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September 30, 2014 / 6 Tishri, 5775
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Posts Tagged ‘Dear Frustrated’

The Benefits Of Countermoves: A Follow-Up

Thursday, August 30th, 2012

Dear Dr. Respler:

Having enjoyed your column, The Benefits of Countermoves (Dear Dr. Yael, 8-17), I am now seeking your suggestions regarding my problem in this area.

My husband practices the “silent treatment,” whereby if I tell him something not to his liking or if I do something that does not meet his approval (these acts are not meant to hurt him) he can stop talking to me for hours or even for one or two days. After awhile, he returns to his normal behavior and we never discuss the issue again.

I am almost afraid to raise this issue since he may return to the silent treatment. By nature I am a bubbly, gregarious person while he is quieter and more subdued. When we get along he loves my personality. However, if I become too bubbly or gregarious when we are among Shabbos guests or extended family and he disapproves of something that I said, he will stop talking to me. He can become this way with little provocation.

My husband’s behavior can be triggered if I tell someone something about myself that he thinks I should keep private. I will beg him to stop, tell him that I love him and even cry – but he won’t relent. He becomes cold and silent and I am at his mercy. I will try to do nice things for him and act lovingly toward him, but nothing works. When he gets like this I cannot reach him and he totally controls me. As a result, I become very tense and upset. He can ruin a Shabbos and destroy hours of happiness – all for nothing. Sometimes, I am not even sure what it was that I said that set him off.

We are in our first year of marriage and spend a lot of Shabbasos and Yamim Tovim by our parents. We are both from large families and both sets of parents have lots of guests on Shabbos and Yom Tov.

Do you have any countermoves for my husband’s silent treatment? Other than the times I’ve described, we get along. But I am tired of crying and want my husband to stop with the silent treatment!

A Frustrated Newlywed

Dear Frustrated:

I have a great countermove for the silent treatment. To begin, you must stop giving your husband so much power over you. Thus, stop crying! It only feeds his power trip. Then tell him something like, “I understand that you need your space and I did not mean to upset you. When you are ready, I would love to talk to you.”

Then get busy with other things. Please do not feed into his need to control and upset you. If he persists in his no-talking mode, go out with friends. This will show him that you are busy and not upset. If you are close to your mother or sister, spend time with one or both of them – out of the house. When he sees that you are not begging him to be with you and that you are happy and content doing other things, you will see how quickly things will turn around.

What use will he have in playing the silent treatment game if you are not there to receive it? What pleasure will he derive if you are not upset and simply understand that he needs his space? Trust me that the silent treatment will disappear. You will be surprised at how quickly he will realize that it is no longer challenging or exciting to upset someone, namely you, who is so busy with her own life and is allowing him to sulk.

I have worked with many patients using this tactic. Sometimes it is the wife who practices the silent treatment. I had one patient, a husband, who would buy his wife expensive jewelry every time she went into her silent mode. When he tried my approach, she ended her shtick since it stopped getting her more jewelry or attention. He began learning more and spending more time in shul when she went silent. This caused her to quickly realize that she was losing all of his attention with her behavior. Believe it or not, she stopped using the silent treatment.

Gone With The Wind

Monday, June 11th, 2012

Welcome once again to “You’re Asking Me?” – the column where people blindside me with questions, and I have to answer them, even though, oftentimes, answering questions only leads to more questions. Especially the way I do it.

This month, in honor of the summer, we’re going to answer some questions about travel. It’s important to go on vacation once in a while, so you have some relaxation, unless you count the stress of getting ahead on your work before vacation, catching up on your work after vacation, and driving long distances with your kids having border disputes in the back seat.

Dear Mordechai,

I haven’t flown in a while, but I heard they changed the size regulations for carry-on luggage. What should I do? Buy a whole new set of luggage that is one inch smaller?

Nervous Flier Far Rockaway

Dear Nervous,

You might be able to get away with your bigger suitcase, as long as they give you a smaller plane. The last time I flew, I bought a new suitcase, because the one I had was a half inch wider than regulation, and I’d heard that the airlines are very strict about these things. Like if your suitcase is too big, it’s going to be hanging out the back of the plane.

But then I got to the airport, and it turns out the plane I was taking was very small. Okay, so it wasn’t that small. It’s not like it was just me and the pilot, wearing goggles and scarves and yelling to each other over the motor. But I was able to stand up in the aisle and reach both sides of the plane. Until the flight attendants asked me to stop.

