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April 20, 2014 / 20 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Dear Anonymous’

The Truth Always Wins Out

Friday, June 15th, 2012

Dear Dr. Respler:

When I read your May 25 column, Making Peace With Your Mother-In-Law, I started to cry, as I knew that the letter signer (Heartbroken Daughter-in-Law) was my daughter-in-law. We always discuss your column, and I guess it was her way of delivering a message to me.

Now here’s my side of the story. Other than acknowledging that I am the mother-in-law in that column, I will not supply any other details, so that no one will be able to identify me. Before the ballgame my daughter-in-law referred to, I was diagnosed with cancer. My situation has the doctors in a quandary. Some want to operate; others are opting for radiation/chemotherapy. They all agree that since it is early-stage cancer, surgery is preferable; however, due to my other health problems, they are uncertain that I would survive the surgery. Therefore, they are leaving the decision to me.

The diagnosis came shortly before the situation concerning the ball game. My husband got another ticket since I said that I had never been to a ballgame and wanted to experience one before I died. As death is on my mind all the time, I was so upset that I forgot to tell my daughter-in-law not to come with the kids (as she usually does when our husbands go to ballgames) – assuming that she would be understanding of my request. She was shocked when she arrived with the kids. For my part, I was so upset with my entire situation that I probably did not handle her reaction too well. You’ll remember that my son was upset and went home with his wife and kids, missing the game. When he came over the next evening we invited him to dinner, since we wanted to discuss my medical condition with him alone. He invited his wife to join us, but I was not yet ready to tell my daughter-in-law. So we informed our son about my situation over dinner, begging him to keep this secret.

When reading the column, I realized how much pain I had caused my daughter-in-law, who I truly love. Only then did I understand how confused she was by my behavior. When I immediately called her and told her what was going on, she began to cry. Then she invited us to come for Shavuos.

I’m writing this letter after an amazing Yom Tov. My daughter-in-law prepared an incredible amount of food (she made all of my favorites), with all kinds of surprises. She tried so hard to make me feel special, and is saying extra Tehillim on my behalf. Many rabbanim to whom we’ve spoken have given us brachos and have told us not to go public, since a nes nistar (hidden miracle) is preferable to hoping for a nes galui (open miracle). Thus we’re being urged to keep my health situation a private matter.

I know that when you often write about onas devarim (hurtful speech), you always mention the book, Positive Word Power, by the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation. I realized that I engaged in onas devarim in the way I treated my daughter-in-law.

Thank you for running my daughter-in-law’s letter. I hope you run mine as well so people will know that there was another side to this story. (It will also help to improve our level of communication.) I wish to reiterate that I really love my daughter-in-law and have apologized for any pain I caused her. She is very upset about my circumstance, and with the love she has shown me I don’t know why I did not tell my son and daughter-in-law – together – about my plight.

I hope Hashem helps me overcome my situation.

Anonymous

Dear Anonymous:

Your letter was truly heart wrenching.

When I ran your daughter-in-law’s letter it did not fully make sense to me, as I knew that I was missing part of the picture. So I asked her to speak to you in order to better understand the full picture.

Your painful story has taught me the importance of knowing the other side of a story. Yehudis Samet wrote one of my favorite books, The Other Side Of The Story, in which she attempts to help people find a way to dan chavercha lekaf zechus (judge others favorably) in cases of miscommunication. I often recommend that book to others. Your story, in fact, highlights how we often don’t completely understand a given situation.

Understanding Post Partum Feelings

Thursday, May 17th, 2012

Dear Dr. Yael,

I gave birth a little over a year ago and, even though it was not my first child, I felt differently this time around. I have always been a happy-go-lucky person, but after having this baby I could not seem to return to my previous self. I was moody, short-tempered and gloomy. While some of these symptoms could have been chalked up to normal baby blues, they persisted and I was becoming scared.

I tried to tell myself that everything would be okay and that I just needed more sleep. This was partially true, but even when I got more sleep I didn’t feel like myself. After struggling for a few months, I decided to seek outside help. I was told that I was suffering from postpartum depression. This shocked me, as depression sounded serious. But I felt better knowing that there was a name for how I felt.

