The Matzav Shmoooze: More On the Divorce Crisis and “Marriage Incompatibility”


divorceDear Editor and Readers,

Several days ago, Matzav published a letter quoting a noted therapist in a radio interview who opined that the reason for divorces within our communities is that people who aren’t compatible are marrying each other. This reason sounds questionable. Is claimed “incompatibility” a sufficient reason to break up a marriage? I can choose to skip dinner with my neighbor based upon our “incompatibility,” but may I destroy an already built household based upon this claim?

To be sure, Rav Matisyahu Salomon, who has dealt with many hundreds of shalom bayis cases, offers a very different reason – a reason that resonates and is not clouded in a conflict of interest.

The noted therapist just launched a website whose “system utilizes the power of a Personality Compatibility Questionnaire that is designed to match singles according to their degree of compatibility.” Is it possible that her business venture may have influenced her perspective?

The Jewish Observer once interviewed Rav Salomon on the topic of shidduchim. They also asked him about divorces:

To what do you attribute the rising rate of divorces in Chareidi circles?

Rav Salomon:
A key element in a successful marriage is savlonus – forbearance. After all, a marriage brings together two unique individuals, from different backgrounds, and of different genders – which, of course, expresses itself in emotional and spiritual makeup and needs, as well as in disparate educations and different roles in the life of each. A successful marriage is thus a learning process. This is viable when the members view themselves as partners in an undertaking, with each yielding to the other partner more often than not. Should a person enter marriage with the single goal of self-gratification, with an agenda of ‘I’m in this for me,’ it is doomed to failure.

This focus on self-gratification – physical pleasure and emotional fulfillment – is often the product of oversimplified lectures or literature available on how to create a successful marriage, which promise a life of marital bliss, if you just adhere to the guidelines that follow. This leads to chasing an elusive rainbow. Then, when the promises do not materialize, the disappointed marriage partner assumes that there is something better out there, something (or someone) to which he or she is entitled. So why continue to make do with less than that to which one is entitled?

Again, marriage is a partnership in which both must continue to invest in a common venture, with dividends yet to come.

A young man cannot be imbued with this outlook in a single chosson shmuess or even in a five-session vaad (series of talks). It calls for long-term preparation in fashioning oneself – in Rav Dessler’s reference – into a “giver” rather than a “taker.” Then one emerges as a person prepared to found a bayis ne’eman b’Yisroel. To do otherwise is to risk being either a chossid shoteh or a naval bireshus haTorah.

Another reason (which is included in Rav Salamon’s explanation) was once published here on

Q: Based on your 15 years of experience as a solo family law attorney, what would you say is the top reason for divorce in the Orthodox community? Is that any different than for non-Orthodox?

A: Interference by in-laws, especially when couples marry at a young age.  (See:


A Fellow Jew


The Matzav Shmoooze is a regular feature on that allows all readers to share a thought or analysis, long or short, one sentence or several paragraphs long, on any topic, for readers to mull over and comment on. Email submissions to

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  1. agree w/ #1… i think MANY ppl realize that they made a huge mistake only after the wedding…. is it fair to make them suffer by staying? I think not…

  2. If you are not old enough to make this important decisions then don`t get married. Why are these kids such wimps that they can`t tell their parents no to a shidduch.

  3. reread the quote from rav mattisyahu. the issue is identifying a “mistake”. the only mistake that is made by MANY people and only realized after the wedding is a mistake in what a marriage is really all about. as rav mattisyahu said it is not about me, it is about us, or my spouse. difficulty swallowing that? you too suffer from america syndrome. so in summary if you made a mistake and married the wrong person you dont have to suffer, however most people who are unhappy after their wedding did not make a mistake they are just selfish/lazy to do the work inherent in having a wonderful marriage

  4. #1 & 2,

    That may be the point. We un after that elusive rainbow if we “deserve” what we imagion exists. Is that a givers perspective or a takers perspective?

