I’m going out with a girl whose mother says that I’m selfish. Here’s the thing: I’m the most generous guy in the world. This all started because her mother is freaked out from COVID (she wasn’t even sick). She told me I’m selfish because I go to weddings and stuff, make hangouts for everyone, and then I hang out at her house after our dates. I’m not going to lie — I don’t wear a mask. I don’t like it, and I don’t think it does anything anyway. My girlfriend has no problem with what I do and, believe me, I stay clear out of her wacky mother’s way. In fact, we sneak into the house when her mother is not looking.
I think that this whole COVID thing is making everyone nuts. People fight all the time with each other. And the funny thing is that it’s really not as bad as everyone says. The flu is worse. Everyone I know who had COVID got better. So people need to just chill.
Am I wrong here? FYI, our shadchan agrees with me. This got me thinking about other things, too, like if I end up marrying this girl, will I have a mother-in-law from hell?
There has been so much contention in frum circles as it relates to COVID-19, myths versus facts, and how singles are dealing with it and conducting themselves. All these months that we’ve been living in this pandemic I was hoping that somebody would send me a related question so I can discuss this issue and what it is doing to singles, specifically regarding interpersonal relationships with those they date, their families, as well as people involved in shidduchim.
Let’s talk reality. This new and little-known-about outbreak of coronavirus is affecting people globally. The symptoms and consequences vary from person to person. There are people who have mild symptoms from COVID-19, while others have catastrophic reactions. For some, the flu may have felt worse, as you stated. Still, there are others who end up in ICUs of overburdened hospitals requiring artificial ventilation, unable to breathe on their own. There are those who recover with little to no complications, some who suffer long-term organ damage, and, sadly, many who have died from COVID-19.
Call it weird or whatever slang adjective you wish, but COVID is not a myth. COVID is not a hoax. COVID is not an opinion, any more than previous pandemics that have hit the world. COVID-19 real, and it is in our midst. Some people are afflicted, while others are not. Medical professionals cannot even explain why one person caught it while another did not. This is a novel pandemic, and scientists are still learning about it as they go along. Deny its existence if you want to feel emotionally unruffled and convince those around you that it is not there. However, here is what you cannot and have no right to do, and that is disrespecting those who request that you not enter their home because you choose not to comply with social distancing and face covering. It’s not about whether you think masks help or do not. That is not the point. This is her home and her life.
It’s one thing to believe that COVID is not real, and to not take precautions for yourself. But imposing yourself and your views on others, who have every right and reason to fear becoming ill, is blatant chutzpah. Actually, I’m being too kind. What you are doing is cruel.
There is nothing wrong with your girlfriend’s mother not allowing you into her home, knowing that you are deliberately exposing yourself to COVID. You are being disrespectful and endangering her health by going there. I won’t even comment on your girlfriend’s reaction to her mother’s request, except to say that it is sad and disappointing.
There is one thing you are correct about: people are fighting with each other over this. The non-believers, in addition to not complying with regulations to protect themselves and others, are even throwing parties they designate as COVID parties, a COVID kumzits, or whatever they decide to call it, inviting one and all. Such people could not care less who will get sick or perhaps cause somebody else to get sick from that event. Not only that, but if anyone speaks out against their practice, the individual is verbally attacked, disparaged, and threatened with all kinds of threats, including litigation.
I will take this opportunity to go one step further and not only blame the singles, some of whom are initiating large unprotected gatherings because of loneliness, but shadchanim who are also organizing events during this dangerous period. It is mind-boggling that mature people who outwardly appear to be frum, and surely know people who have suffered from COVID, choose to ignore the facts. Whether it is in the name of chesed or money they are providing avenues that could potentially lead to fatal harm. Again, I want to make it very clear that I am not telling others what to do with their lives, just as I am not telling you what to do with yours. But, for heaven’s sake, don’t create a situation that could hurt another person.
You are worried about your girlfriend’s mother being a mother-in-law from hell should you get married and become her son-in-law? I don’t know enough details about her to give you the answer to that question, and I will delve into that in a minute. But since you refuse to abide by the rules of her house, she should do whatever she can to prevent you from entering so long as you deliberately and unashamedly behave in this manner.
It sounds like you and your girlfriend are discussing marriage. You don’t say how long you have been dating, but I get the impression that you and your girlfriend’s mother may be at odds with one another, COVID or not. Throughout history, mothers-in-law have received a bad rap. Sometimes it’s well-deserved because of the unwelcoming reception they give their son-in-law or daughter-in-law, and in other cases it may be the child-in-law who views the mother-in-law as competition, as nice and generous as she may be. My feelings are that in certain situations it takes more than one party to make a relationship work, and if both the in-law child and mother-in-law are committed to getting along for the sake of shalom bayis, it will be harmonious for everyone concerned.
Since I am communicating with you, I will give you some tips on building a healthy relationship with your future mother-in-law. It all begins with respect. You need to respect her just as you are expected to respect your own mother. She is not some woman who happens to be your girlfriend’s mother. This lady brought her daughter into the world and raised her in a way that caused you feel strongly enough to date this girl and build an emotional connection with her.
People are unique, even if they come from similar backgrounds. That oftentimes reaches into matters that are opinion-based, where one party brands something as a fact written in stone. Most in-law problems are based on such issues. Nobody wants to be told what to do or how to organize their life. The best way to deal with meddling in-laws is to respect what they say, but to make it clear that in the interest of your family you will do what you feel is best. In some cases, the meddling in-law will back off, unless their child — your spouse — goes along with what the in-law suggests or demands. If that happens, there is clearly an emotional boundary issue that needs to be addressed by a competent rabbi or marriage counselor.
I get that you are already on opposing sides with your girlfriend’s mother, and you have already determined, in your own words, that she is “wacky.” I have a hunch that she has picked up on the way you feel about her by your disrespectful conduct. In your case, you need damage control. Here is what I recommend.
Whatever your feelings are about COVID-19, social distancing, and masks, do not bring your politics into the home of your girlfriend’s mother. Whether you agree with her or not, she is being compliant with regulations, and you have no other option but to respect her in her own home. My advice is for you to call her and apologize to her for how you behaved. Don’t bother explaining your point of view or telling her that COVID is not as bad people think. Tell her that you will not enter her home until she feels it is safe for you to be there.
I would imagine that she is also concerned that her daughter, who is likely not wearing a mask in your presence, is exposed to the spread of COVID and then bringing it into her home. You will have to make sure that your girlfriend complies to the best of her ability when in your presence so that she does not infect the rest of her household. You need to make these changes very clear to her, and be regretful for the way you have treated her. If she sees and feels convinced that you are doing right by her, there is a chance that you may have a decent relationship in the future. She needs to be able to trust you, and thus far you have done everything in your power to earn her distrust.
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. Questions and comments for the Dating Forum can be submitted to email@example.com.