Since my depression was not severe (I was able to function and was not suicidal), I opted to try therapy and undergo an exercise regimen. Additionally, I made sure to get more sleep and not let myself become overwhelmed. In short, I learned to ask for help when I needed it.

I slowly began to heal and started seeing parts of myself return. With time, I no longer needed therapy. I still try to maintain my exercise routine and yes, I splurge more often on extra help than I formerly did because these things seem to help me keep my sanity.

Many women feel that they must be superwomen. I simply wish to tell them that while their feelings are understandable, they are not always realistic. If they have unusual feelings after giving birth, they should not think that those thoughts are just going to go away. Of course we all have bad days, but constant gloomy feelings are not normal – and no one should have to suffer in that way.

Please help others understand that postpartum depression is neither a death sentence nor an embarrassment. We all have things we need to work on, and if a new mother is feeling this way, she needs to seek help.

Anonymous

Dear Anonymous:

Thank you for your honest and important letter. Many people suffer from postpartum depression. And yes, there is a fine line between baby blues and postpartum depression. Baby blues (e.g. feeling mildly depressed and experiencing mood swings) after having a baby is extremely common, and most women experience these feelings. Symptoms include moodiness, sadness, difficulty sleeping, irritability, appetite changes and concentration problems. Baby-blues symptoms usually become evident a few days after giving birth and could last from several days to a few weeks. But sometimes the abovementioned symptoms are more severe and could last significantly longer than a few weeks. This is when, as you described above, it is time to seek outside assistance.

Here are some symptoms of postpartum depression:

· Lack of interest in your baby
· Negative feelings toward your baby
· Worrying about hurting your baby
· Lack of concern for yourself
· Loss of pleasure
· Lack of energy and motivation
· Feelings of worthlessness and guilt
· Changes in appetite or weight
· Sleeping more or less than usual
· Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide

Dear readers, if you are feeling suicidal or have significant negative feelings towards your baby, you need to seek medical help immediately. Certain anti-depressants can help alleviate these symptoms and can be used in conjunction with therapy, exercise, sleeping, and having some time for yourself, in order to conquer the depression. Please do not try to help yourself on your own if you are feeling these symptoms, as you are at risk of hurting yourself or your baby. I know that many people see depression as a weakness and an embarrassment, but it is not something you can control.

If you had strep throat, would you tell yourself to stop being so childish and instead pull yourself together? Would you be embarrassed to talk about antibiotics because other people will think less of you as a person? Of course not! Regardless of what some may think, mental health works the same way. If you are suffering from neurological or hormonal changes that are severely affecting your mood and functioning abilities, you need to take the necessary steps to get better.

Boundless Miracles Available For The Taking

Thursday, May 10th, 2012

Dear Dr. Respler:
The holidays are a great time to learn about ourselves – the good, the bad and the ugly – and then try to make lemonade from the lemons, turn the positive into building blocks, and generally create good things from the lessons learned. The Yamim Tovim are saturated with kedushah, leading to beautifully crafted creations from what one learned and experienced during these holy, spiritual days. While some believe that it is only through an actual, seen object that building blocks can be formed, a Torah-based experience can lead to the same result. This Pesach I came to believe that the seemingly impossible is possible and that miracles can happen.

No, I didn’t see Eliyahu HaNavi. No, a large sum of money was not mysteriously placed into my family’s bank account. This is not how I saw yad Hashem. This Yom Tov made me believe that I had, and continue to have, the koach to enrich people’s lives.

I like to think I was born with a good heart, always willing to care for and stand by those who were easy prey. But issues got in the way, making me cynical and angry – putting the aforementioned characteristic on hold. But, Baruch Hashem, a good marriage to a wonderful guy has reconnected me with this good trait, and over Pesach I clearly saw people’s contentment as a result of my heartfelt goodness toward them. To me, that was a miracle.

