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September 2, 2014 / 7 Elul, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Dear Anonymous’

Easing The Trauma Of Divorce

Thursday, November 15th, 2012

Dear Dr. Respler:

I am currently involved in a yearlong custody battle over my three children, who are all under the age of 10. I did not want or provoke this situation. My wife – with limited success – continues to enlist the children over to her side in her declared war on me. I, on the other hand, advise them that this fight is not their problem and that they should stay out of it. I tell them that they are totally innocent, and that they should honor and love both parents.

During my visitation time, I play with them, read to them, cook for them and do school work with them. In short, I do everything the children need, even those things that are traditionally done by mothers.

The children appreciate what I do for them. However, their mother is constantly trying to get them to see things her way. She tells them that they should help her get their visits with me curtailed because, in her words, “fathers don’t know how to take care of children,” and “mothers know how to better take care of children.”

What amazes me most is the percentage of people that share that line of thinking. Rabbis who are affiliated with batei din and marriage counselors who ought to know better have this underlying, forgiving attitude toward mothers – in spite of the children’s needs. Statements like “it is not right to take children away from a mother,” or “children need a mother,” or “children always go with the mother,” or the famous “mothers take better care of children” are commonly offered as so-called self-evident truths. This even applies to fathers who have always been thoroughly involved in their children’s development. Custody is only given to a father (very reluctantly) when there is absolutely no alternative. And when that happens, people see it as unfair.

I find that women almost blindly sympathize with the mother in these situations and are not interested in the facts. They immediately assume that the husband, the beis din, the courts and the lawyers are a bunch of clever villains while the poor mother and her lawyer are the victims.

I wonder if all these people know what divorcing mothers frequently do. They destroy the fathers’ image in the children’s eyes, in order for them to be totally dependant on the mother. They teach their children to lie to, and steal from, their father. They coach them into making false accusations against their father, saying, “The more bad things that you say about Tatty the better.” They inform the children of accusations made by the father against the mother in court and sometimes even show them court papers, in order to arouse their sympathy and sway them to their side.

In a nutshell, many mothers teach their children to betray their father.

My goal in writing this letter is to remind people that when they judge a divorce situation – which really should never be done – they need to consider the best interests of the children more than is sometimes done and to remember that there are no “self-evident truths” in divorce cases.

Sincerely,

Anonymous

Dear Anonymous:

I hear your pain and feel for you. While much of what you say is true, unfortunately, there are many fathers who play the same game and speak negatively about the mother of their children – to their children. No parent should use a child as a pawn in a divorce situation. To better the odds that a child from a divorced home will become more successful in future life endeavors, couples must work on keeping things amicable rather than stormy. The research of Wallerstein and Kelly makes this point very clear.

It is unfortunate that there are situations in which divorce is the only option. However, the process is incredibly painful for the children involved and parents must make every attempt to ensure that the children feel safe and secure – and that their needs are the priority for both parents.

In our practices, both Orit and I have seen the devastating effect of the trauma on children. For my part, I counsel parents on how to be more effective with their children in all situations. We work hard teaching parents how to imbue derech eretz in their children. Nonetheless, all these wonderful techniques are often ineffectual in a home filled with pain and strife.

From Depression To Happiness

Friday, October 5th, 2012

Dear Dr. Yael:

I am a man in my 50s who, Baruch Hashem, has had a good life. I am married with children and grandchildren and was always a happy-go-lucky person, thankful for all the berachot bestowed on me.

This year, though, has been very difficult for me, with many family and personal problems. I have begun to experience something that I have never really had before: depression. Out of nowhere I begin to feel upset and anxious, and I do not know what to do to get rid of these feelings. I have never been a negative or sad person and I don’t know how to return to my old self. I try to think more positively but my mind always starts to find the negative aspects, and it often snowballs and makes me feel more and more depressed. I do not know how to get out of this cycle or how to be more upbeat. I do not want to feel this way, yet find myself returning to depressing thoughts more and more. Please help!

Anonymous

Dear Anonymous:

Without having a chance to sit and meet with you, it is hard to say exactly what your issue is. However, it is possible that you are experiencing either an adjustment disorder with depressed and anxious mood or feeling some dysphoria. Both of these disorders can be similarly treated. Your thoughts seem to negatively impact the way you feel and this in turn makes you think more negatively – and subsequently you feel worse. As you noted, it is a difficult cycle to end. The most important thing to do now is to go for professional help before you get worse. Here are some ideas I believe will be helpful:

One helpful Cognitive-Behavioral Strategy is to restructure your thoughts. In order to do this, you must ask yourself questions. For example, what’s the argument for and against a particular thought? What would I tell a friend in the same situation? Is there any way to look at this positively? Is thinking about this helping me or making the situation worse?

