I disagree with what the email writer states in the first sentence of her letter. This is definitely a question related to dating. We date everyone in our lives, not only our spouses. Think about it: When someone new enters your life, you spend time getting to know him – his likes and dislikes. You develop your own way of communicating with this person. You don’t communicate the same way you do with your boss, your friend, and your mother. Every relationship has its rules. In time, you learn the best ways to spend time with this new person in your life that causes you the least amount of stress. The letter writer, Shani, found her chasan. Now she is learning how to date his mother.
This isn’t really a dating question, since I recently became a kallah, but I didn’t know where else to ask.
My future shvigger is a very nice, sweet, and giving woman. When my chasan spoke about her while we were dating, he always said that she has so much love to give and would give the family the shirt off her back – but you need to be careful of how much love to take. I never fully understood that, but now I think I do.
When I met my chasan’s siblings and their spouses, they basically said the same thing. They even joked that they felt a responsibility to tell any new member of the family to set limits early on, because if you don’t, you’ll never be able to backtrack. When I asked for details, they all laughed and said, “You’ll see.”
I’m now starting to see. I have been engaged for a couple of months and my mother and I have gone wedding-gown shopping. But I haven’t found anything yet. The other week, my shvigger called and told me she was able to get us an appointment the next day at a gown designer whom I never heard of. She said she pulled strings to get the appointment and I had to be there. I had to move a few things around in my schedule, but I showed up at the appointment with my mother. And that’s when I began to see what my chasan and his siblings were talking about. My shvigger was surprised to see that I brought my mother with me. While we sat waiting for the appointment, my shvigger whispered, “Oh, I see your mother came. I thought I told you I made an appointment for us.” I couldn’t believe that she said that! I couldn’t believe she would think I would go gown shopping without my mother! When I told my chasan about this, he laughed said that it was “typical” behavior of his mother and I should consider myself warned. He asked how I responded to his mother. I told him that all I said was, “I didn’t know the appointment was just for the two of us but I wouldn’t want to leave my mother out of something like this.”
Just last week, I was sitting at my sheitel appointment. I don’t even remember mentioning to my shvigger that I had the appointment. I had bought a couple of sheitels and was having them styled. My shvigger ended up at the appointment! She walked into the store while I was there and she didn’t have an appointment! I have no idea how she knew. I asked my chasan and he said he’d never give her details like that – pointing out that once his brother gave her some details of where he and his family would be vacationing a few years back and on the second day his mother showed up with his father at the same hotel to spend “time with the grand kids” (OMG). My shvigger didn’t insist that I style the sheitels that I chose differently from what I wanted, but she wanted me to buy a long sheitel, which really wasn’t my style and certainly out of my price range. I kindly refused, telling her the two reasons I just mentioned. Her response? “Yeah, but it’s fun to try a new style. And I’ll pay for it.” Now I see what everyone was talking about.
I asked one of the sisters-in-law who married into the family about this issue, and did so in a very pareve way so she shouldn’t think that I am insulting or making fun of our shvigger. She knew exactly what I was referring to. She even provided stories of her own. One such story was a few months ago, when our shvigger called her, asking to come over to give the kids gifts she brought back from vacation, but it was getting late and the kids still needed to take a bath before bedtime. She told her to come another time and to try to plan it for earlier in the evening. Twenty minutes later, the doorbell rang and the shvigger was there, gifts and all! There was an apology connected to it, “But I just couldn’t wait to see their faces when they saw what I got them.” My sister-in-law said that the kids went to bed very late that night, one without a bath, and it was very hard getting her kids up for school the next morning.
I know what you’re thinking: “She’s complaining that her shvigger is too nice, too giving, while others have real issues with their in-laws.” I’m not saying that at all. I just want to know how to handle or how to respond to my shvigger without insulting her. I appreciate all she does, but I don’t want her in every part of my life. But I see that boundaries and limits need to be set and very soon! Any suggestion?
Thank you for your email, Shani.
Okay. So this is a new type of letter for me. And don’t worry, I don’t think that you’re complaining about your shvigger being too nice. I definitely hear what you are saying. I can understand what your chasan meant by saying, “You need to be careful of how much love to take.” And why your future siblings-in-law “warned” you. But I’m going to say that this is a type of dating question because you need to find a way to make this relationship work and how to maneuver and to know what to say and what not to say when you are around your future shvigger, just like you have learned some of how to do this with your chasan.
Truthfully, this woman, your future shvigger, sounds like a very sweet and giving woman, but one who doesn’t know or chooses to ignore boundaries and limits. My mouth dropped open when I read that she showed up at the same hotel as her son and family when they were on vacation so she can spend time with them. It does sound like a sweet idea – maybe give the parents a little time off, but to come unannounced on a vacation? No, no, no. And the fact that you said your shver came with her? This tells me that he either can’t control her and gives in to her every whim, or maybe he is just like her.
I can’t even explain the situation with gown shopping. To me it is very normal for a bride to go with her mother, although I know some who did not. If your shvigger knows the type of relationship you have with your mother and you’d want her included, why would she specifically not include your mother? Maybe she wanted to spend some quality time getting to know you and she thought this was the perfect way to start a bond. I don’t know. I also have no explanation for the sheitel appointment. Maybe she heard you mention the name of the sheitel macher you were using and she knew her and called? I don’t know. Yes, it was a very generous offer to buy you a sheitel, but she should have respected your wishes and understood why you didn’t want her to buy it for you.
It just seems like your shvigger wants to be a part of the lives of her children, her children-in-law, and her grandchildren, but how big a part does she want? Sometimes, by pushing too hard, one runs the risk of pushing them away. She may be the type of mother who was very involved with her children’s lives while they were growing up, part of the PTA, used to hosting her children’s friends in her house, driving her children to and from different destinations before they were able to drive, and now she doesn’t know how to handle the fact that they are all grown up with lives of their own, and so she can’t behave as she did when they were ten years old. Again, I’m just guessing. I’m also guessing that her family has spoken with her about this, but she chose not to hear or understand what they were saying.
I have two suggestions for you. Neither will “solve the issue,” but it may help you in your life. The first is: No matter what your shvigger does or says, never ever bad-mouth her to your chasan. Your chasan seems to know his mother very well, but she is still his mother. There must be respect. Yes, joking can happen, but don’t let the joking around turn into making fun of or insulting his mother because, after all, she does sound like a very generous, loving woman. The second suggestion I have is to follow the advice of your chasan and his siblings: Set boundaries and limits with your shvigger early on, before a pattern starts of her being more a part of your life than you think appropriate. I am not saying to lay down ground rules. I’m not saying to come right out and say, “No! I said you can’t come over and here you are. I’m not letting you in!” If your shvigger suggests going someplace together and you don’t want to go, for whatever the reason, tell her you can’t go, be firm, and don’t let her talk you into something that you don’t want to do. Do it respectfully. Don’t feel that you have to give in and allow her to do and say whatever she wants to because she is your chasan’s mother. You know the sayings: “No good deed goes unpunished” and “Nice guys finish last.” Don’t let that be you; don’t be overly accommodating when you are busy or when you just don’t want to do something because you will be angry or sorry in the end that you gave in, because you may have missed something else or just wanted to be alone.
Some may not agree with me, and that’s fine. Shani, I wish you luck and mazal.
Hatzlachah to you all!