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The Other Man
Rebbetzin Feige

The Other Man

My marriage is gratifying but I can't stop daydreaming about this other guy I once dated.


Dear Reb. Faige,

I have been married for quite a few years already and find my marriage to be happy and gratifying. However I find myself daydreaming about another guy that I dated a few months before I met my husband who I really liked but found to be a bit louder and impetuous than what I wanted for a husband. I deeply resent myself for feeling these old sentiments. Would that guy have made a great husband for me too?! Please help me with any ideas on how I can reframe my thinking to achieve greater peace of mind and heart. Or better: How to forget about that other guy! I need your direction. Thanks!


My dear reader,

The following incident might be instructive in helping to settle your mind. Sarah, a young mother in my community, sought out a holy rabbi in Israel for counsel. He inquired about her family, asking her how many children she had. She replied, "I have two sons and a daughter who was killed in a car accident years earlier. She would have been ten years old." The otherwise gentle rabbi looked at her sternly and very emphatically stated that her child never would have been ten years old. She wasn't meant to be ten years old. She was dispatched to this world by a purposeful Creator whose plan it was that she be here for the duration of the five years that she lived. That's the way it was meant to be.

Your husband is your "bashert" and nobody else is relevant to your life.

In relating this story, Sarah told me that his surprisingly sharp words were actually a comfort to her. She felt that she could now move forward, beyond the blaming of herself in all the myriad of ways people in pain consciously and subconsciously hold themselves responsible, second guess and beat themselves up when viewing the incident in hindsight.

Likewise, my dear reader, when you chose your husband as your mate, you did so for good reason, with the best judgment and resources available to you at the time. From a Jewish perspective, we are assured that when such is the case, our choices are orchestrated and supported from Above. This is what was meant to be and nobody else is relevant to your life. Clearly, your husband is your "bashert" (ordained from above). Our sages advise that, "There is no greater joy than the resolution of doubt." This is the time to lay all your doubts to rest and the vistas of ever greater joy will open up for you.

Your fantasies and wandering thoughts are a figment of your yetzer hara (the evil inclination -- the lesser part of yourself, the part identified by Freud that seeks to destroy its host).

In our evening prayers we beseech the Almighty to "remove the satan (the evil inclination) that is both in front and back of us." The commentaries explain that we are all familiar with the fact the path toward achieving our goal is fraught with obstacles and stumbling blocks that attempt to derail our efforts and resolve. We can identify these as the work of the dark force in front of us.

Less known to us, however, is the work of the same forces that come up behind us. This is the voice inside of us that, having been unsuccessful up front, now moves his evil designs behind us. This is the voice inside us that in hindsight tries to question and undermine our decisions and actions of the past. Needless to say, this voice portrays itself as an ally, devoted to our best interests. We must be vigilant of its deadly ploys. Your yetzer hara, dear reader, is working overtime to destroy your "happy and gratifying marriage."

Your situation has echoes and overtones of "Gone With the Wind." In the book, the heroine has a husband who is crazy about her and seeks to give her the world. But she is consumed by thoughts of another man that keeps her from accepting and relishing her husband's devotion. In the end, the other fellow -- the object of her fantasies -- becomes available, but to her great disappointment he turns out to be a total disaster. As reality sets in and she realizes that what she had pined away for all those years is just a figment of her imagination, she desperately runs back home to attempt to retrieve the relationship with the man whom she realizes she has loved all along and who loves her. But it is sadly too little, too late.

These thoughts are not innocuous. They will ultimately compromise the good life that you have.

Be forewarned that even if you don't share your thoughts about another man with your husband or anyone else, they are not innocuous. These thoughts and fantasies will ultimately compromise the good life that you have. Intangible and unquantifiable as they may be, thoughts are part of the energy of your home and your relationship. Ultimately, our thoughts are the forerunners of the behavior that impacts and shapes the emotional environment of the home.

Not only are your thoughts counterproductive, but think of all the constructive things you might be doing if you let go of your contaminating thoughts and channel your energy in the right direction, toward infusing your marriage with greater excellence, appreciation and focus on the gift of a "happy and gratifying" relationship (which would be the dream and envy of so many).

How to do it?

