A reader – “Marsha” – asked me if I could post this so my readership could help her with some solutions. I know that if I were in the same shoes as this devoted Jewish mother, I would be so angry too. In fact I found myself livid after reading her letter.
So…I found out that my ex has been bringing our twelve year old son “Max” to CHURCH on the weekends that he has him. Max has been afraid to say anything to him about not wanting to go because he was afraid his dad would get mad. The ex let it slip last time he dropped Max off that he had gone to church that morning, with Max. When I asked our son how many times he has gone to church he said, “A lot!” He takes his Nintendo DS and plays games the whole time and doesn’t pay any attention to what is going on but it is still the principle of the whole thing.
Thing is, when I was married to him, he didn’t believe in G-d so religion didn’t matter to him but his new wife is religious and goes to church every Sunday – so understandably he wants to be with his new wife. I just don’t agree that he needs to take Max along. This is a Jewish child, MY JEWISH CHILD!
I tried to talk to him about it, explaining that even though I feel it is important for Max to learn about other religions and to respect what others choose to believe, our beliefs prohibit us from going to church. I asked that he respect my wishes as Max’s mom and his custodial parent.
I also acknowledged that he would like to be spending that time with his new wife which I totally understand but his response to this all was that if Max is with him he is going to church and that is that.
I AM FURIOUS! I don’t have a clue what to do. Our divorce decree is silent on religion since it wasn’t an issue for him since he didn’t believe in G-d back then. I let him have Max for an extra day on the weekends that he has him so he can spend more father-son bonding time – but I can cut that out and insist on picking up Max Saturday night. As per our original agreement.
I just don’t know what to do. I know Max needs to have time with his Dad, and I really don’t want to get in the way of that but there is no way I will stand idly by and allow him to be shlepped to church. Max doesn’t even want to go. He hates it there. But he’s a child who has been taught to respect his parents. This has been so confusing for him.
The above letter is from a Jewish mother, but it could easily be written by any parent of any religion whose ex spouse is deliberately acting against the express wishes of the custodial parent.
How do you suggest that Marsha handles this? What advice could you give her? How would you feel if you were in her shoes? How would you advise her to handle Max so that she doesn’t paint his father as a bad man for taking him to church, but in a way that Max understands that going to church is wrong for him as a Jewish boy?
Posted in divorce, religion, things that make you go "oy"!, wwyd?
Tagged church, custody, divorce, ex-husband, ex-wife, judaism, religion, respect, spirituality, wwyd?
I was recently asked the following: Does the time ever come when you can see your ex’s name or photograph and just not have a deep visceral negative reaction? When you see you received an email from the ex and your heart doesn’t sink to your feet? That when the kids talk nicely about the other parent you don’t feel angry and jealous? That when you bump into him / her in shul or at the store that you aren’t overcome by a haze of rage?
My answer was a resounding “Yes”. That time does come, but it doesn’t come on its own. You have to work towards it. It’s called letting go of the past, and embracing the future. Moving on. Forgiving. You will never forget, but you need to forgive in order to move ahead.
My ex and I have been divorced for a few years. It took a while to move past all the hurt and anger and resentment. I had to want to move past it. I had to want to not be a bitter vindictive ex wife looking to make her ex husband’s life a living hell. There are women and men who do not want to move on. Their raisons d’être are all about making the ex suffer for what happened. I just wanted a peaceful life, a life where I could raise my kids in a positive environment. You cannot undo the past, but you can improve your future.
Even since we split we were never rude or nasty to each other. We were always hyper aware of how we spoke or communicated with each other. Behind the other’s back I am sure neither of us was so saintly. I think it was on the second Yom Kippur since our split, I came to a point where I just wanted the pain to be over. I needed to let it all go so I could move on with my life and be a person that I could be proud of. I spoke to him after Yom Kippur and we made our peace with each other. We both promised to continue to put the kids first, and just move on with our lives without blame. The past would stay in the past. Thankfully we are both on the same page, I know that isn’t always the case.
I won’t say it’s easy. You don’t forget the hurts. There are times that you do get angry and mad. But when you have truly moved on, their name in your inbox or on your phone shouldn’t send you into paroxysms of anxiety or rage. Letting that happen means you haven’t taken back your own power, that you haven’t allowed yourself to even begin to heal. When that visceral reaction happens over and over, you are giving your power to your ex. If you are no longer together, you need to let that go.
Caveat / Disclaimer: Of course, moving on is so much easier when both parties wish to do so. When the ex is hell bent on making life miserable – it brings other things into the equation. When you have moved on, and the ex sends multiple texts, faxes, emails, voicemails etc just to tell you how disgusting you are, then I think there is justification for your blood pressure to rise upon seeing their name on caller ID. I don’t know what I would do in such a situation…..
What helped you to move on? What advice can you give people starting out on this long road toward co-parenting / co-existing with one’s ex spouse?