Posts tagged " divorce "

Meeting my girlfriend’s children

July 17th, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 24 comments

I first became aware of your work after having seen a talk that you gave on a program with Pastor John Hagee.  I subsequently purchased Thou Shall Prosper, and I think that it’s a fantastic book, and one that I often return to, not merely because of how eloquently it’s written.  

Recently, I fell in love with my friend’s wife. When we first met twelve years ago, I developed feelings of infatuation for her.  But in wanting to do the right thing, I talked myself out of them.  At the time, I thought to myself that it wasn’t appropriate for me to think such things about the woman of another man.  

Many years passed, and gradually I lost touch with my friend as our relationship began to dissipate.  I found that I remained in touch with her every now and then and would sometimes help her with assignments for her work. She eventually informed me that she hadn’t been close to her husband for a number of years, and I was shocked to hear such news.

Suffice it to say, our feelings grew for one another, and I couldn’t stop myself from thinking about her.  We’re together now as a couple, and I feel like destiny has made it so.  I have felt moments of guilt for this, despite her having reassured me that they no longer loved one another.  It nevertheless is a difficult predicament to find oneself in. 

We have been talking recently about how we should introduce me to her children.  She has two beautiful children from her previous marriage, ages 10 and 5.  She has stated that she would prefer to introduce me to the children gradually and as a friend, so as to not cause trauma to them, after having been through so much with the divorce.  I do respect this, and in my heart I want so much to have a good relationship with them, and for them to like me very much.  As much as I want to respect her wishes and make her happy, I feel that it would be more honest in the long run to be open with the children and tell them about our relationship, as it would engender trust. 

Instinctively I feel that I am right about this somehow, but I feel in our current society time-honoured wisdom is eschewed in favour of theories and new models for parenting.  I would be so grateful if you have any insights that you might be able to share that relate to our situation.  

Kind regards,

Karl

 P.S – I really admire the work that you do that goes towards creating understanding between Jews and Christians, I derive a great deal personally from such works, and have found that I’ve learned about Judaism in the process.

Dear Karl,

We appreciate your kind words about our work, though we suspect that you may not be as happy with how we respond to your question here. You were absolutely correct years ago when you recognized that it is completely inappropriate to fantasize about someone else’s wife. That is even a prohibition that ranks as the tenth of the Ten Commandments!

After acknowledging that you behaved correctly many years ago, we must say that we noticed too much focus on feelings in your letter. We think that it is important anytime one must make important life decisions,  for the brain, mind and objective morality to dominate feelings.

We did not understand whether you were saying that this woman and your former-friend are the divorced parents of her two children or if she had a previous marriage (with two children) and is not yet divorced from your friend.

If the latter is correct, then – we know of no way to say this gently – you still have no business being involved with a married woman. The fact that she is unhappy in her marriage is irrelevant. No good can come of this.

However, if what you meant was that she was once married to your ex-friend and is  now divorced with two children, and her divorce had nothing to do with you, then we don’t understand why you should have any guilt feelings. Hence, our confusion.

Nonetheless, you must recognize that, no matter how strongly either of you feel for one another, her primary obligation is to her children. As a mature adult, you should also put their welfare ahead of your own. Depending on the details of the divorce and how long ago the divorce was, it might be wrong for you to meet her children at all at this point. (In fact, it might be wrong for her to be in any romantic relationship, though you didn’t ask us about that.)

As to your specific question. Children are not stupid. We doubt very much if you can be introduced as a friend without her ten-year-old asking her pointed questions. We would recommend that until she is entirely free to remarry, her children and she have adjusted well to their changed circumstances, and you are willing to assume a lifetime commitment to her and complete responsibility for the children’s well-being, you stay away from her family unit.

Once all those criteria are met, we would agree with you that the children should meet you as someone who has a special place in their mother’s and their future. A sign that you are ready to be introduced would be this woman and you agreeing on what to do as you both put the good of these children ahead of your own desires. Despite the increased frequency of divorce and remarriage in our society it still can be a traumatic event for the children involved who are dealing with a personal situation, not statistics. Do not underestimate the hurdles you may face. It is very possible that you and this woman should get guidance from pastors or professionals experienced with assisting couples through this type of event before moving forward.

Karl, we have done you the honor of assuming that you wanted the truth and that is what we have given you.  And these principles are not just our feelings.

