Posts tagged " marriage "

Choosing Childlessness

October 30th, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 26 comments

I am 32 and married 3 years ago. My husband and I do not like children and thus we choose to be childless. Is that okay?

Jia Mun

Dear Jia Mun,

We aren’t sure what ‘okay’ means and we know almost nothing about you and your husband. From the fact that you wrote asking us, we assume that you aren’t completely confident with your decision. Perhaps we can suggest some avenues to explore.

We come from a Biblical perspective that says that God’s preferred architecture of life is for people to marry and raise families.  Getting married and becoming a parent are ideally both steps that discourage self-absorption and teach us the great human thrill of bringing good to others. God wants us to connect to others and countless modern studies show that being connected to family and friends is not only a formula for happiness but also one for health.  Like so many other improvement projects, connection works best from the inside out. In other words, the most effective way to set about developing a love for humanity is to start off exercising our love on our own children.  After that, upon the children of our loved ones and then moving on outward from there.

You say that you and your husband don’t like children. We confess to feeling a bit perplexed.  What exactly do you mean by that?  We do understand that having a child makes a massive difference in one’s life and we understand that this can be terrifying.  But for you both not to like children sounds a little hard to understand.

Do either or both of you come from abusive and/or unhappy homes and you are worried about failing your children the way your parents failed you?  Do you have any close relationships with unpleasant or spoiled children of friends or relatives?  Or is your aversion to children a reaction to screaming babies on airplanes and seeing toddlers throw tantrums in restaurants?

Are you possibly concerned about whether you can become pregnant and your decision not to like children is a way of saving yourself from disappointment?

Are you perhaps both extraordinarily accomplished individuals and the idea of being inexperienced and incompetent in this childcare area of life scares you? Do you not like the idea of children because it will impinge on your careers or upon your free time?  We’re just guessing here but taking the time to explore your own real reason for your statement will reveal a great deal.

You are in your thirties now, but plan on making a decision that will impact your life decades down the road. One of life’s challenges is that we must make many decisions that affect our future without a crystal ball that reveals that future.

You might want to search out blog posts written by those in their sixties, seventies and eighties who, earlier in life, chose not to have children. (Posts by younger people that merely echo your views are useless in this regard.) Some people look back and extol their earlier decision to have no children, while others have deep regrets. Don’t look just to confirm your views – read with open minds and hearts.

Most of us do not sit down and deliberately think about our purpose in life unless through illness or old age we become strikingly aware that our time on earth is limited. How will you and your husband answer the question of how the world was a better place for your being here? Children extend our time on earth by forming a continuation of our lives, providing one natural answer to that question.

Humans are created with a need to be givers and not only takers.  Just as we need oxygen, water and food, we also have the spiritual need to give.  One very fulfilling way of exercising that instinct is by having children.  Little children will happily take everything you give.  Only when they mature can you inculcate in them the principle that becoming givers enhances their life too. 

We know couples who, despite their deep desires, were not blessed with children. The happiest couples that we know of in this situation made deliberate and continuous decisions to be involved in other people’s lives, becoming real givers. They were teachers and mentors, dedicated neighbors and relatives. What are your plans for expanding your hearts beyond the two of you?

Today, choosing not to have children is possible and socially acceptable. This was not true for much of history. God’s opening words to humanity concerned having and raising children and for centuries societies assumed that their citizens had a moral obligation to do so. The last few decades have upended millennia of thinking. It isn’t hard to find sources applauding the decision to be childless, but none of those sources will have to live with the consequence of your choice as you will.

Every child should be welcomed as a blessing. It is tragic that too many are not. We would not encourage procreation as a desirable activity in and of itself. But we do firmly believe that if God grants the possibility of children, then for most people rejecting that opportunity for love and growth is a mistake.

Whatever lies ahead, be happy and blessed.

Wishing you expanding hearts,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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I feel like a stranger in my own home.

October 17th, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 27 comments

My husband (second marriage for both of us)  and I live in a 2 bedroom 1 bathroom house. Our 24-year-old nephew is living in the house with us for the purpose of learning my husband’s trade and going to college part time. I am feeling uncomfortable with this arrangement as he is not my blood relative and he has asked me if I am “trying to give him hints” which I don’t think I really answered at the time due to being caught off guard.

Later I explained to him I am not his friend, I am his aunt. I see my role during this time as helping him to get up and out on his own. I told him he needs to go out and make friends of his own age. He moved from another state and has not made much of an effort that I know of to be social.

I never explicitly talked about the “hints” comment with him, but mentioned it to my husband who said we don’t really know what he meant by that but if it ever comes up again they will have to have a man to man talk.  I tried to not worry about it, but am as careful as I can to always dress very modestly, and try not to be alone with him.

