My Mother Disapproves of My Jewish Girlfriend. How Can We Mend Fences?

Over a year ago, I introduced my new girlfriend, who is Jewish, to my mother, who is not. (My girlfriend and I are in our 20s.) Based on my experiences growing up, I didn’t expect any issues, but my mother surprised me: She told me she didn’t like my girlfriend. After talking in circles for a while, she admitted the main thing she didn’t like was that my girlfriend is Jewish. She also told me I should not bring her home for Christmas. So we stayed away last year, and we have kept our distance since then. I call my mother every few weeks to try to keep connected, but she shuts me down fast. It’s been over two years since we’ve seen each other, and something about the holidays makes this extra hard. Is there something more I should be doing?


I am sorry about your estrangement from your mother. The loss of any close relationship can be painful, but being rejected by the people who held us as babies, who kept us safe and raised us, can be gut-wrenching. I don’t minimize the special sting during the holidays, either. Secular Christmas fantasies tend to go hard on familial love and acceptance, which are simply not the reality for many people.

It sounds as if you’re doing what you can: checking in with your mother periodically to see if there is an opening for reconciliation. I am sorry, too, that her antisemitism runs so deep. Still, aside from reiterating your willingness to talk through this issue (either alone or with a counselor), there isn’t much more you can do with her.

There is something you can do for yourself, though — and this applies to anyone who is suffering from a painful estrangement: Grieve your loss and acknowledge its special pain. Estrangements can sometimes feel even worse than death because the separation is chosen. Don’t be shy about reaching out for help. Moving forward here — by creating a family of friends, perhaps — requires recognition of the depth of your loss.

Two months ago, my son and his wife separated. They share joint custody of their three children (ages 2, 5 and 7), who go back and forth between their homes. So far, the children seem to be adjusting reasonably well, and the parents are trying to maintain an amicable relationship. However, Christmas is presenting a dilemma: Where will Santa deliver his gifts? (Two of the kids are believers, and the third isn’t talking.) The parents’ thinking — that he should come to both houses — strikes me as excessive. Your thoughts?


So when you say there is a Christmas “dilemma,” what you mean is that you disagree with the mutual decision of recently separated parents. I assume you mean well here, but honestly, I am struggling to understand why you want to make a fuss about such a trifling matter at a tender time for a bruised family.

The parents probably want to make both homes appealing to the children. And if extra Christmas stockings or presents under a tree make anyone — child or adult — feel better about the new arrangement, I am all for it! Respectfully, now is the time for supporting your son’s family, not for manufacturing troubles.

I love that neighbors string up holiday lights on their homes. I do, too. But some leave the lights on overnight. I worry about wildlife that may be adversely affected by this. I also like to admire the stars in the night sky, which are obliterated by holiday lights. Is it overstepping to ask neighbors to turn off their lights before they go to bed?


It seems unlikely to me that your neighbors’ twinkle lights will lead wildlife to mistake night for day. But I am no ecologist — and I have no idea how gaudy and bright your neighbors’ decorations are.

Also, unless you stay up late, there’s no guarantee that asking your neighbors to turn off their holiday lights before bed will actually allow you to enjoy the night sky. No harm in asking politely, of course! But no harm, either, in waiting a few weeks for them to take down their lights.

My ex-partner and I dated for three years. During that time, I shared my login privileges with him on everything from newspapers to streaming sites. He can certainly afford his own subscriptions. Yet I noticed that since we split, he is still logging in using my credentials. Knowing him, he is probably doing this out of habit or laziness. Should I ask him to stop or simply change my passwords? We are on civil email terms.


Context is (usually) king. Characterizing your relationship with your ex as “civil” doesn’t strike me as particularly warm or fuzzy. And I have no idea whether his tendency toward laziness and habit means that he might continue using your logins after you’ve asked him to stop. Either drop him a line to say you are changing your passwords, or simply change them. (Skipping the heads-up strikes me as a bit abrupt, but not out of line.)

For help with your awkward situation, send a question to [email protected], to Philip Galanes on Facebook or @SocialQPhilip on Twitter.