Tuesday, November 17, 2009

He's not as think as you bad he is

Very few of the men I write about read this blog; I think there have been three. JV has stopped reading it, at my request, and I believe him because he is an honorable man. Which you might not think, but please trust me on this one. Whatever his faults, or defenses, or conditioned responses, JV is a man of tremendous honesty and personal integrity.

ET is another man I've blogged about, and he's frequently taken issue with how I depicted him. Sometimes rightly so. Thus, first and foremost, I want to say that JV is probably not nearly as bad as I've made him out to be. I'm good at writing about bad men -- apparently I'm not as good at writing about good men.

JV is not trying to change me, although he thinks my life would be better and I would be happier if I changed. He never intended to get romantically entangled with me or any other orthodox woman -- I forced the issue, and I knew how adamant he was about not being orthodox when I seduced him. So this mess is largely of my own making.

Several of my friends have given their input. Some were blunt:

Why not marry a goy? maybe you'll find 'love' there?
You can't slap the creator in the face by lowering your standards and expect Him to help you find true love.
If he would love you he wouldn't pull you down.

Thanks, DT. Don't hold back; tell me how you really feel.

Gloria Chang was kinder:

In my own religious tradition (which as you know gets its best ideas from Judaism :-)) the key questions to ask about a potential marriage partner are, "Is this person the one who can help me become a saint? Will I grow closer to Gd faster with this person?"

I see his objections to your practice as a problem. It would be one thing if he simply disagreed with you, but didn't object to YOUR keeping kosher and Shabbat. That he does object, means that he wants to change you, and pretty radically too.

You are probably not able to see this, but your devotion to Gd and His laws is a beautiful thing. It is, in fact, shalom. Every time you post about Jewish issues or "how I spent Shabbat" or agonize over how to treat others ethically, that shalom shines through. It is a nourishment to me personally and I am certain that it is to others as well. Again, you may not be aware of just how far your influence stretches.

Wasn't it Abraham Heschel who called Shabbat "a cathedral in time"? I wish the Christian world had such a cathedral.

I never considered myself a spiritual role model. I'm kind of panicked at the thought, since I'm so incredibly imperfect and right now, my faith is at a very low ebb.

The Kallah sent me some inspiration:

I only know what you write on your blog, so forgive me for being forward.

I'm a little leery of how controlling JV sounds, but I thought you might get some clarity from re-reading this article which I posted on FB a long time ago. It's the true story of a woman who decided to marry a man who was considerably less frum than her.

I bentch you that Hashem should give you clarity (and that you give yourself the time for clarity). And also that while it may hurt right now, it's a blessing that JV is being so upfront with you about who he is and what he's willing to do. (or not do). But I don't think it's fair of him to expect you to give up shabbos & kashrus just because he doesn't like it.

I wrote back:

Thanks. You're not being forward, you're being a caring friend. And to be fair to JV, he's extremely wounded by his toxic marriage and horrific divorce.

I love this article. But it's not going to be JV's story. He is incredibly bitter and angry not only at his evil ex but at the orthodox establishment, which treated him with incredible contempt. I can't blame him for how he feels, but I also don't know how much I can change to satisfy him.

Unfortunately, he was and is the man who loved and respected me the most. I'm afraid if I let him go I will never find anyone who will care about me half as much. I'm incredibly torn.

Right now I can only take it day by day. My psychiatrist says that the less I work at it, the better it will go. I'm going to try that for a little bit.

Dr. R actually thinks this relationship has potential -- and that if I don't meet JV's need for control with confrontation, he's more likely to relax. Sort of the same principles I use when counseling substance abusers. If you demand that they change, they resist. If you roll with the resistance instead of meeting it head-on, you help them realize how using is causing problems in their lives, and they develop their own motivation to change.

Of course, when I'm working with clients, my own emotions aren't directly engaged. It's funny -- people assume that therapists somehow have an unfair advantage in personal relationships. I don't think that's really the case. When it's about you, and your own feelings, it's very hard to maintain a professional distance and operate your skills and tools.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"


  1. what goes in vs what comes out.

    Replace kashrut with lashon tov, speak kindly, blog with compassion, uplift souls with happiness, inspire!

    Not using electricity vs real shabbas

    Replace the day of rest from the internet, phone, email with an active acceptance deep in your soul of reality and take a moment each day to connect to oneness.

    Aka symbolic (but valuable) practices out, alchemical practices in.

    Its part of spiritual maturity

  2. I am a bit surprised that a person with your professional experience would buy into the "Evil Ex" position. Is it ever that simple? Don't we all contribute to our lives and our situations. JV had no role in the marriage and its demise?

  3. I know that the Aish story is meant to be inspiring. But I just found it condescending, as I do many stories about kiruv. Non-frum people in these stories can be good people as long as the final result is that they become frum. The non-Orthodox exist in these stories only to become Orthodox, or occasionally to serve as an antagonistic foil for the frum people.

  4. I agree with Dr. Roda, fwiw. I get that you don't want to 'waste time' indefinitely if this relationship isn't about tachlis, but I also think it's the best thing you've got going on right now, and perhaps the best thing you've had going on in a long while. Don't give it up. Don't give it a deadline.