He is doing well in his work but I feel profoundly uncomfortable with this arrangement. I told my husband I would like to be able to shower in our camper in our yard and I even said I would be ok with living in the camper until we are able to find another way to work things out. My husband is not in favor of me living out there but is ok with me showering out there, however he has not had time to set it up for showering yet.

I sometimes shower in the middle of the night when not too tired or wait until the weekend to shower, when our nephew goes to stay with his birth mom, step dad and half siblings about an hour away. He is supposed to be with us a year.

Rabbi Daniel and Rebbetzin Susan, please share your thoughts with me on this.

Dear Acea,

We know exactly what we want to tell your husband, but unfortunately he isn’t asking for our advice. Will he pay attention to our words? If not, you need to find someone to whom he will listen. If there is no one (or no one who will give the correct advice) then this is one of those times where you must stand up for yourself with strength and determination.

The short answer is that this is unacceptable. It isn’t just a minor issue.  It is absolutely and completely not ok. Your husband has an obligation to provide you with a home in which you feel comfortable. For you to need to shower in the middle of the night and feel nervous and on edge in your home means that he is failing in his duties.

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Marrying again – Will the third time be the charm?

October 3rd, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 16 comments

Hello,

I am a truck driver and just started watching you and your wife on TCT. First, thank you for your ministry.

I have been married twice and was cheated on both times. I am thinking of getting married after being with my girlfriend for 5 years. Would I be wrong in God’s eyes to get married again?

Michael R.

Dear Michael,

We often drive fair distances to and from speaking appearances because we much prefer the road to flying.  We’ve had so many opportunities to admire the professionalism of most truck drivers.  Where possible we favor truck routes because we feel professional drivers are, on average, more predictable.

That said, we think you might just be behaving a bit predictably here too. 

There is no Biblical limit to the number of marriages one can contract as long as the previous marriages ended properly. However, you didn’t really think we would leave it there, did you? After all, if that’s all you wanted to ask us, you wouldn’t have included information on how your previous marriages ended and about how long you’ve been dating.

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Wife vs. Friend

May 24th, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 13 comments

I’ve been married for 18 years and we have 3 beautiful kids.

I think we have a problem. My husband is helping a friend by letting him borrow his truck a for little more than 2 months now. Every Thursday my husband drives the 2 youngest ones to school in our two passenger van. I asked him to ask his friend to return our truck so he could drive the kids to school safely, but he said that he is helping the friend and can’t ask him that yet.

Help me understand if I’m being selfish when my concern is the safety of the kids? On top of that his friend has been using the truck for more than two months. I think this has been enough time to get on his way, since his is getting paid regularly.  I assume he’s doing okay because I heard that the friend even loaned money to someone.

Do you think I’m being mean to my husband and his friend? I also laid out my views and concerns for my husband, on the first day he let the friend use the truck. I was even concerned that we may be holding his friend back from moving forward and  getting the better things in life for himself. 

Thank you so much for everything that you and Susan do. I watch your show every day on TCT and I’m now reading one of your books. I have a much better idea of things now because of you.

Love,

Gina S.

Dear Gina,

We’re delighted that you find our shows and books helpful. That encourages us to keep taping and writing.

You are actually asking three different questions:

  1. Is your husband driving your children in an objectively unsafe way?
  2.   Is your husband giving his friend help in a way that keeps his friend from taking responsibility for his own life?
  3. What say do you have in how your husband helps his friend?

It is possible that your husband thinks that doubling up on seating is perfectly safe but you don’t. However, we have a suspicion that your concerns do not stem entirely from the safety issue or you wouldn’t have let your husband drive the children even once in an unsafe manner.

You might be right that it would be good for the friend to become more independent, however you can’t know that for sure. It is possible that your husband’s friend has shared confidences with him that you don’t know about or that other factors are in play.

The third question is really the pivotal one in terms of your marriage. We feel that your question is far more of a state-of-marriage question than it is a child-safety question or your concerns about the friend’s own situation.

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Exposed

May 16th, 2018 Posted by Susan's Musings 23 comments

Even as I wrote it, I was disturbed by my last week’s Musing. The Musing’s premise was that we shouldn’t be surprised by hypocrisy in our politicians. I think, sadly, that this is true.  When many citizens demand that elected officials sanctimoniously parrot standardized phrases and then vote on the basis of those politically correct formulations we shouldn’t be surprised that the words of those running for office don’t match their personal actions.