Try to rationally think about the truth. Chances are that you are having cognitive distortions that make you overgeneralize, thus painting a limited occurrence with a broad brush (e.g., believing that if just one problem arises, your life then becomes problematic or terrible). You might also be personalizing things, like when someone ascribes an external event to himself when there is, in reality, no connection between the person and the event. (An example of this is when a stranger or aquaintance is rude to you and you incorrectly conclude that you must have done something to cause the person’s rudeness.)

Another possibility is that you are making arbitrary inferences, creating – with no supporting information – a not necessarily correct conclusion (not necessarily the right one) in a certain situation. An example of this is when – despite no actual information to support his or her belief – a person believes that someone either does not like him or her or that the person believes him or her to be a horrible person. All of these cognitive distortions are untrue and unhealthy because it causes the one with this condition to have a negative self-view.

In therapy the first thing a client will learn is how to identify these problematic thoughts which in addition to increasing depression and anxiety, also reduce a person’s ability to cope with his or her environment. If you are theoretically able to identify when you are doing this and are then able to replace these thoughts with a more realistic view, you will begin to feel better.

The next step is for you to practice replacing these negative thoughts. Some therapists ask their clients to write down specific thoughts, when they took place and how he or she felt at that time. Then they are asked to think of a replacement thought that is more realistic to the situation and to rate how that thought would make them feel. It starts out as an exercise, but hopefully over time you will begin second-guessing these negative distortions and replacing them with more positive, realistic thoughts that engender more positive feelings. It is never helpful for anyone to think negatively, even if a situation is not a positive one.

The Secret of Turning Misery into Happiness

Friday, September 28th, 2012

Dear Dr. Respler:

By writing this letter I hope that my pain and frustration will cease.

While growing up, my mother had a tough and determined nature and always had the whip in hand when running the family. Contrary to her, my father was always kind, giving and forgiving.

My family was moderately Orthodox, but gradually my mother became more haredi. She changed her style of dress in conformity with the haredi dress code. She then forced all of us to become haredi.

I was about the age of 12, not too old (but still not too young) to willingly change. In all due respect to my mother, she impatiently forced and tortured me to change. She labeled me as the modern, “goyish” one. Her strictness, hitting and threats made me cry. I once felt like I was about to have a nervous breakdown but, baruch Hashem, it did not happen. All this led me to begin despising what I considered to be a lifestyle of frum meshugasim.

At 14 I was sent to a well-known yeshiva in Israel where I got some relief – but only a little. Whenever I called or came home, I was heavily criticized. My mother constantly saw me as a non-Jew.

In my mind, I hoped that life would sparkle when I got married. At least then I’d live my own life. When shadchanim started calling, I made it clear to my mom that with my greatest appreciation to her, I had a duty to outline my own independent future that was not parallel to hers. I begged her to please bring forth love and peace to my life and to find someone with whom I had more in common. I wanted a wife that would not dress or act as frum as my mother. As you can expect, she immediately refused, telling me that this was not an option. She decided that my wife would be just like her – including n the way she dressed.

Feeling like a prisoner, I went along with a shidduch she wanted for me. Baruch Hashem, the girl was sweet and beloved. But I held out hope that after the wedding I’d be able to ask my wife to gradually change. I knew this could cause problems, but I was hopeful.

Sadly, after 12 years of marriage and six children, my situation is the same; my wife is unwilling to change. As a matter of fact, contrary to what I had hoped for, the opposite is happening: my wife wants me to change. She says that I am too modern and should become more frum.

On the positive side we both understand each other’s position. I appreciate her for her good middos, and she appreciates me for studying Torah. But arguments about our differences abound, and our lives are so miserable – filled with darkness and seemingly no light at the end of the tunnel.

Dr. Respler, please help me. Thank you.
Anonymous

Dr. Yael and Dr. Orit reply:

Dear Anonymous:

Despite our best intentions to help bring an end to your pain, it is unrealistic for you to expect us to do so based on an anonymous letter. Nonetheless we will do our best to deal with the issues you raised in a general manner, while at the same time suggest that you seek professional help and speak to a rav that you trust.

