Ask Wendy

Jewish World Review August 16, 2002/ 1 Elul 5762

Trial makes friendship trying; experiencing one loss, facing another; wives and brides

By Wendy Belzberg | Q: A good friend of mine has been indicted on charges of financial wrongdoing. I don't know if he is guilty. What I do know is that his crime-if he committed any-did not directly affect anyone and that he needs my support now more than ever. Should our relationship be affected by the charges against him? What if he is found guilty? What would you do if the person is a family member?

A: First, this reminder to all of us who read the newspapers daily: in our society, one is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

But let's assume your friend-or family member -is tried and convicted. He will already have been judged and punished by the state and local prosecutors. Your job as his friend is to offer support. You may condemn what he has done, and your feelings for him may shift along the way, but none of us can claim a perfect record in the moral, ethical and legal realms. As for the assertion that no one was directly affected by his actions-wake up. Surely you can stand by your friend without painting him as an innocent victim. You're not doing him a service if you are going to pretend he's done nothing wrong. Unconditional support and love for a friend or family member requires no justification. The opposite does.

Q: I am a 77-year old mother of three children. Their father died when my oldest son was sixteen. I remarried a year later but my son never liked or respected my second husband. We somehow managed through holiday dinners and family events. My second husband recently passed away and I have not heard from my son since the shiva. I have left several messages for him but he has not called back.

A: I don't know your child and I can't account for his behavior at this moment in his life-much less a time in your life when you have experienced one loss and do not want to face another. He could be one of many forty-something year-olds out there still angry about childhood and adolescent hurts (both real and imagined) believed to have been inflicted by a family member. If you were younger, perhaps you could wait patiently for your son to find his way home.

But I suggest you get to the bottom of what is bothering him-even if it means stalking him. If he wishes to create a distance between the two of you he is entitled to do so-but not without giving you an account of his feelings and your misdeeds, and offering you the chance to respond and to make them right. Don't take unreturned telephone calls for an answer.

Q: Over a year ago I had a falling out with my best friend's wife. I have not seen her or spoken to her since. Against all odds, my friend and I have managed to remain close. The topic of his wife-and of our rift-is never broached. I am getting married in a few months and I would like to know if I should invite my friend's wife, or spare us all the discomfort by inviting my friend alone.

A: Is it your secret wish to be involved in yet another rift-this time between your friend and his wife? Just because you no longer speak to your friend's wife does not mean that he shares your sentiments. Furthermore, social events of any kind can be depressing to attend solo. (Imagine how you would feel if you were invited somewhere without your bride.) If things between you and your friend's wife are as bad as you say, leave it to her to be politic-or infantile -- and to decline the invitation. But give her the choice. There is nothing like extending an olive branch on your wedding day to start your own marriage down the right path.

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07/07/00: Hypocrites, reality checks, and the 'real estate challenged'


© 2002, Wendy Belzberg