Dear Dr. Yael,
I think it is imperative that you print this letter because this is an ongoing problem in many families. In these families, the children stay in their parents’ summer home for the entire summer, and everyone is supposed to live happily under one roof. This can get difficult if a brother-in-law picks on his sister-in-law or vice versa. This past summer my brother-in-law called me names, causing many hurt feelings.
My brother-in-law constantly teased me because he saw me as an easy target. It doesn’t matter if my skirt is not long enough, if my lifestyle is different than his, and if I sometimes wear less tzniusdik (modest) clothes. I am sure that I am not the only one living like this.
Every family has their own story about how some squabble happened and how someone got hurt. In-laws must realize they must be nice to each other, and that a brother-in-law can’t just tease his sister-in-law or brother-in-law simply because she/he is different. Bottom line: in-laws must respect each other.
A Hurt Sister-in-Law
Thank you for your letter. It is true that sometimes families are a little overcrowded in summer homes, and this can cause sibling/in-law rivalry. This can pose many problems, and some of them may include in-laws becoming too close. While being in the country for the summer is very relaxing and peaceful, it also causes a lot of difficulties for many families. I hope this letter helps people realize that they need to be sensitive to others.
Just because someone is different than you does not mean that you have the right to be unkind to that individual. Sinas chinam (hatred for no reason) is what caused the Beis HaMikdash to be destroyed, and teasing or saying hurtful things only perpetuates that sinas chinam.
On the other hand, although your brother-in-law went about it the wrong way, maybe he was trying to tell you something. While you are entitled to lead your own life, you also have to be respectful toward others. Is it possible that you were wearing inappropriate clothing in your in-laws’/parents’ house? Is it possible that your brother-in-law felt uncomfortable and was trying to let you know in a “joking” way? I have no idea if this was the case, as I do not have any further details. However, it is important to be dan lekaf zechus (give people the benefit of the doubt), and to think about why someone would act in this manner.
Since you mentioned that you were wearing a shorter skirt than what was seemingly acceptable to him and that your brother-in-law lives differently than you, maybe he felt awkward. Nevertheless, even if this was the case, I think that your brother-in-law went about this the wrong way. So, dear readers, please be sensitive to others’ feelings and be respectful of others. Hatzlachah!
Dear Dr. Respler,
Everyone is addicted to something – some to chocolate, some to shoes, some to shopping, some to movies or videos, and some even to spy novels. I am also a chassidishe woman who loves to read period romance novels. From the husband’s recent letter to you, in which he writes that it is his wife’s “escape from reality,” I could not agree with her more. I have a great marriage with five beautiful children – and I work.
At the end of the day or week, all I want to do is unwind. I love reading about things that will never happen to me because I am a frum woman. This lets us dream and not, chas v’shalom, compare. The same way some watch movies to “escape from reality,” we read books. I do agree that staying up late reading these books can have a negative affect; thus my husband gently takes the book away and closes the light.
But to tell the husband to buy “kosher” novels (or inspirational books, for that matter) for his wife is the worst thing the husband can do. (Trust me: if she wanted these types of books, she would buy them herself.) She will start to resent him. I felt this way until my husband realized that he cannot force his books on me.
Let us women have something to escape to – after a long day at home or work, dealing with the house, laundry, supper, homework, bath time, bedtime and spending some time with our husbands. It’s a nice escape!
A Dedicated Reader
Dear Dedicated Reader:
I received several similar responses. I understand your dilemma. Every person needs a way to unwind and relax after a long or hard day. Reading novels can be used in a proper way without going to an extreme. It is quite obvious from your letter that since you are reading only “after a long day at home or work, dealing with the house, laundry, supper, homework, bath time, bedtime and spending some time with our husbands,” you fall into that group.
The problem arises when the reading becomes obsessive to the point that people do not do the work they are supposed to be doing, such as taking care of their children and home. Such an “escape from reality” is extremely unhealthy and, rather than “unwinding,” this kind of addiction can destroy a family. As to whether reading romance novels is appropriate for you on a spiritual level, please discuss this with your personal rav – as they are the most qualified to deal with such an issue. Hatzlachah in raising your beautiful family and thank you for writing!
Dr. Yael Respler will be speaking at the Nevele Hotel over Sukkos. For further information, call Rabbi Mutty Katz at 718-755-9864.
Dr. Respler will be running her two concluding evening workshops for married women of all ages after Sukkos. The groups will be split into two age groups – 20-40 and 40+. These workshops will teach shalom bayis tips and information on the intimate relationship in accordance with Halacha. Improve your marriage by taking this workshop! Call 718-259-4965 for further information.
Dr. Respler’s DVD/CD-Rom/Video, Chutzpah is Muktzah 2, is available in Judaica stores throughout the U.S., Canada and other countries. Toddlers and children will benefit from its excellent promotion of derech eretz.
Dr. Yael Respler is a psychotherapist in private practice who provides marital, dating and family counseling, and deals with problems in the intimate marital relationship. Dr. Respler utilizes cognitive-behavior therapy and hypnosis for phobias, smoking cessation, anger management and weight loss. Dr. Respler is available for speaking engagements. She can be reached at 718-259-4965 or at DearDrYael@aol.com. Orit Respler-Herman received her Psy.D. in Child-Clinical Psychology at Pace University, and will be assisting Dr. Respler with research in her column.