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not going to mikveh when marriage is shaky


Rabbi Ari Shvat

Nisan 2, 5776
I’m married for 14 years to a husband who is verbally abusive towards me and we have 4 children. He calls me often very bad names. Do I have to go to the mikve if my husband treats me like that?
I'm sorry for the delay regarding such a sensitive and urgent question- I just received it and am responding immediately, even though it's past midnight. I sympathize with your very difficult personal situation. It is not easy to live with someone who calls you names. On the other hand, the Torah believes very strongly in the ideal of "Shalom" in general, and especially in shalom in marriage, of "kissing and making up" with each other. That's part of the beauty of the physical contact and attraction between man and wife, that it helps and often, even necessitates a couple to work things out. Physical affection is often a positive way to express love, even for someone who has difficulty expressing themselves verbally (a problem found very often, particularly in men). The physical relationship obviously should not be in place of the deeper, spiritual, personal or verbal rapport, but should be an expression to help facilitate that beautiful bond. Therefore, even if your husband may sometimes be verbally abusive but sometimes is truly affectionate and loving, then you should continue going to the mikveh, and try and utilize that special time of the month to "get back together again", both physically and internally. If on the other hand, you feel that there is never any real affection from him, and that he is chas v'shalom just "using" you for his physical desires, and does not love you at all, than you need not go to the mikveh and should seriously consider dissolving the marriage, but that obviously cannot be discussed through this letter. On the other hand, if you have been married for 14 years, and have BH 4 children, it seems that the first scenario mentioned above is truly the case, and that there is real love between you. With wisdom, the right timing, prayer (and maybe consider some professional help, as well), and with the help of Hashem, you should be able, also through the intimate relationship, to rekindle that love which really does exist, as it was at the time that you married! In addition, mitzvot are not meant to be “used” for ulterior motives, especially not as a “punishment” for your spouse, but rather as a loving means to bring you back together again. All the best, Rav Ari Shvat
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