Husband Losing Track of the Present While Prosecuting the Past

By Wendy Belzberg

Published January 17, 2003, issue of January 17, 2003.
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Several years ago a car plowed into our front yard, destroying our porch and killing one of our dogs. My husband has been attempting to sue the driver ever since. His regular conversations with lawyers, insurance companies and even private detectives are draining our finances and taking a heavy emotional toll on our relationship. I have begged him to settle out of court and to move on, but he insists that he is seeking justice, not retribution.

Drained by lawsuit

I understand your husband’s need to see a wrong righted and his wish that a hefty dollar amount be attached as the reward for his suffering and perseverance. The only problem is that your husband may have lost track of the present while prosecuting the past. Litigation is one kind of anger management; therapy is another. If your husband is able to compartmentalize, I would offer him the challenge of pursuing this lawsuit on one track while pursuing life with you on another. If he is not capable of that, however, something has got to give — or to go. It may be your time to move on. If you move ahead and he does not follow you, then he may very well be permanently stuck in the past.

* * *

Does a parent really ever want to know the truth about his or her own child? I sit on the board of a high school where the children of one of my dearest friends recently got into serious trouble. The story the child told his parents bore nothing in common with what actually happened, and they have decided to side with their son. The principal presented the facts clearly, and there is little room for interpretation. What obligation have I, if any, to set my friends straight about their son?

— Truth be told?

I suggest you turn around and start running. In a case where the parents have already shown that they do not wish to know the truth, you may win the point but you will surely lose the friendship.

Having grown up in a prototypical 1950s family where the child was always wrong, I applaud any parent willing to buck authority and stand up for his son. However, facts are facts, and it sounds as if these parents — your dear friends — have chosen to turn a blind eye to their child’s behavior. You may well be privy to the inside story because you are a board member, but as a board member, it is not your obligation to set these or any parents straight. Friendships don’t always stand on absolute honesty. Sometimes, in fact, that is where they founder. Remember this when you try to explain why you’re steering your children clear of your friend’s delinquent son.

* * *

I came out as a gay man to my two straight brothers some eight years ago via a letter. We are all middle-aged. We are on great terms, but I can tell they do not care to discuss the subject, and we never have. Should I pursue the matter further?

— Time to end the silence?

You’ve waited eight years for this answer, so I hope I do not disappoint you with the obvious: You must do what you feel you want and need to do. If you are content with the (superficial) relationship you have with your brothers, and you have no desire or need to upset the status quo, continue on as you are. If you feel that you are always holding back a big part of your life then you must talk to them. You get full credit for having come out — even if you did so by mail. Unless you are waiting to discuss your life or to introduce a partner to your family and expect someone else to initiate that conversation — in which case you get only partial credit at best.

* * *

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






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