No Need To Feel Threatened by Beau’s Wedding Ring

By Wendy Belzberg

Published January 30, 2004, issue of January 30, 2004.
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My boyfriend’s wife died about five years ago. He still wears his wedding ring on his right hand and has no plans to take it off. What is the rule on this? Should I feel offended?

Widow’s pique

There is no tactful way to put this: Your boyfriend’s (dead) wife is not a threat to you. The ring may or may not be the symbol of a love he is not willing to relinquish. But unless you are a proponent of thought-control — and there is new technology capable of aiding you in this — a ring is just a ring. I would be more concerned if you thought that his wife was preventing him from forming an emotional attachment or getting on with his life. It is a fact: Your boyfriend lived a whole different life before he met you. There is no cause for offense there. He has years to go and nine other fingers.

* * *

My ex-wife and I are both Jewish and were raising our two children as Jews. Our divorce agreement includes a schedule for the Jewish holidays. My ex has remarried and become a born-again Christian. She wants to take the children with her to church. I have a court order restraining her from doing so, but the church is funding her defense, and I fear the legal battle will bankrupt me. I am willing to compromise by letting her take the children to church if she promises, in writing, not to convert or baptize them. She has refused. Is it tenable for them to receive a religious Jewish education half the time and attend an evangelical church the other half? Perhaps I should just let her raise them as Christians?

— A father’s lament

Children are not pawns to be repositioned when a parent chooses to change the game. And your wife has definitely changed both the game and the game plan. Let her raise them as Christians? I don’t think so. That is the equivalent of relinquishing your role as the children’s father — and sending the message to your children that you are not willing to fight for them. If there is a compromise to be struck, both of you should refrain from giving your children a religious education. Exposure to different religions in a house where there is respect for each and for choices made is one thing. There is no such respect among fundamentalists of any kind — be they Christian or Jewish. Both parents’ religions will stand an equal chance when the children are old enough to choose for themselves. Until then, you and your ex should agree to concentrate on what is most important when raising children: their emotional needs and the appearance of a strong and supportive family — even if it is only on the surface.

* * *

When I was a child, my mother stood by while my father kicked me around. I ultimately chose to live far from my family and to remain polite to them while keeping visits and contact to a minimum. My father made it easy for me when he disowned me. In the past year my father and only brother both died, and my mom is now alone. She wants to have a relationship and seems baffled and hurt by my reluctance to engage. I don’t respect or like her. She has mentioned buying a small motor home and inviting us to do some traveling with her. Should my wife and I agree to go?

New routes vs. old roots

I wouldn’t go on vacation in a small motor home — or a large yacht — with my husband, and I happen to adore him. Those are close quarters even for the best of friends and closest of families — which you are not. The more space available for you to explore the damage you feel was done to you by your mother, the better. You are obligated to respect your mother; but nowhere in the Ten Commandments are you ordered to like or love her. Take care of her physical and financial needs and explore the possibility that there may be love and respect (and guilt and apology and forgiveness) lying dormant. But you have nothing to reproach yourself for. You were the child and the victim. Your mother was the adult. She made her choice long ago, and it wasn’t one that bodes well for traveling in close quarters with her children.

Write to “Ask Wendy” at 954 Lexington Avenue #189, New York, N.Y. 10021 or at wendy@forward.com.






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