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