  5. It depends what you call a “mistake”. Too many people are unwilling to put in the hard work and effort to make a marriage viable. As soon as there is an incompatibility apparent, they say that it cannot be worked out. In fact, marriage is about working out such incompatibilities. Of course, nobody is expected to live in misery. But all too often, young people are faced with issues with their spouse that they are either unable or unwilling to deal with. Unable because they were not taught to deal with serious issues by themselves or unwilling because they realize that this would require effort and work, which for many would detract from people’s focus on themselves.
    I reiterate what I said a few days back…the key issue is that too many young people have not been taught to think for themselves, to be independent, or to deal with mature issues. We have fostered a society where young people are encouraged to be dependent on parents and others for both financial (this is key) and moral support, and marriage requires a young couple to work between themselves, to make decisions for themselves.

  6. The JO stopped being published a long time ago. What R’ Salomon said they may not be the same today. Just a thought to keep in mind.

  7. How come the Chassidishe communities do not have this problem at all?

    Maybe we need to go back to the ways of our elter zaidys when there was no such thing as dating, thats how things went well for thousands of years. Why did we change the system?

    The whole dating thing is a goyish zach.

  8. First: The letter several days ago did not get into the question if it’s right or wrong, it was just pointing at “incompatible marriages” as a the cause behind the big number of divorce.

    Second: The definition of “Incompatible” isn’t necessarily wanting pleasure vs. ideals. It could very well be that the ideals don’t match. And besides, even if from the “investment goal” point they are compatible, you still need some basic personal compatibility in a partner too.

  9. I know a boy that was almost thrown out of a yeshiva because they saw him in a restaurant with a girl…turned out to be his sister,but he was reprimanded anyway

  10. If only pple would understand what goes on with a divorce….things would be VERY different. There ARE times at which, like Rav Salomon says, there is a need for “savlanos” and effort. (Which never goes untried!) However, unfortunately, there are other times at which there is a “mekach Taus”- simply meaning a mistaken marriage!!!!!!!! Either information was given wrong, or there are things about one spouse that are kept hidden. Whether its medication, family history, abuse, or even depression/anxiety…
    Details do not have to be exposed, but trust me there is one such case happening NOW!!
    And, when this is the case, “getting back together” or “bettering yourself” or “therapy” ARE NOT OPTIONS. The ONE and ONLY solution is a ghet!!!!!!!!!!
    A young mother is anxiously awaiting to receive a ghet from the “other side”. But the world of “big” and more “important” pple think that things need to first be worked out…Try explaining why third parties or even the boy and his parents feel they have the right to torture the girl more??!?!?! To hold back HER ghet?!?!?! To keep her tied to a depressed man and his abbusive parents???!?!?! Does she not deserve to cut the string and start life- be given another chance to live?!?!?!
    If only this aguna (whom i know personally) would be treated like a widow!!!
    If only everyone would help a women waiting for a ghet the way we so beautifully pitch-in to help a widow!!!!
    for some reason, though, we all try to get in the “hock” by a divorce. For some reason, we all try to send them to get help…to work things out.. For some reason, nobody collects $ to make funds for the struggling lady waiting for her ghet… WHY??? why??? why???? WHY????


    take a moment to stop figuring out why there are divorces and what the rising numbers of them are…Lets (for a change!!!!!) HELP the aguna!!

  11. One of the most popular frum magazines shares a large portion of the blame for the divorce rate. They have articles encouraging divorce without consulting with rabbonim or marriage counselors. This is the harm caused by a magazine that has no active rabbinic board and lacks yiras shomayim. If marriage is important to people, they’ll find a way to keep it strong and vibrant.

  12. I gave my ex all the unconditional attention I could give. But the abuse was too much for me to deal with even with therapy. It became a tool of manipulation. We cant judge the reason for frum divorces. What I do see is that people are not perfect and our standards are high. Many of us do come from good families and expect the same when we get married.

  13. It must be stated that the “noted therapist” in question is a Dr. with many many years of experience. The “noted therapist” has spent many years helping and assisting frum/heimishe couples.

    So therefore, I am offended by the authors attempt to negate the “noted therapists” very reasonable claim of incompatibility, due to his suggested perceived conflict of interest on the part of the therapist and her new business venture. His claim/suggestion is unfair, is not proveable, very cynical and therefore doesnt hold water.

    Furthermore, the anecdotal bits and pieces the author produces as proof do not at all debunk the “noted therapist”, but instead offer other reasons for a rising divorce rate that the “noted therapist” might likely agree with.

  14. B”H I have an amazing marriage and I do not feel like I work hard , when youre ????? there is no hard work , I understand the ppl that made a mistake and married the wrong person and get divorce – why should they suffer ?