This is not confined to politicians, of course. Our society keeps on pushing people to say one thing and think, believe and do another. For example, for many years now students taking a variety of exams, have been forced to choose between marking what they know to be the officially correct answer or responding with the truth according to their beliefs and, often, according to science. Recently, the MCATs, taken by aspiring doctors, added ideological questions that compel religious Christians and Jews to make exactly that deeply disturbing choice.

However writing about Eric Schneiderman, who resigned as New York’s Attorney General after allegations of disturbing personal conduct were made, troubled me. This resignation follows a pattern in a continuing series of stories that fling private matters into the public realm.

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Land of Few Babies

May 3rd, 2018 Posted by Susan's Musings 18 comments

A lot has been written about China’s one-child-policy, a draconian government edict that has, as entirely anticipated decades ago by wise people (like my husband), led to a demographic crisis. First, China is about to have the oldest population in the industrialized world. Second, there are shortly going to be over twenty million single men desperately seeking wives they can’t find because they were never born. National and international implications notwithstanding, in an article on the subject in the Wall Street Journal, one simple idea jumped out at me.

It seems that when Beijing changed its policy in 2016 to allow a second child, it did not result in a rash of new babies. One person quoted said that even if all restrictions on family size were lifted, “China will learn what many other countries have learned—that it is much more difficult to get people to have more babies,” (than the other way around).

What struck me is how our complex world has transformed what used to be a fact of life – married couples have children – into a controversy. Scientific advances allow men and women both to avoid pregnancy without embracing celibacy and to imagine, often wrongly, that they can have pregnancy on demand. Social trends present children both as parental trophies and as impediments to living a fulfilling life. Having children, like marriage itself, is no longer a normal step on the road of life.

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My wife wants me to get a toupee

April 25th, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 28 comments

Dear Rabbi & Susan,

You speak and write a lot about Biblical marriage and while sometimes it sounds a bit too good to be true,  my wife and I largely follow your teachings.  We’ve had many issues crop up and we have often found answers in your work. 

But we have looked throughout your work and your website for an answer to the question that is causing some stress in our relationship right now.  We have both agreed to be bound by your answer as we want the contention to end.  Here is our problem.  I am balding.  No, that does not fully describe the situation.  From the beautifully full head of hair I proudly sported when we got married, I have now progressed to the point where, frankly, I am as bald as a billiard ball.  There I’ve said it.  It happened surprisingly quickly; I am not happy about it of course but I have accepted it.  I’ve even come up with some humorous lines to respond to my ‘well-meaning’ friends teasing me. 

Here is the problem.  My darling wife wants me to wear a hairpiece or to undergo a major hair transplant.  As I said, I am not happy about my new look, but I would be even less happy about trying to hide it.  I would feel ridiculous resorting to either a wig or hair transplants.  I think I am explaining my wife’s position by saying she feels that our marriage makes us indivisible and how I look affects how she feels just as she knows that I appreciate how she looks and the trouble she takes to look that way.  I think she feels that appearing next to me in public makes her look older though she hasn’t said that. 

If I have to do what she wishes, I will do so in good grace and accept it as I have accepted being bald.  I think if you both say that I don’t have to change the appearance that God has given me, she will also accept it and come to get used to my shiny new look.

We love your television show and appreciate all the teaching you do.

Sincerely,

Fred

Dear Fred,

This has to rank as one of the most interesting questions we have ever received. As we worked our way through it, we wanted to make sure that we knew what you were not asking as much as what you are asking. You are not asking about a marriage in which one spouse feels that the other is letting him or herself go to “pot.”  This too is an important question but it’s just not yours. 

We also want to commend you both on agreeing to be bound by the answer of a third party—in this case, us.  We too set up this kind of problem-solving-dynamic early in our own marriage.  The idea is that when a disagreement occurs, its resolution does not involve a “He won” or “She won” scenario. Instead, for the benefit of the relationship, and by virtue of your earlier agreement to be bound, the relationship wins.

Balding is not under your control. We might compare it to a woman’s hair turning gray. However, that isn’t even a fair equivalent because coloring a woman’s hair today is incredibly common and acceptable. It is also less invasive physically and emotionally than a wig or implants.  Your options are a medical procedure (transplants) or a toupee which is still the barb of jokes. So, your wife’s request is a big deal.

On the other hand, her feelings are also a big deal. Making one’s wife happy is serious business.  We know from how God created the human being that few things make a man happier than bringing ecstasy to his wife.  (Deuteronomy 24:5) This applies in the living room and kitchen and in public as much as in the bedroom.

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Are men serious when they say this?

April 17th, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 25 comments

I am a 56 year-old woman who has never been married. I have recently decided that I would like to find a man and get married even in this later time of life. This surprises me because it was never really one of my goals to get married, but I have realized that I do not want to be alone for the rest of my life.