The fact that your wife has good middos is probably more important than you realize. You appear to have many correct values and it seems that much of what you are upset about revolves around other issues that have little to do with your inner feelings. Are these issues really important to you? Do you think that you can reach some sort of compromise with your wife, where you meet somewhere in the middle regarding the other issues?

You write about being miserable in your marriage, but that does not come from disagreements about “some issues.” When did the way people dress and act become everything we stand for? Do you and your wife share any of the same views? Of course you will have challenges if you want to raise your children differently from each other and if you have different views on Yiddishkeit, but if you want to remain frum (which seems apparent from your letter) and both of you are willing to compromise there is no reason to allow these issues to make your lives miserable.

What Can Prevent Marriage

Thursday, August 23rd, 2012

Dear Dr. Respler:

I notice a certain unfortunate trend. People who lose a parent at a young age often stay single for a long time – or, unfortunately, do not marry at all. This was first pointed out to me at a sheva berachos in the fall of 2011. My internal thought was that the person who lost his father when he (the son) was just 28 – which, in my opinion, is an age when one should be able to function on one’s own – was simply looking for an excuse to rationalize why he had not yet gotten married.

I then reflected about a few other people whom I know, all over 30, who are still single – but I still was not convinced. I have another friend who, unfortunately, has no parents and does not expect to get married. All of these situations caused me to start thinking that it was possible that the aforementioned person’s rationalization was not just an excuse.

Very recently a non-Jewish colleague, in his early 50s, was asked by our client if he was married. He responded that he wasn’t, as his father died when he was a young teenager. As this answer came from a non-Jew living in the secular world, I began to think that maybe there is in fact a general correlation between losing a parent at a young age and not getting married – or marrying later in life. Following my colleague’s insight, I had a date with a young lady who lost her father when she was young; she is one of four unmarried children.

My sister, brother, and I lost our father, a”h, when we were in elementary school. Baruch Hashem, my sister is happily married. My brother and I still have not found our basherts. Could it be that since parents may be one’s emotional and financial anchors, orphans have a very hard time getting married? Could it be that since orphans do not have both their parents to rely on, they have a hard time getting married? Could it be that since kol hatchalot kashot (all beginnings are hard), not having both your parents at the early stages of one’s growth makes it much harder for orphans to get married? Or maybe there’s a totally different reason why orphans have a hard time getting married.

Or am I totally off the mark on all this?

Anonymous This answer was written by both Dr. Yael and Dr. Orit:

Dear Anonymous:

Thank you for taking the time to contact us. It was courageous of you to discuss this personal and painful issue in writing.

When one loses a parent, one experiences deep pain. When someone goes through a trauma early in life, it can affect him or her in many different ways. Specifically, the early death of a parent influences a child’s development.

Additionally, children experience their grief yet again as they reach every developmental milestone. Thus, it stands to reason that when reaching the milestones of dating and marriage, people go through their grief again. It is important for a person in this situation to seek professional help in order to work through this complicated emotional process.

Research has shown that losing a parent between the ages of five and nine is perhaps the most challenging time for the child, as it is the most vulnerable and difficult developmental stage. Children at that age think practically, and have a hard time understanding abstract thinking. They often feel that the parent’s death is their fault and that if they behave, their parent may return. A child aged five-nine who experiences the trauma of a parent’s death needs to speak with someone who can clarify what the child is thinking and feeling, and who can reframe events to make them more logical. The child also needs someone who can help build his or her self-esteem, namely by praising the child’s accomplishments and by highlighting his or her importance. Even just having someone listen to his or her ideas and helping the child understand what he or she is going through can be extremely beneficial.

Perhaps children are afraid to enter into another loving relationship when they lose someone they love so deeply. This could be because they are subconsciously afraid of losing someone else they would care for so deeply – namely a future spouse. By not committing to a marital partner, they do not risk ever experiencing the extent of pain they endured when losing their parent. While this may sound a little extreme, it can truly take place in a subconscious way.

Ignoring The Hurtful Comments Of Others

Friday, July 27th, 2012

Dear Dr. Yael:

I am, Baruch Hashem a happily married woman of 10 years with two children. As I am trying to expand my family, it seems that Hashem has other plans for me (my husband and I have not been able to conceive another child). Of course we want more children, but we can only do our hishtadlus and leave the rest up to Hashem.