  15. # 12 Sorry to disappoint you or burst your bubble, but the Chassidishe Oilem DOES have many issues too. Today’s young ones are coming home by the droves and the older generation just stuck it out and many are leaving after marrying off their children.Having said that, FOR SURE it takes alot to make a marriage work, but you need TWO partners to make it work!!! And if it’s about giving, TWO PARTNERS NEED TO GIVE TO EACH OTHER. IF ONE IS DOING THE GIVING….AND THE OTHER NEVER RECEIVES, WHERE DOES THAT LEAVE YOU….STILL GIVING?????We are not malachim, everyone out there needs to feel fulfilled emotionally, physically, spiritually and so forth…so you can’t just say, keep giving…if nothing is coming back..
    I will not disclose what profession I am in, but I have access to the inside info on alot of stuff…
    Most chasidishe kids are married off at a young age when they truly don’t know who they are yet…Please don’t tell me this is a Goiyishe concept. It is NOT…they don’t have a chance to figure out where they are going, what their heart is made up of. They are just right out of school, working maybe one year. You sit them down across a table with another kid who has his head in the gemara since forever and you expect things to just miraculously work? I am a grown woman, a grandmother….I have many grandchildren of my own…and I am from that generation that just swallowed it all in spite of MISERY…for the “sake of the kids”…
    There are people out there who don’t have an iota of knowledge of how to treat another human being…how to respect their feelings…care for them..make them their priority…after all, if marriage unites two souls….as being one…then what hurts me should hurt you…right? Wrong! There are selfish,self centered people out there who don’t know the first thing about being A COUPLE…’MY PARTNER IN LIFE’…TO FEEL FOR THAT PARTNER, SEE THAT THEIR NEEDS ARE MET…ETC.ETC….
    This is a long story….and each to it’s own..There are many reasons why marriages fail and not because some partner did not do the work,give in,be kind, and more. But because they were living A LONELY EXISTANCE, in spite of the years, tears and begging for mercy, so to speak…and it falling on deaf ears.
    To add to that….yes, there should be a personality compatibility too. If you take a really quiet person that wants nothing more than to be left alone to his own devices…and put it together with a person of personality and simchas hachayim….it will never work…and so it goes for many character flaws that are FLAWS and cannot be worked with or tolerated by any sane human being. For example, a stingy person…a person with a temper …they will eat your heart out and destroy your soul…make you sick and you will spend years recovering from all kinds of abuses.
    This is just the tip of the iceberg…..I could go on and on….
    Yes…there are marriages that need a little push here and there…No…I don’t believe kids should be running home for every small thing…But if they do not LIKE EACH OTHER, THEY ARE NOT NOISA CHEIN…EVEN IF THEY ARE TWO ‘BEST BOY, BEST GIRL’…IT WILL NEVER WORK.
    We are all deserving of happy lives, with emotional, spiritual and physical fulfillment. And before the kids come along, we need to decide whether this is something to work on or not.Too many broken hearts, broken souls, broken children out there.
    Once you are in a partnership with another human being, you have an obligation to serve in the capacity that fulfills (to a certain extent) the needs of that spouse. Every person is different and we all need different things. We are not here to satisfy the neighbor and their needs. We are here to satisfy our spouses’ needs.
    When that happens…vet zein shulam al yisroel.
    P.S. Not every child is lucky enought to grow up in a home where shulem bayis reigned supreme. Nor are there chilren lucky enough to have parents with wonderful middos and good role models..however that doesn’t mean that they don’t deserve a chance at life. They are innocent children just starting off and can be shaped and molded if they are given a loving chance to do so. So what gives?These cycles will just perpetuate…if nothing is done to change that. And from my vantage point, we have a generation of boys who do not (yes,I am sorry to say, the MAJORITY…the majority are coming home because of that)know how to treat a wife bederech kovod. This is not to say that woman are perfect and men can’t suffer, but if you look at statistics (heimish)…it is the woman who are leaving because something has gone terribly amiss with the boys…
    This is not a blame game I am playing.But we need to work really fast and change some things before marriage becomes an institution that is feared instead of “endeared”!

  16. pashuter yid – I don’t know what makes you think “the Chassidishe communities do not have this problem at all”. They may not have it as bad as the non-chassidishe world but they definitely have this problem.