But my point is that because the plane was so small, no one’s carry-on could really fit in the overhead bins, so the flight crew didn’t bother measuring anything – they just told us they’d put it under the plane, for free. So the half inch would not have mattered.

So my advice is to request it. Just say, “Hi, could you please get me on a small plane, so I can put my carry-on go underneath the plane, instead of right over my head?” Those should be your exact words. If you do that, the size of your suitcase won’t be a problem, because chances are airport security is going to take it out into a field and detonate it, just in case.

But if you find out that your plane is bigger and that they are measuring luggage, you can always buy something smaller from the airport’s luggage store for 400 dollars.

Because really, for what other reason could there be to put luggage stores in an airport? Is anyone coming in with armloads of clothes and toiletries tumbling out of his elbows, and going “Suitcase! I knew I forgot something!” Is it for people showing up who already have suitcases? What are they supposed to do with their old ones? Are the stores for people who land at that airport and realize their suitcase was lost midflight? (I say “midflight”, like it fell off the plane.)

“What am I going to do? I lost my suitcase!… Oh, never mind. They sell suitcases right here. I’m good… Wait. These are empty.”

Dear Mordechai,

My wife and I are taking the kids on vacation, and we’re bringing along everything we own, apparently. How do I pack my car so it all fits?

M.F., Cincinnati

Dear M.,

Forget things. That’s what I do.

I’m not kidding. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve showed up at my in-laws house for Shabbos without my suit, which was still sitting near my front door in a suit bag. In fact, most of my current suits were bought last minute on a Friday somewhere in Massachusetts.

But if you want to try to get everything in, you’re going to need to develop a strategy, taking into account such factors as how important it is that you see out the back window. I say that once you’re done backing out of the driveway, it’s no longer your problem.

The best strategy, probably, is to put in the bigger items first, followed by the smaller items, followed by your wife coming out of the house with her suitcase, which is the biggest item of all, which you now have to put on top of your hat, the food, and one of your kids. And then you realize you forgot to work in the stroller. It’s a lot like playing Tetris, only when you do a good job, the whole row doesn’t light up and disappear.

Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities

Friday, February 10th, 2012

Dear Rachel,

My friend reads your article the minute The Jewish Press is delivered to her house. Maybe you can knock some sense into her.

She is the one who lost a ton of weight, looks great and is seeing this loser psychopath for nearly three years already. Rachel, he is a married man! When will she realize that he is just taking her for a ride? This conniving two-timing individual has no intention of marrying her. If he would, he would have divorced his wife years ago!

I’ve heard all about him from my friend who tells me constantly that his “crazy wife” doesn’t want a divorce. Rachel, it’s a man world. If he would really want a divorce he could simply give his wife a “get” or get a legal divorce. But he doesn’t want one. He hasn’t even been employed for over ten years; why would my friend believe he will start working at the ripe age of fifty?

My friend once confided in me that her parents would kill her if they found out she is dating a married man – and one who is jobless yet. She gets nothing from him. She is wasting her precious time. He’s never even given her a piece of jewelry to intimate in the slightest that he is interested in marrying her. She allows herself to be used by him financially and in every other way. She even cooks suppers for him.

He is a cheap, disgusting, lowlife of a man. She realized initially that he lied when he was seeing a different woman while he was dating her! Another lie that she caught him in is that he didn’t tell her he is married. If I would be her I would call up the lawyer that he claims to have retained and see if he really did retain him.

He told her he went away to a hotel for Pesach. Did she confirm that by calling up the hotel? Did she confirm that he went by himself? He tells her he lives in a basement — really? A 50-year old man all alone in the basement? A man who has a history of lying and cheating? I would have run the other way, but my friend obviously has no self-respect; otherwise she wouldn’t have allowed him to sleep over at her house every night.

She keeps on hoping that he will marry her. Why doesn’t she give him an ultimatum? Either get divorced tomorrow or you are out of my life for good! You know why? Because deep down she knows that he will run out of her life and disappear. Even her daughter saw through this man and warned her mother about him way back at the beginning, but she wouldn’t listen.

A frustrated friend

Dear Frustrated,

Your friend may be a reader of this column but chooses to close her eyes and ears where she is concerned. You wrote two years ago in a similar vein (your letter appeared in the first column of the year 2010), but apparently the subject of your frustration chose to ignore the counsel offered then. It is very difficult to help someone who refuses to be helped, but let’s take another shot at it.

