Posts tagged " marriage "

My Mother-in-Law is Impossible

October 23rd, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 10 comments

Dear Rabbi and Susan Lapin,

Do you have some wisdom for me?  My mother-in-law has been a constant strain on our marriage.  To give an example:  This last weekend we made a special trip to an amusement park where we joined up with my in-laws.  While we were there,  my mother-in-law did everything she could to keep my husband from riding rides with my children or being around me. 

It went so far, that my mother-in-law spun the old story: about how she used to carry my husband around everywhere and she made him promise that he would one day carry her around.   After this retelling of the story,  she got him to carry her around like a bride crossing a threshold for 5 minutes.   🙁  In the amusement park.  🙁  In front of everyone.   🙁

I don’t know what to do. I have so many in-law stories it is ridiculous.   I keep making myself choose JOY because it is a choice.  At the same time however,  I would love to hear some teaching for me or me and my husband, on the topic of unhealthy in-laws and healthy in-laws.  This way maybe I  can be a good mother-in-law someday, and my husband and I can traverse this choppy ever recurring water. 

Signed,

Your friend

Dear Friend,

We absolutely love the way you are using a problem in your life as a springboard for training yourself for the future. The Bible repeatedly tells the children of Israel to be kind to the stranger “because you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”  Obviously, the Hebrews had little choice and didn’t want to be strangers in the land of Egypt but people still  can choose how to react when they are treated badly. Tragically, some take the attitude of “payback time,” looking to mistreat others as they were mistreated. You have cleverly and bravely adopted the Biblical response of using your own mistreatment to make you more sensitive to others.

Nonetheless, you and your husband do have a problem. However, it may not be the one you are thinking of. Let’s  focus on the phrase you used, “…she got him to carry her around…” As an adult, your husband made the decision to carry his mother around. Your mother-in-law may be difficult; she may be very difficult, but she probably did not whip out a pistol and force her son to do so. The problem is not your mother-in-law.  The problem is that you and your husband haven’t yet got onto the same page dealing with this problem as you most likely have for so many other issues in your married life.

We   suggest that you and your husband get on the same page. You both can choose joy, which is a valid choice because the joy comes from observing the Fifth Commandment and you both also need to decide where to draw the line. You don’t mention if you get together with your in-laws once a year, once a week or somewhere in between. You also don’t mention what your father-in-law’s reaction is to his wife’s behavior. These all should be taken into account. Is it possible that over the years your husband has learned an unhealthy tolerance of your mother-in-law’s antics from his father?  Have the two men in her life, her husband and her son, enabled her disturbing eccentricities?  Another possibility is that you have told your husband that you can handle this type of behavior – and maybe you even thought you could – but that is no longer true?  Whatever the case, the necessary solution must spring from you and your husband talking about this honestly and arriving at a joint decision which, since she is his mother, he will have to summon up the determination to act upon. 

However often you see her, you know in advance that your mother-in-law will most likely make an irrational demand or do something to cause friction between you and your husband (examples we didn’t print showed this angle). The two of you must decide what types of demands you will agree to and at what point your husband (not you) has to intervene or refuse. Being firm when necessary and declining a request does not constitute violating the Fifth Commandment. 

As for proper behavior of in-laws, the most basic one is knowing that your child’s first loyalty should be to his or her spouse and family rather than to you. Respecting parents has very specific meaning. It is not a broad and undefinable sentiment. We personally do not agree with the oft-repeated statement of, “Close your lips and open your pocketbook,” but we do agree that thinking three and four times before saying something that could be seen as interfering in a married child’s life is a good idea. So is doing whatever you can to form a loving relationship with the new member of your family.

We think you are well on your way to being a great mother-in-law,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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She’s offering me security. Is that enough?

October 16th, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 34 comments

I am in my late 30s and not doing so well financially (but that’s absolutely about to change having come in contact with your teachings).

I am currently with a lady who is 5 years older than myself and doing pretty well for herself. Should I for financial security settle down with her even though I am not totally confident when I am with her in  public, or leave her and take my chances?

Francis H.

Dear Francis,

While we take great pride in our books, CDs and DVDs and our many other resources and we are elated about the many thousands whom they have benefitted, we’re afraid that we have to question your assumption that they will help you. We are not sure you are ready for them.

We say this because your letter reveals a very unmasculine passivity. One can be in his late 30s and go bald without having done anything to have caused that to happen. You can be in your late 30s and be less agile than you were at 18 even if you eat healthily and exercise. You don’t get close to 40 “not doing so well financially” without having taken some wrong steps in the past and having failed to take some very necessary right ones. Our resources, we feel, are superb but they are not magical elixirs— in order to be effective, and they can be stunningly effective, they need commitment, hard work and willingness to significantly change. Are you ready for that? Think seriously; are you really ready for that?