Many painful questions and comments are often said to me about my situation. Well-meaning family members say, “Nu, what are you waiting for? You’re not getting any younger.” Do people seriously think that we are choosing to wait? Even if that were the case, why is it anyone’s business what we do with our life?

I try to put on a brave smile and say something like,” B’ezras Hashem, we will have more children soon” – but inside I am falling apart. Why don’t people understand that just because a couple has two children does not mean that they are not experiencing fertility issues? Baruch Hashem, my husband and I are lucky to have two children without any outside interventions, but now even with outside interventions, we are having a hard time conceiving. I know that I should be grateful for the children we have and that I should focus on life’s positive aspects, but these comments by family and strangers are really starting to get to me.

What am I supposed to say to nosy people who make inappropriate comments? My parents and in-laws know what is going on, but we do not feel comfortable sharing our intimate details with extended family, friends and neighbors. Our siblings and close friends understand that we are going through a difficult time, but other “well-meaning” individuals do not seem to be as quick to catch on. How do I politely tell these people that my private life is none of their business? I cannot take the stares at my belly or the not-so-subtle comments any longer!

Anonymous

Dear Anonymous:

It is very difficult for couples struggling with infertility; especially frum couples who are expected to have many children within a short amount of time. Unfortunately, well-meaning people often say very inappropriate things. Some simply do not know the right thing to say, while others are nosy and tactless.

It may be helpful to be upfront and say, “I appreciate your concern, but I would rather not talk about it.” If someone continues to press you for information, you can say something like, “I will be sure to let you know when the time is appropriate.” Then you can smile and walk away as quickly as possible. It is unfair that you have to bear these questions and remain polite, but maintaining your composure will generally be more productive for you in the long run. If the inquiring person is someone you see often or is someone with whom you are close, you may want to be more direct in order to avoid having to deal with constant questions and comments. Perhaps you can say something like, “I know that you are trying to be helpful, but it is very painful for me to talk about this subject. Please just continue to daven for me and do not ask me any questions. I will be sure to let you know if I have any good news.” If that person continues to ask questions and make comments, it may be better to lessen your contact with him or her so that you do not have to experience continuous anguish.

To those asking these questions and staring at women’s stomachs, please be more sensitive and think before you talk. I have many clients who struggle with infertility, and describe in therapy how hurtful it is for them to endure these inappropriate stares and comments. Try your hardest to not look anywhere near a woman’s stomach and to just treat infertile couples like you would everyone else. You should not be forcing anyone to deal with the elephant in the room; they know its there and your bringing it up is only hurtful. There are so many other topics to talk about, and most couples struggling with infertility would appreciate not being singled out and victimized with thoughtless comments and questions.

Improving One’s Mood

Friday, July 6th, 2012

Dear Dr. Yael:

For the most part, my husband is a very good husband and father. He loves our children and will often go out of his way to make sure their needs are met. He is also loving and good to me. However, he often comes home with a very negative attitude. When he arrives home from work, he sees nothing good. He criticizes the children for not being in pajamas or for not finishing their homework. Even if he is right on both counts, he does not convey his criticism appropriately or at the right time.

When my husband comes home, he should be excited and happy to see the children and me. I want him to be positive and loving and to notice all the good things the children have done. I want my children to be excited when my husband comes home, and not want to go to their rooms as soon as possible. While I don’t blame the children for not wanting to be around when my husband is acting negatively, I wish my husband would be more positive so that the children would look forward to his return home. I do not think that they dread his coming home from work; however, they are definitely learning to stay away from him.

I know my husband works hard and wants time to relax after a long day. But the children miss him and want his attention. What can I do to help my husband come home with a happier attitude?

Anonymous

Dear Anonymous:

It is difficult to ascertain why your husband is coming home in such a bad mood. Perhaps he is hungry and tired from a long day at work and wants to relax a little when he gets home. Maybe he is experiencing a lot of stress at work and is bringing it home with him. Or it’s possible that he just grew up in this kind of home and is recreating what he went through. If your husband is simply tired or hungry, or just wants some time to relax when he comes home, you will be able to easily remedy your situation.

When he is calm and not hungry, you can explain to him, in a gentle and loving manner, that he seems to be coming home in a very bad mood. It may be something he doesn’t even realize is happening. Ask him why he thinks this is. If he says that he does not know, ask him if he is having a hard time at work or if he is extremely hungry or tired when he returns home. If he says that he is hungry, one solution may be to send an extra snack with him to work, so he does not come home with an empty stomach.

