My daughter is dating a non-Jewish boy. In addition to the religious differences, he's also younger and comes from a different cultural and socio-economic background. We've made it clear that we will not pay for an interfaith wedding, nor will we attend. Of course I want her to be happy (though I do think she's settling for someone who won't fight with her) -- but I made it clear that she would be creating a rift in the family if she pursued this relationship. Did I go too far?
-- Tormented Mother
Dear Tormented Mother,
Oh boy; this is a tough one. And not knowing you and your family makes it even harder. It’s a fine line between standing up for your principles and not completely alienating and pushing away your daughter. I don’t pretend to be able to tell you exactly what to do and not to do and you should certainly seek guidance from an experienced rabbi. But I can remind you of two things: Your love for your daughter is not irrelevant to her and will continue to have an impact on her life and, secondly, her children will still be Jewish. You want to keep the relationship close, both because you care about her deeply and also because you can still have an impact on your grandchildren. You need to stand up for the Jewish people while, at the same time, not destroy your relationship with your daughter. It isn’t easy but with your sincerity and desire to do the right thing, I'm sure you will discover the appropriate solution.
I am 45 with four healthy children but have not been able to get over the desire to have another child. I waited until I was 35 to have my first child for what I consider selfish reasons, and now I am a full time mother and want just one more. Everyone thinks I am too old and my husband feels overwhelmed with the burden of educating our children Jewishly. But I still want another. Should I press the issue or just move on?
While I’m sure you recognize that this is a decision that only you can make, I will share a few succinct thoughts with you. The first is that you never hear of someone reaching the end of their life and saying “I wish I’d had fewer children.” The second is that it is a cornerstone of Jewish tradition that our children are our future and that finances should never be a consideration in determining how many to have. The emotional, psychological and physical health of the mother is really the most important consideration and the most determinative. There is no better use of your money than children (although I hope my daughter who just asked if we could go shopping isn’t reading this!).
Sometimes, on a rough day at home, my husband will say that he wanted puppies but I insisted on children! But there isn’t a more devoted parent alive. The bottom line is that, however difficult it may sometimes be (and it is), there is nothing more valuable that we can create with our lives – and nothing that gives us greater pleasure. I wish you much success and guidance from Above in evaluating this important choice.
I have a very good relationship with my husband; I just think it’s possible to improve it. We have a common problem – I am much more expressive with my feelings than he is. I would like him to be more expressive and have discussed that with him but I understand that it is not his nature and difficult for him. The problem is that he is a big perfectionist and wants most things to be his way. I must agree that they are normally better that way; I am more relaxed and don’t care so much if things are done this way or a little different. But when something is not done his way, he gets very aggravated. He gets very uptight and doesn’t talk other than where absolutely necessary. I get very unsure of myself. When I speak to him about it, he says that he never was upset with me and he doesn’t understand why I reacted so strongly. I would be very grateful for some advice.
In Search of Improvement
Dear In Search for Improvement,
I really respect you for wanting to move beyond a good relationship with your husband to a great one. I think it’s a goal we should all share. And I also think you’re correct that what you’re dealing with is a common problem. But perhaps not for the reasons you think. It seems to me that you are describing personality differences between you and your husband, not just male/female issues. And there’s nothing wrong with that and nothing to be alarmed about. In fact, one of the factors that attracted you to each other was probably the complementary nature of your personalities.
Carl Jung identified eight different personality types and each of us has some permutation of four of them. How they manifest themselves and the ways in which we differ from our spouses is one of the best opportunities for growth in a marriage – but may also be the source of some struggles.
I highly recommend you track down a copy of Miriam Adahan’s excellent book, “Appreciating People” and that you both read it. It will help you understand each other better (and your children too, if you have them) and work together. As the title suggests, no one personality type is superior to another; they are just different and we need to appreciate all of them, perhaps especially the ones we don’t have!
I will just share a brief illustration. There is a personality type that likes rules and order and closure. There is an alternative type that likes to keep their options open, likes spontaneity and greater freedom. If these two types marry each other, their styles may clash and lead to frustration. But if we appreciate that the different personality type is not out to get us but just sees the world differently, we find a new way to communicate and a broader sense of what’s possible.
Neither way is right or wrong and both sides can learn from the other. It may be healthy for kids to have a regular structure and bedtime and one personality type is better suited to enforcing this than the other. On the other hand, the more relaxed personality may help his or her partner appreciate special occasions that call for less rigidity about the rules, thereby opening their family up to unique experiences they would not have otherwise had. In the ideal marriage, through working and growing together, both parties eventually meet in the middle.
I commend your desire to enhance your marriage. You both need to focus on appreciating what’s good about your partner’s personality and examine the growth available for each of you. By appreciating what’s really special about your husband’s personality – and by his doing the same with respect to you – you will end up, God willing, with that great marriage of your dreams.