By Esther Mann, LCSW
Lucky me! I’m engaged. I am so happy and grateful to have met “Chaim.” It’s been hard for me, since I was divorced, with a young daughter. But I was introduced to Chaim and it was love at first sight. Not only am I crazy about him, but so is my daughter and my whole family. Chaim is 32, never before married, and seems to have no problem marrying a divorced woman with a daughter. I feel so blessed.
Chaim is the younger of two brothers. His older brother is 34 years old and single. His parents are lovely people, whom I get along with very well. They too seem open-minded toward me and are not making me feel uncomfortable about my past. They are so thrilled to be finally marrying off a child. All of their friends have already made numerous weddings and have grandchildren to enjoy. They feel they are finally “joining the club.”
Though we haven’t yet set a date for the wedding, my future mother-in-law can’t stop talking about the wedding plans. I think she feels she has to make up for lost time and wants to have the biggest, most beautiful wedding ever. And that’s why I’m writing to you.
My problem is that I’m feeling uncomfortable with the idea of a big wedding. I can’t imagine walking down the aisle in a white gown for the second time. Especially given the fact that I have a child. I can’t imagine celebrating before a large crowd and acting like a young kallah. I’ve been through so much and am at a different stage of life. Chaim understands my dilemma and doesn’t care all that much whether we have a large or a small wedding. He says he loves me and just wants to get married. The details don’t matter to him.
I kind of believe him, though I worry that someday he’ll regret not having a beautiful wedding like all of his friends. But my real concern is over his parents and his mother in particular. She acts like a little girl planning her first party. I understand that she is excited to finally be making a wedding, but shouldn’t the excitement be about the fact that her son is finally getting married, rather than the actual event?
I feel it’s too much for me and that I’ll be stressed and unhappy the entire time leading up to the wedding and then be a wreck at the wedding.
I don’t know how to broach this subject with my future mother-in-law. What is the best way to explain to her how I’m feeling? I want to suggest maybe having a lovely, but intimate, wedding in my aunt’s backyard for close family and a couple of our closest friends. Am I out of line suggesting such a thing? Is there a way to say it that won’t sound selfish and insensitive?
Again, let me stress how happy I am to have finally met my bashert. But I just can’t imagine going through yet another formal wedding!
What do you suggest?
Mazel tov on your engagement. It’s always great to hear about an engagement, but when it’s a second marriage, the simcha seems that much more meaningful. And it sounds as though you are wild about Chaim and his family. You have so much to be grateful for, as I know you are.
I understand your feelings toward living through a second large wedding. Though it would be every bit as special as your first time down the aisle, and in many ways so much more so, I can see how you might feel self-conscious doing it all over again. I’m wondering whether you’ve tried getting in touch with what exactly you are reacting to. Are you concerned about people talking, comparing, judging? If that’s the case, I urge you to try and rise above those worries. Your family and friends who love you will be overjoyed for you and will generously share their most positive feelings toward you. If there are some low individuals who use this as an opportunity to gossip, those are the people who shouldn’t be on your radar. Not then, not now, not ever.
Perhaps your first wedding was painful for you because you knew or maybe just sensed at the time that you were making a big mistake. And for that reason alone, the prospect of another wedding triggers awful and agonizing memories for you. There are numerous possible reasons why you might be against having another large event.
On the flip side, I can also understand what your future mother-in-law must be feeling. She’s waited so long to make a simcha of her own. Always the guest, never the hostess. It can grind a person down. At last she is being given an opportunity to share her excitement with the world. That’s a hard thing to deny a loving mother.
In a case like this, there is no clear winner or loser. You both are entitled to your feelings, and a compelling case can be made by each of you. However, the last thing you want is to see the close relationship you have with your future mother-in-law being diminished in any way. Weddings come and go, with only an album and a few random photos to show for it. But relationships are forever. And that’s where you must keep your focus.
Straight off the bat, you need to ask yourself whether you have the fortitude to just go for it. Despite the dread, anxiety, and bad memories, dig deep and decide whether you are strong enough to honor your mother-in-law with this loving act. If you can pull it off, you will be gifting her with a selfless act of kindness that she may not even be aware of. You will be setting a precedent for graciousness that will reflect back to you for many years to come.
If you feel it would be impossible for you to manage, I suggest that you sit down with your future mother-in-law, validate her feelings about making a lavish wedding, and try to carefully share some of your own concerns about what the evening means to you. Ask for suggestions. Maybe together you can come up with a creative solution that will allow both of you to feel satisfied. For instance, is it possible to have a small, private chuppah for just immediate family and the closest of friends, and then invite the entire kit and caboodle for a festive, glorious evening of dinner and dancing? Could you plan a small wedding but then plan a lavish sheva berachos that feels like a wedding in terms of excitement and extravagance? Think out of the box.
But be sure to stress to your future mother-in-law that your primary goal is to make sure she is happy and fulfilled. As long as she understands that you are concerned with her happiness, my guess is that she will be able to adapt her dreams somewhat to satisfy you as well.
A loving dialogue and successful negotiation has the potential to bring the two of you closer together than before. What may now feel like a potential catastrophe can turn into a meaningful milestone that the two of you will look back upon in years to come with pride and satisfaction.
Esther Mann, LCSW, is a psychotherapist in Lawrence. Esther works with individuals and couples. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 516-314-2295.