I have read plenty of emails from people asking for advice, and others who freely give advice and tell me what I should write about and why. But I have never had someone begin an email asking a question, seeking out advice and end the email with figuring out what she wants to do. Until now.
I have been dating someone for about a month. I am having doubts about wanting to continue dating him. He is a good-looking guy, but I am not attracted to him. I can’t imagine looking at that face and only that face, day after day, for the next 30 or 40 years. Another reason why I am hesitant about whether to continue on is because he has told me how close he is with his mother. That’s a good thing, I suppose. But he said that once he is married, he would like for his mother to live with him and his family and be a part of their everyday life.
I think I have more of an issue with this than with his looks. I asked him why he would want that – why he wouldn’t want to have his own house and family and, together with his wife, raise his children. I was asking why he wants to live with his mother and not on his own. I asked if he meant his mother should live with him right after the wedding or years later when she would get elderly and require the extra help. I didn’t beat around the bush; I came right out and asked these questions.
His answer was always the same: He loves his mother and has hakaras ha’tov towards her. He wants to be able to provide for her as she provided for him and his sister while growing up. Is it wrong to say that I find this so abnormal? His mother is not old. She is strong, vibrant, and opinionated from what he has told me about her. I do not want to start my married life living under the same roof as my mother-in-law. I don’t think it’s wrong to say that. I often find myself bending over backwards to please others, giving over time that I don’t really have to spare to do something for someone else. I know that is a good quality, but my sister says that I do it at the expense of doing what I want or what needs to get done. I just know that I’ll be doing everything for this woman because I won’t be able to refuse a request; and if I did, I would not want to get into an argument: “You told my mother you can’t drop off her dry cleaning? Are you that busy?”
I can see my future now: my mother-in-law eating dinners with us, sitting with us in the evenings, asking my husband for favors when I would want to spend time with him, even badmouthing me to my husband (in a passive-aggressive way) if it really came down to it. Do I want this? No. I like this guy and all, but I don’t want to live with his mother and be under her nose all the time. I want privacy and to set up my house and family to what my husband and I think is best – not because his mother is living with us and I will hear a “tsk, tsk” every time we do something she doesn’t approve of.
I told him that his intentions sound nice, but I don’t think I want to begin a life with a healthy mother-in-law living with us. I said if his mother was elderly or needed care, it would be one thing; but this just sounds like he can’t let go. He told me not to be so quick to break up with him and that I should at least meet his mother. He suggested all of us going to dinner. I just rolled my eyes. Spending two hours with this woman will not make me want to live with her. I don’t even know if I want to live with him yet!
I know you won’t advise me of what to do, but I can hear you thinking, I think that I just made my decision while typing and rereading this email! This guy may be nice and kind, but he’s a “mama’s boy” and I can’t and won’t be a part of that. I am going to remove myself from the situation.
Anna, whoa, what a letter. Thank you for writing me.
I don’t think I ever had someone write to me and figure out how to resolve his or her situation by the end of the letter. Good for you that you came to this decision. People out there may not agree with you for what you decided, and they may not like that I support the idea, but I can’t get hung up on what other people think and neither should you.
Talk about burying the lead of a story. First you spoke about how you didn’t find this fellow very attractive, and then you mention that he wants his mother moving in with him right away after the chupah! That blew me away for a moment. I thought you would mention something about his hashkafah or his job, even something about his family; but I never expected to read what you wrote. A word of advice, Anna: Next time, lead with what will create the biggest bang.
Yes, there are some people, not only sons, who have a tremendous amount of hakaras ha’tov towards their parents. I have for mine, as well; but at some point, you have to “cut the cord!” I was envisioning what you were envisioning, as well, for your future: evenings with your husband and mother-in-law sitting around the TV or reading newspapers together, your mother-in-law asking you for favors that you feel obligated to do even if it means putting your needs to the side. There are spouses who will gladly live with an in-law and help with whatever is needed and become good friends with them. But I don’t know that many would do it in the beginning of a marriage. Shanah rishonah is hard enough as it is, trying to get two lives to line up and get in sync with each other; adding another person into the mix on a permanent basis may make it that much harder. I also don’t want to discount what you wrote – that maybe this woman would passively-aggressively turn your husband’s feelings against you – which, I hope, would not be the case at all.
Anna, what you failed to mention in your letter is if this man informed his mother of his plans and what she thinks about it. You didn’t mention any father. Was there a divorce? A death? Is he no longer in the picture for some reason, and that is why he wants his mother to live with him and his family – because she has had a hard life and he wants to make things easier for her in addition to the hakaras ha’tov? So there is a little that is left unknown to me and the readers.
I am pleased that you made a decision that pleases you, and that you had clarity after reading your own words, seeing what your life may be like if you move forward in this relationship. I’m not saying that this woman would be the worst mother-in-law in the world and is evil; but I just think that it is best for a husband and wife to start off a marriage together (and alone) to establish themselves and their life together before they take on another responsibility. You are right in that this fellow, should you marry him, may feel torn and in the middle, between you and his mother, and may have to choose between the two of you at times. Again, unless there is an illness or disability, I don’t agree with this man’s logic. Yes, there are some cultures where the newlyweds move in to a house with many generations of the family and they all live together; but the last time I checked, Judaism isn’t one of them.
Hatzlachah to you all.