Can My Marriage Survive Religious Differences?
by Rabbi Aron Moss
Now that I am a family man, married with a newborn son, I want to step up in my Jewish observance. I feel very strongly in my heart that it's time to let my beard grow. My wife is trying to accept it but is finding it hard to get used to. We are obviously on very different religious levels. She says I'm going Hasidic on her and she doesn't want it. We have discussed it together several times, and we are definitely at a stalemate position where we both feel unwilling to adhere to the other's request. Of course I want to make my wife happy but to me this isn't just leaving the toilet seat up. How do we come out of this scenario peacefully and move forward with our marriage and family?
When you were single, your spiritual growth was your own business. Now you are married, it is someone else's business too. Your wife married you as you were, and at that stage, you didn't let your beard grow. You now want to change the rules of the game, and as a married man you can't do that unilaterally.
Let me make it clear, it would be a wonderful thing to have a beard. The Kabbalah teaches that an untrimmed beard is a spiritual pipeline that draws blessings to the wearer and his family. But until now you chose not to have one. I am not saying not to do it. I am saying that your wife has to be on side first.
The Hasidic way is to integrate spirituality into your life organically, to smoothly fuse Jewish practice into your lifestyle. It has to be done with tact and sensitivity, so any resistance is softened.
Ask your wife to be open with you about why the beard idea bothers her. Is it just the look? So promise that you will brush it and wrap it up so it won't look messy.
But more likely, it is not the look that perturbs her. She is worried that growing a beard represents you going over the religious deep end. She is scared she is losing you. Make sure she doesn't feel pressured in any way to change. Reassure her that the beard won't come between you. Show her that you haven't lost your mind. And most importantly, show her how increasing your observance is making you a more attentive and considerate husband, by including her in your spiritual choices.
Unilateral decisions will only reinforce your wife's fear that she is losing you, and she will dig her heels in. Do it the Hasidic way, the way of harmony. Who knows, she may one day embrace it. But only when she sees you are growing your character, not just your facial hair.