My question is this: I have signed up for a couple of dating websites. I also go on dates with people that I am introduced to from other people but I find this same issue that I am emailing you about.

What I have noticed with a lot of men around my age is they say they are looking for and still have not found “the one.”  I am surprised that I am running into this as these are men that should know by now that there is really no “one person” for another. I will acknowledge there are instances where someone finds their so-called “soulmate,” but I believe these instances are few and far between. But these men seem to think that they will find the one even this late in life and expect fireworks, etc. when they meet someone and life will be just all hunky-dory when they meet this special person.

In my opinion, they are acting like teenage girls.  What are your thoughts on this whole finding “the one” to marry? And how do I reconcile this in my head?  Do I just not even consider getting to know men who have this notion because truthfully I doubt if I would be “the one?”

Sincerely,

Julie G.

P.S. I realize now that I should not have waited so long to find a mate.

Dear Julie,

Your sentence, “In my opinion, they are acting like teenage girls,” gave us a chuckle though we realize that this isn’t a laughing matter. You are, of course, correct in recognizing that waiting for “the one” is a good recipe for staying single.

However, we would take a man’s statement about “the one” to be an opening comment rather than considering it a closing argument.  For instance, instead of dismissing the man who claims to be ‘waiting for the One’ perhaps instead keep the conversation going by saying, “I also used to think marriages are made by waiting for the one, but I have since learned that time is better spent trying to become the One.” 

If this waiting for the One is not coming up in conversation, but instead it crops up on an online questionnaire or in the first few minutes of meeting someone, we think it just might be an easy quip that could precede a deeper conversation.  (If it’s online, it could also be the easiest and best box to check even if it doesn’t actually describe someone’s thoughts.) We agree that spending a lot of time with a man who is waiting for fireworks and a symphony orchestra is a waste of time, but we would at least give time for a cup of coffee before deciding that this truly describes that particular individual’s  worldview.

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My husband is holding me back

April 10th, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 23 comments

Dear Rabbi and Susan,

We have an opportunity to increase our family income by double. We currently make about 40K a year between my husband and I.

I was accepted into a one year program that would give me the skills and connections to make between 50-80k a year myself excluding my husbands income. We would have to move about 500 miles away from our families and where we were both born but only for a year and then we could decide where to go after that.

My husband doesn’t want me to accept. He isn’t one for change and hates California, he doesn’t want to live there even for a year… I want to honor him and I understand that making more than him could cause some strain on our marriage… am I wrong for wanting this? I’m trying not to be bitter… but I’ve always been a bit ambitious and the idea of turning this opportunity down has caused me some internal struggle.

Cynthia S. 

Dear Cynthia,

You sound like a sincere and sensitive woman who is trying her hardest to cope with a difficult challenge.  Our usual disclaimer applies even more to you and your dilemma:  Since we don’t know any of our ‘Ask the Rabbi’ letter-writers personally we can hope only to raise discussion points that will be helpful along with perhaps a few considerations that you may not have yet contemplated.  We also have great confidence in our readers and know that they often contribute valuable comments.  We always read them with great interest.

You clearly recognize many of the valid concerns involved, including some that conflict with one another. You are aware of the need to respect your husband and of the potential threat to your marriage that earning more than he does can impose. You are also aware of the importance of every individual, man or woman, making the most of his or her talents, abilities and opportunities.

A number of things are unclear from your letter.  You mention that between you both, you earn $40K.  Is that half each?  Or is it mostly your husband’s earnings or mostly yours?  A joint income of $40,000 doesn’t go very far these days, yet you don’t suggest that you are struggling. Is your husband on a path to higher earnings or is he content with things as they are?  Do you feel that you are more ambitious than he is?

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Matzoh, Money and Marriage

March 27th, 2018 Posted by Thought Tools 20 comments

Here’s an unusual thought experiment: Imagine meeting a twenty-year-old man who is suffering from near total amnesia. He explains to you that he knows how to read and write, drive a car and live healthily, but has no idea at all of what he ought to be doing to prepare for successfully living the rest of his life.  What are you going to tell him?

Upon some reflection, I think I’d say to him, “There are two really important things that are vital for happy living and neither is intuitive, so I am delighted that you asked me.”

The two are money and marriage.  Nothing at all is taught about either one at GIC’s (Government Indoctrination Camps formerly known as public schools.)  Not surprisingly, the result is a huge number of twenty-year-old men who have never given a realistic moment’s thought to earning a living.  Public education’s indifference to marriage has also resulted in a significantly diminishing percentage of young men marrying.  If nobody teaches young males how money works and why marriage is important, how could they possibly know? 

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