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Question

I’m planning to get engaged to the guy of my dreams. It happened kind of suddenly. We have mutual friends, and I knew him a little bit, but I never really considered him. Then we were walking in a group together and one thing led to another.

By Baila Sebrow

He’s a really great guy, but my father is not happy that he has to give him a job in his company since he has no job and his parents have very little money. My mother is not happy that he can’t afford to buy me a diamond ring, so I suggested that I wear my grandmother’s ring. I was very close to her before she passed away, and I know she would want me to have it. My boyfriend offered to pay for it, but I know that whatever he pays, it’s worth so much more.

My parents are generous people and they want me to be happy. They already agreed to support us with everything, and they will buy me the bridal gown of my dreams. I know that they discuss with their friends the money people give to their married children, as they will be doing for me. And I could tell that they are not happy they have to do this.

The other day my mother asked me if I’m really ready to marry this guy and that maybe I should wait until I meet another guy who makes a decent salary. I know that my parents are worried they will have to support us forever. I’m a preschool teacher in a yeshiva and I doubt I will ever have enough to pay for things. The way I look at it is that my parents are supporting me now, so what’s the big deal if they continue? If I stay single, they will do it anyway. It’s not like they aren’t buying my clothes now, as well as everything else, like the foods I enjoy eating, or if I need something for my room, or whatever. Should I not let it bother me and just focus on being happy?

Response

I will answer your last question first. Sure, go right ahead and just focus on being happy while leaving all the worries to everyone else! I hope you caught the facetiousness of my comment. Now I am going to give you a reality check. There is a very big difference between supporting an adult single child who lives at home and a married child and spouse in their own household. Let’s start with something simple, like food. When your parents shop and they include your portion of the food you eat in their purchases, that is not the same as giving you money to stock your shelves, refrigerator, and freezer. What about rent and other utilities? Your parents are likely not spending an excessive amount of money because you’re living in their house. But it sounds like that’s exactly what they will be doing when you marry your “great” guy. Then there’s medical insurance, transportation, including cars, and numerous other incidentals.

Later when your family grows, iy’H, I have no doubt it will be expected of them to give you a quality-of-living raise. After all, babies and young children require additional financial support, not only food. They need clothing, yeshiva tuition, babysitters, day camp or sleepaway camp, etc., as the list is endless. Let’s not forget the day you hint to your parents that you’re outgrowing your apartment and how wonderful it would be for your children to have a backyard to run around and play in. In other words, your parents will probably be expected to buy you a house. Houses are not cheap these days, no matter how small. The house will need renovations, and then you and your hubby will come to the realization that you could benefit from an upgrade. So you will likely hint to your parents that you would either like to make an addition to your existing home or just buy a larger home. The scenario I just laid out for you is no exaggeration. This is exactly what happens when it becomes a given to children that their parents are a bottomless money pit.

I want to make it clear that I am not admonishing the practice of parents financially helping their married children until they get on their feet. It is not easy for young couples nowadays unless they are already established. So if married children are studying towards a career and their parents are helping them until the money starts coming in, that is very beautiful and generous of them. But from what you are saying, that is not the case here. Your boyfriend has no job. Your father is giving him something to do in his company. You don’t seem to have any other plans for earning more money. You want to have the fairytale wedding you have always dreamed of, play house, and the money will come as easily as the play money in a monopoly set. Oddly, you are not the first young lady to be so presumptuous. The difference is that you are asking me to validate your expectations, and perhaps be reprimanding of your parents’ unenthusiastic reaction as they go along with your plans.

I will say that in most of these cases, it is the parents who contact me for advice. When I advise them, it is with the understanding that they will share my thoughts with the children they are referring to. That said, my advice is for the benefit of your parents too.

When parents have the financial ability and desire to help their married children it is not only very nice, but in the long run better than leaving that money as an inheritance after they are 120 years old, as that could sometimes create legal complications or family strife. At the same time, there are certain principles they must heed. The children need to understand that whatever they are receiving from their parents is a gift, not an entitlement.

Helping children with a purchase that is not a luxury but a necessity, such as an appliance or expensive repair, etc., is fine. Even gifting children with a vacation can be a wonderful gesture. When children want to buy a new home and they need a down payment, most kind parents who can afford it will only be happy to assist, the advantage being that it may decrease their children’s monthly mortgage and they will not be in debt trying to pay other bills.

It is always best if these things are discussed beforehand — not just with the child they are giving to, but if there are other children in the family who may not have received the same privileges for whatever reason. It is important for the parents not to allow any sibling to feel excluded from family benefits. Additionally, any money or financial help that parents give their child does not automatically certify them to be meddlers in their child’s home. They still need to respect that married people are entitled to privacy and the freedom to make decisions without fear of being financially cut off.

What doesn’t sit right with me in your case is that from what you are saying, you are not just referring to being assisted till you and your husband-to-be will get on your feet, but are expecting to bill your parents for every one of your expenses. I gather that you are young, but why don’t you have any aspirations for earning enough money to support yourself? Moreover, why doesn’t your boyfriend have higher financial aspirations? And speaking about the young man, how does it not bother him to pay your mother a meager price for a valuable engagement ring? Not only that, but what do you mean that since you were close to your grandmother before she passed away, you are sure that she would specifically want you to have her ring? How do you know that?

Your father is not happy that he “has to” give your boyfriend a job in his company? He has every right not to be happy about it! Who can blame your your parents for commiserating with other parents who somehow feel duly obligated to do the same for their children? That leads me to validate your mother’s question and ask you the same, but with a twist. Your mother wondered if you’re really ready to marry this guy, and she suggested that maybe you should wait until you meet a guy who makes a decent salary. My question is: If not for your father’s offer of a job in his company for your boyfriend, would you still be ready to marry him knowing that he presently earns no salary and has no professional goals on the horizon? Furthermore, is he so great a guy that you would be ready to take the plunge into marriage with him even if your parents would not give you any financial support at all?

If the answer to my questions is no, then I’m not so certain you are ready to marry him. If the answer is yes, that he is the most wonderful man who has a beautiful soul and you would be willing to get by with very little, then I say go for it, but do not have any expectations of your parents or place any demands or burdens on them. That is just not fair. 

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 5townsforum@gmail.com

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