If you are even thinking of marrying a woman in the hope of her providing you with financial security then we ask you to consider that perhaps there has been a little role reversal going on in this relationship?    We ask you to consider whether, at this point,  you have  the backbone for really hard work. Marriages between younger men and older women are, of course, not automatically doomed, but five years is quite a difference and we detect a desire on your part to be taken care of rather than to be her provider and protector. How can you expect her to respect you when you confess to a lack of confidence when you are with her?  What exactly are you offering her? What do you bring to the table?  That is both a legitimate and an important question.

While it flies in the face of today’s dreadfully defective cultural norms, we would like to remind you that a woman brings herself to a relationship.  And her grateful  man, in turn,  brings his performance, his power, and his productivity.  She gives herself to her man. He gives her the world. Every dating website survey confirms ancient Jewish wisdom that women seek ambitious doers. They are right to do so.  While the whiny boys of our culture decry women as ‘gold-diggers’ and worse, real men recognize that women galvanize their drive.  This is why other than in a few outlying cases, married men vastly outperform their single brethren. 

You ask whether we think you should leave her and take your chances.  Those words you used strongly suggest that you view her as your lifeline to security.  Not good.  We certainly don’t suggest leaving her and “taking your chances.” What we do  suggest is breaking off the relationship and allowing her to find a man with something to offer her.  We suggest that you throw yourself into rebuilding yourself from the ground up physically, emotionally, financially, and spiritually. The very good news is that you wrote to us, indicating that you are well aware  that something in your life is off.  Reaching out for help is a wonderful first step You know that you are at a turning point and that you really  can have many productive and successful years ahead of you. We  suggest you avoid thinking of involving a woman in your life until you see concrete proof that you are on your way to being a new man. You can do this—go ahead and seize the opportunity.

Give it your all,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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Does Financial Independence Sound Appealing?

September 18th, 2019 Posted by Susan's Musings 21 comments

I may not be exactly the audience the Wall Street Journal’s money advice for those starting their careers is targeting but, nonetheless,  I was interested in what they had to say. Five successful business individuals wrote short pieces sharing their wisdom. I recognized names like former Secretary of the Treasury Hank Paulson and I had heard of the companies that these professionals lead like Land o’Lakes or a subset of Merrill Lynch. There was only one  exception – Whitney Wolfe Herd, founder and CEO of Bumble.

Ms. Herd stood out on a few fronts. Not only did I have no idea who she was or what her company did but looking at the drawings of the featured three women and two men suggested that she was the youngest of the group. Most importantly, her advice was of an entirely different type than everyone else’s.

If, like me, you aren’t familiar with Bumble, it is a dating app. Its unique property is that it gives women sole control of the first point of contact. What interested me, however, wasn’t the company but its thirty-year-old founder and CEO’s advice. You could file all the other respondents’ advice under the category of financial literacy. They included concepts like understanding debt, valuing savings and measuring job opportunities by looking at growth potential and skill acquisition as well as salary.

Ms. Herd’s succinct advice? “Never be financially dependent upon anyone else in your life. Don’t rely on a parent, a spouse or a boss. It will only erode your self worth and negatively impact the important relationships in your life. Instead, learn to save money, make money and then you can rule your own world!”

I found it fascinating, if not surprising, that the youngest member of the group offered the most personal and emotional advice. It turns out that Ms. Herd isn’t advocating living life alone. She married a few years ago and is expecting her first child. Interestingly, the articles I subsequently read about Bumble featured quite a few women who were economically independent but who were finding it very difficult to meet a worthy man with whom to share a life. Many of these woman were of an age where children may no longer be a reality. Recent studies have shown that younger people in general value marriage and children less than earlier generations did at the same age. Is Whitney Wolfe Herd an outlier as a strong, effective woman who at what today is considered a relatively young age is combining business success with marriage and family?

Her advice reminded me of the advice my generation of women received when we were in our twenties, “Don’t sign any documents your husband hands you without investigating and understanding it yourself.” In theory that sounded reasonable and prudent; in real life it wasn’t so simple. After all, pretty much everyone today checks a box that reads, “I have read and agree to the terms of service,” when we have at most read the first few sentences of legalese governing how we will interact with online companies.