My dear woman: Understandably, it is immensely difficult to tear yourself away from the attention and the company that you’ve grown so accustomed to. It’s almost like getting hooked on a drug. Whenever he is with you at your side, you feel like you’re on a high.

Deep down you know he is using you, but you simply don’t allow yourself to face reality. You dread the pain of letting go and of confronting the emptiness that would follow. But in actuality, my dear, your life is empty now. In reality, your relationship is void of any real fulfillment and is a sham. Here’s the proof: Had it been real love and genuine caring, you’d have had a ring on your finger by now.

The truth may hurt, but the fact remains that you are simply his mistress, his pastime and one he uses at his whim. Besides, considering his track record, he is not likely to make you a very good husband. Not very solid husband material – considering how perfectly comfortable he is leading a double life and cheating on his wife. Ask yourself if this is really the type of man you would want as a husband.

Your friend is right. Had he wanted to divorce his wife, he’d have done so by now. Yours is a relationship that is headed nowhere, and for as long as you continue to serve his needs he has no reason or motivation to change a thing.

The best thing you could do for yourself is to free yourself of him. In the least, you should be giving him a chance to prove us wrong. Consider packing your bags and treating yourself to a vacation away from him, someplace where you would be putting a substantial physical distance between you.

Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities – 11/25/10

Wednesday, November 24th, 2010

Dear Readers,

In last week’s column, a devoted daughter wrote of the emotional turmoil she endures in caring for her elderly mother. Very frustrated made it clear that she has no misgivings about doing all she can, in every way, to make her mother’s life as comfortable as possible. The writer is blessed with having her family’s backing and cooperation as well, and, in fact, her mother has been on an extended stay in their home now for several months while recuperating from surgery.

The difficulties experienced by this daughter stem from her mom’s negative attitude; the elder woman is distrustful of everything and everyone and is especially critical of her son-in-law whom she derides under her breath at every turn.

In addition, she has the annoying habit of meddling into the family’s affairs – such as when she finds fault with shidduchim for her granddaughters and thinks nothing of inappropriately interrogating their shidduch dates.

As an only child and hence sole caretaker of her widowed mom, Very frustrated has shouldered this awesome responsibility ever since her father passed away (years ago, before she got married). At this time she fears that the dam may soon burst and that her thus-far-forbearing husband will “reach his breaking point.”

Basically, she is interested in knowing where her obligations lie, both in a religious and moral sense, to a parent “who has made me completely miserable my entire life.”

Dear Frustrated,

A reply to your letter would hardly be worthy of print if it failed to sing your praises: Kudos to you for being a devoted and dutiful daughter to your mother!

Lest we forget, kibbud av v’eim is a divine commandment. What’s more, Hashem considers honoring a mother and father in the same league as honoring Him. Essentially, we have no choice in the matter.

But how far must we take this obligation? To what lengths must one go to honor a parent? The Talmud states it clearly and leaves no room for doubt: To the extent that no matter how uncomfortable or embarrassed a child is made to feel by his/her parent, the child must not show any distress or anger towards that parent.

Getting back to your own personal situation you indicate that you have always been there for your mother, and that it’s never been easy. But now she sorely tests your endurance, as you are hurting badly not only for yourself but for your loved ones who are at the mercy of your mother’s acrimony.

On the positive side, you can count yourself fortunate in many ways. For one, it is apparent that you have a mature and understanding man for a spouse, one who knows not to take your mother’s barbs personally and who conducts himself with dignity under trying circumstances. In all probability, he recognizes and appreciates the importance of the role you undertake and roots for you in your noble cause. (For the record, one is obligated to honor and respect one’s in-laws as well as one’s parents.)

Then there are your children (good kids, you say) who reap the benefit of viewing up close the selfless manner in which you dedicate yourself to your mother’s needs – a valuable lesson they will take with them for life.

Whereas honoring a parent in ideal conditions is certainly meritorious, consider how much greater is the merit for one who performs the commandment under grueling circumstances. Besides, where does it state that carrying out the mitzvah is supposed to come easy? And are you aware that each individual act (of your kibbud eim) counts as a separate mitzvah? That knowledge by itself should help you sustain chizuk in fulfilling your lofty goal.

