By Esther Mann

Dear Esther,

My husband passed away nearly six years ago. We had a wonderful marriage for over 40 years, and I can’t even begin to describe the loss I felt after he was gone. I have four married children; three of whom live more or less locally and one lives out of town.

My initial reaction was that I could never find anyone special enough to replace my late husband and that I would fill the awful void by spending even more time with my children and grandchildren.

Occasionally, I would get a shidduch suggestion, but I always politely said no to the offer.

We had always been very involved with our children and grandchildren, but now, with so much extra time on my hands, I decided to be even busier with them. I babysat constantly for my grandchildren, and I spent most Sundays taking them to museums, movies, etc. I went shopping, out to lunch, etc., with my daughters during the week. My children and grandchildren became the main focus of my life. Yes, I have friends and enjoy a few solitary activities, but in order not to think about my loss too much, I really zeroed in on family. It worked for all of us.

About six months ago, in the most unexpected way, I met a man I’ll call Elie. I wasn’t looking for it to happen —and, frankly, really didn’t even want it to happen — but somehow we met and neither of us could ignore the immediate chemistry we felt. Elie was widowed over a year ago, and is actually interested in remarrying.

Logically, I wanted to fight the feelings I felt for him, but emotionally, I couldn’t ignore them. We started going out and our feelings for each other grew.

When I realized that Hashem was offering me another chance at marital happiness, I brought it up to my children. Without even having met him, each of them re acted terribly. They all felt it was a terrible idea to get involved with a stranger and that I shouldn’t act so irrationally. I didn’t feel he was a stranger, since I did ask around and heard only wonderful things about him.

I decided that once they met Elie in person, they would understand why I was happy with him and would change their minds.My out of town couple was coming to New York for a simcha, and I decided to invite all of my children out to dinner in order for them to meet Elie and fall for him the way that I did.

What can I say? The dinner was a disaster! Elie was his usual friendly and charming self. He went out of his way to re member everyone’s names and to be outgoing. They were all dismissive and practically rude to him. I was so embarrassed and felt terrible for Elie.

After the dinner, they wouldn’t budge an inch, telling me that I’m acting like a teenager and basically that they are not interested in welcoming a stranger into our family. I’m not sure what this is all about and why they are determined to resist him. If Elie and I get married, we’d stay in the neighborhood and still be around for our families, though of course not to the degree that I have been during the past six years, which probably was over the top anyway.

I really don’t know whose interests I should put first. On one hand, I’m not an old woman and if I am fortunate enough to meet a wonderful man who can potentially be my companion going forward, why shouldn’t I? On the other hand, I’m afraid that if I do marry Elie, my children will pull away and I won’t have the same relationship with them and my grandchildren.

I’m really feeling torn, and with all the emotions flying around, I don’t know what’s right or wrong anymore! Please help.

Confused

Dear Confused,

How sad for you that your children aren’t capable of feeling your joy and wanting you to find your own happiness again, rather than live vicariously through them. They may be wonderful individuals, but in this regard, from what you’re telling me, they sound very self-involved and incapable of looking outside of themselves.

I don’t know for sure whether you’re writing in for advice as to which road to follow. Obviously, I can’t tell you what your next move should be because life has no guarantees, and I can’t assure you that if you marry Elie, your children won’t punish you and pull away.

I’m sure you are extremely close to your grandchildren, now more than ever, and who knows what your children are capable of doing in regard to them. I would like to think that they would act appropriately and not pull their children into the mix, but we’ve all heard crazy stories, so anything is possible.

Your children have banded together and created a dialogue among themselves that makes them the victims and you and Elie the perpetrators of some crime. Obviously, nothing could be further from the truth. My guess is that anything you try to say to them will go right over their heads. They are not interested in truly “hearing” you right now. They are not concerned about your needs.

The question is, what are they really worried about? Are they resistant to rocking the boat in any way that might make their lives harder? Are there money concerns? Have you taught them that you were placed on this planet in order to serve them exclusively? Are they aware that you are a person unto yourself, with your own hopes, needs, and dreams?

This is as good a time as any for you to reflect on who you are, who you want to be, and what it means to live a fulfilling life with as few regrets as possible. At the end of the day, as people look back on their lives, most often it is the things they didn’t do that they most regret.

It is very possible that even if you move forward with Elie, your children will eventually warm up to the idea and come around and you’ll have it all! And although that is the scenario that should happen, who can say for sure that it absolutely will resolve so nicely? Therefore, taking into account that the worst possible scenario is always looming somewhere, make your decision based on who you are.

How do you want to spend your next 30 years, G-d willing? If making your children and grandchildren the center of your universe feels right for you, you have your answer. If you are the type of person who would rather put a husband and marriage first, then stay true to that. Whatever you decide, make sure it’s not based on being bullied or coming from a fearful place.

And just as an aside, if you do decide to put you and Elie first, this might be a turning point for your children, prompting them, hopefully, to grow up a little and realize that it’s not always about them. Other people’s happiness also matters.

Esther

Esther Mann, LCSW, is a psychotherapist in Hewlett. Esther works with individuals and couples. Together with Jennifer Mann, she also runs the “Navidaters.” She can be reached at mindbiz44@aol.com or 516 314 2295.

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