The advice to independently assess insurance documents, house deeds and other legal contracts was spurred by fear. What if your marriage fails and you find out too late that you signed away your economic interests? What if your husband is actually a horrible person who is looking to cheat you? The most benign interpretation was, “What if your husband is incompetent and financially foolish?” After all, if you trust your spouse, there is no need to duplicate effort and spend time and possibly money by having separate lawyers and advisors walk you through verbose and confusing documents.

Everyone giving the advice knew of or had heard of someone who had been hurt by a “bad guy.”  They did not want another woman to fall victim in the same way. Those of us getting married did not think that our chosen loved ones were bad guys or would become so. If we did, why would we marry them? And, as always, time and money were at a premium and the desire to wade through boring papers was well under control.  We signed the papers put in front of us. In the overwhelming majority of cases, everything ended up just fine. In a rare case, it did not.

I assume that Whitney Wolfe Herd, like many of her generation, has been raised to value independence over relationship. The fact is that each time you trust another person and each time you attach a piece of your heart to another person, you cede some of yourself. I read that as a result of her pregnancy, the CEO is prioritizing childcare initiatives at Bumble. Yet, no matter how good the childcare, chances are that a piece of her heart will ache if she misses her baby’s first smile or if she has to walk away when a feverish baby clings to her. When you love, you lose some of your independence. That is true in all relationships. Financial independence can protect us from one type of harm, but seeking it may lead to other damage such as missing out on marriage and family in a timely fashion while we are busily pursuing our economic goals.

John Donne’s oft-quoted poem begins, “No man is an island, Entire of itself…” His words speak of the larger world, but they are true in our innermost lives as well. I don’t have a brilliant way to make sure that no one is harmed by someone they love and trust. I do believe that operating from a belief that we should be complete in ourselves, on whatever front, results in more of us being alone even when we don’t want to be. Linking our parents, spouses and bosses together as if our relationship with each is identical results in placing barriers on our hearts that keep out feeling as well as danger. Linking our self-worth too tightly to the economic arena limits our worth in other areas. I wonder if asked to comment on the same question in forty years, Ms. Herd’s answer would be the same.

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Why Don’t Men Get It?

September 18th, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 26 comments

Hello Rabbi and Susan Lapin,

Thank you for all your useful teachings, which I enjoy on a daily basis.

I have another marriage question for you. It is interesting to me that while many women are, rightly or wrongly, the main breadwinners in their homes, they still continue to do more household tasks than their husbands do.

Why do you think men seem to be so unaware of the professional and domestic burdens their wives are assuming?

Anonymous

Dear Anonymous,

We’re delighted that you find our writings valuable and regret that we cannot answer your question just as you asked it. In order to do so, we would have to agree to be constrained by the corner in which you are painting  us.

You are making several  assumptions in the way you phrase  your question. We, too, have read surveys that show that women do more household chores than men. We have read other surveys that show an increasing number of families where wives out-earn their husbands. We’re not sure we have seen any accurate studies showing the overlap between these two sub-groups of families and that drill down into relevant details of these families. There may well be some studies like that, but our first instinct when we see studies on just about any politically hot-potato topic is to ascertain how objective and statistically accurate they are. Very few meet this reasonable standard.

You then make a huge leap into assuming that in those families where wives do out-earn husbands and in which they also assume the greater domestic burden, this uneven distribution is a result of a lack of awareness on the part of husbands. That is one assumption too many for us.

However, we aren’t going to leave you empty-handed. We often use the phrase, “how the world REALLY works.” That is a phrase that makes social engineers extremely uncomfortable. For example, how the world REALLY works is that the overwhelming majority of marriages come about when a man asks a woman to marry him. Surely, that should be a thing of the past? In today’s day and age, after more than half a century of gender egalitarianism,  why aren’t proposals 50% of the time instigated by men and 50% of the time by women? You might attribute this obvious imbalance  to men not realizing   that they can just as easily be on the receiving  side of a proposal as on the active proposing side, but that would be misleading.. You’d be ignoring  the fact that God built a world where men pursue women and both men and women (in general) prefer it that way.  Deuteronomy 22:13, “When a man marries a wife,” is where God informed us that it is seldom a case of, ‘when a man and woman marry’ or, “when a woman marries a man.” 

Every individual is a unique creation and every marriage is unique. Of course, today many people avoid marriage altogether so when we talk about married couples we are already dealing with a self-selecting  group. (Incidentally, many sociological and political studies and many media outlets, on policy, do not distinguish  between live-in lovers and spouses, referring to everyone who shares a home as married. This muddies the data water terribly.)