    And when it comes to shabbat and kashrut - even if he doesn't want it to impinge on his life in the slightest - there are still workarounds. Let him do the driving. Eat salad when you're with his family. It doesn't have to be a huge deal.

    You're happy. He's happy. Don't rock the boat.

  5. I'm with Anonymous. "Evil ex"? And I think it's strange that someone would compare their relationship with a recovering addict in a favorable light.

    Please get a second opinion. People never change (unless they themselves really really want to). The key to a happy marriage and happy relationship is when both people spend more time giving then more taking. If he's having such a hard time letting you live the life you want, that is seriously problematic and not likely to change.

    "Don't rock the boat" is pretty much always bad advice unless you are actually in a real boat in water.

  6. CA, "evil ex" is my nickname for her. And yes, I did get a second opinion. I have spoken with several other people who knew her, and the stories they told me set my teeth on edge. I'm not just taking his word for it.

    Also, I'm not comparing my relationship with JV to my relationship with my clients. But addicts are famously resistant to change, like someone else we know, and the technique I'm describing has proven successful in helping them.

    JV is a giver. You can't really see it, because I haven't spent enough time describing how much he gives me. He took me in several times when the rats were rampaging. He changed my toilet seat cover. When I was trying to fix some jewelry and couldn't do it, he brought over the right equipment and helped me. In a million ways he respects and cares about me.

    But he wants someone who will be a 100% partner with him, and in this area he can't compromise.

  7. I agree w/Carmen 100%. Try to take this day by day. Take a deep breath and enjoy the present, for now.

    Are you JV's first serious relationship since the ex? Maybe as he grows to love and respect you he will give you space to be yourself, whatever that means.

    Sounds to me like JV has a lot of scars from EE and may be pleasantly surprised by how little your daily observance impinges on his life.

  8. How does your being religious prevent you from being a "100% partner"? I know plenty of couples where one partner is religious and one isn't. Their relationships are healthy and thriving because they a) accept each other 100% with no reservations b) are BOTH constantly willing to compromise- about everything- shabbat, kosher, kids, etc.

    That's nice that he's willing to help you out when you're in a bind, but I don't see these two above components in anything you've described (if I'm wrong, forgive me). Without them, I don't see the how this relationship has a future.

    I hear what you're saying about "rolling" with his stubbornness. But having been in relationships with similar men myself, the only thing "rolling" and being flexible got me was frustrated and dirty.

    Personally, I don't think you deserve the space to be yourself only after he grows to love and respect you. Basic acceptance and respect for who your are is the bedrock of the relationship and really needs to come first.

  9. I love the first Anonymous comment.

    It seems like there is a false dichotomy here. It's either complete orthodox style observance regarding shabbos/kosher or nothing. There are a lot of in between positions.

    My roommate, for instance, doesn't keep shabbos according to orthodox standards, but he does refrain from activities that he deems unworthy for a day of rest, such as using his computer or other activities which are distractions from peace and tranquility and community. He goes to a nondenominational community minyan which is egalitarian

    If JV is upset at the orthodox institutions, you can practice a different style of Judaism which perhaps you both feel is acceptable. This all depends on your personal views of Jewish practice. Do you feel that it's either orthodox Judaism or nothing? have you thought about this?

  10. I agree with Dr. Roda, Carmen and FTT. However, I do think that Abbi has a point. You do need space to be yourself and that should be one of those up-front things that happens even at the beginning of the relationship. Especially when it comes to something so important.

    I understand that you are having religious doubts, but religion is a very big part of your life. And as your friend Gloria said, you have no idea what Shabbat (and other mitzvot) mean to your life in every way. It's all the little things, and it's a pretty big thing too. He needs to respect that, just as you are trying to respect him and his feelings and beliefs. I strongly suggest that you attend some pleasant, interesting classes or group discussions about the meaning of these practices before you consider discarding them. If only in the interests of being an informed religious consumer or non-consumer. After all, we're constantly told by most of society, and you're being told by your boyfriend, that religion is valueless or of little value. You should have at least something on balance, to give you perspective.

    I DISAGREE with your saying that you painted JV in a bad light. I think you've spoken about him as a very good person. And just as he has issues with his past, you've got your own issues to confront. So you're a little wary in certain areas, and that if anything... is what you're portraying. That doesn't make JV the bad guy, at all.

    And I'm glad to hear he replaced your toilet seat! :)


  11. Long-time reader, first-time commenter...

    I'm sure JV really does care about you. But he sure seems to have a lot of issues that have nothing to do with you or the relationship the two of you have. Make sure you clarify the extent to which he is rebounding his feelings about his ex on to you, or actually feeling things about you.

    If he's trying to force his beliefs on you, because his ex did that to him, it's very worrisome. If he's just trying to figure out a way for the two of you to reasonably be together, that's another story.

  12. Thanks for reading and commenting, Will. It's difficult to know what JV is feeling right now, because his past feelings -- for me and for the ex -- create so much interference with his present feelings. I'm hoping that spending more time together without forcing the issue will eventually lead to some clarity.