We also touched on that fact that this often occurs because today, there is a huge lack of empathy even in the frum world, which means that many couples are finding it hard to make deep emotional bonds and attachments to each other, leading to superficial, unsatisfying relationships where the emphasis is increasingly on externals, and physicality, as opposed to the deeper, spiritual inner dimension.
In the interests of even-handedness, in this post I want to talk a little about the struggles specifically facing the men.
Spiritually, women have always been more spiritually tuned-in than men. This is one of the key reasons why we're exempt from the mitzvah of laying tefillin, for example, as men need something concrete and physical to bind them to God, while that sense of spiritual connection often comes much easier to most women.
The Gemara also teaches us that 10 measures of speech descended to the world, and that women took nine of them. Rav Arush, in Women's Wisdom, explains that God gave us the power of speech so that we would use it to pray for our husbands and families.
Rav Arush also explains that women have been doubly-blessed: first, we have the spiritual insight and emotional intelligence to see what's going wrong in our families, and to see what's lacking, spiritually-speaking. Then, we have ten times the power of men to pray about the problem, and get it fixed.
If we're spiritually-tuned in and regularly praying for our families, this system works great. But if we're not? It's a huge struggle - and the people who fall the first, and the hardest, are the men in our lives.
Remember, they don't have the same level of innate spirituality and connection to their souls that women do. In today's world, overflowing with smut, and pandering to the 'red-blooded male's' basest instincts on all fronts, our men need all the spiritual help they can get to re-attach to holiness and God, and to remember that they're here to work on their souls, and not just to get their physical kicks in life.
The Zohar teaches that men are meant to be givers, and women receivers. In today's upside-down world, men are being encouraged to take whatever they can get, in whatever way they can get it - even in the frum world.
There are a precious few voices in the wilderness trying to highlight the problem of how spiritually upside-down everything is today on the relationship front, most notably Rav Shalom Arush, but they are facing an uphill battle.
So let's break the problem facing the men down, into manageable chunks:
1) Men innately have a much greater pull to physicality, lust and superficial relationships than women.
2) Modern society is exacerbating the problem a million-fold, with its emphasis on physical beauty and obsession with self-gratification.
3) Men who grow up in homes where a) their emotions aren't recognised, validated and nurtured (ie, there is very little empathy) and b) no-one is praying for them to overcome their innate difficulties to dig deep, and get 'real', spiritually and emotionally, get disconnected from the real them, namely their souls.
4) They feel this lack of connection, to God, to their own souls, and to the others in their life, especially their wives, but they lack the emotional tools to describe it, even to themselves. So they go after physical relationships and external beauty to try and fill the hole, because the physical world is their main frame of reference - even if they're apparently very 'religious'.
5) This creates a situation where even in marriage, the men get stuck behind this wall of emotional numbness, unable to really connect to their wives on the emotional and spiritual level. The wives feel this lack - and try to solve the problem by trying to attract more attention, and by becoming more 'giving', anyway they can. The husbands feel this lack, and try to solve the problem by becoming more physically demanding in their relationships with their wives, thinking that more physical contact will equate to a genuinely closer connection. But usually, the opposite happens.
Let's be clear that this is all usually happening under the surface, and that neither husband nor wife really understands what is going on, or why. All they know is that they both feel lonely, misunderstood and somehow 'distant' from their spouse, without having the first clue why, or what to really do about it.
Now that we've clearly set out the problem, in the next post, I'll share some ideas for how to start turning this heart-breaking state of affairs around.