Prior to our Erev Pesach trek to family for the sedarim, on the way to the garage, my husband and I met up with a woman in our building. A few weeks before, she started to confide in me about difficulties in her life. She is Jewish but not frum, and I realized that she was disconnected from HaKadosh Baruch Hu in a great way. She said that family members were taking advantage of her in a business-related matter and she couldn’t understand why Hashem would allow this to happen. I told her that although it seemed as if these people had the upper hand and that there was no way justice could be meted out, Hashem had wondrous ways of righting things. I then introduced her to a book about emunah that was written for frum and non-frum people alike. So before we left to celebrate Pesach, the holiday that strengthens emunah, she came to me with book in hand, telling me how it was helping her deal with everything going on in her life. She called me her little messenger from God.

Thus Pesach started off on the right foot. Hashem was allowing me to see that I, who had grown cynical about the beauty of helping others, was again able to reach out and touch someone. What a beautiful present.

And on Pesach itself, I was able to continue easing people’s pain. My husband and I visited friends who were struggling spiritually. They were questioning basic tenets of Jewish faith. We were able to say a few things to them that hopefully served as food for thought, leading them in the right direction.

We also came into contact with an elderly frum woman who had complications in dealings with close family and friends. She was tired from preparing for Pesach and bemoaned the fact that they did not truly appreciate her hard work. We made her laugh and helped her to just enjoy the beautiful weather, good food and zemiros that, Baruch Hashem, this holiday was filled with. Watching her unwind and become able to see positive results from her pre-Pesach exertions was miraculous indeed. Prior to Pesach I heard a beautiful, positive thought from a rabbi, on a radio program. He said that Pesach is a time of nissim geluyim (open miracles). Purim was all about hidden miracles, as yad Hashem was revealed through what appeared to be coincidences. Pesach, though, is a holiday of holy days since Hashem saved us with open miracles – the Ten Plagues, the Splitting of the Sea, etc. Therefore, this rabbi continued, we need to recognize that this holiday (and, as I later learned, the entire month of Nissan) is a time when the very thing that one believes to be impossible can often come true – through prayer. There is a spiritual energy during these holy days and we would be remiss not to avail ourselves of this spiritual uplifting. Here’s how I think of it: Hashem built into these auspicious days proverbial treasure chests full of pearls, diamonds, emeralds, gold and silver that are ours for the taking. It would be silly not to partake in this opportunity.

I did not know of this phenomenon until this year; perhaps there are others who also did not know of this. But I want them to know that I made sure to pray for everyone, and I am sure that what klal Yisrael may have believed was beyond possible may indeed happen.

The Hazards Of Onas Devarim

Thursday, February 2nd, 2012

Dear Dr. Respler: I will never forget the following situation that happened to me in high school: Some of the boys picked on a boy who behaved inappropriately, causing the boy to feel terrible about himself. The rosh yeshiva, hearing about the situation, spoke to a few boys separately. I was one of those boys.

My rosh yeshiva made a hand motion to me, demonstrating a knife used to stab someone in the back. He kept telling me that my words were like a messar shnite (a knife that cuts). He said that when a person says harmful words, the person is basically stabbing someone in the back – an action that can cause lifetime damage.

The rosh yeshiva told me that I had a choice to make: either I abide by his disciplinary measure or I would have to leave the yeshiva for a while. He told me that since we finished learning early on Friday and went shopping for our Shabbos needs, I would have to shop for the boy I harmed. The intention was for me to befriend this boy, not just at the yeshiva but also on my personal time.

Today I am a married man with children. I will never forget this story, and to this day I admire my rosh yeshiva for taking such a tough stance regarding the poor middos that I displayed. He taught me to never hurt other people through what I now see as his brilliant lesson. I was forced to gain this young man’s friendship by serving him, thereby helping him in a respectful manner. This was my way of having to do teshuvah for my poor behavior. The way my rosh yeshiva dealt with my situation ultimately made me a better person.

I hope my story will help parents and people in chinuch take a strong stance with their children and students on the issue of bullying. This will help young people make amends for their wrongful acts. It will help repair the damage they’ve caused – in the same manner that my rosh yeshiva helped me.

