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Failed Relationships

I am not a professional psychologist but I have spent many years closely observing relationships. One of my conclusions is that the most common pitfall in any relationship is CONTROL. Husbands try to control wives, wives try to control husbands, people dating try to control their partner so that they should conform to their expectations, parents control children, teachers control students etc. etc.

Examples: Boy meets girl. Boy likes girl. Boy wants to marry girl. Problem - She is very religious and keeps halacha and is growing daily but at the PRESENT MOMENT she doesn't follow everything the boy expects her to follow. [The converse also happens - boy not religious enough for girl.] So instead of allowing her to grow at her own pace or ending the relationship [legitimate if she doesn't meet his standards] he pressures her to be what he wants. IT ALMOST ALWAYS [if not always] BACKFIRES. NOBODY LIKES TO BE CONTROLLED.

Another example: Parent has picture of what they want their child to become [e.g. Doctor, Lawyer etc.]. Child wants to be something else [eg. Yeshiva Rebbe, Kollel Fellow or in non-religious circles - actor, musician]. Parent forces child to follow parents path using many forms of manipulation [monetary, intense pressure, threats, old fashioned guilt] until child complies.

I am a parent myself. Of course a parent must gently guide the child. But as the child grows up they must be given the leeway to make more of their own decisions. How many boys in yeshiva are torn asunder by their intense desire to learn more against the strident opposition of their parents. The parents insist "You don't know what makes you happy. We know". Really?? Does the parent think that their parents know what is better for them? This also happens to 25, 30 and 40 year old "children".

Examples of the "control" phenomenom abound but I will suffice with the two aforementioned examples to which I am so often a witness.

So, if you are in a relationship where someone is trying to control you [you probably are] be assertive while at the same time polite and VERY RESPECTFUL and take your indepedence back. We are servants of G-d only. And if you involved in a relationship where you are trying to control someone else - step back and give them the freedom to be themselves. They will be much happier. And so will you.

As the Kotzker Rebbe famously put it [in a similar vein] : If I am I because I am I and you are you because you are you - then I am I and you are you. But if I am I because you are you and you are you because I am I - then I am not I and you are not you.


Note:I am not referring to anyone in particular. I am just bemoaning a general phenomenon of which I believe people are not sufficiently aware. Also most "Controllers" only have the best of intentions and don't even realize what they are doing. My goal is to help people improve their relationships. Not to have people get angry at me "Who's he calling controlling?!".

I would be interested in hearing your insights.

Love and Blessings!!!!!

I agree with everything but at what point in a relationship do you say he/she is not at the level I want him/her to be at and therefor this cant work out? Because since understandably you cant control your partner and both the boy and girl in the relationship can be at different religious levels...do you always grow on your own pace seperately or do you need to end the relationship if you are not on the exact religious level?

It seems to me that the creation of an objective standard, by which to gauge every case, is logically impossible due to the minutiae involved in every relationship. In other words, every relationship will by definition have two people at different religious levels with different religious commitments, and to factor every possibility in and create a religious equation where everything that's on one side doesn't cut it and everything on the other side does, would require an algorithm that only G-d can fathom.

A more practical way to possibly approach this is to ask oneself whether one would be content with the other partner being the parent of their child. One should assess and discuss with the partner his/her religious commitment, because that will be the best gauge of where that person will be when parenting becomes a necessity. If the relationship is characterized by openness and discussion, as it most likely should be at later stages, then one should find out where that person at least thinks they will be later on (obviously one really never knows exactly). I think the point is that the person should never be solely sized up באשר הוא/היא שם, just as no-one would want to always be related to as conceived of by a first impression.

Holy Rochel!

I will add on to what my sweet friend Will said so beautifully said in his usual articulate way.

More important than their present level of observance is their attitude. If both the boy and girl wish to continue to grow even if right now one of them feels that they are not ready to embrace every halacha BUT ULTIMATELY BOTH STRIVE FOR PERFECTION I think it is a good match religiously speaking [provided that they are presently in the same "ballpark" halachiclly]. But if one is trying to increase their level of religious devotion and the other is quite happy to remain in their present state for the rest of their life I it doesn't sound like such a good idea.

Also one should take into account the duration of the relationship in question. The longer and deeper the relationship, the more one must hesitate before ending it.

And of course no two cases are the same and if you are who I think you are it is a GREAT MATCH. Two special people who help each other grow.

so Rabbi.... who do you think "Rochel" is? I think I "know" her...

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About me

  • I'm Rabbi Ally Ehrman
  • From Old City Jerusalem, Israel
  • I am a Rebbe in Yeshivat Netiv Aryeh.
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