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Posts Tagged ‘marriage’

Social Networking And The Blended Family

Thursday, November 15th, 2012

It still amazes me how the Internet has completely changed our lives and how we view communication these days. My children hardly believe me when I tell them that there was a time when being in touch with someone, meant we actually saw them, spoke to them on the phone, or wrote them a letter and mailed it.

The word communication is defined as the act of sending a message and the completion of that act occurs when that message is received. Today, communicating is so simple, maybe even too simple. With just a quick “point and click” on your computer screen you can let people know that you “like” or agree with something “posted” on a “page.” You can even brighten someone’s day by forwarding on the joke you got in an e-mail. Just like that; instant communication.

Like most people, I have a love/hate relationship with my computer and certainly with the Internet. The World Wide Web played a role in my divorce; allowing easy access for my ex-husband to “step out” and get to know other women from the safety and comfort of our home. At that time, more than 17 years ago, I was naïve and did not even know such a thing was even possible.

That experience certainly made me more than a bit wary of spending time on the Internet at all, but over the past decade it has begun to take on a greater role in my life.

I love the ease the Internet affords me. I am able to work from home, look up new recipes and keep in touch with family and friends. I thoroughly enjoy seeing pictures of my nieces and nephews who live far away and have even had the opportunity to join in family smachot that I would have otherwise missed.

Interestingly “social networking” has us considering people we hardly know as “friends”. I even heard a neighbor remark that she was just talking to a “Facebook friend” meaning they never actually met and only knew each other through their network of “online” friends. Hey, I enjoy connecting to new people as much as the next person, but can you really know and befriend someone based on a string of “statuses,” “comments,” blogs and “posts?” Everyone knows what we “like” and we seem to be “sharing” more of ourselves with the rest of the world.

Lately I have taken notice of the many ways this new era of instant communication and “social networking” has affected families of divorce and the blended family.

Take for instance an acquaintance of mine who is unfortunately going through a nasty custody battle. I understand and appreciate the importance of a good support system during trying times – I honestly do. But when your network of friends has topped 1000 and you feel a need to update your “friends” on how your divorce proceedings are going on a constant basis, something is awry. Do you need your entire list of “friends” to weigh in on every battle? Does posting that you had a bad day in court make the outcome any better? Does inviting everyone into your sorrow lesson the pain?

The misguided belief that venting via “post” and receiving encouraging “comments” is in any way a healthy response to a very frustrating situation is foolish at best – and may even be harmful.

With claims of it being in the best interest of the children, claimants on both sides of a highly publicized divorce case have garnered support this way. Is this truly in the best interest of the children, or a means to gain publicity and exposure?

Another “social networking” issue that has had a personal affect on my family is that this is the way my children are kept updated on their father’s life. I think it has been years since my son has had an actual conversation with his father, but his dad will send a quick :) his way every so often. They found out about his third marriage, and his fourth divorce via Facebook. The message came through loud and clear when his status turned from “married” to “single.” On a positive note, a bond of sorts is retained and my ex-husband has a chance to become “friends” with his children and to meet his grandchildren.

What Happens To The Children?

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012

The marriage is ending.

Let’s start with some facts. In the general population, 50 percent of marriages end in divorce within 10 years. Sixty percent of divorces occur among couples between the ages of 25-39. More than a million children are affected by divorce per year. Half of these children will grow up in families where the parents stay angry and resentful toward each other.

Unhappy parents have a hard time raising happy children. Children of divorce have higher rates of substance abuse, conduct disorders, depression, interpersonal issues and problems in school.

In the Orthodox world the figures aren’t quite that high – but they are accelerating rapidly. Years ago a couple got divorced for “extreme” reasons: domestic violence, child abuse, sexual abuse, infidelity, or untreatable mental illness. Now it’s those reasons and more. Couples get divorced because they are too impatient or intolerant or not emotionally connected enough to see crises through and learn the skills that can help them have a really good relationship and a really good marriage.

Landmark studies like the ones done by Judith Wallerstein and others indicate that years after a divorce both men and women are still quite angry with their former spouses. It is important to remember that anger often is the manifest, or outer, layer of emotion that is being used to cover up underlying feelings of sadness, pain, shame and despair.