By the time you read this, your mother may be back in her own home and may even have agreed to have outside help. It is perfectly acceptable to have someone reliable assist or relieve you so that you can catch your breath and recharge your batteries. Both you and your mother can benefit from such an arrangement.

You may even go so far as to suggest an assisted living facility (which may be just what your mom can use at this stage in her life), but be mindful of your approach – for you are not permitted to communicate to your mother that she is a burden, nor are you allowed to make her feel pressured to go. The option should be hers alone.

Last but not least: It surely does not escape any member of your family that your mother is an almanah, a widow – who is rendered vulnerable and fragile by her tremendous loss and whose feelings we are divinely warned to be extra-heedful of.

­In merit of your unwavering commitment to the mitzvah of kibbud eim, may you and your husband be rewarded with loads of nachas from your own children. Hatzlacha!

* * * * *

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, 338 Third Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11215. 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.

Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities – 11/18/10

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

Dear Rachel,

I don’t even know where to begin this letter. I’ve been meaning to write for some time, but guilt and confusion would always deter me. I guess my bottom line question to you would be: Where are my obligations religiously and morally to a parent who has made me completely miserable my entire life?

Just to give you some background, I am a middle-aged mother of three grown children, two of whom still live at home. My husband is a wonderful, loving, kind man and my children are either in school or working professionally. They are also kind and loving and eager to lend a hand whenever necessary. Anyone would be proud to claim them as a family – that is, anyone except my mother.

I grew up an only child. My father passed away some time ago, leaving a huge void in my mother’s life. This is not to say my mother was ever a social person. She kept pretty much to herself and her family. She never worked (or even drove) and relied on my father for everything.

When he passed away, I had to take on all the responsibilities of dealing with her paperwork and tending to my mother’s needs, although I was newly engaged and eager to begin my own life.

Rachel, in all honesty I have never resented any assistance I have given my mother. I have always tried to include her in everything – even taking her on vacations with us, calling her 2-3 times a day, taking her food shopping, attending to her medical needs and any issues of home repair that would come up.

On the surface you may say that of course this is my obligation and I shouldn’t be complaining. I have to reiterate that I have no issue being there at all times for my mother, except for the fact that she is, and pretty much always has been, a bitter, critical woman.

Even while my father was alive, she would always criticize him. If he would come home burdened by work-related events, she would taunt and criticize him instead of soothing him.

When I married soon after my father passed away, she would always find fault with my husband, and soon afterwards with my children. For the most part we would try to ignore it and I would chalk it up to her maybe feeling unhappy with herself and her own life, but now as she gets older and obviously needier, she has become much more critical and bitter.

She is very suspicious; she misunderstands what people say to her and therefore feels everyone is watching her and is out to get her.

She recently had surgery and has been staying with us for several months, so all of this has been magnified tremendously. It is much harder to ignore her behavior. She is constantly muttering nasty things under her breath against my husband that she thinks he doesn’t hear (or maybe she actually wants him to hear).

When my daughters have shidduch dates, she constantly finds fault with the young men and pries into the girls’ business, asking inappropriate questions that are hurtful.

She doesn’t want to hire outside help to stay with her in her home, even though she could afford it, and I must admit that she has become so frail that I am afraid to leave her alone for long periods of time.

I work outside the home for several hours a day, and frankly that’s my only refuge. I dread coming home every day in anticipation of a new battle to be fought or a criticism to be dealt with or ignored.

It’s funny, because if you would meet her outside my home, you would think she is the most gracious, loving person. Strangers, doctors, therapists, neighbors always tell me how lucky I am to have an elderly mother who is so cute and sweet, but nobody knows her behind closed doors.

I know I am not the only one with this type of dilemma; I’ve spoken to friends who allude to having similar issues, but I cannot believe they could be as bad as mine.

I’ve spoken to my mother in the past, begging her to please realize that everyone wants her around, that we want her in our lives, but that she is making it very difficult and is constantly hurting our feelings by this behavior.

My husband is patient and tries to look the other way, but I’m afraid he too will reach his breaking point eventually.

I not only ask for your reply, Rachel, but I think it would help if other people in my situation would share their experiences and hopefully any solutions they may have.

I thank you for the opportunity to vent a little.

Very frustrated

Dear Frustrated,

Please forgive the delay in hearing from us. Here it is fall – almost winter – and for reasons unfathomable, your neatly handwritten letter postmarked in late August somehow took its time and first made it to this column’s writing table come November.

