Rabbi Reuven Livingstone answers readers’ questions in his weekly column, Ask the Rabbi.
Help! I’ve got a 10-year itch
My tenth wedding anniversary is coming up and although I’ve had a reasonably happy marriage, I’m suddenly getting cold feet at the prospect of reaching such a milestone. I love my husband but feel like these 10 years have left me totally unfulfilled and that we tend to have different interests that have forced us apart. He has no interest in marriage counselling, yet unless he agrees to it, I am scared I may walk away from our marriage. We have two grown-up children who have recently moved on to university, so as well as empty nest syndrome, I’m extremely concerned I‘m drifting apart from my husband and am unsure how to cope with the situation.
Many long-married people experience similar ups and downs. I hardly need tell you that a relationship needs to be nurtured and recreated constantly over time. You need somehow to be able to share some of your feelings and concerns with your husband.
One idea is to ring-fence time when you can work on the relationship. But there are two different approaches that one must employ. Firstly, you need to go on ‘dates’ with your hubby designed to simply enjoy time together without discussing heavy issues. Find something that you both appreciate – or a restaurant that appeals – and begin to enjoy being together without any agenda or measuring the experience.
Secondly, you need another type of time with him; a specific arrangement to sit and discuss things about the relationship that are both making you happy and troubling you. Communication is essential to keeping any relationship alive – but it is vital to have different types of communication to address different needs that don’t simply merge into one.
My teen simply won’t engage
My 14-year-old son attends a non-Jewish school so I’m very keen to persuade him to attend a Jewish youth movement to have a Jewish social life. The problem is that he absolutely refuses to show any interest in doing so. Each time my husband and I approach the subject, he shuts down. How can we encourage him to give it a try – or should we not make such a big deal of it and let him decide?
It may be that you are trying a little too hard in pushing one idea. It’s in the nature of many teenagers to push back when pressured. Maybe a better tack would be to look at enhancing his Jewish experience before his Jewish social circle.
One way of doing this is to do things as a family or ‘mother and son,’ which might motivate him and spark a greater Jewish interest. This can range from making a special effort to create a nice Shabbat or festival atmosphere at home – perhaps by inviting family and friends to join in – to inviting him to shul or a Jewish event or activity of interest.
In addition, you can try to tap into whatever he already enjoys. So, for instance, if he is into sports, there are Jewish teams and competitions that would also give him a powerful social dimension. If he likes history, there are museums and exhibitions and talks where he can meet others.
Another idea might be to take a trip to Israel, if you haven’t already done so, to whet his appetite in terms of what is happening there.
The point is that there are many ways to come at this problem. If the direct approach is not working, then certainly try another road, which can lead, almost invisibly, to more Jewish interest and interaction. Good luck!
I have made a meaty mistake
I’m a fairly religious 45-year-old but recently caved into my desire to eat non-kosher meat. I am now racked with guilt and wonder what on earth came over me. It is not something I’d ever do again and feel I’ve gone against everything I believe in. Can I make amends or should I just shut up and forget about my mistake?
It is important to close this off and go forward. If you sincerely regret yielding to this temptation and accept not to do it again, then you have done your Teshuva (penance) and need to stop beating yourself up.
Interestingly, the sages tell us that one does not come to robust observance other than by stumbling first and making mistakes. This type of experience can be used to fortify your resolve to keep kosher.
On a separate but related note, there are plenty of kosher options that are as good as non-kosher ones. All one often has to do is exercise a little patience and seek out the nearest kosher alternative.
Again, the rabbis of the Talmud in their wisdom say that for everything treif there is a similar, if not identical, kosher version, else there would not be free choice in observance!