I will forever be grateful to him. Anonymous

 

Dear Anonymous: I appreciate your letter, and your willingness to share your amazing story with my readers. I hope the rosh yeshiva’s lesson helps parents and educators deal more successfully with their children and students in similar circumstances. It is true that harmful words can damage people for life. Children and adults sometimes do not realize the damage they can cause with their words – verbalizations that can destroy a child’s self-esteem. I often tell people that a joke is only a joke if two people can laugh at it. If a person does something painful to someone else and other people laugh, but the person who is being humiliated is enduring deep anguish, the joke has no value. Rather, such a “joke” or prank is destructive, and is categorized as onas devarim.

As a teenager you probably did not realize that your behavior toward your classmate fell into this category.

The Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation’s excellent book, Positive Word Power: Building a better world with the words you speak, addresses all forms of onas devarim. It is a daily study guide to help people learn the practical halachos.

Onas devarim is verbal assault, and causes pain to another through the use of harsh, angry or insensitive words. The Torah, in several ways, prohibits this type of hurtful speech. The first is the commandment, “Lo sonei ish es amiso – You shall not aggrieve your fellow” (Vayikra 25:17). Rashi explains that this prohibition is directed at the words we use in our personal relationships. This act is totally prohibited, offering no allowance for inflicting even the slightest pain for the briefest moment, unless there is no other way to accomplish something important or constructive. Harsh words also violate this Torah mandate: “Ve’ahavta lereiacha kamocha – And you shall love your fellow as yourself” (Vayikra 19:18). Certainly people would not desire such treatment for themselves. Finally, the embarrassment onas devarim may cause violates the Torah’s unequivocal prohibition against shaming others. (This paragraph is from an edited version from the aforementioned book).

As a big fan of this book, I often recommend it to couples and individuals who I am treating. The purpose is to help them work on various relationships. Unfortunately, we all sometimes struggle with onas devarim.

As human beings we sometimes fail by using hurtful words to the people we love the most, namely family members. Your story about bullying in school should be a constant reminder that many schoolchildren struggle with this problem. I have published many articles on this topic in order to confront the bullying issue and to encourage principals, teachers, and parents to take a strong stand against this behavior. Your letter exemplified what a mechanech (educator) can do without causing pain to the other party. You deserve a big yasher koach for going against the grain and trying to better yourself by taking your rosh yeshiva’s advice.

An Inner Harmony Like No Other

Monday, January 23rd, 2012

Dear Dr. Respler:

Although I am only 40 years old, I feel as if I have discovered the ultimate emotional healing remedy. More than a great relationship, soothing music, superb entertainment or any otherworldly pleasure, I have come to the realization, after having tried so many ways to cope with melancholy and hopelessness, that our holy eternal Torah is the key to the comprehensive development of one’s psyche. This is especially so when dealing with a wounded soul. Despite being taught in yeshivos and in our girls’ high schools “Toras Hashem temimah, meshivas nefesh – studying our Torah revitalizes and rejuvenates our souls,” we often move on in life and place the pursuit of Torah study on our proverbial backburner.

Here’s my question: Do you or any other Orthodox therapist utilize this priceless advice when counseling your patients who are suffering or recovering from mental illness or who are just plain depressed? While here in the United States we have the greatest surplus of blessing that mankind has ever experienced, we are still witness to a staggering number of individuals who are suffering from depression – and even some who have resorted to suicide. In the Torah-observant community, however, we are, thank G-d, not as heavily affected by these and other social ills. The strong promotion by our families of a purposeful life that espouses giving, learning and teaching no doubt plays a pivotal role in keeping us emotionally healthier than the general population.

Wouldn’t it make a lot of sense, especially for male clients, to be encouraged by their therapists or psychiatrists to attend Torah lectures or to have regularly scheduled study partners as a means of repairing an emotionally damaged or wounded mind?

Having benefited from both psychotherapy and psychiatric medications, and as one who has seen many others heal as well, I have come to recognize that the healing procedures based on these scientific methods alone are somewhat incomplete and superficial, as they do not heal the soul but rather the physical body and spirit.

