Dear Emuna,

My parents have a marriage I think you can consider normal, but recently they have been fighting a lot. For a while my father got in touch with a friend of his he hasn't spoken to in many, many years. My mom has shown signs of jealousy and they have argued about it. My dad says she is just his good friend. Last week he asked me to fix something on his phone and I saw his text messages to her saying he loves her and that soon they will be together. Now that I've put the pieces together, I'm pretty sure he has been having an affair for a while now. Should I tell my dad that I know about it? Am I supposed to tell my mom about it? What should I do? I feel a lot of anger. I feel betrayed and lied to. The situation is even worse because my grandmother is very sick in the hospital, which has made my mom really sad the last few weeks. I'm in college and live with them. Help!

Upset Daughter

Dear Upset Daughter,

It is certainly understandable that you are upset but I don’t believe you should get involved. This is between your mother and your father, however painful it is for you. You don’t know all the ins and outs of their marriage and even though you think you’ve “put the pieces together” and you’re “pretty sure he has been having an affair” you could be wrong. You may have misread or misunderstood something. Or maybe your father has been contemplating straying and has pulled back just in time. Your interference could cause completely unnecessary pain and damage.

Unsolicited advice about someone else’s marriage, even that of our parents or others we love, is almost never a good idea. And it usually backfires on the one giving the advice. (It’s a classic high school story: A friend comes to you to moan about all the faults of the person who just broke up with him/her. You agree wholeheartedly and vociferously and add a few extra faults to the mix. They get back together and all they remember was how loudly you agreed and the fault you added. You lose both friends!) Stay out of their marriage, their arguments, and their relationship. If either one of them approaches you to discuss it, then you should recommend an objective professional. In the meantime, perhaps you should see if there is any room in the college dorm or look into getting your own place. That will probably be better for your own mental and emotional health in many ways!

That Beeping Cell Phone!

Dear Emuna,

Like all cell phones, my husband’s has different options for notifications. Every time he gets an email it chirps and then, whatever we are doing, he looks down to check it. I find both the noise and the practice really irritating. I feel like he’s never really listening to me because that beep always gets in the way. What should we do?

Really Annoyed Wife

Dear Really Annoyed,

I’m sure that men, women and children around the world are cheering your letter. It is a common problem for all of us. I’m not sure that I can explain the seductiveness of emails or why they are so hard to ignore. In addition to the way that they interfere with our relationships, they also limit our productivity. Many of us spend our days reacting to emails instead of doing perhaps more important tasks.

It begins with self-control. My family (and many others I know of) has a no phone call rule at the dinner table. It started with no answering the family phone (that dinosaur known as a land line and the last bastion of telemarketers) and we have extended it to cell phones as well, threatening to confiscate the device of any family member who surreptitiously glances at their texts during the meal! This definitely helps. We know that we have that short but at least uninterrupted time for dinner and conversation.

It sounds forced but I think you need to do the same for your relationship. There needs to be times, perhaps date night, perhaps half an hour every evening, perhaps in the car together, where cell phones are off limits because it’s time for the two of you. I try (not always successfully as my husband will attest) to leave my cell phone at home when I go out with my husband for the express purpose of spending time together. I figure that if our children need us, they can call his phone and everything else can wait. It’s the times in between that are more difficult, the impromptu conversation around the house that may spring up and then be interrupted by those distracted glances.

Like I said it begins with self-control. We need to remind ourselves which relationships are the most important and discipline ourselves not to look at our phones non-stop. (We need a world-wide movement for support) And we need to see that we can leave our phones at home when out with our spouse and the world doesn’t stop. I think if you sit down with your husband (phones away!) and have a calm conversation about it, he will understand. You then need him to commit to putting the phone in another room, or on silent, for a specified amount of time to help remove the temptation. If you think of other strategies, let me know. We’re all in need of some!

Getting My Kids to High Holiday Services

Dear Emuna,

Every year at the High Holidays, I drag my teenagers to synagogue kicking and screaming. They don’t enjoy it and they do it for me – but the price is high. I want them to understand how important these days are and to keep up the traditions but the fighting wears me down. What do you suggest?

Jewish Mom

Dear Jewish Mom,

Ideally this is a conversation that should begin long before the week of Rosh Hashanah. We need to educate our children thoughtfully and carefully so that they understand why we go to synagogue and that they have a goal in mind for the day. In the absence of that and in the short time remaining before these days begin, I would not advise forcing hostile, uneducated adolescents to endure long hours in synagogue. I would suggest a compromise. Why don’t you ask them to pick one part of the service (i.e. the shofar blowing) that they feel they can come to? Then ask them to do a little research on that aspect so that they know what they are participating in. Perhaps even ask them to present what they learned at your holiday meal. They need to feel a sense of ownership, a stake in the proceedings and not that they are just going there for you. I know it sounds hard but with a little more investment on everyone’s part, it can hopefully be a more meaningful experience for all. Have a sweet new year!