Meeting my girlfriend’s children

July 17th, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 28 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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28 comments

Karl says:

Dear Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin,

Thank you so much for your kind reply to my e-mail. I’m very grateful.

Susan Lapin says:

Not everybody would be able to handle that reply. You are a good man.

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

Thanks for writing Karl
You can’t imagine how much we appreciate hearing back from those whose questions we have answered.
Good luck and happiness going forward,
Cordially
RDL

Mary Johnson says:

Very good advice. Time is the key. What is the rush?

Becky Woodworth says:

Spot on.

Susan Gilliland says:

lol. Y’all answered exactly as Skip and I had anticipated you would! Here! Here!

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

Now, that is not really that surprising, is it Susan?

Rabbi Lapin,
Stunning how there is a dirth of information, and no applicable usage of text pertinent.
We don’t need, “quick feed.”
The societal norm has been a void engulfed in clouds since……B.C.E.
(Pardon my silly picture. )
Also, The many analogies you put fit. Plumb line and square.

James says:

Great breakdown of scenarios vs. options for Karl! You reminded of someone in similar straits. Once in a previous incarnation I knew a young man who seemed ‘fatally attracted’ to a series of women who were unavailable. To me it seemed almost so, that if a woman were ‘available,’ she was no longer alluring to him. This fellow would be an interesting psychological phenomenon, as to why one is so inclined, and as if behavioral therapy were required to break someone of a self-defeating game of pursuing that which is ‘forbidden.’ I am not implying that Karl is such a case, but there are folks like that. And there it is.

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

Oh yes, James,
We too have known men who are attracted mainly to unavailable women. In our experience there are several reasons but the most common is that they enjoy female companionship and company but are terrified of having to make a commitment at some point in order to extend the relationship. Unavailable women solves the problem. There are of course a few other reasons too.
Cordially
RDL

James says:

Well, I suppose to some that fruit which is forbidden is twice as alluring, perhaps going back to the Garden of Eden. American transcendentalist philosopher Emerson once said: ‘Make love a crime and we shall lust.’

Mark says:

I have to say, Rabbi and Mrs. Lapin, you do take on some tough questions!

Susan Lapin says:

Life is full of tough questions, Mark. If life was black and white it would be simpler, but the point is to be challenged so that we can grow. We try our best to deeply think through our answers and each question helps us to pull together our hearts and minds as well.

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

Dear Mark–
I’d add to Susan’s response only that we do tend to favor, of all the wonderful questions we receive, those that are most challenging and those that we think would interest the most of our readers. There are very few (if any) moral questions today that can be adequately answered with a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’. Susan and I grow together as we work through the issues and struggle to view them through a Biblical lens.
Cordially
RDL

mama roo says:

What a painful situation. Bonds outside of marriage when married are awful, complicated and messy. I am married to a 76 yr old alcoholic that has bonded to a single 45 yr old alcoholic across the street from where we live. He has incurred serious injuries as a result of his drinking with this woman while I am working. The last injury a little over a week ago caused him to get staples in his head to close the gash. Neither one of them seems to remember how it happened in her home. Only prayer from many is keeping him alive and us together. Lord have Mercy. This is my precious husband of 37 years that led me to read the Bible…and so I keep calling the Unity Prayer Line, posting prayer requests on Sid Roth’s fasting and prayer website. And, I also pray off and on all day.

Susan Lapin says:

What a terrible situation. And you deserve much credit for remembering and honoring your husband for when he was in a healthier place. May he be there again soon.

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

Dear Mama Roo–
Sometimes, God acts in response to our actions more than in response only to our prayers. The best is a combination of both. In Exodus 14:15, after a terrified nation of Israel felt hemmed in by the approaching Egyptian army on one side and the Red Sea on the other, they prayed fervently but God responded by saying “Hey, enough now with the crying out (prayer) just start marching forward”. It was not just the prayer that caused God to miraculously part the Red Sea, it was their faithful action moving forward into the water. You have prayed and are praying; and that is vital. Now let us brainstorm on what your ‘forward march’ might look like. Could you enlist a wise and strong local pastor to approach the woman over the street and help her understand what she is doing and how she is drinking in order to anesthetize her soul against the wrong she knows she is doing? Is there a man whom your husband respects? A family member, a local business leader? A church leader? If so, try and implore him to solicit a meeting with your husband. Whatever happens is up to God. But starting some action of repair is up to you. Hoping to hear good news
Cordially
RDL

