Dear Emuna,

I have a grown child, 49 years old. He and his wife have made several bad decisions in their life, lost their home, had the car repossessed, several car repairs done that we helped with. We co-signed on a car loan and now cross our fingers they will make good on these loan payments. Their 17-year-old son got into a bad accident and has become disabled. Now they are asking us to sell a rental we have in order to purchase a home for them. This would mean giving up that extra income but if I really had to I could live without it. But enough is enough. I feel conflicted about what to do. I don’t want to sell because we are retired and will not recoup the income loss. And enough is enough in helping them again. Can you give me some guidance on what I should do?

What’s a Parent to do?

Dear Fed-Up Parent,

This is not a situation where there is a clear right and wrong. This is a judgment call that involves weighing many factors. If your list of the ways in which you have rescued your children from their bad decisions had stopped before the car accident, I might have had an easier time recommending a tough love response. But now your grandson is injured. If you purchase a home for them will that make his life easier? Will it make a significant difference to his recovery or how he is able to manage his situation? Or how his parents are able to cope with his situation?

Those are serious questions and, I would imagine, weigh heavily on your decision. On the other side are your needs. If your son is 49, then you are no spring chicken either! At this point in your life, can you afford to give up that income? Is it too big a gamble with your own financial future? You say you could live without that extra income. Do you mean you could survive or you could live? Would you be constantly resentful of your children? Would your more straightened circumstances significantly diminish the quality of your lives?

These are questions that only you and your spouse could answer. You don’t mention where your spouse is on this issue. Every situation is different and your letter is missing many important details. But I will speak personally. I think that if, God forbid, I had a grandson who was seriously disabled (you don’t mention the disability or how serious) and I could significantly improve the quality of his life but I didn’t because of my frustration with the incompetence of entitlement of his parents or even because of some financial sacrifices in mine, I would find it very hard to live with myself. On the other hand, if the situation is relatively minor and a full recovery is expected, please God, then I would be less inclined to sacrifice my own financial future (with everything that implies) due to the irresponsibility of my children. And I’m not sure it would even be good for them.

While difficult, lessons in responsibility can be learned at any age and perhaps it’s time they learned theirs. Just not at a cost that it is too prohibitive for their currently disabled son.

My Terrible Marriage

Dear Emuna,

My marriage is one year old but I feel exhausted already... My husband doesn’t care about my feelings, he has no emotions, he flares up at every trivial matter and makes an issue out of it. He can decide not to eat or talk to me for days. Even if I try to talk about it he’s never ready for conflict resolution. It just makes matters worse. He doesn’t seem to appreciate whatever I do.

I just moved from another county; we were living in different countries before we got married so I have yet to get a job. And for every little argument he threatens me with divorce! I am tired of the marriage already. I keep praying for God to touch his heart. Our sex life is very boring! I can count the number of times I have enjoyed being intimate with him, I have never cried my whole life the way I have been crying ever since we got married! Am so confused and I don’t know what to do!

In need of help

Dear In need,

Your letter speaks of so much pain that it was hard to read. While each issue could be addressed separately, it would be much better if we could get your husband on board. And it seems like, as new as the marriage is, things have already deteriorated dramatically and reached a crisis level. I suggest that you remind yourself that there are a lot of adjustments to be made – a new country; you need a new job and a new relationship. Those are three of life’s main stressors and you have them all at once! So perhaps not everything can be blamed on your husband. And maybe, just maybe, you are feeling more emotional, more vulnerable, needier, because of these stressors and he’s reacting against your expression of that, especially if you are blaming him. He may have his work to do, but he is not the architect of all your challenges.

That said, since the situation is already so dire and you are in so much pain, I think your best option is to run not walk to the nearest competent therapist. To “save” your marriage, you need someone there to work with the two of you, to walk you through the issues one at a time, to separate the marriage issues from the individual challenges and to give you a brighter future to focus on. Book that appointment asap and keep praying for God to touch his heart – and yours.

I never want to push anyone in one direction or another – especially since you’re the one who has to live with the consequences of your choices, not me. But I do think it’s important that we all recognize and acknowledge that there is a time for divorce, that the Torah makes allowances for situations where the marriage is killing you –physically, emotionally, and psychologically. It’s a terrible tragedy for all involved but it may be necessary nonetheless. I hope you get help and clarity.