May 1, 1997
By Deborah Berger-Reiss, M.A.
I'm in love with a woman who broke up with me a year ago and has moved on to a new relationship that looks serious. Two years ago, I won her back from the same man. We've been together on and off for three years, and when she's not with me, she's with him.
She said the reason she's with him and not me is not that she loves him more or finds him more attractive. She's with him because he's stable, doesn't travel as much for work as I do, is very good to her, wants marriage and children now, and is even-tempered. I admit that I am moody, but I know that I love her, and she loves me. Also, I admit that I didn't want to get married, because I felt too young, and I did occasionally tell her that I felt trapped by the commitment. But now that I'm 30, I am almost ready for marriage. I am living in dread of the announcement of their wedding that is sure to come.
She phones me occasionally, and we get along so well. We flirt, don't talk about anything serious, and then when we hang up, I am depressed all over again. I just feel stuck.... Everyone I date I compare to her, and, needless to say, they all look pretty bland. Should I risk humiliation and pour my heart out to her once again, or should I give it up?
Dear Broken Heart,
Why would you listen to me if you never have been able to listen to your ex-girlfriend? Nonetheless, if you were to pay attention, you'd understand that the only thing you haven't done here is make a decision.
If stability, marriage and a family are something you are absolutely ready to offer, go ahead and pitch her one last time. The only thing you have to risk is one more rejection, but, at least, you'd be forced to get on with your life, and, eventually, you'd get over it.
If, however, as you say, you are "almost ready," why not look into the mirror, get real and call it a day on this fantasy? The great "love" you shared was not enough then, so why would it be enough now? If you proposed marriage without the real goods, in no time, she'd find you once again moody, "trapped" by the commitment and a little too "young" for her tastes.
Speak No Evil
I made the big mistake of confiding to my good friend of 25 years that I thought her husband was never good enough for her. I cited several examples of this to support my theory. At the time, my friend took these remarks as they were meant -- to empathize and commiserate with her during a period of severe marital difficulties in which they were considering a separation.
My friend and her husband got counseling and decided to try it again, but my friend has been avoiding me ever since. I am afraid that she may have told her husband all the unkind things I said about him, and I am so upset that I don't know what to do?
It's hard to think straight when your foot is still stuck in your mouth, isn't it?
You'll just have to call or write her a letter and explain how embarrassed you are...that you were trying to be supportive but got carried away. If you think of anything nice to say about her husband that she's likely to buy, add that. Being honest and contrite is about all you can do.
The bottom line, however, is that you botched this one big time, and all you have to rely on is your friend's mercy.
Big lesson here, readers. It's not a good idea to talk badly about anyone, if you can help it, but never, ever dis a friend's spouse -- past, present or future. Those words inevitably bite back.
Dignity in Death
I am old and live alone. I am too uncomfortable to wear anything when I sleep, but when I die, I don't want to be found nude. I'm sure that many women share this fear. Is there a solution?
First of all, it is essential that you be as comfortable as possible while you are alive. This means that should you pass away during the night, you may be found nude; however, if you have done some planning, you will remain so only for a brief moment, and treated with the utmost dignity.
Rabbi Zalman Manela at the Chevra Kadisha, the Orthodox burial society, as well as Ms. Fran Krimston of Hillside Memorial in Los Angeles agreed that if you make advance plans with a Jewish funeral home, you will immediately be wrapped in a white shroud.
Rabbi Perry Netter of Temple Beth Am in Los Angeles addressed the issue of modesty by explaining that Tahara, the ritual washing in preparation for the burial, is performed by women for women. At the end of the ritual, the woman leading Tahara states that she has prepared the deceased according to the laws of our people, and then asks forgiveness if, in any way, the deceased has been embarrassed or offended by the process.
If, as you say, you are alone, you must also consider who will find you. It is imperative that you have a female friend, relative or landlord who checks in on you regularly, who is aware of your plans and wishes.
Finally, you might consider leaving, on your night stand or some other prominent spot, a well-marked letter that includes the phone number and address of your contact person and your specifications and plans in case someone other than your friend finds you.
Thank you for your letter. May you find comfort in the fact that you have helped to clear up the mystery for many others in your situation. *
Deborah Berger-Reiss is a West Los Angeles psychotherapist.
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