June 4, 1998

“Love’s Captive,” collage by Jess(Collins). From “Pacific Dreams,” 1995.

Relationship Gridlock

Dear Deborah,

I’m a divorced 39-year-old businesswoman with twoyoung daughters. “Paul” and I have been dating for two years andliving together for a year and a half. I am very attracted to Paul,physically and especially mentally. He is really intelligent andencourages me to learn all the time. He has his faults, but I lovehim enough to know that I want to spend the rest of my life withhim.

My problem is that I feel insecure about ourrelationship. He says we’re in a committed, monogamous relationship,yet I feel that my future is uncertain with him. He acts as if he’sstill unattached: He’s taken phone numbers of women he’s met onflights, and flirts with women in front of me and on the Internet.But he insists that it’s just fun, that it’s no different thanreading Playboy, that he’s never cheated on me, that I’m the onlyone. But his actions really hurt me.

He’s been divorced for 14 years and has had astring of short relationships. I think I’m one of the longest. Hewill not talk about us and marriage. Whenever we fight, I think thatwe should just break up and end the inevitable, but we are never ableto completely end it, and then we make up. How do I stop this rollercoaster, or do I just need to jump off?

Sad and Uncertain

Dear Sad and Uncertain,

Why uncertain? He acts unattached, flirts andtakes women’s phone numbers. He refuses to talk about marriage evenafter living together a year and a half. He has a dicey relationshiphistory. He continues to do what you say hurts you. The only mysteryhere is why you would put up with this for a nanosecond.

Is this what you feel you deserve? Is this thekind of relational model you wish to provide your youngdaughters?

Enough already. Jump off the “roller coaster” andmove on.

Dumped for Dogma

Dear Deborah,

I am a 30-year-old Jewish woman who broke upseveral months ago with my boyfriend of many years. We loved eachother deeply, but there was one point of contention between us, andit ultimately tore us apart.

I was raised in a traditional home, and although Idon’t keep all the mitzvot to the letter of the law, I still believe in and do myutmost to uphold traditional Jewish values. I also try to keep allthe holidays and Shabbat. I believe in the ethical foundation ofJudaism and want to instill those values in my futurechildren.

My ex-boyfriend was not raised in a religioushome, but later in his life, he became a ba’alei teshuvah, a Jew who”returns” to an Orthodox lifestyle. He began to practice Jewish lawand ritual.

When we first met, he was ambivalent about wherehe stood religiously. Although he was still more observant than me, Iaccepted our different levels of practice. Then, about a year ago, hestarted to become even more observant. And six months ago, he threwme a bombshell: I was not religious enough for him. He told me thathe could not accept the fact that I didn’t observe the laws as hedid, and that we could never get married as a result.

I was devastated. I had spent several years of mylife with a man whose level of religious observance I acceptedunconditionally — and now he was leaving me because he couldn’taccept my level of observance. I consulted several Orthodox rabbis,who reassured me that they knew couples with different levels ofobservance who did have successful, viable marriages. Such amarriage, they said, required an enormous amount of love, patienceand tolerance — but it was possible. I told my boyfriend this, andalthough he contended that he was pained by the idea of separating,there was, in his words, “nothing he could do.” After several monthsof tension, arguing and hurtful exchanges, we separated.

I still love him and think of him so often. Ican’t understand how all this could have happened. We were so inlove.


Dear Brokenhearted,

My condolences on becoming yet another soberingstatistic of ba’alei teshuvah fervor. Not all of those who “return”to observance move into intolerance and inflexibility, but those whodo, well — you have just experienced firsthand the fallout.

With all due respect, I must differ with theconclusion of the rabbis you consulted about “love, patience andtolerance” being the ingredients required to have a successful”mixed” marriage. Tolerance isn’t enough. And you have learned thehard way that neither is love. While patience is a good idea in anyrelationship, the missing element here is respect. Your ex-boyfriendneeded to respect your level of observance. Tolerance, on the otherhand, suggests that there is something inherently wrong with how youpractice Judaism that must be abided.

It is tragic that you have suffered this loss,especially because you seem to be both devoted to and thoughtful inyour practice of Judaism. Yet it is better that this happened now,before getting married, and not after the stakes might havemultiplied. Imagine the range of possibilities (beside religion) inwhich such inflexibility might have manifested later on.

May you begin to let go and move on with renewedstrength to find a partner capable of loving, accepting andrespecting who you are now.

Keeping Score

Dear Deborah,

A word to “Headin’ for the Exit” (April 12): If”Headin'” himself were not so busy keeping score of Jewish womenkeeping score, he might have time to actually be in arelationship.

I am insulted when anyone lumps me into anycategory — whether it’s “Swing-dancing, red-headed, Jewish women whohate sushi and only keep score when the Lakers play” or “JewishAmerican Princesses who ‘keep score,’ are manipulative andmaterialistic.”

Can’t we just stop this fatuous drivel and get onwith Jewish men and women taking each other on an individualbasis?


Dear Sonia,

I’m down with that.

Deborah Berger-Reiss is a West Los Angelespsychotherapist. All letters toDear Deborahrequire a name, address and telephone number for purposes ofverification. Names will, of course, be withheld upon request. Ourreaders should know that when names are used in a letter, they arefictitious.

Dear Deborah welcomes your letters. Responses canbe given only in the newspaper. Send letters to Deborah Berger-Reiss,1800 S. Robertson Blvd., Ste. 927, Los Angeles, CA 90035. You canalso send E-mail: deborahb@primenet.com


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