“H ello, is this Shoshana Schwartz?”

“Yes.”

“My name is Chaim. I’m a life coach, and a neighbor of Moshe Cohen. His wife, Devorah, is in treatment in Mifgashim, your outpatient center.”

“Um, how can I help you?” I asked.

“I’d like to discuss Devorah’s treatment program. Do you know her?”

Whether I knew her or not, I’d never answer such a question. But since I work in Retorno’s main campus, not the outpatient center, there was no need for evasiveness. I suggested he speak with the director of Mifgashim.

He refused and dove in. “Devorah has taken a certain approach toward her husband, recommended by your staff. It’s been several months, and she doesn’t budge. It’s harming their marriage, and I’d like you to explain this approach.”

“I can only speak generally. Women in Mifgashim are either codependent with husbands who are addicts, or they themselves have an addiction.”

“I don’t think she’s an addict, and he’s certainly not one.”

“How do you know?”

“I’m a life coach,” he said. “I’d know.”

“What if he’s addicted to gambling? Or work?”

There was a long pause, then, “Ah. Well, even if he is an addict, this approach… it’s not normal.”

“Not normal for whom?”

“For anyone.”

“Do you have experience with addicts?”

“Well, no, but…”

I wished I could’ve introduced him to Temima.

I was folding the last load before Shabbos when my phone rang. I barely got out a “hello.”

“I can’t do this!” Temima cried. “I’m so scared!”

“What are you scared of?” I asked.

“Staying in this awful marriage. Getting divorced. Being with him. Being a single mother.” I could barely make out the words between sobs.

“It hurts so much! But…” she gulped for air, “I’d rather be divorced than be a verbal punching bag. I’ve grown. I know I have value. I told Adam I’m willing to work everything out, all I ask is that we go to couple’s therapy.”

“What’d he say?”

“He stormed out. I started thinking, What tools can I use now? Then he came back. He said, ‘You want to know why I’m upset? Because you never listen, you blame me for everything and—’ ” Temima stopped suddenly.

“And…?”

“I took a deep breath, looked him square in the eyes, and said, ‘I hear you’re angry, and I’ll be happy to discuss this with you when you’re calm. I can’t listen while you’re screaming.’ ”

“Wow,” I said. “Wow.”

“So he raised his voice another notch. I repeated, ‘I can’t listen while you’re screaming’ and started to walk out of the room.”

I tossed my laundry aside and sat down.

“I reached the door. He starts slamming drawers. I couldn’t help myself, I hesitated. All my old fears came rushing back. What if he leaves and never comes back? What if he does something stupid or dangerous? (Excerpted from Family First, Issue 562)