Anonymous says:

After reading Karl’s letter, I was very disturbed. Your reply was kind and gentle. My response would be to tell Karl to run quickly away from this situation – even move to another city or state if need be. I have several friends and family members who have been through divorce with some in a similar situation and can say that none have turned out pleasant. Karl’s situation seems to be similar to one in particular that left young children devastated with much turmoil in their lives as they grew up.

First of all, love is not a feeling nor a ‘falling’ but a decision to commit to someone. Karl has simply described lust of the flesh. Harsh appraisal I realize, however, it seems obvious as he admits his situation began with a desire for someone joined to another.

They met twelve years ago (her children are 10 and 5 now!) and he developed (that is an interesting word since it often requires much work to develop something) feelings for her. Then many years passed and he lost touch with his friend as the relationship began to dissipate. I am not certain which ‘friend’ he is talking about since he continues on talking about how he ‘found’ himself remaining in touch with ‘her’. And why would he be shocked that she had not been close to her husband for years when it seems he was placing himself within their relationship by helping her out with work assignments and etc.? That would be a good reason for his friendship with the husband to dissipate. Karl’s meaning in all things is not clear, even to the point of whether the divorce is finalized and we can be left to make assumptions of how things transpired.

If he thinks he feels guilt now, I can imagine how the children will feel as they grow older and wonder if he is the one who separated their parents. As I have seen before, the children may blame the other person for causing the division in their family. There can also be sorrow that the new spouse is separating them from their parent even as they grow older and have their own children and grandchildren. A pain is inflicted that does not leave, it may dull or change in intensity, but it remains and tears at the heart. Problems regarding him seems to be of concern to her since she wants to be careful introducing him so as to not cause her children ‘trauma’ after having gone through ‘so much with the divorce’.

Perhaps Karl is realizing that he is not being honest with himself nor her and just needs someone to help him see what our Creator really thinks about such situations. Since placing other gods before the Almighty Creator is idolatry and likened to adultery (your Ten Commandments CD) – replacing your spouse (the person joined with as one before our Creator) with another person often results in a similar result. Hurt, pain and disaster can be overwhelming. Taking a look at the long-term results of our actions as you spoke of in an audio CD is a good idea.

Signed, Blessed – someone who has been married for nearly 50 years, during good times and tough times, but committed to the marriage vow and thankful to our Heavenly Father for His help and keeping us in this place of love and care for one another.

Susan Lapin says:

As we said, we weren’t clear on the timeline that Karl was giving. We do agree with you that it is easy to underestimate the long-term emotional upheaval of children involved in divorce just as there is long-term effects of children in dysfunctional families. We too, were confused by the helping out in a business situation. From Karl’s reply to us, we do think that he may be rethinking his assumptions that he and this woman could just move forward.

Karl says:

Regarding helping her with work, English isn’t her first language, but as her job requires her to use English often, she asked me to check her documents for her to correct any of them, as I’m a native speaker.

Susan Lapin says:

Hi Karl. I’m going to be blunt here – you are probably not the only native English speaker wherever you live. She could have found many other people to help her and you could have recommended another person to do so, even if online. If there were feelings between you and she was married, it would have probably been wiser to keep a complete distance. I do hope that you both make wise decisions going forward.

However, having seen your follow-up explanation in another comment, I would suggest that you work on not feeling guilty before moving forward. There are always many sides to a story, but from what you are saying you need to separate your feeling for this woman and your feelings about her husband. It is very sad when a friend’s personality changes and that is another topic all together, but it seems that is a separate issue from your future.

Karl says:

Thanks Susan, I genuinely appreciate your honesty, and for taking the time to reply to my previous posts.
I will pray to God to ask that my friend can find it in his heart to forgive me, as life is too short.

David says:

While I believe your answer is spot-on, due to the lack of some important details, I’m not sure I understand your closing ‘With tough love’. I used to use that phrase, but have stopped using it, as I no longer know what it may mean. I think to provide a different answer, one you don’t believe is the best answer, would be doing the questioner a disservice. With your answer you demonstrated caring, compassion, and yes, love.