With tough love,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin 

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Would Nimrod be comfortable in today’s society? Would Abraham?

Tower of Power: Decoding the Secrets of Babel

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My Parents are Separating

May 15th, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 7 comments

Dear Rabbi and Susan Lapin,

First off, thank you for all that you both do and the wisdom you dispense through your podcasts, books and teachings. I find them all tremendously valuable and you have impacted my life for the better.

I have a question regarding my parents. Their marriage has been on the rocks for the past five years and they are now choosing to separate, but not divorce, because of their beliefs. Their issue is not due to infidelity but seems to be a communication and pride problem. They have been married for over forty years and have raised five children together, of which I am the youngest.

My question is what should our response be as their adult children? My instinct is to not get involved or share my opinions because it could be seen as taking sides and it doesn’t seem respectful.

As for background: we all live near our parents, there are many grandchildren in the family, we are all Christians, and we see each other often. I am struggling to identify what my responsibility is in this situation while still honoring my parents. My wife and I disagree with them not choosing to work harder on their marriage but we don’t know if it is our place to confront them on it.

One of my siblings suggested talking to them as a group, what do you think?

Any insights you could provide would be most welcome. Thank you tremendously.

Blessings,

Sam

Dear Sam,

Your sad situation reflects an important truth. No matter how old one’s children are, divorce is going to affect them. Of course, it also affects more distant relatives, friends, social circles and work groups. We are very sorry that you and your siblings and children are facing this situation.

Having said that, your instincts are spot on. In our audio CD on the Ten Commandments we explain why the Fifth Commandment about honoring parents is related to the Tenth Commandment, “Do not covet.” In short, recognizing one’s specific place in relationship to others is something that leads to happier interactions. We also explain why the Fifth Commandment is placed on the first tablet that otherwise deals with the interaction between people and God, while the second tablet deals with interactions between people and people. Honoring parents seems to be in the wrong place. Correctly understanding why there were two tablets clears up this confusion but even on a basic level it is clear that one’s parents occupy a position that no other people do.

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Dating during divorce process

February 7th, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 26 comments

I am a 29 year old woman and I am currently going through a divorce. I did not initiate the divorce and I did my best to be a faithful and good wife to my husband despite his unfaithfulness, lack of financial provision and other issues. 

The one thing I want most out of life is to be a wife and mother. My question is: is it ok to date while the divorce is still pending? I was living in the US with my husband but since the divorce I have moved back to my home country (the United Kingdom). 

I am a Christian but would be interested to hear your point of view on this.

Hannah

Dear Hannah,

It sounds like you have been through a number of very difficult and disappointing years. We pray that the future holds much happiness and fulfillment for you as a wife and mother.  If you handle things correctly from here on and God blesses you, there is every chance of the good life awaiting you up ahead.

For people of faith, marriage is entered into by engaging in two separate processes.  One is obtaining a civil marriage, according to the laws of one’s country. The other is spiritual; more of a covenant that includes God in the new relationship.  We usually think of it as the religious ceremony  in contrast to the civil contract.

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Should we keep trying?

October 3rd, 2017 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 6 comments

My wife and I have had a pretty rough few years of marriage.  Issues like conflict between her and my family, and the two of us having different personalities are the main reasons for these problems.  I feel like some of my screw ups, (weak communication, insensitive at times) are part of  being a male, and not at all an intentional disrespect to her.  She feels that having 2 opposite personalities never lets us “click,” and she is ready to move on.  We have 2 kids, 6 & 8, and have been married for 14 years. 

 I don’t feel God would have  brought us together, only to give us a yearning for a “soul mate” after we have been blessed with so much.  Is the thought that there is someone who is more compatible, a legitimate reason for divorce?  Any resources you can point me to would be greatly appreciated.  I love your podcast and books.  

Thanks for your wisdom!

Matt M. 

Dear Matt,

It sounds like you and your wife have been on a downward spiral for a while. We do have a book recommendation based on your question, “Is the thought that there is someone who is more compatible, a legitimate reason for divorce?” The fact is that in our culture, one doesn’t need a “legitimate reason for divorce.” However, it sounds as if your wife is hesitating to move forward with ending the marriage perhaps because, even deep down, she believes that she made a covenant for life. Diane Medved’s readable and powerful book, Don’t Divorce: Powerful Arguments for Saving and Revitalizing Your Marriage, might give her reasons to rethink her picture of divorce in addition to whatever spiritual and religious views motivate her. Especially with two children in the picture, in our view, divorce should always be seen as the very last resort and only for the most extreme reasons.

