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My Husband Moved Out
Dear Emuna

My Husband Moved Out

My 77-year-old husband told me he needed a break and moved into his own apartment. I’m hurt and angry.


Dear Emuna,

I am a 71 year old woman married to a 77 year old man. He retired five years ago from his government job. We have one daughter and three beautiful grandchildren. About a year ago he told me he needed a break and said he was moving to his own apartment. I am angry, devastated and very hurt. He said he was going through a mid-life crisis. I went to the rabbi and he told me not to pressure him and give it time. I am also seeing a counselor. He finally started coming with me to the counselor. He comes to see the family two or three times a week. I feel very hurt, angry and disgusted with this arrangement. We are paying for two apartments. He is also very secretive and found out he has prostate problems which he kept from me. What do I do?

Hurt and Angry Wife

Dear Hurt and Angry Wife,

While I can’t even begin to imagine your pain and frustration and your sense of betrayal after so many years (you don’t say but I assume it’s been many years), your options are limited.

You can walk away (in which case you probably wouldn’t have bothered to write) or you can patiently wait it out – with the help of the counselor.

It is definitely a positive step that your husband is coming to therapy with you. Anger and disgust, while possibly legitimate responses, are not helpful ones (actually I’m not really sure how disgust comes into play). Neither is focusing on his secrecy. He needs some space right now and if you want your marriage to survive you need to give it to him, despite how hard that it is to do.

You have a daughter and grandchildren. You have spent many years together. It’s worth giving the marriage and your husband a little more time to figure things out.

Yes it’s incredibly hard, but perhaps with compassion instead of anger you can make the process a little bit easier.

Dear Emuna,

My daughter’s new in-laws are very difficult. When my daughter was engaged and planning the wedding, they tried hard to break it off. They cancelled the first wedding hall we had booked, even though we paid a non-refundable deposit. They told us it was ok to hire my husband’s best friend as the officiating rabbi, and then fired him, replacing him with a local rabbi they suddenly decided they liked better and then replacing the second rabbi with a third that they flew in from NY on the wedding day. They sent out their own invitations and refused to give us names of their guests. When the in-laws stayed with the young couple recently, the mother-in-law left her email open on my daughter’s computer and my daughter read emails the mother-in-law had sent to her friends and relatives saying my daughter, husband and I are evil, stupid and crazy. When my son-in-law raised the issue of an apology to his mother, she said that it is my daughter’s fault for reading the emails.

My daughter just had a baby. When the in laws came to visit for a week, my daughter was loathe to have her in-laws hold the baby. I have counseled her to give in and get along for her husband’s sake, since he is suffering from the tension. My daughter refuses unless her mother-in-law apologizes to her. Since her mother-in-law has made it clear that she hates me, I have not had any contact when they come to visit. Regardless, I would like to find a solution to this problem for the baby’s sake. I feel that my daughter should directly confront her mother-in-law the next time they are alone to give her an opportunity to mend her ways. My daughter feels that the best path is to sit in stony silence and to prevent her mother-in-law from being involved with the baby. Do you have any suggestions?

Helpless Mother

Dear Helpless Mother,

Boy, these mothers-in-law versus daughters-in-law letters just keep on coming! This is a rough situation. While I certainly don’t think that “sitting in stony silence and preventing her mother-in-law from holding the baby” is likely to produce positive results, I certainly understand why your daughter feels compelled to adopt that position.

I’m not sure that your advice will work either – how do you confront someone who believes you are “evil, stupid and crazy”? And tells her friends! What do you say to her? “Am not!” (!)

It seems to me that there is only one person here who has a chance, if one exists, of improving these relationships. That person is your new son-in-law.

It is his job to speak up to his mother, being more forceful than merely “raising the issue of an apology.” He needs to explain that his first and primary loyalty is to his wife and that he will not, under any circumstances, tolerate his mother’s cruelty towards her. He needs to make it clear that if she wants a relationship with him and her grandchildren, she needs to change her ways.

She obviously doesn’t care about her daughter-in-law. But she does care about him. She doesn’t want to lose him. He needs to stand up to her and establish clear boundaries. It’s his only hope for a decent relationship with his mother and for a healthy marriage.

Dear Emuna,

My son is really upset. Two weeks after passing out invitations to his Bar Mitzvah party, another boy in the class passed out invitations to is party – on the same night. This wouldn’t be so bad except that the second boy comes from a very wealthy family and everyone knows that they are going to throw an extravagant party. My son is concerned that everyone will go to the other party and skip his. What should I do?

Worried Mom

Dear Worried Mom,

Don’t worry! This is what our current president would call a “teachable moment” – and what better occasion than a Bar Mitzvah for such an opportunity?

