I didn’t have to be a genius to know that I would receive emails in reaction to the letter where Briendy suspects her best friend of being emotionally abused by her chasan. I want to remind everyone who wrote in (and those who didn’t), I clearly wrote it in the article: I am not an expert in the field of abuse. I did my hishtadlus and researched some telltale signs that may indicate if someone is in an emotionally abusive relationship. I provided examples. Most importantly, I advised Briendy to contact Shalom Task Force. Those at the Task Force are far more knowledgeable than I am, and perhaps she will be able to figure out how to help her friend, if her friend was involved in an abusive relationship. The word to focus on was “if.” At the end of the article, I provided an update; Briendy had contacted me that she is working with Shalom Task Force to help her friend.
I published that letter to bring abuse, whether physical, verbal, or emotional, to the forefront, have people talk about it, know there is help, and they can seek out help. I think I have a responsibility to readers to write about the important topics, not just the fun type of dating topics. But as the saying goes, “No good deed goes unpunished.” Some wanted me to get off of my soap box and stop preaching, others wanted to know why abuse is the first thought when someone starts acting different, and then a few were what I expected. What I didn’t expect was to be verbally attacked by some. Those emails make me wonder if this topic should be spoken and written about more often.
Here are excerpts of some emails I received in response to that article and my short responses. I did not include the name of the person who sent the email. I emailed these individuals that any responses would remain anonymous – partly for their protection.
“…You jump to abuse right away. Maybe it is the stress or anxiety of the wedding, planning, and everything else her friend has going on. Big deal, her friend isn’t herself and doesn’t have time to talk to her. Boo hoo! She should remember how she felt as a kallah and realize that everyone feels different. She jumped to her friend being in an abusive relationship and you encouraged it…”
My response: As I wrote, I am not an expert in this field. I provided examples from reliable sources that seemed to match what she described about her friend’s sudden change in behavior. My words aren’t “gospel.” No one is forced to follow them. I wanted to provide clarity so Briendy can choose what her next step would be.
“I never knew the silent treatment was a form of abuse. Now I know that my husband and I are both emotionally abusing each other…”
My response: I’m not sure if you are serious or sarcastic, because I can’t hear your voice saying these words. But not speaking or shutting down for hours on end, when your significant other is trying to talk, is a form of abuse. And yes, we are all guilty of giving someone the silent treatment. But it’s to what extreme that it’s taken to.
“It made me think about what Briendy wrote; it was a lot of little things that add up to one big thing. How do I know that I’m not being punished by my husband?”
My response: Call Shalom Task Force and explain your situation. It may be nothing or it may be something. Or do research on your own, if you don’t want to make the call. Don’t forget that just like every mental health illness, we can all say that we have a few characteristics of an illness (people joke: “I must be a schizophrenic or bipolar,” when they aren’t), but that doesn’t mean we have a diagnosis. Ask yourself or a professional how many characteristics match up. I’m not trained in abuse. I don’t have the answers, but please seek out the answers to your questions.
“…I showed the article to my cousin whom I know has been verbally abused by her husband. He’ll speak in a derogatory way to her even when there are others around. I’ve heard him call her stupid and other harsh words. I can only imagine what happens behind closed doors when they are alone. She always said I don’t understand her husbands’ personality and humor, or his job causes sleepless nights which cause irritability… You name it, she has said it. I’ve spoken with her over the years, but she didn’t or couldn’t listen. I stuck by her. I wasn’t going to abandon her when she needed help. I cut out the article and took it to her, made her read it out loud to me. At the end, I told her that abuse isn’t just hitting, it’s in words and behavior, too. I said that this young girl may end up in the same type of marriage that she has. She said she would think about what I said. A day later, she sent a short text that she made the first call. I didn’t want to push and ask her whom she called, what was said, etc. All I texted back was, “I love you and I’m here for you.” I hope Briendy knows she did the right thing, even if turns out to be nothing. I tried to step in, but my cousin wouldn’t listen and couldn’t admit it. Thank you for your article.”
My response: If my article was able to help one person, that would be enough. I hope all works out for your cousin. You are right to stick by her and not abandon her because she won’t pick up and leave or make the call or do whatever you have advised her to do. There are those who think, “I told her/him what to do. If he/she doesn’t want to take my advice, then I’m done with it. I can’t be a part of it.” If she is being verbally and possibly emotionally abused, she will need a support system and you are that for her. Thank you for your email.
“… Unfortunately, I know that husbands get abused. My son’s first wife would hit him when she got angry. He mentioned it during a conversation, very nonchalantly. He said she was like a five-year-old throwing a temper tantrum, hitting and kicking him. He said it “annoyed.” “Annoyed” him? I told him that her behavior isn’t only immature, but abusive. He laughed at me; he said I was overreacting. Imagine if she got angry at a child? Thankfully they didn’t have any children together. A mature woman throwing a hissy fit hitting and kicking? My son will say I nagged him, but I don’t care. I helped him realize he was being abused and his wife needed help. My son got out of the marriage and found an amazing eishes chayil who treats her husband as he should be treated…”
My response: I’m so sorry that your son was a victim. You’re lucky that he told you about it, because many men are ashamed or embarrassed to say anything. But just the fact that he said the “temper tantrums annoy” him may mean that your son didn’t view the situation as an abusive one. Being hit in any way, shape, or form is abuse. He may have viewed it as a temper tantrum, but you picked up on it right away. Good for you, and I’m happy your son was able to extricate himself from the abusive relationship and has found another wife who loves and respects him.”
“…It’s like abuse is the new bully. Everyone has been calling out others for being bullied by them. Why can’t people have an argument? What happened in the world that if someone doesn’t agree with you or tries telling you their side of the story it’s labeled as bullying? There is bullying, but there’s also adult arguments. So now “abuse” is the word of the month, but not just regular abuse, it’s the secret abuse. You will have every wife thinking that her husband is abusing her when all he wants is peace and quiet, or if he says no to an idea she has, or if he argues with her…”
My response: I am sorry that you feel that way and are as ignorant as you are. I will not try to convince you of why a situation is abusive when another may think it isn’t – or when someone is being bullied because I don’t want to waste my typing time trying to make you understand that which you obviously can’t. You don’t get it. But I hope one day you do. And if you are married, as I say to all my readers, I wish your wife hatzlachah.
This was just some of the emails I received. I love reading readers’ responses. If we don’t share the same thought on a topic, I’m willing to listen to your side (but not from the person who sent the last email I shared). I always say, “No good deed goes unpunished,” and I have a list to back that statement up. But if Briendy’s letter and my response helped even one person in an abusive relationship or helped a parent start a conversation with a child, then I am satisfied. I don’t care if I’m popular or liked, but I care about being informed and informing my readers about all things related to dating that I feel are important.
Hatzlachah to you all!