| Family First Inbox |

Family First Inbox: Issue 754

No one should have to give up on living a happy and healthy life
What’s Wrong with Natural Consequences? [Family Reflections / Issue 752]

I read with interest Sarah Chana Radcliffe’s article on how to deal with a spouse who neglects his responsibilities. I’m not a marriage expert, but something felt off to me about telling your spouse that there will be consequences — such as your being upset or not having time to make supper — if he doesn’t fulfill his responsibilities.

What’s wrong with not doing the job for him and just letting the natural consequences play out, instead of putting your relationship on the line? For example, if your husband is in charge of the electric bills and he doesn’t pay them, eventually you’ll get a shutoff notice. That should shake him up and get him to pay the bill.

Mrs. Radcliffe noted that she was talking about people who don’t have emotional or mental issues — people who eventually will naturally become nervous if their insurance or bills aren’t being taken care of. Perhaps they just were never trusted with responsibility or babied too much at home. Wouldn’t showing our trust and support in our spouses’ abilities, despite mistakes they might make, have greater impact than taking over their responsibilities and showing disdain and resentment?

Or perhaps instead of threatening, you could gently ask, “Is there a reason why you’re having a hard time paying the bills or doing the dishes?” You might be surprised to discover the answer has nothing to do with your spouse being irresponsible.

I’m speaking from experience — in my own marriage, showing trust and communication has worked, and I’m curious why Mrs. Radcliffe chose the techniques she did.

Name Withheld

Sarah Chana Radcliffe responds:

When soft, respectful communication gains cooperation, nothing more is needed. Where “natural consequences” do the trick, no article needs to be written. In fact, using negative consequences before employing these techniques, and the beautiful one you mention of compassionate emotional inquiry, can be destructive.

However, some people have been blessed with a loved one who does not find it easy to comply with responsibilities or requests. Moreover, the “natural consequence” of a picture not hung up or a succah left standing may fail to produce the hoped-for transformative remorse. There are — may you never know of it — spouses who find it very hard to carry through with commitments and obligations, for both neurological and psychological reasons.

In these cases, what must be avoided at all costs is the natural fallout of the repetitive letdown, betrayal, and deception that often accompanies the failure to carry through — that is, unmanageable hurt, disappointment, resentment and rage. The ability to employ the last resort of a consequence can both resolve the situation and — most importantly — restore the marital balance that promotes harmony and love.


We Have Enough Guilt [Doctor Mom / Issue 752]

I’m writing in regard to the article about the woman who went through medical school with a large family. Each article you print should serve some purpose — whether it’s practical, inspirational, or entertaining. I fail to see what purpose this article could serve. I applaud this woman for her accomplishment, but in a public forum, this could really do damage. How many wives reading the article turned to their husbands and said, “Why can’t you be more like him? He drove an hour each way to help his wife, then waited during her classes, etc.”

Even more concerning is how she is portrayed as going to medical school. With ten children! Through three pregnancies! Having twins! Full time nursing! Top of the class without even trying! Perfect bedtime mommy! How does that leave anyone inspired?

I may be wrong, but I think a good portion of your readership are average frum women just trying their best to make a decent dinner, contribute to the household income, fold laundry, and put everyone to bed happy. When you hold up this woman on a pedestal, it makes everyone wonder if their best is even good enough. Frum women have enough guilt and responsibilities to handle. Please don’t add any more.

A Mother Trying Her Best


Necessary — and Out of Reach [Inbox / Issue 751]

Dear “Hoping for Change,”

Thank you for your important letter regarding the lack of organizations to assist people in paying for mental health treatments. You ask for help in starting such an initiative from anyone with influence or connections. I unfortunately don’t have either. I’ve been thinking about this for such a long time.

I am not able to access the treatment I need to be able to lead a normal and good life due to the out-of-pocket costs. I’ve been through severe trauma and it has been almost impossible to find long-term, quality mental health treatment that is covered by insurance. There are currently zero organizations that help with this. Treatment costs are astronomical, costing hundreds of thousands of dollars over a lifetime that only the wealthy can afford — yet they’re absolutely necessary and lifesaving.

It’s painful enough to be abused. No one should then have to go into debt to pay for the treatment they need just to stay alive and function. I join you in imploring anyone who can to explore ways to access funding for people to get treatment through insurance coverage advocacy, government funding, or private donations.

An organization funding individual, group, and long-term treatment options would literally give people a new lease on life. No one should have to give up on living a happy and healthy life because they can’t afford $200 a week for an hour of therapy, or $40,000 for a 30-day intensive treatment program (and these are only minimum costs).

Also Hoping for Change


Being Bubby [Still Growing / Issue 750]

I too worried about what my life would be like once my children were out of the house. Baruch Hashem, I didn’t have long to worry. My oldest child was soon married and started a family, and I moved quickly into the next phase of being a bubby. I also had time to do all the things I once never had time to do. I became more involved with my shul and the women in it. We have monthly “Café Connect” get-togethers where we learn or share new ideas. I happily have become a surrogate bubby to the young children of our kollel members. I enjoy reading, spending time with friends, and best of all, my husband and I are still best friends. We are lucky enough to travel and spend quality time with family. Baruch Hashem, I’ve now been blessed with great-grandchildren who are a very big part of my life.

Oh, and yes, I do play Mahjong! Not only is it good for my brain, I’ve taught my children and grandchildren to play, and we all love it. So for all the women out there who are facing empty nests, just remember: now is your time to do everything and anything you choose that you didn’t have time for when you were raising children.

Im yirtzeh Hashem, may you have many years learning, traveling, and even playing Mahjong in good health!

Busy Bubby in Bensalem, PA


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 754)

Oops! We could not locate your form.