Jews are highly complex individuals who are never really happy unless our holy neshamos are fed the proper spiritual nutrients. Many complain of feeling empty inside or of having a certain longing and hunger that seems so unquenchable that it hurts terribly. If only more of our parents, friends and educators would illustrate to those of us who battle perpetual emotional pain that Hashem’s eternal gift to us is not only a tool in achieving the greatest mitzvah but that it also contains the healing properties that no other physical, medical or psychological medicine can deliver. I write this based on 20 years of experience battling clinical depression. If only I had adhered to my Torah instructors’ admonitions about the celestial powers of Torah study decades ago, I probably would have experienced fewer dark days and scary nights of severe melancholy.

Even Torah scholars are at times smitten with inexplicable sadness, but their ability to recover certainly includes having recaptured the joy that Torah learning afforded them. Yet they might have stopped experiencing it due to their chronic illness. Therapy and medication can help them learn Torah once again, ultimately providing them with the inner peace and sense of self- esteem that is deep in their souls.

Is Torah learning, or doing chesed and other mitzvos, part of the wise advice that you give your clients? Is that the usual practice for frum therapists? Torah learning’s healing effect on me is quite apparent and long lasting.

I’d appreciate your feedback, based on your experience, on this matter.

Anonymous

Dear Anonymous:

I was very inspired to receive your letter. Frum therapists walk a fine line on this issue. For instance, I receive mixed reviews when I suggest that people ask Daas Torah. Although I agree with you, not all people are on your madregah. Some clients may feel resentful when a therapist “directs” them instead of listening to their feelings. As a therapist I see my job as one of listening to the client’s pain and trying to guide them properly. If a person is happy with himself or herself, the individual has an easier time learning and doing chesed. It is also true that being productive can help people emerge from depression. Thus being productive emanates from learning and doing chesed.

For most people chesed should begin at home. Those who immerse themselves with outside chesed sometimes forget their own loved ones. I am often forced to remind people who become overly involved with outside chesed projects that the welfare of their families should be their priority. Someone who feels an inner sense of simchas hachaim has the yishuv ha’daas (clear mind) to learn with more enthusiasm. I believe that most frum therapists do not see their role as urging clients to learn and daven. I find that when my clients are happier in their shalom bayis, it helps them to learn and daven with more serenity.

Single Mothers Deserve Better

Thursday, January 5th, 2012

Note from Dr. Respler: In A Plea To My Husband’s Ex (The Magazine, 12-9-2011), I mistakenly left out one important detail. Her husband has legally sanctioned visitation rights to his children, and despite this his ex-wife has largely prevented their children from having contact with their father. The father has been advised by his rebbeim and many legal experts to refrain from returning to court to fight for his relationship with his children. He is following this advice.

This letter is in response to my reply to that letter.

 

Dear Dr. Respler: I was very disappointed with your reply on December 9 to Anonymous. Your high praise seemed misguided to me, as you did single mothers (like me) a disservice. While it is possible that the stepmother in this situation has all the facts and knows everything about what the ex-wife went through, it is highly unlikely that this is the case.

I was in an abusive marriage and my ex-husband’s new wife has no clue as to what my ex put my kids and me through. He is a charmer and at times can come off like a wonderful, tender and fun father. But in reality he is an angry, miserable creature who hurt all of us terribly. Because he is not an alcoholic or a wife beater and presents himself like a normal person, no judge would consider limiting contact between the kids and him. So he has visitation rights. But had I been able to arrange it otherwise I would have done so, not because I am a bitter, vindictive ex-wife but rather because I know that he is an emotionally and verbally abusive person.

You write, “I have no words to express my empathy for the pain that your husband is enduring.” But what about the pain he has likely inflicted on his ex-wife and kids? Perhaps he belongs nowhere near those innocent kids. Even if it is true that “every encounter between them [father and children] is usually so loving, and full of hugs and kisses,” and the kids wish very much to see their father, you, as a professional, should know that that is meaningless in and of itself. An abuse victim is often confused and just wants the love and approval of the abuser.