This anger can be dealt with in many ways. Some turn their anger inward, causing depression. Many use their anger to bitterly malign the former spouse. Often the goal is to destroy any possible relationship the ex might have with the children, the rationale being that the ex-spouse is not worthy of a parent-child relationship.

Even in the best of circumstances – what we might call an “amicable” divorce –children will be affected in a highly emotional and significant way.

The goal of a “good” divorce is for parents to communicate effectively, without bitterness and rancor, and not let the children get caught in the middle. Their commitment to their children should fuel their energies and enable them to work together to help their children cope and adjust to the changes brought on by the divorce.

Unfortunately, more often than not we see maligning, accusations, spitefulness and deep anger. This creates an environment for the children that is fraught with instability, despair, confusion and frustration and that can only lead to feelings of low self-esteem and poor adjustment in all areas of living – psychologically, socially, academically and behaviorally.

In other words, the negative reactions and behaviors of the parents are what prevent the children from coping and adjusting properly, not the divorce itself.

This fundamental and crucial concept is difficult for parents to digest and internalize. Why? Because it requires them to own their feelings, to own their behaviors and to realize it is their behavior, not just the behavior of the other parent, that can be harmful to the child.

Helping Ourselves,
Helping Our Children

Several years ago I spoke to a group of parents concerning “doing it all and self-care.” Consider the following scenario: You are on a plane, awaiting takeoff. The flight attendant begins her (or his) safety and security announcements. At one point she notes the oxygen mask stored above and states that if oxygen is necessary, a mask will drop down. She describes how the mask must be placed properly over nose and mouth. And then she emphasizes that if you are traveling with a small child, put the mask on yourself first, before you place the mask on your child. Because you can’t care properly for your child if you haven’t properly cared for yourself.

Parents who are divorcing or divorced need to take care of themselves so that they will have the positive energy to care for others, particularly their children, who need them more than ever at this time. Some ways include:

• Support Groups. Hearing that you are not alone and that your situation is not entirely unique can be supportive and helpful. Sharing experiences, and giving and getting advice to and from others, can be nurturing and empowering.

• Friends and Family. Allow yourself to get the support and empathy you need by allowing friends and family members to pitch in and help you, whether by babysitting, taking your child to shul on Shabbos, or going out for some relaxation time together. It is best to choose family members who can be strong with you and for you, who can respect your privacy and understand their boundaries.

Marriage and Aliyah, All in Three Days

Monday, November 5th, 2012

(((CLICK BELOW TO HEAR AUDIO)))

Yishai is joined by Alan & Leora Katz at Yeshivat HaKotel in Jerusalem. Together, they discuss their recent marriage along with their Aliyah to the Land of Israel three days after their wedding. Alan and Leora Katz also discuss their backgrounds along with reasons for moving to Israel from the United States. At 23:30, Yishai presents a short piece from Rabbi Lazar Brody about Aliyah to the Land of Israel where he discusses his love for the land.

Yishai Fleisher on Twitter: @YishaiFleisher
Yishai on Facebook

The Shidduch-Shy

Friday, November 2nd, 2012

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”

Thus begins Jane Austen’s classic marriage-themed novel, Pride and Prejudice.

To adapt the line for our world, cross out “‘in possession of a good fortune” (not a requirement) and exchange ‘“should” for ‘“must.’ “ For while it is incumbent upon men and women in frum society to marry, it appears that some who want to want to get married are held back by fears of commitment.

What are some of the unconscious rules by which these “shidduch-shy” live their lives?

Rule #1: Prepare your exit from the start.

Meshulam had always been adamant he wanted a younger girl, even though he was now 30. But he had met his match in a new shadchan his mother sent him to, who (“just trust me”) concealed Kayla’s age. Some good Jewish geography on a third date brought reality to the fore, to Meshulam’s disappointment.

“Look,” he said, “it means a lot to me to marry a younger woman. But, I like you more than a lot of girls, so why don’t we see how it goes?”

