect and ideal, but he won't have any feeling or attraction to any woman on that list. He will still emotionally pursue only woman who relate to the emotional condition that exists internally. Only then will he unify the story, so as to unify what he is emotionally responding to and the practical situation that he is actually in.
Binyomin is still looking for his list. Not for his wife.