Now, for the two of you it may have difficult (tough) to discern how best to answer, and since you prefaced the answer with love, for the two of you it may have been tough love. But for the questioner, what you did was love well, very well. And that I applaud. Thus, just ‘With love’ seems appropriate. Unless the tough was related to the two of you.

Either way, though I am not a Jew, I am a Christian, I still see the value in receiving the messages the two of you provide, and I have learned much. Thank you much.

Praying for future blessings.

Susan Lapin says:

David, as I understand “tough love” it means with affection and caring but knowing that what you are doing might be first perceived as painful by the recipient. So, not bailing out a child when they get into trouble doesn’t mean that you don’t care, but that you do. A judge giving a first-time offender a penalty instead of letting him off may care more about that teenager than a judge who forgives if the penalty guides the youth to a better path. By being “tough” you are providing a path to a future.

David says:

Ah, so it’s that the answer may be a tough pill to swallow for the receiver, but it is provided with a heart of love. Never really thought of it that way. The way it was explained to me, many years ago, and finally stopped making sense, was that it was tough on the provider. And, while that may have been true, it didn’t really make sense for the provider to state…

Thank you for responding.

k.Max says:

I’ve read through the long thread of comments and all of them provides diverse and worthwhile insights.

Can I ask that of someone gets involved with another person’s spouse by flirting and some point realises that it’s not right and so he/she quits, do they still have to walk in guilt thinking God will not forgive them?

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

Dear K.Max-
When we do something wrong, there are two issues. One: We sinned against God. Two, we may have hurt another person. For instance, if I injure someone, I can pray to God for forgiveness for injuring another of His children. However, the first thing God says is, “First you must gain forgiveness from he whom you injured then come back to me for my forgiveness.” We explain this concept fully in a wonderful audio CD program entitled “Day for Atonement–Heavenly Gift of Spiritual Serenity” Read about it here: https://rabbidaniellapin.com/product/day-for-atonement/
In the case you describe, if you have harmed either the woman or her husband, you need to apologize to them and gain their forgiveness and thereafter pray for God’s forgiveness. It’s always a two part process. In the same way that I couldn’t forgive you for harm you inflicted on someone else, you need to gain forgiveness from those you harm. Only then can you gain God’s forgiveness too.
Hope that helps
Cordially
RDL

Karl says:

Thanks to everyone for their responses, especially Susan and Rabbi Lapin. I am so grateful that you responded to my letter, and I have taken on board what you said about putting the children’s welfare first. It’s what I will try my hardest to do.

In answer to the question, she had been living separately from her husband for 12 months and had filed for divorce, it all became official recently. She told me that I am not the reason for her divorce, in the past, I witnessed a number of occasions in which he hurt her and the children. I never had carnal thoughts about her, but when I used to see him upsetting her, as she’s a very sensitive woman, I used to think to myself how much I’d cherish a caring woman like her. From the very first moment I met her, I felt like she was a kindred spirit and was drawn to her. And all the time that I was friends with her husband I never disrespected this or thought things about her that were untoward.

I think my guilt came from the fact that we had been close friends in the past, as i’m a very sentimental person, and he was like a big brother to me that I looked up to a lot. And even though a lot of time has passed that they aren’t living together and are officially divorced, he feels like I have betrayed him that I’m together with his ex-wife, when I feel that he wasn’t a good friend to me as he hadn’t been in touch with me for a long time. He had said hurtful things to me when I told him how well I was doing in my career, perhaps because things were tough for him financially at that time, and we didn’t speak at length for five years. When I told her this, she said that he had done similar things with a lot of his friends.

I spent time in her city recently, and we had a wonderful time, I was surprised at how well the children took to me, and I’ve started to really love them as well. She’s a good mother, and see many of her qualities in the children already. Last week I got a job in her city and will move to be with her, it will be a big change for me, but I want to do everything in my power to make her and the children happy, and to commit to them completely. I genuinely feel that she is my soulmate, and we share so much on so many different levels. I still do hope that time will heal the tension between me and her husband that exists currently.

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