Kayla was thrilled to have a second chance, and the couple progressed—albeit slowly—to the point of a real relationship. In fact, Meshulam seemed closer to Kayla than to any other girl he’d dated. But as the time came when parents, shadchan, and Kayla herself felt a proposal should be in the works, none was forthcoming.

Finally Kayla’s parents had words with the shadchan, who had words with Meshulam, who told Kayla they had to “talk.”

It boiled down to this: Kayla was a wonderful girl; Meshulam liked and respected her and wanted the best for her. But, really, he’d always said how important it was to him to marry a younger woman, and Kayla was—older. He was sorry, but it just wouldn’t work.

Meet Meshulam, one of the shidduch-shy—who held his exit card all along.

Rule # 2: Keep yourself unavailable.

When dating, the shidduch-shy may keep her date at arm’s length. Even as the relationship progresses, she does not make extra time for its growth. Motzei Shabbos and Wednesday night work just fine for getting together.

Yitzy’s first few dates hadn’t gone well, and he wondered if the whole process might not be for him, when he met Rena. Lovely, intelligent, lively—she seemed perfect. If he had complaints early on, it was in the amount of time it took her to get back to the shadchan.

It took her a while to agree to “graduate” from the shadchan. When Yitzy pressed she said she preferred having an intermediary, which prevented things from speeding up too soon.

When finally they managed the dating schedule, Yitzy found Rena to be anything but available. Family simchas, homework, shiurim she attended, plans with friends—she was busy, busy, busy. But she had plenty of time for long late-night phone chats. At the three-month mark, Yitzy confronted Rena about the pace of the process.

“Look, Yitzy, I’m a busy, social, well-rounded person. I don’t have time to spend every minute of every day with you. You’re just too needy for me.”

Meet Rena, the Arm’s-Length Girl.

Rule # 3: The more available your partner, the more you want to run.
She’s less available? Time to be interested.

Sarah and Shmuel were making progress, even though the relationship was long-distance. Each dating event meant flying to the other’s city, and therefore entailed three or four dates over a long weekend. Just as it came time for the marriage conversation, Shmuel announced he “wanted a break.” Shocked, Sarah cried hard, then, recovering her dignity, said, “No breaks. If you don’t want to move forward, we’re finished.” Once she gave him the cold shoulder, he was interested again, and asked for another go-round.

The healthy adult usually feels closer to others reciprocally: The more you like me, the more I like you. The shidduch-shy are drawn to unavailable people, or people threatening to leave a relationship. It’s safer that way.

Meet Shmuel—who only runs after the one who runs away.

Rule #4: Insist upon a trait in a partner that’s trivial or very hard to find,
and be rigid in your dating needs.

Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities

Friday, November 2nd, 2012

Dear Rachel,

My husband and I have been married for eight years. I am very expressive and outgoing and he is the silent type. Even among close friends, he is never the life of the party. We have three children, and although he loves them very much he hardly spends time with them. He leaves all the dealing with the children to me.

I accepted the situation all of these years because in his own quiet way we did communicate and I love him very much. However, for the last six months my husband has been even more closed than usual. He comes home, greets us briefly, then closets himself in his study and works until late.

When I ask him if something is wrong, he ignores me. I am at my wit’s end. How do you talk to someone who refuses to talk? I asked him if he is happy at work and he said he is. I told him that I can’t go on like this and that I and the children need him and he needs to spend some time with us.

I practically begged him for us to go out for our anniversary, and we did. We went to a restaurant and when I tried to talk about us, he asked me if I brought him out to spoil everything.

On Rosh Hashanah I prayed very hard for sholom bayis and to feel warmth and love from my husband, but I don’t know what more I can do. I am certain that there is no one else in his life, because he is home when he is not working and does not have late nights at work, and he is never away on weekends.

Shabbos after shul we eat and then he goes to sleep; Sundays he spends at home in his study.

Do you suggest that I just continue to live like this? Should I threaten divorce even though I don’t want to leave? Should I go for marriage counseling alone? I asked him if he would come with me to a therapist and of course he said he doesn’t believe in it and he never heard of it helping anyone.

I have not discussed this with my mother or my sisters because I thought that would make things worse, and that leaves me feeling very alone.

