Elster's World

Monday, July 10, 2006

A Battle With No Winners

Why do they stay together when they so truly and clearly hate each other? Why subject someone (who at one point in time you loved enough to marry) to so much tangible hatred and pain? How does a marriage disintegrate into an endless cycle of screaming, leaving and a tangled web of half -truths and lies?

Stay for the kids? Not in this case. The kids, the only true victims in this horrible war of attrition, have no chance. Their lives have been ruined before they are even old enough to understand the destruction wrought upon then by those who are supposed the cherish them above even themselves. The eldest boy (around 5) is already such a problem that he has become that kid the other parents in school request be in the other class. The twins are too young yet to know that their lives are already shattered beyond repair. And inside the womb of a willing participant in this war lies an unborn, unwilling participant – one whose pre-determined future is akin to a nuclear wasteland.

The ingredients to this disaster are so pathetically obvious. She is so unstable there is no need to have any advanced degrees in psychology to see it. Her actions, mannerisms, the way she talks. What she says. Should she have been bringing children into the world to begin with? And now she is saddled with them because he’s never home. He’s got the job, the side career as a performer, the never ending list of “things” he needs to attend to. She will tell anyone who will listen that he’s cheating on her. And you know what? He probably is. He’s gone every night. His car is out of his driveway two minutes after Shabbos is over every Saturday night. He is one of the strangest people one will ever come across – his long payos conflicting with both his behavior and his dress code.

She tells anyone who will listen that he beats her. Does he? This is less clear to me. But he walks around and pretends there is nothing wrong - that the only issue in his otherwise perfect world is that his wife is crazy - which everyone knows to be true anyway.

Then there are the endless house calls from the local police. She says that he’s calling the cops to build up the “file” against her for when he decides to divorce her. He smiles and tells you that his silly son accidentally dialed 911 on the speed dial. Wash. Rinse. Repeat. Does he really think we are that stupid?

Sunday morning in July, the air is clear and warm. The birds are singing the same chorus as they do on Floyd’s Cirrus Minor intro. But the peace and goodwill are shattered by her screeching at him to get out, to just go. This followed the Friday night outburst as she fled the house with the children, crying and screaming.

They are Shabbos afternoon gossip fodder, whispered and mumbled “did you see the cops were there again on Wednesday?” The most helpful neighbors tend to be the nosiest, the ones who want her to dish the dirt on what he’s doing, on the affair he’s having. That the “other woman” might be pregnant. They pooh pooh and make all the right sympathetic cluckings and tiskings, but they are lapping it up like parched desert travelers at a way station well – and then spreading it down the block in a true life game of telephone.

The truth is, it is easier not to be involved. As much as you want to be there and to help, they have to want the help too. He is pretending everything is a-ok thank you very much and she simply will not leave him despite everyone’s advice.

And she won’t leave him, that has become clear. She’s got three kids, one on the way and seemingly he doesn’t make enough to cover alimony. And besides, she’s as unstable as he is. Her family is insane too. So is his. It a multi generational mess. Where, then would she go anyway?

To me it’s so obvious. How could they not be happier apart than together? How can the current situation ever be considered an enviable alternative? There are plenty of good places and programs for families like this (OHEL anyone?). Yet the song and dance continues.

Aye, but here’s the rub. The deterioration of the status quo is obvious. The public screaming matches are worse. The charges against each other growing. The police involvement, his zany parents dragging themselves into the fray every weekend. Something simply has to give.

As it all hurtles to its surely horrible conclusion, there is only one clear truth – This is a battle which has no winners.


  • "...there are no winners."

    That's exactly right. I was thinking about that today, actually. No one wins and none of it is fair.

    I wish I had a better answer, for everyone.

    Great post, as always.

    By Blogger Sara, at 10:54 PM  

  • Sad story.

    So sad, too, because it sounds familiar. I know another pair like this.

    Well written too.

    By Blogger Dayli, at 7:43 AM  

  • Thank you both. I have been watching this saga unfold for almost three years. It's like a car wreck - you can't help but watch but there really isn't anyhting you can do.

    By Blogger Elster, at 9:24 AM  

  • This is a horrible story. While I agree with your conclusion, unfortunately I disagree that: "There are plenty of good places and programs for families like this." That's naive.

    I would add that you should never assume you know what goes on in other people's houses, and it's wrong to speculate about affairs, abuse, etc., without factual basis.

    By Blogger Joe Schick, at 10:24 AM  

  • Joe - I think places like Ohel do fantastic jobs in situations like these. Obviolusly, they cnnot help everyone, but so say that there aren't solid places is untrue.

    As to my "suppositions", they are based on hearsay of one side of the story. And on top of that, I state that I am expressing my opinion. But I'm still pretty sure that I am right. Sometimes you just know.

    Also, since no one knows me, no one knows who I'm talking about - which gives me a little more leeway to express opinion.

    By Blogger Elster, at 10:48 AM  

  • Ohel might be helpful, but can only help to a limited extent.

    Your opinion may be right, but when it comes to hearsay from one side to a terrible marriage, I'd be more skeptical.

    By Blogger Joe Schick, at 11:02 AM  

  • yes - Ohel can only help if they are asked to. So far, there has been resistance to any and all overtures.

    I was very skeptical at first, but as time passes it becomes harder to tune things out. Huma nature I'm guessing.

    By Blogger Elster, at 11:25 AM  

  • there ARE winners, just ask the two people involved. they count each and every "victory," and vow revenge for each and every "loss". they thrive on the conflict -- which is probably why they chose each other in the first place, and why one of them doesn't leave.

    there is nothing to be done for these folks, they are accountable for their own situation and it's up to them to figure it out.

    in the meantime, the children should be removed from the home. no child should ever be subjected to this garbage. and for all the folks that gawk and stare and talk about it.... what about... instead of opening their mouths they open their homes. what about... demonstrating to these children, in word and deed, that they are part of a community and that community actually cares enough to stop the pain, rather than simply observe it.

    thing is, these children won't go away. they'll be adults with their own children some day and they will still be your neighbors (or your children's neighbors). isn't it worth it to invest something in these children, even if it's only so that your own children will have better neighbors?

    *stepping down from my soapbox now*

    i-am-okay-as-idealistic, too. *VBG*

    By Anonymous iamokayasanonymous, at 1:46 AM  

  • No - your sentiments are correct for the most part. The neighbors constantly help out with the kids - take them in, watch them on the swings, the whole 9. But that cannot make up for the stream of hate they hear inside closed doors.

    By Blogger Elster, at 9:16 AM  

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