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Reconciliation or moving on?

September 22nd, 2016 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 7 comments

Question:

Thank you for the opportunity to ask my question.  I have been praying for a reconciliation with an ex for a fulfilling and loving relationship.  It’s been almost 11 months apart and since last Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) I have been praying. Interacted with my ex a few times and found out recently that he is seriously dating.  Should I continue praying to Hashem or just give up?  

Thank you!

Hadas

Answer:

Dear Hadas,

It sounds like you have had a rough year. You are asking a question about your personal situation, but the general idea applies to just about everyone at one time or another. Do we let God know what we wish, or do we instead pray to God to do His will?

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How to respect an alcoholic father?

July 8th, 2016 Posted by Ask the Rabbi No Comment yet

Question:

What do I teach my boys, age 15 and 10, about respecting their alcoholic, angry father? We divorced 2 years ago because life was so unbearable, but they still see him every other weekend. ∼ Wendy W.

Answer:

Dear Wendy,

It sounds like have had a tough few years and we pray that you have a joyous future.
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An Old-Fashioned Reaction

January 4th, 2011 Posted by Susan's Musings 6 comments

I shocked both my husband and myself last week. A friend forwarded us a human interest article from a major newspaper, expecting that we would be as appalled by it as he was. My husband reacted as anticipated. To my amazement, I didn’t.

The article ran in a column which each week highlights the story of some newly married couple. The stories describe how the couple met and the path of their courtship. They always end with a wedding and hint at “and they lived happily ever after.” The often touching stories that get featured tend to shine in the ‘obstacles overcome’ category, leaving the reader smiling. This piece was no different in format.

However, the impediment to the relationship in this case was that when the new bride and groom met one another, they were each married to nice people, living basically happy lives and raising their children in stable and secure environments. Despite these facts, they ultimately chose to acknowledge the powerful attraction they felt for each other.

In the article they are candid about the trauma they introduced into their families’ lives and their attempts to behave as honorably as possible in a dishonorable situation. Eventually, they each divorced, setting the stage for the newsworthy nuptials. The couple doesn’t minimize the weightiness of their decision and especially their worries about the damage they might cause their respective children. As the article celebrating their marriage puts it,  

He said, ‘Remind me every day that the kids will be O.K.,’ …
 “I would say the kids are going to be great, and we’ll spend the rest of our lives making it so.”
The problem was she could not guarantee that.

Neither our friend nor my husband was suggesting that we send the couple hate mail or in any way wish them ill. But they both immediately recognized that publicizing and romanticizing this story was inflicting another wound upon the already badly damaged institution of marriage.

To my chagrin, my instinctive reaction was weaker. While I didn’t “ooh” and “ah” as when a previous column celebrated the marriage of two octogenarians who had been high school sweethearts and reunited after each one’s long-term spouse died, the idea of ‘soul mates’ resonated with me. That tug at the heart strings informed me that I have been more influenced by society’s values than I like.

This particular couple isn’t the issue. What is important is recognizing that today couples embarking on a life together need to define terms like commitment in very concrete ways, because in our day, those words can be as malleable as play dough. For me, it was a humbling experience to realize that I haven’t been as successful as I would like in detaching myself from the moral relativism so prominent today.

After some reflection, I realized that the newspaper’s marriage column read like a condensed non-fiction version of modern chick lit. You don’t have to go that far back in history to a time when popular books might have shown troublesome romantic temptation and chronicle how the protagonists struggled to successfully overcome it. Or else they might have shown tragic consequences flowing from an unfortunate entanglement. Today, an almost universal feature of chick lit is that everybody ends up happy. Quite a change, isn’t it?

Serendipitously, the same week I read the column cited above I also read an excerpt from Nora Ephron’s newest book. In it, while discussing her own divorce, she rather unequivocally states,

…I can’t think of anything good about divorce as far as the children are concerned. You can’t kid yourself about that, although many people do…

Ms. Ephron’s words are a worthwhile reminder, and one that I needed, that it would be a mistake to confuse some genres of modern fiction with real life.

I certainly wish well to the children in the new blended family. They have no choice but to live with their parents’ decisions. It would be truly unfortunate, though, if disseminating this story influences others, even in the subtlest manner, to opt for romance over responsibility.     

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