> Current Issues > Dear Emuna

My Son’s Foolish, Immature Decision

January 5, 2016 | by Emuna Braverman

At the last moment my son backed out of going on a Birthright trip to Israel. I’m furious.

Dear Emuna,

My 22 year-old son was supposed to leave on a Birthright trip yesterday but he cancelled at the last moment. I was so disappointed. I have a deep love of Israel which I have tried to communicate to my children and I was really counting on this trip to deepen his connection. He says he just wasn’t ready and will go in the future but who knows if that is true…I’m trying not to lose my temper with him for making what I believe was a foolish and immature choice but I’m biting my tongue all day (he’s home on vacation from college so I see him all day). Please help.

Disappointed Mom

Dear Disappointed Mom,

I empathize with your pain and frustration. If this is the first time you’ve felt those things as a parent, consider yourself very lucky! It certainly is disappointing but our children are not here to fulfill our dreams. We do our best and, as with everything, the outcome is in the Almighty’s hands. This is hardest to recognize with our children because our hopes and aspirations for them are so great and we have invested our very being in them – but it is still true nevertheless.

Hopefully your love of Israel has been communicated to your children, but they have to make it their own at their own time and pace. It’s better for them to go when they are in a receptive place rather than an anxious or pressured or resentful one. It’s also possible that, despite all of our best efforts, they will not replicate our love of our nation, our people, our religion – or anything else we have tried to teach them. This is not a reflection of bad parenting or anything else that we need feel guilty about. Our children become (almost) independent adults and, as such, they can exercise their free will – not always in ways that we would choose or prefer but in ways which are their own.

Our job is to provide unconditional love to them – and keep praying that they will have internalized good values (ours!) and ultimately make good choices. While Birthright trips do have an upper age limit, there are many ways to go to Israel. Please God, at the right time, your son will go on his trip and have his unique experience and make his own connection. (Don’t let up on those prayers!)

Husband Won’t See a Doctor

Dear Emuna,

I’m very frustrated with my husband. He refuses to go to the doctor, even when in pain. He claims he doesn’t want to miss work but I think it’s just some macho thing that I don’t really understand. Although it always bothers me – because he still complains that something hurts him even though he doesn’t do anything about it! – there are usually no serious consequences, thank God – to him or to us. But this last time was something different.

We have long had a dream of travelling to Ireland. We finally found a trip that made sense for us financially and logistically and we convinced some friends to go with us. At the last minute, my husband went to the doctor for an unresolved condition and was told that there was NO way he could fly. I hit the roof! I know I should have been concerned and empathic (it wasn’t life-threatening) but I was so frustrated. I still can’t look at him. I was so looking forward to that trip. I’m having a hard time getting my marriage back on an even keel. I need some advice and encouragement.

Super Frustrated

Dear Super Frustrated,

Believe me, I totally understand. It is actually a common complaint about husbands and I confess that I don’t really understand their reluctance to go the doctor unless it’s a time issue – in which case I totally relate. Either way, the reason is irrelevant. The issue now is your marriage. I’m sure you are very disappointed and I’m sure you feel you let down your friends (did they go anyway?) and have been denied something you were really looking forward to.

But let’s take a step back. Were you looking forward to going to Ireland or to going to Ireland with your husband? I hope it was the latter and that going with your husband is your priority and not seeing Ireland! If I’m wrong, then you have more serious issues than your husband’s delayed doctor’s visit and you should seek professional help. But if I’m right and your goal was to go with him, then don’t lose the forest for the trees. Your priority is your marriage. Yes, he made a mistake (I’m sure you’ve made some yourself!) and yes the mistake had implications. But in the grand scheme of things, the implications, while frustrating, were not that serious.

Perhaps you can go again. Ireland isn’t going anywhere! You need to refocus yourself on what you love about your husband and your marriage and stop reviewing your frustrations and disappointment. It’s done. It’s over. It’s time to move on. All you lost was a trip to Ireland. Don’t lose your marriage in the process. Give your husband a chance to apologize and to have his apology accepted and treat him with warmth and love so that your marriage continues to thrive. I give you a blessing that this should be the greatest challenge your marriage has to encounter!

Husband Won’t Go to Therapy, Should I?

Dear Emuna,

I have been married for 25 years. Due to stresses of life, financial difficulties, etc, my husband has become cold and angry-sounding. When I tried to go for therapy myself, the therapist just sympathized, like "poor you" and asked why he wouldn’t come. My question is what can I look for in therapy for myself that would be constructive and helpful?

Don’t Know Where to Turn

Dear Stuck,

I think that your question is an important one but can only be answered by you, not me. Really what you need to determine is what your goal in therapy is. Is it to cope with your challenges? Is it to help your husband? Is it to help your marriage? Is it to leave your marriage? There are so few details that it’s really hard to formulate a comprehensive response.

Are there children in the home? How are they being impacted by the situation? Is your goal in therapy to be a better mother? I’m sure it’s frustrating that your husband won’t come to therapy. Are there ways you could improve your relationship anyway?

You mention that he is “angry-sounding”. Is that as opposed to actually being angry? If so, are you just being extra sensitive to his moods? Do you need to stop over-reacting to those sounds? Do you need to give him a little more space, a little less pressure? Are the financial burdens shared equally? Are you contributing to the burden or, at the very least, unwilling to ease it? There are a lot of questions you need to ask and answer for yourself before you are ready to explore any kind of therapy.

It may be possible (again I say this based on the very limited details here) that if you are more loving and supportive to your husband (who must be feeling the same stresses that you are), he will respond in kind. I just don’t know but perhaps with some real hard work and some real focus on your husband’s needs, you can turn things around. Pray for the strength and the energy and the will to make the effort needed. If this, God forbid, fails, then you should consult some local resources for a therapist who can provide the therapy that YOU have now determined you need.

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