Dear Emuna,

Whenever my husband and I go out, he always comments on or even pays attention to the prettiest woman in the room. I have told him repeatedly that it bothers me but he dismisses my concerns by saying that his reaction is normal and that I should just chill. Is he right? It makes me not want to go out with him. Am I overreacting? What should I do?

Paranoid Wife

Dear Loving Wife,

As they say, “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you” Or, to paraphrase, it doesn’t mean it’s not true. I don’t believe that you are overreacting. You are correct that your husband should keep his eyes to himself (or on you!). In fact, on Yom Kippur, men have to specifically repent for their wandering eyes.

But, as with many things in marriage, the question is not who is right but how to handle it. In this case, I understand how you could find this painful and demeaning, even though your husband probably does not mean it that way and is likely more “clueless” than malicious. Your job is to determine the most effective way to achieve your goals.

Women have been given what the Torah calls, binah yesera, an extra dose of intuition, and this is the situation where we need to use this skill to figure out how to respond. Nagging and criticism are not only unlikely to be effective but may push him to act out and engage in this behavior even more (perhaps to assert his independence).

So what should you do? I think you should begin by doing everything you can to keep his attention on you and your relationship. If you are going out together, dress up for him. Talk to him, be interested in him, ask him questions about his thoughts.

You may bristle at this advice. After all, he’s making the mistake, why is it your responsibility? But the answer is that you are in this together and you want to make every effort to enhance your marriage. I do believe that the more attention a man gets from his wife, the less likely his eyes are to wander. Perhaps you’ve stopped trying, perhaps you take the relationship for granted, perhaps you’re too tired to make the effort. We can never stop trying, we can never stop making the effort – not if we want our marriages to stay alive. And that applies to every one, in every marriage, whether their husband has wandering eyes or not.

If, in spite of your best efforts, he continues in this behavior, I recommend that you go for some counseling. Maybe he will be able to hear from a third party what he can’t hear from you – how demeaning and insensitive his behavior feels to you. And maybe he will be able to express in a safe environment that it is certainly not his intention to hurt you and the two of you will be able to work out better communication skills and behaviors.

Where’s the Limelight?

Dear Emuna,

Last night was my daughter’s school production, their big song and dance extravaganza. She has been practicing for weeks and talked of nothing else so I was very excited to go. But the experience wasn’t as pleasant as I had anticipated. I understand that certain talented girls will always get the lead dramatic roles, musical solos and dance parts. But beyond that, it seemed to me that some girls were in every dance or choir number (and front and center no less) while my daughter’s dance group got about 30 seconds of stage time. As my daughter said to me on her way out the door, “Don’t blink or you will miss me.” While I enjoyed many aspects of the production, I was unable to quell my feelings of frustration and resentment. Can you help me?

Green-Eyed Monster Mom

Dear Tiger Mom,

You are clearly a mother who is zealous on behalf of her daughter. That is good. It is a mother’s/parent’s job to look out for her children, to be their advocate, to want their best. This is just a variation of that instinct – taken to an extreme. Because it’s certainly not clear that a lead role – with all the accompanying honor and attention – is always what’s best for our children.

The most important issue here is your daughter’s attitude. Did she like participating in the play? Was she as frustrated and resentful as you or did she just have a good time? Was she able to enjoy the sense of unity and fun that rippled through the whole school?

Was her comment meant good-naturedly or was it an expression of pique?

If she is fine (and perhaps even more than fine), don’t allow your frustration to communicate itself to her. Don’t spoil her experience and, above all, don’t introduce jealousy and resentment where there is none.

Your daughter will take her cues from you so you need to get over it! If she has the ability to take true pleasure in the good of others, then learn from her good character. Sometimes our children are our best teachers.

Winning by Cheating

Dear Emuna,

My 5-year-old daughter likes to play games. The problem is that she’s always changing the rules, dare I say cheating, to make sure that she wins. Is this normal or is it a bad quality that I must immediately try to uproot?

Unsure Mom

Dear Uncertain Mom,

Most likely that is just a reflection of the innate desire to win, our inherent self-centeredness and it’s certainly not uncommon in children of her age.

A very positive spin would suggest that she is a very creative person whose talents are inhibited by things like “rules” in games (that’s the excuse my husband makes when we play Scrabble!).

But since life does indeed have rules we need to follow, and since we do want to encourage honesty, I would gently introduce the idea of choosing some rules at the beginning of the game and sticking with them (although I wouldn’t fight about it). This is consistent with the Torah’s dictum “M’dvar sheker tirchak,” “Stay far away from falsehoods.”

I don’t think there’s anything to worry about at this point but I do think you should slowly and carefully try to weed out this behavior, both for her character’s sake and for her social life. Other children will only put up with this type of action for so long before they react negatively to it and then the “winner” needs to do a little bullying to keep getting her way.

Again, I don’t think you are at that point and I don’t think it’s cause for concern at the moment. I just think you should act (slowly, carefully, gently) before it is.