By Rachel Stein | rachels83@gmail.com

Gray, menacing clouds loom low in the sky, portending a fierce storm. Suddenly the siren sounds, growing louder and more strident. Jagged streaks of lightning flash, thunder rumbles and roars, and the black heavens rip open to unleash a barrage of golf-ball-size hail.

Tornado in the area! Everyone take cover immediately!

OK, relax, folks. There’s no real tornado. I was simply trying to paint a picture. Those atmospheric conditions are an apt description of my home life situation. A devoted husband and father, I am in my mid-40s, standing at the brink of a yawning abyss.

Rachel Stein

Rachel Stein

When my wife and I married 15 years and a lifetime ago, the sun was always smiling in my life. There was nothing we couldn’t accomplish, and we wove rosy dreams together. Yet as the years have trudged by, we have become broken vessels, our edges sharp and jagged.

Communication takes place in either of two ways: It can be sterile and cold, directed toward household issues, or it is violent and sharp as we argue yet again. Do any of you play ping-pong? Can you picture the tactic of slamming the ball across the net to get your point? That’s how it is between Sharon and me, only there is no winner in our game.

Midlife crisis? I don’t think so. Our marriage has been eroding for many years. It is simply reaching a crescendo, and I wonder about the best resolution. We’ve tried marriage counseling, yet it hasn’t yielded beneficial results. Our home is too small for two parents engaged in constant battle. Do we divorce or remain married? Is it better to divide into two homes and become a splintered family, including all the anguish that comes with that package? What is the best situation for our three children, ages 8, 12 and 15?

Marriage is a commitment, and I feel that I gave it my all. But it takes two partners to make it work. We both know the ironclad rule that you’re never supposed to fight in front of the children. Yet when Sharon denigrates me in front of them, I find it almost impossible not to respond.

Once upon a time, we shared so many similar interests. It also seemed that we were mirror images of one another. Yet our differences have become stark with the passage of time. I am an introvert and enjoy solitude, while she loves socialization. I am careful with our spending, yet she is loose with the purse strings. We both have good jobs and earn a respectable living, but I don’t condone extravagance. I also seek to put away money for our retirement, while Sharon constantly wants to remodel our home and waste time and resources on exotic travel plans and getaways.

Sharon has grown cold and distant, and that has filtered down in her behavior toward the children. She tends to their physical needs but doesn’t care to spend time with them, understand what makes them tick or just enjoy their company. Like items on her to-do list, once they’re checked off for the day, she is free to move on with her life. It was different when they were younger. She was the quintessential mother, buoyed and invigorated by her role.

Part of me feels as if it’s too late for us and divorce is inevitable. We are two cars zooming toward each other with no way to avoid a collision. The other part cries out to give it one more chance. There was great potential at the beginning of our journey. Perhaps we just have to dig to unearth the buried treasure and scrub with all our strength to clean off the years of accumulated tarnish.

Divorce frightens me, saddens me. My divorced friends don’t seem like the happiest members of society. Many of you know me. I am the smiling, successful friend and neighbor sitting next to you in synagogue and waving to you in the supermarket. But beneath the veneer is a world of pain. I asked Rachel to print my problem, hoping that someone will offer me guidance. I look forward to hearing from you and getting my life back on track.

Sincerely, In the Eye of the Storm

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