There are some things we have control over in our lives: who our friends are, the clothes we wear, what profession we’re in. But there are things in life you can’t choose, and one is your family. We’ve all heard the phrase, “You can choose your friends, but not your family.” This letter is all about that topic, but it’s not what you may think. No one is complaining that he/she is or isn’t related to someone for shidduch purposes. This is a letter having to do with family that really has no bearing whatsoever regarding who the person dating is. If you ask me, it’s ridiculous. And you’ll read my response stating exactly that.
I’m dating Moshe (his real name). A few weeks ago, he told me that he always wanted to marry someone from a large family. He only has one sister and feels like he missed out on “all the fun”; that’s what he says. He wants a house full of kids, siblings, nieces, nephews, in-laws, cousins. That’s all well and good, but I also have one sibling – a younger sister not in the parshah yet. My mother is an only child, my dad is one of three. I have a decent-sized family: aunts, uncles, and cousins included. We get together when possible and for family simchos. To tell you the truth, I see them more on FaceTime than I do in real life.
Moshe said that he is trying to see if this is the type of family he wants. And yes, I’m insulted. I’m sorry that I’m not one of eight children with ten aunts and uncles and 35 cousins (hope you read that sentence with sarcasm). I reminded him that he knew what he was getting, or rather not getting, when he chose to date me. He said it’s not my fault (as if I thought it was), but he just wants a busy house where people come and hang out, which becomes the “it” house on the block. I told him it can still be that, and “it” has nothing to do with how big my family tree is. We can have lots of friends; I get along well with my cousins, he has cousins, plus when our siblings get married, they may live nearby. I’m sure we’ll meet new people – plus if we get married, we can discuss having a large family. He says he knows all of this, but always imagines himself as part of a large mishpachah, always having a simchah or get-together. The big-family conversation has been coming up now more than ever. But if he likes me, it shouldn’t matter, right?
I didn’t have a real issue with Moshe about anything before this family situation. But he has brought this up more than a few times now. I told him I can’t change what is. Do you think he will use this as an issue to break up?
Mindy (my real name)
Thank you for your email, Mindy.
Everyone has his or her list of prerequisites of what they want in a spouse. But as people date, they may adjust the list. I, too, wanted to marry into a large(ish) type of family. I have only one sibling. My father is an only child, and my mother has only one sister who’s unmarried. But I didn’t make it a requirement of whom I dated. Funny thing is, my sister’s husband also only has one sibling, and his parents are only one of two, so she ended up with a similar family as she started out with, but with the addition of a sister-in-law and nieces and nephews. And it just so happens that my husband is one of many siblings and I am already a great-aunt of more than a few great-nieces and -nephews. Yes, being part of a larger family now is fun, but is that the reason why I married him? No – his family happened to come together with the package. Lol!
Let me start with the serious part of my response before I take my etiquette gloves off. Moshe said that he wants to be part of a large family because he’s from a small family and feels like he missed out on the fun. Maybe he grew up with friends from (whatever he considers) large families, and when he visited, he saw what he thought his family was lacking because it was “small.” Just because Moshe grew up in a small family doesn’t necessarily mean there was no fun allowed. He may just want to feel like part of the group and get swept up with all the things he thinks a big family deals with. You can’t fault someone for wanting what he wants. Maybe Moshe’s mind is moving forward in this relationship, and he is now realizing what he may have to give up or compromise on, should he propose. Mind you, he isn’t giving up on what I consider to be an earth-shattering item; but for him, it is. He’s coming to the reality that he will only be part of that large family he creates with friends and family. But I don’t know what’s going on in his mind. Go ahead and ask him why he’s latched on to this and not letting go. It may be an answer that would surprise both of us.
You are right: Moshe knew what type of family you came from when the shidduch was redt. Nothing was hidden. But why bring it up now? I don’t know how long the two of you have been dating for, but I find it strange that he’s brought this up more than once now. You’ve gotten to know each other, have continued dating, and now he tells you he wishes you were part of The Brady Bunch? Good for you for realizing this has nothing to do with you and there is no one “at fault” here, except for Moshe and him harping on the subject.
Large families can be wonderful, but you know what they say: Too many cooks spoil the broth. The more people involved in an issue makes for an unhappy game of broken telephone. You don’t have to be part of a large family to know this. Arguments get taken up a notch with more people involved and taking sides. And what about the other saying: “Family isn’t always blood; it’s those you choose to love and include in your life.” I thought you said it well when you pointed out that you can meet new people, siblings get married – not everything will stay as it is now.
If it were me, and Moshe brought up this subject again, I’d tell him that it’s really getting to me, that he’s picking on something I have no control over, and he should be concentrating on me, now that we’ve gotten to know each other. If he can’t concentrate on me and is still distracted by your small family, then I would ask where his priorities are? He has a wonderful woman ready to build a life with him, and here he is worried that he won’t have many aliyos at nephews’ bar mitzvahs and aufrufs that he will never be attending because of the small family you’re from? C’mon! Get his head on straight. I’m sorry if I sound harsh, but this is truly something that has no bearing on the type of wife/mother you will be.
You asked if Moshe may use this as an excuse to break up with you. He may. If he does, then you’re better off without him. He’s looking for labels, not a person. I hope this doesn’t lead to a breakup; but if it does, think about how many arguments and monologues you will have avoided, him going on and on about something that is out of anyone’s control if you did get married. Hopefully, this is just a small hurdle – one of many in life that you will be able to get through without exerting too much strength, effort, and stress on.
Hatzlachah to you all.