Any advice you can give me would be immensely appreciated.

Lonely Heart

Dear Lonely Heart,

We have to marvel at how truly amazing it is that two people – usually complete strangers to one another and raised separately – join together with the expectation of living harmoniously under one roof, sharing meals, ideas and the same bedroom, and are committed to love one another above everyone else for the rest of their lives. Whew!

Granted, a concerted effort to establish some commonality and compatibility is made beforehand, but in reality it is a deference to, and mutual respect for, one another and each other’s differences that keeps the relationship on track.

In just the second line of your letter you inform us of the distinction between the two of you; you are the “expressive and outgoing” kind while your husband is the “silent type.” In other words, you are saying that he is this way by nature and has been since the time you got to know him.

You also say you love him, that “in his own quiet way” you communicate, and that you have no interest in divorcing him. While you’ve let him know that you need more than he offers you and that you lack emotional fulfillment, at the same time you are comforted by the fact that he spends all of his non-working hours and weekends home. (Incidentally, you are wise to keep your private life private, but this needn’t prevent you from seeking professional guidance on your own.)

The sketchy details in your letter paints a picture of a man who comes home and escapes to his study — to avoid being confronted by his dissatisfied and fault-finding wife, perhaps? Not very conducive to drawing him out of his shell, if so…

In my humble opinion, the best chance you have of encouraging your husband to be more communicative is by being yourself, by showing him that you are at ease and comfortable in your environment and genuinely eager to share your day and the latest happenings with the person whom you consider to be your best friend.

Free Choice Vs Costly Obedience

Friday, October 26th, 2012

Over the past few weeks, I, like many of you, have received wedding invitations, and I truly hope that the young couples-to-be have chosen wisely and will enjoy long and fruitful unions.

But living happily ever after is not a guarantee. I myself am divorced. And while unfortunately, some couples are not able to achieve a good marriage, they should, to the best of their ability strive to have a “good” divorce (though by definition that would be an oxymoron).

In other words, be the ones deciding the quality of your future, not some stranger in a robe who didn’t know you existed before you entered his/her courtroom.

Over my long association with The Jewish Press, (and as recently as this past Rosh Hashanah) I have been approached by embittered men and women, deeply embroiled in a nasty divorce and asked if I could “stop the presses” and publicize what they insist is a horrific miscarriage of justice, one deserving to be front page news. They want the whole world to know how they have been abused, maligned, ignored, threatened, financially milked and generally ruined by what they view as a totally unfair court order – ranging from division of property, jewelry and bank accounts to the children. They are the hapless victims, they claim, of corrupt, bought-off, unscrupulous, incompetent, unsympathetic judges, attorneys, social workers, teachers, rabbis, etc.

How else, they claim, can you explain the court’s ruling? Each party was so sure that the judge or jury, upon hearing their side of the story, would immediately grant them everything they petitioned for – the house, the cars, the vacation property, the investments…the kids.

But that’s not the way it works in Divorce Court. You don’t simply get what you want based on your say as to the character – or lack thereof – of the spouse you are feuding with. You can swear up and down that your now insignificant other is a sorry excuse for a human being, but that’s not necessarily the conclusion the court will come to.

While their perception of what he or she deserves and are entitled to receive, both in terms of assets and custody, may be rather one-sided, narrow minded and hence unrealistic, it is clear that the desperation, despair and the feeling of being trapped in a nightmare is very real. Sadly, many times it is something that he brought on himself. Nonetheless, the emotional pain is relentless.

And that is why I can’t be emphatic enough when I say that couples who feel their marriage is not salvageable – should at least salvage their divorce. In other words, try to work out any post-marriage issues such as custody, visitation and the division of mutual assets yourselves. Don’t allow your lives and those of your children to be hijacked by outsiders who don’t know you, in a delusional belief, fueled by anger, greed or a desire to punish, that you will come out way ahead of your soon to be ex-spouse. You are gambling with the possibility that you will come out with a lot less than had the two of you negotiated fairly.