Learning who your friends really are, learning how meaningless the word “popular” is, learning how superficial some relationships are and learning to appreciate and value your true friends are just some of the important life lessons that can arise from the experience and that can animate your dinner table discussions with your son.

But, even more importantly, a smaller party may allow your son to actually focus on the meaning of the day, which often gets lost under too much glitter.

This is your opening to discuss with your son what being Bar Mitzvah really means, what are the privileges and the responsibilities of Jewish life.

Many families and their Bar Mitzvah-age sons never get to have this conversation. It’s frequently all about the party. The boy who’s having the bigger bash has given your son a true gift – the opportunity to focus on and understand what being Bar Mitzvah is all about.

I don’t mean to diminish the very real pain your son may be feeling; I just mean to suggest that it can be reframed. And that you don’t need to add your own sense of frustration and resentment to the mix. You can be empathic (you should be empathic) – but then you can move on to discussing how to cope. And even, perhaps, to recognizing that this situation is tailor-made for him by His Father in Heaven (perhaps a little sophisticated, but this may be the time to start implanting this idea).

March 18, 2014

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Visitor Comments: 10

(9) Lois, March 11, 2015 6:02 PM

mother in laws

I think the daughter is right. If her mother in law can't treat her with respect, she should be banned from their home and grandchildren especially if she criticizes in front of her grandkids. The daughter's mom sounds sweet and more forgiving than I would be. Both my husband and I had mother in law problems. He let me handle his mother and said whatever I did was fine. I told her she was not welcome in our home after a round of critical remarks of everything I did and wore but I told my husband he could bring our daughter over to see her without me and I had some peace and quiet. Then she was embarrassed when she acquired a boyfriend, her husband, a great guy had died a few years back, and she called me for permission to come over. She was more accepting and even defended me against her boyfriend who complained about something I made at a dinner for them. My mother picked on my husband for various things the same way she did with my sister in law and I told her she wasn't welcome to come over if she continued acting that way. My dad stuck up to for my husband every time she said something. Inlaws can be trouble. Don't let them push you around. If they can't respect you, stay away from them and if your spouse is on their side, it's time to get counseling and maybe divorce if the spouse is unwilling to stand up for you. Your kids will be harmed more by their treatment of you and in time them if you expose yourself and your kids to abuse.

(8) Maz, May 16, 2014 12:27 AM

I can sort of see the mother in law's position here

My aunt is 'the mother in law' and she has said similar things to me about her daughter in law. I have never met the daughter in law, but as far as I know (having only heard aunty's version of the story), if she is to be believed, her daughter is a nasty piece of work who won't ever let her see her grandchildren. Families for you. Anyway, what is NOT happening in my family, and what NEEDS to happen in this one, is that both parties need to get together and come to a resolution. In other words, the daughter should agree to let MIL hold - and look after - her grandchildren, ON CONDITION of receiving not just an apology, but also MIL's acceptance that she is part of her extended family by her son's choice, and that her son's first loyalty will be to her and their children - not her. If son refuses to back daughter up, then I would be banning MIL from home and isolating her from family functions, and maybe allowing her a (very short) annual visit.

(7) SusanE, March 27, 2014 4:40 PM

What Have You Done to Understand?

Go to his apartment. See who his new friends are, and talk to his old friends about their understanding of his move. Understand where he is spending his time since he no longer works. If he is being secretive.... he is doing something he doesn't want you to know about. (obviously). Your daughter probably has a better understanding of the situation. A year is a very long time to leave your wife for a middle age crisis and 77 isn't middle age. ....Ask your rabbi and the counselor to be frank with you. You have every right to know if your marriage is over.

(6) Arnold Woods, March 25, 2014 2:12 AM

My Husband Moved Out

Do we really have the full story here? We've heard the wife's version and the wife's version of the husband's version, but have we heard from the husband? Why is the wife always lily white and the innocent victim, with the husband the perpetrator? Can we be certain from this "letter" that the wife wasn't, in some way, complicit in the husband's departure. We need a male point of view, not just a facsimile letter with a soap opera response.

(5) genodoc, March 21, 2014 6:55 PM

Daughter in law with a problem

Teaching moment for daughter in law. Stand up to MILaw by DEMANDING that her husband choose her and THEIR child over his mom. She will be a perennial problem for the daughter in law and THEIR baby!~! Apology will be superficial. Only answer is to isolate her from all family functions until she grovels. Then, any return to this barbaric behaviour and she is out for good!! Then they can live their lives in peace knowing a) they did the right thing. b) she'll never bother them again!!

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