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Can Marriage Feel Like Slavery?

Tonight, Jewish people around the world celebrate Passover. The Passover story is based on the chapter of Exodus from the bible. It tells the great story of how God saw the Hebrews who were enslaved by the Egyptians and their great suffering. God intervened and revealed himself to Moses to go back to Egypt and plead with the pharaoh to let the Hebrews go; the pharaoh who did not believe in their God refused to yield, and it was only after a series of God inspired calamities on the Egyptians, did Pharaoh finally agree. Moses led the Hebrews out of Egypt and eventually to Mount Sinai in the desert, where once again God mysteriously appeared and spoke to Moses, giving the Hebrew people the great laws of God, including the Ten Commandments.

We have seen other episodes of slavery throughout human history. We know how Africans were enslaved and brought over in boats only to be sold at slave auctions and forced to work for rich Southern plantation owners in the United States. We know even in modern society there are issues of underage girls being captured and forced to work as sex slaves while drugged or threatened with death if they attempt to leave. The evil that man can do against one another, knows no bounds or time lines whether over three thousand years ago, or last week in a remote village of Thailand, where a teenage girl is forced into sex trafficking against her will.

I sometimes hear of cases where a person in a marriage is almost treated like they are in bondage. It usually involves a dominating and controlling man, but evil is not gender biased. Let me paint the scenario; the husband makes the wife do all the work around the house, cooking, cleaning, shopping, laundry and refuses to help with any of it. If the work isn’t properly done on time as the husband demands, he takes it out on her either by emotional abuse or in more extreme cases, physical abuse. He demands his three home cooked meals a day and if they aren’t prepared and delivered on time, there is hell to pay.

The husband controls all aspects of the woman’s life. He is completely in control of all the money and finances. The wife has no idea how much money her husband makes, how much money they have in the bank or what the size of their estate is. She isn’t allowed a credit card. If she needs to buy something, including groceries for the household, she has to ask. She is only given the amount of money necessary to make that one purchase and if she over spends, there is hell to pay. She is not allowed ever to buy anything for herself, while the husband can spend and do whatever he wants and whenever he wants, and she has no say so in the matter whatsoever.

He refuses to help with the children. The wife takes the children to school and picks them up, all of their extracurricular activities, their homework, while the husband will spend a few hours with them on the weekend, as long as it doesn’t interfere with his activities. If the children are unruly or making noise in the house, the wife gets yelled at and is expected to take care of it, without any help from her husband.

All aspects of any outside life are cutoff; the wife is not allowed to have any friends or contact with the outside world; in some extreme cases, the husband even forces the wife to cut off all ties with her family. She is not allowed to work outside of the home. If she does hold any outside job at the beginning of the relationship, the husband forces her to quit.

The wife cannot go anywhere without her husband’s permission. She has to ask first and tell the husband where she is going, why she needs to go there and how long it is going to take. He makes her call when she arrives at her destination and makes her call again when she is on her way home. Numerous times while she is away, even if for a ten minute trip to the drug store, the husband will call her or text her numerous times to check on her whereabouts. In some extreme cases, the husband will actually follow the wife in his own car to check on her, or will install secretly some type of GPS tracking device to follow her every move.

Similarly, there may be secret recording devices and cameras installed in the house so the husband can, without the wife’s permission or knowledge, monitor her movements 24/7. She is not allowed to be on the computer or text anyone else, but the husband. The husband will randomly go through her purse, wallet, computer and cell phone to check who she may be talking to or who may be calling her.

She is forced against her will to have sex with her husband. It can be the most inappropriate time or setting, and the husband will demand and force the wife to have sex with him. If she refuses, there is hell to pay, and the wife knows it.

The husband engages in daily emotional abuse of his wife, including using vulgar language calling her all types of profane names, many times, right in front of the children. There are constant put downs such as “you’re stupid, you’re ugly, no one else would want you, you’re fat, you’re good for nothing.”

In addition to the constant daily barrage of emotional abuse, the husband engages in repeated acts of either threatened or actual physical violence against the wife. There are threats of “if you ever divorce me, you’ll never get a dime, I’ll quit my job, I’ll take the kids away from you, I can arrange people to take care of you, and no one will ever hear from you again.” When there is actual physical violence, they twist things and say “if you call the police I’ll say you are crazy and you hit me first.”

Why a person would ever chose to be or stay in such an abusive relationship is a mystery to me, but in such cases, the abusive spouse is engaging in emotional and physical blackmail of their spouse. I have seen cases where a woman has been abusive to their husband, but most of these cases play out with the husband being the abusive party. The woman feels entrapped and powerless to get out of the marriage. Over time, the husband has brow beaten the wife into complete submission. While such a relationship doesn’t equate to the biblical story of the Hebrews being enslaved in Egypt, or how Africans were unjustly enslaved and abused by the white man, or current cases involving underage sex trafficking, such a relationship in a marriage is bondage and quasi-slavery. It is terribly wrong and can leave permanent and life long scars to the person abused. All too many times in my practice, sadly and unfortunately, I have listened to sad and similar stories of abused women in a marriage with a controlling and dominating spouse. I would encourage anyone who is in such a relationship, whatever form it may take from some of these things going on, to all of them going on, to go and get help from friends or family, or if there has been threats of violence or actual violence, to immediately report it to the police. There is help available; all you need to do is ask. So, on the eve of the Jewish holiday known as Passover, don’t be enslaved in your own marital relationship, with the person who is suppose to be your best friend and partner for life, but instead, turns out to be your captor and tormentor. End the relationship and experience freedom, just as the Hebrews did, thousands of years ago.

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