We are making our first wedding for our son in a few months. While we love our future daughter-in-law, we are really uneasy with her parents. It seems like they are better off financially than we are, yet they are penny-pinching this whole affair. They say something against what we prefer, and then when we bend over backwards for them, all of a sudden they change their song. And they do it rudely!
It’s really hard to keep up the smiles around our son, but we are wondering if we should re-examine things. Should we stop shielding him so that he won’t go into things blindly? Shouldn’t he know what he is getting into, with such catty in-laws?
-Scared for Son
Dear Scared for Son,
Don’t weddings seem so exciting when it’s your neighbor or second-cousin making the simcha? In reality, they are like paintings—from afar, they are so beautiful you could cry, but when you are the one applying the paint, each stroke looks pretty, well, blobby, as you progress.
I like that you started off on the right foot in terms of keeping your son out of this. Many parents should learn from you—the nitpicking that goes on before the wedding can really sour things for a chassan and kallah. Here are two young adults, who have (mostly) aligned themselves with the family that they have grown up with. Then, one day, BOOM! They meet the person that will be part of their new family. Suddenly, they are supposed to just separate from the family that they are rooted in and start making choices that reflect a new unit. How hard is that? And can you imagine how much harder that is when they have a chorus of reporters buzzing about, telling them how bad their new parents-in-law are? Forget sour—that can make a new union perfectly rancid.
We want a fresh spouse to commit to starting a new family. Old loyalties, tangentially pulling away, are contraindicated here. You have done a very nice job trying to keep the boundaries strong—keep the kid out of the conflict.
But, you are wondering if maybe it is more important to let your son know what he is getting involved in, rather than keep him calm and ignorant. This is a very good point. Family can serve as a very good, almost-objective opinion to warn you when you are stepping into something sketchy.
The question is: Is your son embarking on an emotionally damaging journey? Or is this just par for the course?
I don’t know enough details to tell you either way, however, I will tell you that this is probably your machatanim at their worst. Transitioning a child off into marriage, along with having to coordinate with strangers to plan an extensive affair can bring out all sides of a person. There are covert power games, there is financial pressure, there are deadlines, there is the fear of losing a child to a spouse. There’s a ton of heavy stuff going on here. Making a wedding is not a fair sample of how a person operates on a daily basis. So, the side of these people that you are seeing is most likely not the side that your son will usually be dealing with.
Granted, life will probably bring out these quirks every few years. Are they such insane quirks that your son won’t be able to handle them peeking out every now and then?
Of course, there is the darker chance that they may be showing you that they are extremely emotionally unhealthy, and this is not the sort of family that would be good for your son. That doesn’t mean that your son should do anything drastic. It just may mean that he should try not to be too dependent on them, emotionally or otherwise.
Obviously, if your future daughter-in-law did grow up in an emotionally unhealthy home, there will likely be some residue left on the girl. Keep your eyes, ears and spidey-sense open.
In the meantime, do your best to be as considerate and compromising as possible. Most likely, things will settle down by sheva brachos.
By then, these cats should be pretty domesticated…
Aviva Rizel is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in private practice in Lawrence. She can be reached at 347-292-8482 or AvivaRizel.MFT@gmail.com.