I could remember a few “good” times with my ex. They are meaningless in the context of the duration and severity of abuse that he put my kids and me through. And if anything, those moments when abusers act kind and pleasant just contribute to a crazy dynamic whereby the victim second guesses herself and wonders if perhaps she just imagined the abuse. She starts to question her sanity, especially when reading letters in credible newspapers that criticize a woman’s choice to protect her children from an abusive father.

You wrote about feeling the husband’s pain. I wish you would feel the pain of the ex-wife and their children. While it is possible that this story may not be a case of abuse and that the man in question may have been a peach of a husband to his ex-wife and an amazing father to their kids, I think that it’s quite a stretch to think – as you seemingly do – that there is simply no plausible explanation for this terrible injustice other than this being a case where a vindictive ex-wife somehow manipulated the system to her advantage (thus keeping father and children away from each other) for no good reason. I realize that there are abusive women who do terrible things, but how can you even come close to knowing that that is the case in this story?

You conclude by writing, “In the spirit of Chanukah we hope that people reading this letter will try to make shalom with their former spouses, and allow them access to their children. Thank you for your eloquent words. Hatzlachah!”

Instead, you should have written something like this: “In the spirit of Chanukah we hope that people reading this letter refrain from undermining mothers and fathers who try to protect their children. We hope that people will make the effort to get more informed about the dynamics of abuse and rally around the parents who so desperately try to do the right thing – sometimes in the face of narrow-minded and judgmental community members. We hope that Hashem will give a voice to victims, and prevent others from trying to shame them. Hatzlachah!

Sincerely,
Anonymous

Dear Anonymous:
I appreciate your letter, and understand the pain that you must have endured with your ex-husband during your marriage. However, I do not believe that your situation is the same as the woman who wrote the letter to her husband’s ex-wife. In divorce situations abuse unfortunately occurs in both directions. People who appear to be nice, friendly, and even charming can behave very differently when faced with the challenges of divorce, custody issues and children’s visitation rights. Unfortunately, there are victims all around in the divorce spectrum. Thank you for taking the time to write this important letter, and I hope that it will give support to people enduring this difficult situation. I wish you hatzlachah in raising your children!

More On A Lack Of Hakaras Hatov

Thursday, December 29th, 2011

Readers respond to the letter from Wounded In-Laws (Magazine 12-2-2011)

 

Dear Dr. Yael: While our situation is different from the daughter-in-law who did not express hakaras hatov to her husband’s family, I would like to share our story.

Our son and daughter-in-law are both physicians. Anyone who knows what doctors experience during training can empathize with us. We supported them financially and emotionally through their training (they met and married in medical school). While her parents are together and not dysfunctional, we would call them selfish. They never seem to have any money to help the children, but do seem to have money to go on lavish vacations. After years of schooling, we helped our children buy a house in the tri-state area near us. But they sold their home, bought a house out of town near her parents and got new professional positions (also out of town). Despite sending us a thank-you letter with a dozen roses upon moving, maintaining contact with us, and inviting us to their new mini-mansion, we are hurt. Their actions were so sudden.

While we babysat for their children and supervised their babysitters, a full-time housekeeper who hardly speaks English is now raising our grandchildren. Knowing her parents, we are sure that they are not as involved as we were with our grandchildren. It is true that they were able to sell their home near us and purchase a much larger home out of town, and at the same time able to secure good positions. But why couldn’t they even discuss their plans with us beforehand? Where is the hakaras hatov for all we did for them? We feel for Wounded In-Laws and understand their pain. Anonymous

Dear Anonymous: Sometimes people do things that are very hurtful, but their intention was never to cause anyone pain. While you have a very valid point and I understand your pain, it is likely that your children did not mean to hurt you in any way when deciding to move out of town. It could be that this was just something that they were looking into, and that everything moved very quickly. Try to be dan lecaf zechus, and make the best of your trying situation. Hatzlachah with your circumstances!