Making your husband aware of this – in a non-accusatory way – is a step in the right direction. If your husband becomes defensive, make sure to remain calm and tell him that you know that he is a great husband and father. Assure him that you want to help him feel better when he comes home.

Devising a plan that works for both of you is key. It would be ideal if your husband could think of a solution, as people are generally more invested in something when it is their idea. So, even if you originate the jointly accepted idea, try to make it seem as if he came up with it. If he expresses a liking to your suggestion, say to him, “What a great idea. I like how you thought of it.” And if your husband is not on board with your idea, then make every effort to jointly create a plan of positive action.

Attempt to explain to your husband how hard you try to have things organized during the hectic period before he gets home, and that you get nervous when he comes home feeling unhappy. Using an “I feel” message generally helps people not to become defensive, as it puts the “blame” on you and not on the other person. Thus, saying things like “I feel bad when you come home upset. I want you to be happy to come home and I want the children to feel good about the time they spend with you. What can I do to help make this time easier for you?” would be helpful. This will likely make it easier for your husband to explain to you what is going on with him at the present time, and it will help you arrive at a solution together. Also, this is generally more effective than saying something like, “Why do you always have to be in a bad mood when you come home? It is extremely annoying and obnoxious, and I want you to stop it!” These ineffective comments will probably lead to a fight, and although you may release your frustration you will likely feel worse afterward.

Craving A Wife’s Emotions

Thursday, June 21st, 2012

Dear Dr. Yael:

My wife, who takes good, loving care of our children and is very generous with her time, has a closed nature. It is not in her character to pay compliments or show appreciation. While she tries valiantly to never raise her voice to the children or me and works hard to always speak with derech eretz, I yearn to hear her tell me that she loves me – although I know that she does. I keep trying to be giving and warm her, exhibiting what I want in return, but I am usually disappointed. After seven years of marriage, I see some changes – but they are very slight. I crave more openness and warmth from my wife.

Her family is less expressive than mine. My family is emotionally open and we often express how much we care for one another. My in-laws never really say, “I love you,” and so I know that is what she grew up with, but I want my wife to be more like my family and me. I want our children to be warm and expressive, and although they definitely bring out my wife’s limited warmth I still feel that she has a long way to go in this area. I am not trying to be critical because I love my wife and am very happily married, Baruch Hashem. However, her lack of openness sometimes frustrates me. I don’t always want to be the one who starts loving conversations, I want her to learn to trust me with her vulnerabilities by telling me more often how she feels. How can I help her overcome this closed nature?

A Loving Husband

Dear Loving Husband:

Family nature is significant and often contagious. Thus if your wife grew up in a family that was not expressive with their feelings, sharing her feelings with others will likely make her uncomfortable. Over the years it has become clear to me that people tend to subconsciously emulate the way they were raised. I applaud your continuous giving and warmth, but although modeling the behavior is very helpful, it would also be valuable for you to have an honest conversation with your wife about your feelings. In a warm and loving manner, consider saying the following to her:

“I really love you and treasure our relationship. I appreciate all the time and effort that you put into bringing up our children and caring our home, and the way you support and take care of me – as well as the derech eretz you have always shown me. I know that in your own way you try to be there for me. But you cannot imagine how much I crave your warmth and loving words. I know it is hard for you, but maybe you can try to initiate speaking to me in a loving and warm manner. It would mean so much to me.”

It is important that you try to be patient, as this is not something that can be changed easily. You may have to bring this up a number of times, always in a gentle and caring way – and never in a manner that is accusatory or nagging. It may even be a good idea to give your wife some examples of things she could say that would make you feel good.

You both may feel uncomfortable the first few times she says what you suggested, but it will become more ingrained in you both as time goes on. Think of the famous lesson, mitoch she’lo lishma, ba lishma – from doing something habitually, you may come to do it for Hashem’s sake. Even if your wife initially speaks more lovingly to you because you requested that she do so, she will become more comfortable speaking in this manner over time. And in due course it will become like second nature to her – as well as more meaningful.

Focus on the positive qualities that you acknowledge your wife displays. Be patient with her while continuing to be loving and warm, even if she is not initiating the types of conversations you are craving. You mentioned that there your wife has already demonstrated some change, so what you are doing is working, and she is really trying.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/family/marriage-relationships/craving-a-wifes-emotions/2012/06/21/

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