September 21, 2000
Advice on life and relationships
The Stranger She Divorced
I have been divorced for four years - I left him - and am still in a state of shock by what has become of my ex-husband. I married an honest man who became a liar. I married a kind and caring man who became cruel. I married a responsible man who became a flake. I married a man who always put his children first and now, although he loves them very much, makes it clear that he does not consider them first. He has lied to me, his family, our children and G-d. Each year before Yom Kippur he asks my forgiveness for anything he "may have done" to hurt me. I have avoided his request for forgiveness these last three years. How can I begin to respond when he has no idea of what he has done or become?
All divorce hurts. Yet when a divorce is savage, anywhere from zero to "War Of The Roses," the bewildering shock that someone whom you once entrusted with your life and the lives of your children has become a hostile stranger is devastating. These aftershocks may last a lifetime and always trickle into the vulnerable psyches of the children who are jolted from the family bedrock.
Perhaps the problem you have in forgiving your ex-husband is that you believe he did not and still does not claim responsibility for his actions, or perhaps even understand what those actions were and are.
When he asks your forgive-ness before Yom Kippur, you might ask him to help you out by describing what he feels he "may have done" that needs to be forgiven. If he is unable or unwilling to do this, tell him you are working on it - both the understanding and the forgiveness.
Requesting forgiveness without accountability and actual atonement is as hollow as Anthony Soprano's confes-sions in between hits.
Perhaps you could work on forgiving the part of your ex that cannot understand. And perhaps he will one day understand and forgive you for having left him. Have rachmonis (compassion) upon the person who looks into a mirror and is blind to the stranger he - or she - has become.
As we get to know more people through our children's school and in our neighborhood, my husband and I are puzzled by the behavior of some of our peers. Parents and neighbors we encounter and interact with on repeated occasions show no sign of recognition upon meeting, or one spouse is friendlier than the other. Some of these people are people we have done favors for, have attended our children's birthday parties through the years and know us from an earlier stage of our lives and were friendlier then. What do you think is going on?
There are a couple of possibilities here. Perhaps the only thing that has changed is that as the community of children has grown, their parents' lives have become busier and more complex so they have less time/interest/attention or energy for socializing with their children's friends' parents. Either that, or they (the other children and parents) have grown and remained closer with some and not others, and you and your husband are among those others.
The only certainty is that you are perplexed and stuck on focusing on rightness, fairness or how things should be. In other words, your expectations of how others ought to behave are disappointing you. The solution then is clear. The only factor over which you have any control is your expectations. Focus on strengthening the connections you have or building new ones that better meet your needs for community and friendship. Check out your synagogue's chavurah program or some such group in which the desire for community is the common goal.
Fishing for the Truth
I recently joined a computer dating service for Jewish singles, and the majority of my experiences have been pretty positive. I have found that through the questionnaires and communication via e-mail, even before you meet someone, you can avoid a lot of Ms. Wrongs. That is, if they are truthful, and usually they are.
But - and this is a pretty big "but" - I got involved with a lovely lady whose picture and profile I liked and who described herself thoroughly as a potential dream woman. She had many of the same values, interests, etc. Her profile said she preferred someone who is not particularly observant, and that matched mine. We went back and forth with little e-mails and finally set up the big date. It was terrific. There was loads of chemistry, a rare and big plus. We began to date and by the third date, just as I was beginning to imagine introducing her to my friends as a "potential," she dropped the bomb. She isn't Jewish.
I asked her why she joined a Jewish dating service. She said she prefers Jewish men and finds them smart and attractive. When I give her the benefit of the doubt, I imagine she thought if she said she was "not observant," it meant religion wouldn't matter. She had "planned" on telling me right away, but she was so crazy about me she forgot and then during the second time she lost her nerve.
I have requested that this Internet service add the direct question "Are you Jewish?" to its questionnaire. In the meantime, if your readers belong to a Jewish dating service and assume they are fishing in a kosher pond, think again. Also, have you ever heard of this before - from Jewish men or women?
Thank you for sharing your experience and alerting fellow Jewish singles to encounters with alluring but treif denizens of the deep who are trolling for a gefilte-kind of guy or gal. I hope online Jewish dating services heed your request, but if not, assume nothing. Ask.Readers, have you encountered this or other types of fishiness in seeking a Jewish cybersweetie? Please share your stories with readers.