 

Dear Dr. Respler: We understand the deep pain those in-laws feel, as we are in their shoes. Basically, their son did not choose wisely. Our daughter-in-law was also raised by dysfunctional parents who did not (and still don’t) give her love, warmth and affection. They probably never will. Both their daughter-in-law and ours need to grow up. While the daughter-in-law is allowed to be angry with her parents, she needs to accept the situation and should thank Hashem every day for blessing her with wonderful, loving, and generous in-laws. She should never take out her bitterness on her terrific in-laws. Instead, the only feeling she should have toward them is love, kindness and gratefulness for everything they do. She should have the utmost derech eretz and hakaras hatov to her in-laws.

I most definitely disagree with your solution. They do not need to act with such despicable behavior toward in-laws who have always been there for them. They need to accept the reality that they will never have a loving relationship with them. Dr. Respler, unless the daughters-in-law have numerous sessions with you, their relationships will not develop into healthy ones. Contrary to your reply, these in-laws willingly made their daughter-in-law very comfortable and lovingly welcomed her into their home.

Many children today constantly want more and more, feeling that everything is coming to them. I say, “dayeinu – enough is enough.”

The in-laws should continue to act wonderfully toward their children, always keeping their doors and hearts open to them. But they should never go beyond their means for the relationship to work. If there is little or no communication with the daughter-in-law’s in-laws, it is most definitely a great loss for the son and daughter-in-law. Fondly, Baby Boomer Mother-in-Law

 

Dear Baby Boomer Mother-in-Law: I hear your anger and frustration. Although your assertions may be correct, my ideas were intended to make shalom in a challenging situation. It can be very wise in some situations to swallow your pride in order to make shalom. Yours is not the only letter that I received that thought that the daughter-in-law needed therapy. While this is hard to assess in a column, I respect your feelings and appreciate your letter.

 

Dear Dr. Yael: Many of our friends are suffering in similar fashion to the in-laws in question. I think it is many of the parents’ own fault. It starts with all the “yeshiva boys” who expect full support from their parents, and even the younger, more modern crowd that expects financial and emotional support from their parents. The young generation is a needy one – and we created it. Did we ever dare expect from our parents what our married children expect from us? I would venture to say that the younger generation struggles with expressing hakaras hatov in general. I understand that your answer was an effort to deal with this difficult situation, but I know how much pain these parents must be feeling. I believe we are all to blame for giving our children this feeling of entitlement. Thank you for raising this difficult issue. Frustrated Parents

A Plea To My Husband’s Ex

Thursday, December 8th, 2011

 Note from Dr. Respler: The following is an open letter submitted to us by a reader.  Some of the details have been altered to respect the privacy of all involved.

I am writing to you on my husband’s – your ex-husband’s – behalf. While driving home from work the day after Sukkos, my thoughts were occupied with his broken heart. I do not always clearly hear his pain, but that day my heart began to ache for the pain you are putting him through.

Sukkos, more specifically, Simchas Torah, was especially difficult for him. He went to shul to dance with the Torah, but knowing that his two sons and daughter were nowhere near him (or even allowed to spend quality time with him) made simchas Yom Tov hard to achieve.

We have an elderly Jewish immigrant who eats at our house on Yom Tov and Shabbos, so when he told us that he couldn’t wait for the hakafos to end so he could eat the meal, my husband asked a rabbi in the shul if he should leave early. When he was told to grant the orayach his wish, my husband complied – while in truth, he was relieved. He sees other men with their children and grandchildren, and it breaks his heart that he is denied the right to spend time with his children.

Oh, you have your reasons. And you make sure that everyone who fights on his behalf knows all of your “valid” reasons for why he cannot have access to them. There was the time five years ago when he said that Danny didn’t draw nicely, or that at times he buys a present for one of the kids – but not all of them. Or that at times he talks about Moshiach to the kids.  Truly evil behavior! Is that enough to warrant almost virtual excommunication from his offspring?