When divorcing couples “out-source” the resolving of their major disputes, they are essentially giving up the freedom and the right to make decisions whose impact will last a lifetime. To them you are a docket number – much the same way as you are a disease, not a person, to a busy doctor making rounds.

Not only will these strangers (judge or jury) decide who gets what, when and how – they can also impose serious penalties and punishment if you don’t comply with these decisions.

The outcome of custody cases are especially unpredictable.

Basically when a couple goes to court to resolve this contentious issue, they are saying, “Your honor – you don’t know me or my family from Adam, but I am going to let you tell me if my kids will be living with me, and if not, when I can see them, and if I don’t follow your dictates exactly – like if I attempt to see my son on Tuesday instead of Wednesday – then you can find me in contempt and jail me. And for all this I will end up paying a fortune to you and your ‘experts’ (psychologists, social workers) to the extent that I will likely end up borrowing money from everyone I know or go into debt.

Investing In Your Relationship

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

I often share with my clients a simple yet powerful analogy: think about your relationship as you do about your bank account. That’s because investing in your relationship is similar to saving money; the more you put into your bank account or relationship, the more you can take out when necessary.

The way to develop your emotional wealth is to invest as much equity as possible, so when the going gets tough, you can dig into your savings and avoid going into the red.

Investing in your relationship takes time and effort and is a challenge for all couples. In my own life, for example, I believe my relationship is so important that my wife and I try to schedule time alone together at least once a week to focus on our relationship. Despite the pressures of our busy lives, we try to creatively make sure we are investing in our marriage. Sometimes we go out to a restaurant to eat or just take a walk down the block together. Other times, we go grocery shopping or head to the local convenience store in order to enjoy a few minutes alone just schmoozing about our day. When life goes into overdrive and time is limited, we take a “time out” for ourselves, and spend a few minutes in a quiet and secluded room in the home just talking to one another.

It really doesn’t matter what you do or what you talk about during your private times together. What matters most is to give your spouse the feeling that he or she is the most important person in the world.

Of course, the way to build emotional equity in a marriage is to make as many deposits as possible. In general, positive statements like complimenting one another, sharing appreciations and speaking kind words are “deposits.” Every time you tell your spouse that you appreciate them, or their actions, you are building more emotional wealth. You can even think of a compliment as a dollar. Imagine how rich you could become if you increase the amount of times per hour you compliment your spouse!

And it’s not just complimenting that works; actions speak louder than words. Helping each other with daily tasks such as shopping for food or just cleaning the house are ways in which couples can increase their emotional equity. The point is that it doesn’t take a large budget, or a lot of time, to build a relationship. Even the simplest gestures can make a difference.

The opposite is also true. Couples will deplete their emotional savings by criticizing and exercising external control. Trying to force one another via manipulation or by insulting each other decreases emotional wealth, and can even put some relationships into bankruptcy.

At the end of each month, I suggest that couples take a look and see how their emotional savings account is developing. They should check how many deposits they’ve made and how much was withdrawn. The goal is to become aware of the overall growth of the relationship and to see if it is getting stronger, or needs more nurturing.

The Miraculous Bamboo Tree

One way to illustrate the need to invest in the long-term sustainability of your marriage is to look at the miraculous growth pattern of the Chinese bamboo tree.

It seems that this tree when planted, watered, and nurtured for an entire growing season doesn’t outwardly grow as much as an inch. Then, after the second growing season, a season in which the farmer takes extra care to water, fertilize and care for the bamboo tree, the tree still hasn’t sprouted. So it goes as the sun rises and sets for four solid years. The farmer and his wife have nothing tangible to show for all of their labor.

Then, along comes year five.

In the fifth year that Chinese bamboo tree seed finally sprouts and the bamboo tree grows up to eighty feet in just one growing season! Or so it seems….

Did the little tree lie dormant for four years only to grow exponentially in the fifth? Or, was the little tree growing underground, developing a root system strong enough to support its potential for outward growth in the fifth year and beyond? The answer, of course, is obvious. Had the tree not developed a strong unseen foundation it could not have sustained its life as it grew. The same principle is true for people.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/family/marriage-relationships/investing-in-your-relationship-2/2012/10/24/

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