By Baila Sebrow
My daughter is 37 and is dating a man who just turned 39. Things were going well, even though there are things about him that worry us. But he is a good man, and he treats my daughter very nicely.
Last week, however, she went to his parents’ house for Shabbos, and she has not been the same since she came home. She finally told us that his mother made snide remarks about her age, and his father basically ignored her completely. She didn’t want to say anything about it to the man she’s dating, even when he asked her if she is OK and if everyone was nice to her. Instead she is praising his parents that they are wonderful people.
I want to add that it got back to us that his parents were not so happy about this shidduch. They are old-school, and they wanted a much younger girl for their son.
My daughter never held it against this man that he has not had a job in the time they’ve been dating, and instead she encourages him all the time. It turns out that he never stayed more than one year at any job. I am not going to say anything more about him, because my daughter really loves him.
In the beginning she didn’t want to go out with him after the first date. They did go out again, and things about him bothered her, but she couldn’t end things with him. Her single friends convinced her to break up with him, and she told him that it’s over. Then her friends took her away for a weekend so she could work on forgetting about him. She said she was over him, but after the weekend she called him. She actually had a fallout with her friends about it.
What do you think about all that? Maybe she really doesn’t want him, but she feels desperate?
They are not officially engaged, but they are planning a June wedding. My husband and I are beside ourselves from all this aggravation. My daughter is a lovely, beautiful girl and doesn’t deserve to be treated so badly.
Of course your daughter does not deserve to be treated badly, and it is expected that she would be treated with respect and loving acceptance by her future in-laws. More importantly, it is how her husband-to-be treats her that is of vital significance. Otherwise, she has no business becoming their daughter-in-law altogether. The good news is that she is not married yet; unless the guy she is dating straightens himself out and puts his parents in their place, she is setting a trap for herself.
I’m sorry to be sarcastic, but I’m hoping that his parents or any parents of sons will read this article, and so I will say what needs to be said about such folks: What makes him such a lucky ticket in their eyes that they feel so entitled to disapprove of the woman their son plans to marry, and to be rude to her, too?
As far as my advice is concerned, let’s put aside what his parents want or don’t want. They are a nonentity for the most part. We need to focus on the big picture—your daughter and the man she plans to marry. First, you need to understand how some relationships evolve. You described the early stages of your daughter’s relationship: she wasn’t interested in him after the first date, and even after a while she felt as though she should end things with him. But why did her friends feel the need to take her away and work on her to really seal the breakup? I am not entirely convinced that their intentions were honorable.
I am sorry to come across as judgmental, but everything you are telling me about that episode reeks of something rotten. Ask yourself why her friends would need to convince her to end the relationship. You don’t say that there is anything bad about this man. On the contrary, you say that he is a good man and treats your daughter nicely. After it became clear that she decided to stay with him, why did it have to lead to a fallout with her friends? If her friends are people of integrity, they would stand by her and be supportive of her, no matter what decision she makes. They should be happy for her, and if things eventually don’t work out, they are supposed to be her support network, not leave her high and dry. You downplayed it by saying they had a fallout. Your daughter didn’t abide by their recommendation, so this was their payback.
Not all dating relationships start off all “sugar and spice.” Oftentimes, people have reservations about a person they meet on a date for the very first time. And sometimes they continue to date the person anyway. I don’t believe it was desperation that drove her to date him. Your daughter likely found qualities about him that she considered admirable and worthy—enough to plan a June wedding.
I don’t know enough about his job situation, and I have a hunch that you don’t either, so I will not address it. That is between your daughter and the man she plans to marry.
Amongst the qualities you list about your daughter, it is evident that she has beautiful middos; although she was not treated nicely by his parents, she did not want to say anything negative about them, nor did she want to make him feel bad about the way they behaved toward her, to the extent that she praised them and referred to them as “wonderful people.”
I am curious if he witnessed the way she was treated; if he did see something wrong, did he say anything to them? We don’t always understand the dynamics of other families, and it is possible that he is used to his parents speaking in a blunt way that may seem odd to outsiders, but to those who are part of the family, it may be ordinary. Yet, the fact that your daughter is visibly upset about it is enough reason for her to address it so that it does not fester and come out at a later point in their relationship, which could, G-d forbid, lead to a major failure in their union.
My advice is that your daughter should bring the issue to this man’s attention. But before she does so, it is important for her to make peace with the fact that he chose her, even though he (surely) knows that his parents are old-school and would like their son to marry a much younger woman. We need to make sure that he understands how she feels, and that although he cannot change his parents, he will make her feel comfortable and will always validate her feelings. At the same time, he also needs to find a way to explain to his parents that she is the woman he will marry, and they must treat her like one of the family. He should make it clear that he will never compromise on that issue, nor is it negotiable in any way.
As long as he proves to your daughter that he appreciates her very much and is willing to make her feel wanted, my advice is for her to stay calm and not take her frustrations out on him or act resentful when they visit his parents together. If they do make things intolerable, she may need to limit the time she spends with them, but under no circumstances should she prevent him from visiting them. I can promise you that anyone who does that to a spouse ends up regretting it one way or another.
How should your daughter treat his parents? All she needs to do is act with respect. I caution her not to grovel or try to curry favor with them. That can only make her look desperate. All that is required of her to do is be polite, courteous, and act as she always does with people. When they make derogatory comments to her, she has every right to stand up for herself and to make it clear to them that they need to be mindful of boundaries, and that includes the manner in which they speak to her. There is nothing wrong with her saying that a comment they made to her is hurtful. It may surprise her that even though they initially meant to be insulting, the moment she forces them to face it, they are likely to apologize to her. Oftentimes, airing thoughts that are troubling has the potential to break barriers and lead to mutual respect.
Baila Sebrow is president of Neshoma Advocates, communications and recruitment liaison for Sovri-Beth Israel, executive director of Teach Our Children, and a shadchanis and shidduch consultant. She can be reached at Bsebrow@aol.com. Baila also hosts The Definitive Rap podcast for vinnews.com and Israel News Talk Radio. Questions and comments for the Dating Forum can be submitted to email@example.com. Read more of Baila Sebrow’s articles at 5TJT.com.