First, recognize that the thoughts you allow yourself to think don't just happen to you. This is a choice that you make. While it's true that we can't control the myriad of thoughts that bombard us moment to moment, we do choose the thoughts that we want to engage and allow to take residence in our head. Remember that you are the thinker. You are the host. You can deny any given thought entry when it knocks at your mind's door.

Some may be very insistent (the ones unleashed by the yetzer hara always are), but you can very firmly and consistently affirm that "this is not the bus I am going to take today." You are all too familiar with its undesirable destination and it's not where you want to go. Drop it. Let it go. Move on to something else -- read a book, bake a cake, call a friend, take a walk, visit an old age home, attend a class, etc. Distract yourself and do whatever it takes not to indulge the thought. This is learned behavior and with time it will become easier.

Be assured, dear reader, that you and your family will be the beneficiaries of your efforts. The greatest blessing we can aspire to is the presence of God in our midst. Since the Almighty's essence is oneness, He cannot dwell in a fragmented, divided and conflicted context. Only unity of person, being "together" of one mind, mirrors God's essence and invites His presence, accompanied by its myriad of gifts -- peace, tranquility and true joy. I wish you the best of luck.

June 16, 2007

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Visitor Comments: 14

(13) Anonymous, May 3, 2012 3:32 PM

painful marriage

I too have this. I think about being married to someone else. I do this because for years my husband made me feel inadequate. Now he is/is trying to change and trying so hard. Yet, I just don't feel interested anymore, want to move on. But we have 6 children so I don't have a choice. I just hope I can one day love him. But right now, just going through the motions and keep daydreaming of another guy going through a divorce who helped me stand up for myself. He is not interested but my yetzer hara keeps my mind traveling and thinking about "what if" in the future and not excited to be with my husband. So sad. If would have changed years ago, if I had communicated how he was hurting me. But I only did this after this guy helped me see what he was doing to me.

(12) Anonymous, August 28, 2007 11:38 AM

Been there

I have been married for 23 years. I have had an out of state 'friend' for over 30 years. We have been supportive of each other through his two marriages and divorces and some ups and downs in my life and his. We were close because we had shared so much of our lives. I believe that in many respects we loved each other. I believed he wished that I would leave my marriage, though he never came out and asked me, in fact, he often said that he would not want to interfere in that way. Feeling that he may have felt otherwise, I wrote to him saying not to worry, that I had no intention of leaving my husband. After that, my 'friend' gently and firmly told me he was disappointed and to have a nice life. I have not heard from him since. At first, I was heart broken. In fact, I grieved for a few weeks. This made me realize that what was happening between us was not a good thing for me or for my marriage, otherwise I would not have been so devastated when the friendship ended. This has allowed me to refocus on both my friendship and my love relationship with my husband, which has brought us closer. When thoughts of the other man try to creep through I try to refocus on my healthy and happy love marriage. Once again, my 'friend' was a friend first and in the end, did me a big favor.

(11) Anonymous, July 5, 2007 5:43 PM

I thought I was alone.

Thank you I really thought I was alone. I always dream of the man I was with before my husband. I truly loved that man and thought he was my soul mate. Unfortunatly things did not work out with him and fortunatly I met my husband. But after almost 14 yrs together I am still haunted by dreams of my ex boyfreind. I have 3 beautiful children with my husband and would like to be able to devote all my energy on my mmy present and future life and not dwell into the past.

Gaby, November 21, 2011 5:41 PM


I have the exact same problem, although ive been married for a much shorter time. I love my husband and i have a great marriage, but i still think about my ex. I wasnt happy with my ex, but like you, i also loved him greatly and thought he was my soulmte. I am hunted by thoughts of how the story had a sad ending and how i wish i could "resolve" it, although we re both married with children, which shows me it is really resolved. It is truly disturbing.

(10) Anonymous, June 28, 2007 4:12 AM

Dear Aish,

Thank you very much for the article 'The other man'.
I also encountered the same problem of the 'The other man' for over 15 years. Your article is a blessing to me. It has washed off every evil thoughts in my heart. God bless you indeed, I have printed it out for a friend of mind that we share the same problem. keep on doing your good work. Bless you.

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