While reading through emails, one caught my eye because I have lived through the same situation, and I continue to live it every day. I hope the email writer is a new reader because this topic is really what inspired me to begin writing this dating column years ago.
I’ve read your articles and hope you have some advice. Lately I have become anxious. I’m from a chasidish family. But I wanted more out of life. I don’t wear the chasidish levush anymore. I’ve shaved my pei’os, have gotten a degree, and have a very good job. I love and respect my family and had a long discussion with my parents before I did all this. I told them that I loved them, but I couldn’t live their life and needed more for myself. It was hard for them, but they learned to accept my choice.
It has been a few years since then, but I am dating a girl whom I can see myself marrying. She’s a college graduate and has a good job, which can lead to a good career. Her family is different from mine; her parents are more modern than mine and are basically the opposite of my family. I have been dating this girl for close to three months and things are serious. I told my parents, and they are happy for me and told me to feel free to bring the girl to the house. This is what I am scared about. I have been open and honest with this girl of how I grew up and explained that, while I changed, my family and siblings remain the same. She said that was “fine.” Now that I have to take the next step and introduce everyone to her and her to them, I am nervous. It’s one thing to know that the one you are dating grew up chasidish, but to face it and possibly have chasidish in-laws is a different story. This girl doesn’t know much about chasidus, except what she sees and heard from others (which is a lot of stereotypical stuff), and I don’t want her to change her opinion of me when I take her to meet my parents and she sees the life her would-be in-laws live. My family may overwhelm her. She is one of three children and I’m one of 11, with k”h over 30 nieces and nephews. I may look and act different from my family, but I am still close with my siblings. I don’t want her to see my brothers and brothers-in law and how they dress, and listen to family discussions, which are half in Yiddish and half in English, and think “What did I get myself into?” What do you suggest?
Thank you for the letter, Y.Y.
I have actually lived your letter! As I wrote in an article titled, “What I Did with My Shidduch List,” which was published about six years ago, right after I married my husband, all of this was addressed. I don’t know how much you know about me or my past (which I often write or allude to in this column), but I wrote that those in the shidduch parshah should throw away their lists and look at the person sitting across from them. More importantly, I also wrote that I never expected to marry someone from a chasidish family. My husband is from a chasidish family from Borough Park.
From what little you wrote of the woman you are dating, it sounds like she and I share similar backgrounds, which is different from yours (and my husband’s). I knew about my husband’s background from the very beginning, because we worked for the same agency and people start to talk and ask questions when there are two eligible singles around. My husband has since left for greener pastures, but I am still there. My eyes were wide open about the situation. Meeting his parents for the first time was a little nerve-racking – but only before I met them and only because I was meeting my future in-laws. I would have been nervous if they were Litvish, yeshivish, modern. I wondered what to wear, how to wear my hair, what I should say, and what if I say something stupid. My in-laws are very sweet, loving, and caring people. These are the individuals who love my husband and raised him and shaped him into the person he is today, as I am sure the girl whom you are currently dating will feel the same.
Y.Y., I understand why you would be nervous, but give the woman whom you are dating a little credit. You mentioned that she is an educated woman. I’m sure she has seichel, as well, and doesn’t sound like someone who would run and abandon ship if something surprised her or didn’t turn out exactly the way she expected. You mentioned that you told her all about your background and she seemed “fine” with it. Why would you think that things would change when she actually meets your parents and sees the home you grew up in? You think your parents will embarrass you by speaking about your bar mitzvah or the time you were late to the farbrengen? C’mon! Your parents want the best for you and wouldn’t do anything on purpose to chase this woman away. The entire first-time meeting with my in-laws lasted about 15 minutes (and I didn’t meet the siblings until the l’chayim). They were just as nervous about meeting me as I was about meeting them. No one said anything embarrassing, and it’s almost seven years since that day and everyone is still on speaking terms.
I am sure that there may be some who may not able to handle having chasidish in-laws – or rather, in-laws who are very different from the way they themselves were brought up – although I don’t see why. You live and love your spouse and see your in-laws on occasion and at occasions. I get along with all of my sisters- and brothers-in-law; we text often, but because we all have busy lives, we only get to see each other so often, and it is not for lack of trying. Even if we did spend yamim tovim and some Shabbasos together, and for some reason we didn‘t get along as well as we did, we would all make it work for the few hours that we are together, because we each would want what is best for our spouse (their brother). If you are with someone who would throw away everything that the two of you have together and the chance for a future together because she couldn’t handle who or what your family is, would you want to be with that person in the first place? And I address all people from all sects with that question. If someone couldn’t stand your family for no other reason than that they are different from the life he/she knows, would you want to be with that person?
My thought on the matter is: Yes, in-laws are a part of your life, but you live your life and go home to live with your husband – not the gantze mishpachah. If things do progress with the woman you are dating, she will be part of your family. Shabbasos, yamim tovim, simchahs, and family gatherings will occur where she will interact with your family. But she will live her life and build a bayis ne’eman b’Yisrael with you and you alone. You wrote, “I told my parents and they are happy for me and told me to feel free to bring the girl to the house.” This makes me doubtful that your parents will yell at her or embarrass you in any way (other than the way parents that shep nachas do). All seem to be excited about the situation.
This is a new phase in life. It is natural to be nervous. Take it from me: Things can work out if all parties want it to. My husband’s family is wonderful. I enjoy spending time with them. We are different, but that’s not a negative. It’s a positive, because it keeps things interesting! Let’s not forget that the woman you are dating may be nervous for you to meet all of her relatives, as someone may say something to you about how you grew up chasidish. I know I was nervous about that.
Don’t foresee problems or issues that may not exist. You will only end up worrying about something that you may have absolutely nothing to worry about!
I truly wish you, the woman you are dating, and both of your families the best. You have my full support and, I am sure, the support of readers, as well.
Hatzlachah to you all!