Dear Emuna,

I've been dating a man for a significant amount of time now, and I'm starting to have some serious doubts. He is a generally good, kind person but I'm not fond of some other character traits. He is very talkative and dramatic, to the point where most of my friends and family do not like him. As one person put it, he is almost too eager to please people, sometimes making them uncomfortable. He has even recently gotten upset with me because I am a more modest person and do not always like touching or having intimate moments in public. I feel as though I do love him, but I can't put up with these personality traits anymore. I'm afraid to admit, I do get embarrassed by his behavior sometimes. Talking about this just makes him defensive. Is it still worth it to try?

- Tired of Drama

Dear Tired of Drama,

I feel like I have a very incomplete picture here. “Generally good and kind” are qualities to appreciate and not let go of so fast. Did his other behavior bother you before your friends and family pointed it out? Are they picking up on something significant or reflecting their own bad values, lack of understanding of you, or inappropriate priorities? Were you embarrassed before they (thoughtlessly and inappropriately) brought this behavior to your attention? These are questions only you can answer.

Be careful about being swayed by family and friends with their own agendas.

The only significant complaint I hear is about the public displays of intimacy. I an empathic to your perspective (it’s the Rebbetzin in me!) but I don’t understand why you can’t discuss it with him. If he is indeed good and kind, he’ll probably respond with consideration to your feelings and attitude.

I admit to being confused. Nothing you’ve described so far seems to be a deal breaker. Maybe I’m missing something…but be careful about being swayed by family and friends with their own agendas. Is there a more objective third party you can consult? Family and friends may genuinely have noticed a matter of concern – or not. If you end this relationship based on their advice and reactions, they will cavalierly return to their lives and relationships and you will be the one sitting alone. That may be the right choice; just make sure you're the one making it.

- Emuna

Dear Emuna,

Last November I broke up with a guy that I was dating for a year. Things were getting serious. I was raised in a home where having good character traits and behaving with dignity and modesty in public were paramount virtues. He didn’t appreciate these qualities and was very critical of me for not dressing and behaving more provocatively. After we broke up, he became very involved in the club scene and started dating those types of girls. I am confused and hurt; I don’t understand what I did wrong and why he didn’t appreciate me. Please advise.


Dear Confused,

I’m confused too; whatever did you see in him?! And I have some very simple advice: Choose more carefully in the future. I don’t know why you assume you did anything wrong. From my perspective the Almighty was very kind to you, extricating you from a relationship that was destructive on all levels. You should be relieved and grateful that it’s over. He seems to have bad values (that he wanted to impose on you) and to waste his time in foolish ways. I think you need to do a little introspection to figure out why you were attracted to him (the stereotypical bad boy?) and why you stayed so long. But please don’t spend an extra second thinking about guys like him. Focus on finding someone who will appreciate those wonderful qualities you embody. You had a close call; do the work you need to do in order to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

- Emuna

Dear Emuna,

What should the relationship look like between a husband and wife and how does that compare to the relationship between a married man and his mother?

I have a general idea, but I feel very confused right now. I had my second child almost four weeks ago and after struggling with my relationship with both my mother-in-law and my husband after my first child was born, feeling insufficient in meeting everyone's expectations, I feel like I need to have this clarified for me. I am starting to feel even worse than I did after my first and I am not sure what to do right now to help me and my family, as we cannot afford to pay someone for me to talk to about this.

Most of the emotions and self doubts I am feeling right now would not be there if my mother-in-law was a little bit more encouraging, conveying that she believes in me as a mother. She is a very critical person and is very involved in our lives. My mother, unfortunately, is very far away and much less active in my life, although I wish it were different. Any advice from you is welcome.

Feeling Insufficient and Lost

Dear FIL,

I understand that you are having issues with your mother-in-law (an all-too-common phenomenon that deserves its own special column!) but are you really confused about the difference between a husband and wife and a married son and his mother?

Let’s start with a few basic principles. As the Talmud teaches, “A man doesn’t die except to his wife.” This is the deepest relationship you will form in your life. This is your most lasting relationship. The Talmud teaches that a husband and wife spend eternity with each other (not with your children, not with your parents – please take note!). This is the relationship where the most growth is available. It’s the relationship that teaches us about our ultimate unity with the Almighty. It is the most central relationship of our lives and it may require the most work. Even though our children are also tremendous effort, giving to our children is instinctive (if anything we sometimes have to hold back!) Giving to our spouses is not. We have to make a conscious choice. We have to step out of ourselves. But this is the relationship that really counts.

Your primary responsibility is to your immediate family – your husband and children

Secondly, your primary responsibility is to your immediate family – your husband and children. They need your full attention. They need a happy and confident wife and mother. If your mother-in-law dramatically interferes with your ability to fulfill your role appropriately, you need to pull back and limit contact with her until she agrees to be more considerate and to hold her tongue. Your family comes first. Of course, it would certainly be best if your husband could gently and lovingly explain to his mother the type of behavior and conversation that works in your home and establish some appropriate boundaries. It’s better not to frame it as a criticism of her but as a need of yours (this is a good marriage and parenting principle in general).

And what is the relationship of a married man and his mother? That’s complicated. The halachic parameters are very limited but a loving son will of course be solicitous of his mother’s needs. Nevertheless, he needs to know and she needs to know that you come first. He needs to respect and she needs to respect the family’s boundaries. It’s a delicate balance but when a son gets married, he leaves his parent’s home and clings to his wife. The Torah describes it that way for a reason (see Genesis 2:24). Both mother and son need to accept that leaving and behave accordingly.

Everyone is afraid (and rightly so) of hurting their parents but the irony is that more damage is done by allowing these situations to fester. If there is clarity about the roles and boundaries, it will actually be easier to let go of resentments and build a healthier and more pleasurable relationship with your mother-in-law.

- Emuna