And how wrong and abnormal was it for him to try to spend a half hour during the summer, when his sweet boy was off from yeshiva, learning some Torah with him once a week? His son was chalishing for this, as he was bored out of his mind. You hadn’t planned anything special for him to do during his free time. Yet, my husband’s desire to learn with his son was apparently so “wrong” that it was deserving of a lecture from his mother and uncle about how this would harm him.

And how “awful” is it that he spends hundreds of dollars on a piece of jewelry for his only daughter? When he finds out that she is allergic to the jewelry, he makes a special trip back to the jeweler and pays the extra cost to make it okay – only to find out that his daughter does not wear it. I understand why she doesn’t – if her mother exhibits such hatred towards her father, who would want to even keep a piece of jewelry from him around?

We have discovered that many of the presents we buy end up in the garbage. Is that proper chinuch? And does that reflect to the children that there’s something wrong with their father?

I am not saying that my husband is perfect, nor am I discounting the fact that, as I understand, you had to put up with a lot as a new, young couple. But I have seen my parents, siblings and grandparents go through tough times and yet find ways to stand by each other. My husband also assures me that there were really good times as well in your marriage.  It seems that you have chosen to only focus on the really awful times you had together.  Perhaps you do that to justify taking the seemingly easy way out and close the door on any whiff of the past. Thus, you keep on mishandling the present and future happiness of the children without a guilty conscience.

Were it up to me, as a newly married couple, I would be happy with things as they are – since we become closer every day. The truth is that having these children in our lives right now seems like interference in what is an otherwise cozy, loving relationship. But I cannot be selfish, as my husband is so badly hurt and desires so deeply for some quality time with his sons and daughter. And I don’t mean five minutes spent at the front door before every passerby. He would like a phone number where he can reach you or his children. He wants to know that they are okay.

Is that too much to ask?

My husband recently went to his son’s cheder to drop off some nosh and a cute picture of the two of them that they had taken a few months back. While walking through the halls, he noticed a bulletin board that displayed family trees of the students – a very positive concept. But representing his son were only pictures of your new husband and his parents, with nothing to show that my husband and his family even existed. My husband was hurt to the core. I ask you: how healthy is it for your children to be raised this way, with no acknowledgment of who their father is or from where his children come?

My husband had so looked forward to showing his son that he loved him and thought of him often, even though his access to him and his other children is so limited. But not only did he have to see evidence that you are attempting to erase his existence, you then had your husband call to say that you were contacting the schools and informing them my husband should not be allowed to see the children – even threatening to call the police if the visits did not stop.

Despite your claim that your son was upset that his father visited, I need to let you know that every encounter between them is usually so loving, and full of hugs and kisses – until recently. A recent phone call exchange between them was strange, as your son laughed hysterically during the entire conversation. I attribute this to conversations in your home that paint my husband in a very unfavorable light. That is the only reason for this child to react so negatively to his father’s phone call.

Friends of ours, some of who have gone through divorces, assure us that once the children come of age, they will turn to him of their own accord. We have spoken to professionals who are horrified that the children are being raised in an environment that fosters only negativity toward their father. Many family members and friends are mystified at your behavior, having believed that once you remarried, and hopefully became happy, you would change your attitude and be happy to have the children get to experience their father’s love.

However, this is not the case.  We are coming to terms with this situation, albeit regrettably. With the children still relatively young, there is still time to make some changes. Will you take advantage of this opportunity? They have so much to learn from their father – his tremendous love for his fellow Jew, his constant acts of chesed, and his love of Torah and mitzvos. And don’t discount his gorgeous voice, beautiful zemiros and, of course, his amazing ability to make people laugh. His children are truly missing out on all this. Do not wait until the children have to find all this out on their own.

Do the right thing now.

Anonymous

 

Dear Anonymous:

I have no words to express my empathy for the pain that your husband is enduring.

In the spirit of Chanukah we hope that people reading this letter will try to make shalom with their former spouses, and allow them access to their children. Thank you for your eloquent words. Hatzlachah!

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/family/marriage-relationships/a-plea-to-my-husband%e2%80%99s-ex/2011/12/08/

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