Of course things can change in the blink of an eye and may have somewhat, or even drastically, altered in the several weeks that have elapsed since you took the time to “vent.”

Nonetheless, we will do our best to address your concerns in next week’s column, G-d willing, and invite others in similar circumstances to share their own stories and strategies.

* * * * *

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, 338 Third Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11215. 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.

Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities – 12/29/07

Thursday, December 27th, 2007

We encourage women and men of all ages to send in their personal stories by e-mail to rachel@jewishpress.com or by mail to Rachel/Chronicles, c/o The Jewish Press, 338 Third Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11215.

To all women, men or children who feel that they are at the end of their ropes, please consider joining a support group, or forming one.

Anyone wishing to make a contribution to help agunot, please send your tax deductible contribution to The Jewish Press Foundation.

Checks must be clearly specified to help agunot. Please make sure to include that information if that is the purpose of your contribution, because this is just one of the many worthwhile causes helped by this foundation.

* * * * * * * * * *

Dear Rachel,

I was wondering if you might print this letter as I could really use some guidance.

I am at my wit’s end and in dire need of recommendations from your intelligent and sensible readers.

I am this close (please keep these two words as one) to having Jewish Family Services remove a Yiddishe neshama from her so called ‘home.’

Allow me to explain. A well-known acquaintance, “Rochel” (not her real name), to whom my family, I, and many others in the community have stretched out their hearts (and pocketbooks) by helping with money, food, driving regularly to doctor’s appointments and many other services, has figured out how to navigate the system wherein everyone in the community is at her beck and call. Rochel has an illness that appeared later on in life, and if there’s an organization that gives, Rochel is there to accept.

I am completely fine with all of this. What I am not fine with and extremely uncomfortable with – is that Rochel has one child, a girl, with whom she resides. There is no husband to speak of and no communication with him whatsoever. Rochel’s daughter, “Rivka” is a perfectly normal child. For a period of time she lived with her grandmother and was given back to her mother when Rivka was probably entering the 7th grade, or a bit earlier.

This past summer, Rivka was “privileged” to be a “camper” in a camp that caters to terminally ill, cancer stricken, and/or children who have diseases that need chemotherapy or require monitoring for heavy doses of medicine! Rochel got Rivka in as a sick child! I am literally crying as I write this letter. Rivka is not sick, her mother is!

Please tell me how Rivka was able to work as a counselor in a local day camp in Brooklyn for the second half of the summer whilst being so “ill?”

Today, Rivka, having just finished a prominent local Yeshiva High School has a very busy schedule. No, she is not in a local seminary. She does not have a job. Rochel has consumed herself with taking Rivka to different doctor appointments creating illnesses that her daughter does not have! The rest of the time, Rivka is busy doing errands for her mother.

I know there is a name for this illness called Munchausen’s, wherein parents create scenarios for their children, fabricating illnesses or psychological trauma in order to draw attention or sympathy. This is what Rochel is doing and, to boot, has Rivka creating lies about her daily activities.

Please tell me, dear Rachel, how can I sit back and allow this mother to ruin her child’s life?

Frustrated in Brooklyn

Note: Rochel, if you recognize yourself, please accept this as an appeal to save your daughter!

Dear Frustrated,

Your story is a sad one – and has me completely baffled. Have Rochel and Rivka no family at all who would be able to wield influence and have a say in how Rivka is being raised? (Where is that grandmother with whom the child lived for a time?) Where are the organizations that have helped Rochel? How is it that Rivka was allowed to remain under the care of her obviously disturbed mother? What happened to her teachers and school counselors? And don’t camps evaluate applicants to determine eligibility?

Munchausen Syndrome is a disorder that has the afflicted individual feigning illness in order to gain attention and sympathy. Such persons are, furthermore, at risk of inflicting an injury in order to garner the attention they seek.

Baruch Hashem we are a charitable people, but the simple act of giving is not always the solution. Many times a person needs help to help him/herself, and consistently being handed what one needs to sustain oneself on a daily basis does little to nothing in rescuing that individual from his/her unfortunate predicament. The better and more meritorious method of charity is to help ensure another’s future viability and self-efficiency.

You’ve appealed to our readers. Hopefully, someone out there can clue us in, and perhaps offer you and those who genuinely feel for this tragic mother and daughter some constructive advice.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/family/chronicles-of-crises/chronicles-of-crises-in-our-communities-89/2007/12/27/

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