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Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities – 1/15/10

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Dear Rachel,

I think you missed something important in your response to In need of some TLC (Chronicles 12-18-09). By waiting until the end of the day on her birthday to ask her husband if he knows the significance of the day, she is setting him up for a “gotcha” situation. It is not abnormal, nor is it an indication of a lack of caring, for busy people with many conflicting priorities to lose track of or to forget significant dates, even with the best of intentions.

As a mother, I certainly care about my [married] children, and I’ll remember a week or two in advance that a birthday is coming up. However, when the day actually arrives, I usually have so much else going on that the birthday temporarily drops off my radar screen and I end up calling my son/daughter a day or two later excusing myself for my lateness.

Why shouldn’t In Need’s husband react negatively when she expresses her contempt for him in such an open manner? No one likes to be put down.

She would be a lot wiser to start dropping comments a week or two before the event, to the effect that her birthday or their anniversary is going to be “next whatever day”. This will give him a heads-up so that he can be adequately prepared and ultimately feel good about himself, and she can then be pleased by his efforts and the fact that he remembered. She should further express her appreciation to him. That is what one would call a win-win situation. Both end up feeling good about the outcome and about themselves, instead of each of them feeling unappreciated.

People have a tendency to live up to expectations. If the message her husband receives constantly is her contempt for him and her lack of confidence in his ability to please her, he will fulfill that expectation. On the other hand, if she can convey a positive message, that she believes in him and knows that he wants to take good care of her, then he will want to live up to that expectation and belief.

She would be wise to give him some TLC and she may be surprised to find that she will receive it from him in return.

A Wise Granny

Dear Rachel,

I don’t have the problem In need of some TLC has. (The writer complained about her husband’s lack of attentiveness in remembering special days.)

In fact, I recently had a birthday and my husband secretly planned to surprise me with a piece of jewelry. He enlisted our teenage daughter to pick out a necklace and they went to much trouble and expense to acquire it.

Rachel, this may sound petty and mean-spirited of me, but I hated the necklace. And I let him know it! It was totally not my taste and I was peeved that he went to such lengths to get me something I wouldn’t be caught dead in. Besides, I neither wanted nor needed one to start with.

Suffice it to say that he was not exactly thrilled by my reaction. Who in his place would have been? But what was I supposed to do under the circumstance – fake it and tell him how beautiful it was and wear it? Or gush and then stuff it in the back of some drawer and never wear it?

I think he should have asked me what I wanted for my birthday. I would have told him that I didn’t need a necklace at all and would have preferred an iTouch iPod instead.

I wonder how other women in my shoes would have reacted?

Men, use your brain!

Dear Brain,

Oy! I have a feeling that Wise Granny (above) would have liked to give you an earful right about now, if only she could! Talk about expressing contempt for him “in such an open manner” and putting someone down.

Your mention of a teenaged daughter makes this whole thing even more incredulous: You’ve been married for a number of years and yet you haven’t been able to get your message across so that it wouldn’t come to this? And your daughter, a teenager yet, is so utterly clueless about her mother? Hard to believe!

Hate is a strong word. You could have exercised some restraint by expressing your appreciation at his thoughtfulness and then eased the conversation gently to “but you really shouldn’t have gone to so much trouble and expense!”

Before he would have had the chance to delve into the implication of your reaction, you could have cozied up to him and sweetly tried, “I really have my heart set on blah blah blah and don’t want to overburden our expense account. Would you mind terribly if I returned the necklace for now and took a rain check on a jewelry item?”

Not that you wouldn’t have disappointed him regardless, but at least the slap would not have been as stinging. Sometimes it’s not what you say but how you go about conveying your thoughts.

I can’t help wondering which aspect drove you to verbalize your disappointment so outspokenly: Was it the fact that the necklace was not to your liking, or was it your penchant for the latest in the electronic gadget craze?

When have we become so spoiled as to place a higher value on non-essential materialism than on the sensitivities of others, let alone our loved ones? Aren’t we losing track of our priorities?

How indeed would our other readers have reacted? I’m almost afraid to find out.

About the Author: We encourage women and men of all ages to send in their personal stories via email to rachel@jewishpress.com or by mail to Rachel/Chronicles, c/o The Jewish Press, 4915 16th Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11204. If you wish to make a contribution and help agunot, your tax-deductible donation should be sent to The Jewish Press Foundation. Please make sure to specify that it is to help agunot, as the foundation supports many worthwhile causes.


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