The questions we would rather ask—and we are working on a book that discusses this idea—is, “Do men and women relate differently to the process of earning money?” “Do men and women relate differently to their homes and families?” Our short answer is yes, which means that we reject your question as you ask it. Instead we would suggest that only people who do not understand how the world REALLY works think that earning money and taking care of home and family can or should be divided 50/50 among husbands and wives. Only people who do not understand how the world REALLY works would expect traditional roles to be reversed in a seamless and painless fashion.

Obviously, every couple can and should make its own decisions. However, we do think doing so without acknowledging the laws that God built into the world and by which most people will thrive is akin to taking up smoking a few cigars a day on the basis that George Burns did so and he lived a long and healthy life. Maybe you are an exception to a general rule, but more than likely you are not.

Hope you don’t find this non-answer  too disappointing ,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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Marriage Disagreement about Interracial Marriage

July 10th, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 26 comments

Greetings: My question is what does scripture say about interracial marriage?  My husband and I have recently had occasion to discuss this and I am asking for wisdom to respond to some of his concerns.  We both were raised in rural WV where our culture frowns on this.  I used to agree with the reasons we were taught growing up.  1. Ham & descendant of Canaan were cursed 2. God told the Israelites not to marry from other groups 3. God separated the continents during Peleg’s time to divide nationalities. 4. Moses couldn’t enter the promised land because he married a Cushite from Ethiopia.

But as I’ve matured as a believer, I’ve read the scriptures they drew from and didn’t find God mentions this but that it was more likely [people] read how they wanted it to speak. The only separation I found was from pagan nations, or unbelievers.

I’m not searching merely to have a topic to discuss or argue but my husband is truly upset that have changed my mindset. While I would  prefer my grandchildren not marry interracial it’s more due to the reality of the family division it would bring.  I will however advise their potential mate be a believer. He however is frustrated because my change of heart challenges his prejudice. He is beginning to blame my church for teaching me this and while I have been believing he will come to have a relationship with Jesus and come with me, this seems to be a backwards route. I’m sure I’m not alone in this culture/religion shift.

Deborah L.

Dear Deborah,

Having just returned from speaking at many churches in Ghana (RDL),  I had the opportunity to see a number of outstanding marriages  between people with black skin and people with white.  We have noticed this also at many churches we admire here in the United States.  However, and this is huge, these marriages are between two believing Christians.  We also know several interracial couples in Israel and of course both spouses are deeply committed Orthodox Jews.  Shared belief is what matters. We would like to discuss  this question from a few more  angles, starting with correcting some Biblical misinformation.

Taking your points in the opposite order:

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Love Her, Hate Her

June 24th, 2019 Posted by Thought Tools 23 comments

During a few appearances in California recently, I found myself counseling three sincere and newly married young rabbis.  They had all enjoyed the good fortune of marrying lovely young women deeply devoted to religious ideals along with an eager willingness to adopt the mission of being rabbis’ wives.

It turned out that all three were experiencing the same mild marital problem and it was resolved for all of them with exactly the same directive.  It’s one my wife and I dubbed “The 3-A challenge for men”.  I directed these three well-meaning newlyweds to create regular opportunities to make themselves authentically feel and then tell their wives how much they Appreciate them, Adore them, and Admire them. 

Please don’t for a moment think that my three young men meekly acquiesced to my instruction.  They didn’t.  They insisted that their wives knew how they felt. They insisted that such spiritual wives as they were blessed to have would see such compliments as mere flattery. Again, I patiently explained that unless they took the time and effort to really feel deep appreciation, adoration, and admiration for their wives, saying it would be nothing but flattery.  Furthermore, I insisted, their wives were entitled to husbands who really felt that way about them.  Furthermore, a great many wives, unless told, tend to doubt the esteem in which their husbands hold them.

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When Divorce Wasn’t an Option

May 30th, 2019 Posted by Susan's Musings 14 comments

Department stores continue to disappear and the crowds in the remaining ones are increasingly poorly behaved.  Just about anything you want is available online.  I find myself  rarely stepping foot in a mall. Yet, there is one category of store that I still enjoy visiting in person. Second-hand book stores get my heart racing. I have difficulty walking away empty-handed.

And what gems I have found! One of my favorite discoveries was a copy of Pink and White Tyranny. While Harriet Beecher Stowe is universally known for Uncle Tom’s Cabin, she was a prolific author with other volumes to her credit. Pink and White Tyranny tells the tale of a New England man accustomed to competent, intelligent, God-fearing, principled and diligent women such as his sister. On vacation he meets and marries a different type of girl, one whose entire life training has been to catch a husband; she is a bit of mindless pink and white fluff.  The book is sad and humorous; depicting his arrival home with his new wife and his slowly growing comprehension that he has made a disastrous choice in his life partner.