  17. If the chosson and kallah hardly know the other’s true middos before marriage, that makes later problems more likely. Whatever format for shidduchim should exist, it has to let the parties know about each other’s middos, directly.

  18. #21 – very well said. unfortunately, what u write about the generations of boys who do not know how to treat a wife bederch kovod is so very true. i’m a father & zeide who speaks from experience.

  19. unfortunatly there are many unhappy marriges in the chasideshe world where due to social pressue they do not get divorced however the husband and some times the wife start looking for “relationships” “entertainment” and “fulfillment” outside their marriage

  20. #21, your comment holds lots of truth. What advice would you give to a man who two months into his marriage, felt he married the wrong person? He, “stuck it out” and after 23 years he doesn’t only feel he married the wrong person, now he knows and has evidence he did marry the wrong person. He didn’t divorce because his wife was expecting two months after the chatuna, and he felt one cannot abandon his wife with an unborn child.

  21. #16: You hit the nail on the head!

    The magazine trivializes marriage to such an extent that the serial encourages divorce for petty issues like not cleaning the house well enough, gaining weight, losing money, not wearing a 3K shaitel, not keeping yoshon, etc.

  22. #24 thanks for even reading my post 21. I know it’s a long one..glad someone paid attention..The point is: what is the solution to this problem?
    Education is a must…just as much as a blatt gemara..shulchan orach.mishnayes..
    Derech Eretz KADMA L’TORAH!!!!!!

  23. #26…Sorry about your state of affair in the shulem bayis department. It is sad to hear the woes of people who have spent so many years in a loveless unhappy state. Men and woman alike have made sacrifices over the years which they now question whether they have made the right or wrong choices.
    It’s hard to say or give advice to anyone. The Chazon Ish said that he stayed in a difficult marriage because he felt that this was his tafkid and that, I guess was an opportunity for him to work on middos that probably he would not have a chance to had everything been A-ok.
    It all depends, I guess, on the situation and why you knew so early on that things were not right, and obviously nothing has changed since.
    If it was mad middos, illness, in laws….there are so many things and you are not explicit…so hard to tell..
    If there was alot of fighting and children witness that is different than something personal that was not compatible, this way you could still save face with the children and learn to respect her without involving the kids. When you marry, it is NO MORE me…it is Us…spouse, children and their feeling to be taken into account instead of our own selfish needs (not that you are selfish) but the circumstances are all different for every case.
    Was there abuse? so many things…no easy answers.
    I hope you find the wisdom to do what is right for yourself and your family…daas torah and your own insight and gut feeling….combined….!

  24. for those not yet married, parents! please check out the middos as the number one thing on the list. that is what really counts in a marraige, not the clothing size, the size of the house, the size of the bank account and all the other externals that people think are so important. middos middos middos and someone who is a working on him/herself. hatzlochah rabbah!!

  25. As one married well over 20 years to my Ayshes Chayil, I am often asked what is the secret to a long marriage. I always kiddingly say “Do whatever your wife wants or whatever she tells you to do” but I am totally serious. This does not mean that you have to subsume your own self in the process, but as Rav Dessler quotes above,be a giver, which means giving your wife happiness. Now, does that mean that you have to do things that would be foolish or dangerous or ethically challenged at your wife’s beckoning…of course not, but the right Aishes Chayil Jewish woman is imbued with a keen sense of wisdom and maturity that a husband needs to listen and pay attention to. This does not make me less of a man, only more of a mensch.

  26. #31 Well said…there you go… a man with wisdom to understand that Woman were inbued with a sixth sense and instead of going around asking for opinions elsewhere, listen to YOUR WIVES…she has a gut feeling that overrules everything. Lucky for you and for your wife..Hatzlocha to you always. Keep up YOUR MENTCHLICHKEIT…
    If only the rest of the men in society were here to see the wisdom of your words!

  27. Highway… as in HIGHWAY ROBBERY. Highway abuse….don’t be so petty…I’m sure you could figure the expression,you just want to ask questions…Nu…everyone else has new words for things these days…there you go….got yourself another one!

  28. It’s to the credit of Yeshivish/chareidish/frum that this topic is even being addressed. In the MO community, the situation is worse, and who cares?, while paying lip service to ‘protect the children’, try to work it out, etc., life is about doing what’s good for you.