Ask Wendy

Jewish World Review / August 28, 2000 / 27 Menachem-Av, 5760

When one spouse becomes more religious than the other; "But the cleaning lady is part of the family!"; Why He invented 9-month gestation periods

By Wendy Belzberg -- My wife and I were both raised in Jewish homes but were "High Holy Day" Jews, at best. Over the past several years I have become more committed. I asked my wife to keep a kosher home, and she has agreed. But I have also begun to observe Shabbat, go to minyan (formal prayers) everyday and study weekly with our rabbi. We seem to be moving in different directions and I feel as though our marriage is coming apart.
-- Keeping the Faith

You are the one who has driven off in a different direction. Your wife has every good reason to be suffering from whiplash. Factor in that you can claim G-d on your side and that doesn't leave her much wiggle room.

The month of Elul is a time of reflection, repentance and return (t'shuva). Will you accept nothing less than your wife following on your journey, or can you accept her the way she is, the way she was when you married her? If you don't accept her as is, you deprive her of something even G-d would not: Freedom of choice. She may or may not come to be more observant but it is a sign of her love and respect for you that she agreed to keep a kosher home. Show her the same respect, and your marriage has a chance. Leave the door open and she may follow you; drag her behind and you will not only poison your marriage, but your children's feelings about Judaism as well. Tread carefully.

* * *

I have had the same cleaning lady for the past 18 years and consider her a member of my family. Little things have disappeared in the past and I've looked the other way. This week a lot of money disappeared. I can't believe my cleaning lady would take it but, other than my husband, there is no one else who has access to or knowledge of where the money was hidden. What do I do?
-- In Denial

Do you often pay family members to mop your floors and scrub your toilets? Brace yourself for the possibility that your cleaning woman's definition of family is not the same as yours.

Sit down with her and have a candid conversation. Given your feelings toward her, I assume you would be willing to forgive her and help her out if she required financial assistance. If you are, tell her so before you broach the topic of the missing money. If you know this woman as well as you think you do, it shouldn't take long to get to the point: did she or didn't she? What you can't do is continue both to employ and suspect her. If you keep her and she doesn't fess up, you will live like a prisoner in your own home.

* * *

With the Jewish holidays coming up, my wife and I have an annual problem. She is very close to her family, and (while she's polite about it) she doesn't much care for mine. I like her family well enough, but I'd like to spend some time with my parents also. It's my wife's preference to spend both high holy days with her folks. I've suggested splitting the two days, but to her "it's just not the same." I'm particularly concerned because she's pregnant and I'm wondering what we'll do in the future when we have kids. Any suggestions?
-- Split personality

As my highly controlled, scientific studies have proven over and over again: "A son is a son 'til he marries a wife. A daughter's a daughter for the rest of her life."

A daughter myself, I recognize that your wife would prefer to spend both days of Rosh Hashanah with her parents. But that isn't real life. Compromises and accommodations are called for in every marriage and if you don't call for them now, you will lose what little leverage you may have. Insist on splitting the days, and don't bend on this one. By the way, the bond between your wife and her family will only grow stronger after the baby is born; miss no opportunity to remind her that the baby will have 2 sets of grandparents.

This is why G-d invented 9-month gestation periods. With luck and training, you can help your wife grow up a little before she has a child of her own.

Ask Wendy a question -- any question --- by clicking here.

08/21/00:'Fessing up to granny about abandoning one's people, non-kosher sis-in-law, and 'my niece is marrying a loser'
08/14/00: Marrying 'in' for questionable motivations; Should a do-gooder be reimbursed?
08/07/00: Communing with the clouds, betrothal, and banishing bosses
07/28/00: Small-city guys, self-centered siblings
07/21/00: When a child takes religion seriously, marriage obsession, and guests who just don't get it
07/14/00: Divorcing brother-in-law, uncampy kids, and a dot.comer who makes it big time
07/07/00: Hypocrites, reality checks, and the 'real estate challenged'


© 2000, Wendy Belzberg