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My wife isn’t content with her life

May 7th, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 7 comments

In reading a recent “Ask the Rabbi” you responded to a comment including the following statement “Sometimes, the wife wants to work out of the home not because the family needs the money but because she has been conditioned to believe that only such a job affirms her self-worth.”

Can you point me to information that will help me to better affirm my wife’s worth to the family regardless of her working/bringing in money. (We do well financially and our family does not want for anything.)

She stopped working shortly after we had our first child (Dec 2017) and has since mentioned in many tense discussions/arguments that she doesn’t feel to have “her own identity” since she no longer works. I feel that the conditioning, mentioned above, is the cause for her to believe she needs to work or that household responsibilities are somehow demeaning/waste of time.

I did search the “Ask the Rabbi” for similar questions but found it difficult to know keywords to search so I hope this is not a waste of your time. I really appreciate your words of wisdom on the podcast you do as well as the information you and Susan post here.

Thank you,

Nate M.

Dear Nate,

Thank you for picking up on the statement we made and giving us the opportunity to elaborate on it. We think that the question you are asking is an important one. As always in our answers to questions like these, we will try to give you and your wife a few avenues to explore. Since we don’t personally know you, we hope that at least one or two will resonate. (We are assuming that your wife is not one of those rare women who have a calling that is the equivalent of oxygen. In other words, almost everything else in life is secondary to that calling. Few men have a calling like that either.)

Just as one’s career should not completely subsume one, neither should the career of marriage and family. What are your wife’s interests and passions? Encourage her to take an art class one evening a week while you’re home with your son, attend a Bible study, volunteer with a literacy group, sign up for an adult-ed class in her area of expertise or interest—she should have the opportunity to cultivate her personality and talents for a few hours a week. She also can develop skills to use in the future or ones that can support and enhance your business.

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What steps can I take towards marriage?

April 9th, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 31 comments

I am a 38 year old young woman who has never been married and does not have any children. I was raised in a Christian home in NC. I’ve obtained a graduate degree and made a good amount of money in previous jobs. However, I can’t help feeling like a failure in the area of marriage and children.

I value marriage and leaving a legacy but it seems the men in my generation don’t appreciate my traditional values. Lots of men are meeting women using online dating and are perfectly content not choosing from the thousands of women available to them via their phone.  In addition, it’s creating more men who don’t know how to have a conversation unless they can “text” you.

I’ve started devaluing my career and education as I get older because a family of my own is what my heart desires. What advice does the Bible have for me and lots of other women in my situation?

Thanks,

Danielle A.

Dear Danielle,

What a painful period in your life this must be. We would like to offer four suggestions that we hope will be helpful, but before we do so we want to make a few comments about your letter.

Like a doctor telling his patient that he has put on too much weight and instructing him to lay off the French fries and ice cream, those able to help us occasionally have to tell us things we may prefer not to hear.  So, know that we write to you only with a deep desire to hear back from you soon with news of your happy marriage.

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Am I Destined to Be a Domestic Drudge?

March 20th, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 36 comments

Dear Rabbi Daniel and Susan,

I’ve been married for 9  years to a pretty great guy.   We have two boys and a girl, also a dog.  I have a full time job and I also take care of most of the inside-the-house chores and organize all the activities for the kids and family. 

My husband and I have had several discussions and sometimes arguments about sharing the household workload. We make new agreements about duties that my husband can take on, but within a week these agreements have fizzled out. When I ask him to take on tasks with our children, such as bedtime or supervising homework, it generally devolves into screaming matches between him and the kids.

My resentment is starting to affect my sexual desire for him. I feel less like he’s my partner and more like he’s another child.  I go all day from the time I wake up at 5:45 a.m. until I collapse into bed at 10 p.m.

Is this simply the reality of being a working mother? Do I have to abandon my  dreams of sharing the child care and household duties?

Do I accept that my husband is doing his best and perhaps is limited by his parenting and organizational skills? Do I swallow my anger, do I fight for more or do I just walk away?

Domestic Drudge

Dear D.D.,

We got lost between the, “I’ve been married for 9 years to a pretty great guy,” and the rest of your letter. If, as you say, your husband is a great guy, something is off-kilter. Exhaustion, resentment and anger are pretty awful things to drag around in a marriage so we do think this is urgent to deal with. It isn’t surprising that with so much negativity, the sexual and companionship side of your marriage is suffering.

If we told 1000 people that we received a letter that began with “I’ve been married for nine years to a pretty great guy” and concluded with “Do I swallow my anger, do I fight for more or do I just walk away?” we doubt that even one would guess the content of the intervening eleven sentences. 

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