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December 21, 2014 / 29 Kislev, 5775
 
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Balancing Respect And Reality


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Dear Dr. Yael: My friend comes from a comfortable, balabatish home in the New York vicinity, and is married to an out-of-town boy from a very wealthy family. During the first few years of their marriage, the young couple managed to juggle visits to both sets of parents for the Yamim Tovim and bein ha’zemanim. As the family grew larger and the grandchildren got older, the amount of time they had to spend with either side of the family became more limited. However, the out-of-town parents would not agree to fewer visits. They felt that since they were still financially supporting them they were entitled to the bulk of the visits. The schedule of their son’s learning, the grandchildren’s yeshiva and their daughter-in-law’s work were disregarded. During all this time my friend’s parents were always supportive and helpful – but never demanding.

The young couple tried to keep shalom and travel out of town as often as possible, but felt that their efforts were not appreciated and that their visits were never enough. While it is obvious to me that some intervention is necessary, the young couple is reluctant to inflict pain and is uncertain as to how to approach the parents about their situation.

Perhaps you can discuss their problem in your column (the parents are regular readers), thus opening the door for a frank family discussion.

Thank you in advance. I am sure your positive input will help their situation. A Friend

Dear Friend: It is difficult for a couple to be put in this predicament.

Since this young couple is still financially dependent on the husband’s parents, they may feel uncomfortable having a frank discussion about this matter with them.

Unfortunately, money sometimes comes with strings attached. But it’s possible that these parents would expect these visits even if they did not support their son and his family. When parents live away from their children and grandchildren, they treasure the time spent together.

Is it possible for the parents to come to the New York area and stay nearby? Perhaps the children would enjoy these visits more, especially if they were able to minimize the work involved.

The best way for the couple to handle the situation is to speak to the parents directly – in a respectful, loving manner. If your friend and her husband tell his parents that they love them very much and appreciate all of their help, and then present ideas on how to deal with the scheduling issues, the parents may get some solace.

Another way to make the parents feel more valued is to call often, write letters and cards (especially from the children), and to try to maintain a close connection.

The message these parents need to get is that they are loved and appreciated. Additionally, though time constraints and work/school pressures may limit the children’s visits, the children must find ways to show their deep love and hakaras hatov. Hatzlachah!

Dear Dr. Yael: As a reader of all of your columns on hakaras hatov, here are my feelings as a child with loving parents.

My husband and I both come from good homes. Both sets of parents support us as my husband is learning in kollel. But my in-laws, who are much wealthier than my parents, give exactly the amount that they agreed to while my parents tend to give us more.

I realize that in life, it is not what is in one’s pocketbook that counts, but what is in one’s heart. Somehow generous people find a way to give more money, time and love to others – even when they have less money and/or time.

No one is obligated to give me and my husband any money, but as a young kollel couple, the support is needed and greatly appreciated. I do not, chas v’shalom, want to sound ungrateful to my in-laws. They are wonderful people, but in some way they make me and my husband feel that they are giving us money out of obligation. As I have gotten older, I have recognized that while many of my friends and I sought to marry boys from affluent homes, this was a misguided ambition. I am, Baruch Hashem, very happily married, and have come to realize that money and material things do not make a person happy. Rather, having someone who is caring and willing to give is paramount to true happiness.

I hope that young single men and women are reading this column, so that they can look for the right things in a potential spouse. I was lucky enough to have found an amazing husband, even at a time when I was swept up in materialism. Unfortunately, some of my friends were not as lucky and they regret having looked for the wrong things in shidduchim. I know now that all of my jewelry and clothes cannot take the place of a loving and giving relationship.

Although I will always love and respect my in-laws, I do not think that we will ever have a close relationship because I will never feel totally loved by them. Maybe my feelings are unfounded, but we were never given anything in a generous manner. It is also very painful to feel like you are an obligation.

My message is two-fold. First, when seeking a prospective shidduch, make sure you prioritize the right things – namely a family that is caring and generous, be it with their time, praise, and/or money. And second, if you are in a position to help your children financially, try to assist in a way that makes them feel loved – not guilty. A Matured Kollel Wife

Dear Matured: Thank you for your interesting letter. While you make some good points, it would be prudent to continue maturing and trying to change your perspective of your in-laws. Perhaps you are correct that your in-laws do not really want to give resources to you and your husband, but instead do so out of obligation. However, maybe they are uncomfortable in social situations or they do not know how to act toward a daughter-in-law. A shy person or an individual who is feeling uncomfortable can often be mistaken for a snob or a cold person.

Changing our perspective can frequently change the way we feel about people. If your expectations are appropriate, you will not feel badly when your in-laws do not meet them. Maybe your parents are able to show you their love and generosity because they feel loved by you. Perhaps your in-laws are afraid to insult you, so they act more distant. There can be a myriad of possibilities, but the important thing is to keep an open mind and open heart. Don’t judge others until you stand in their shoes. Make an effort to be loving and giving to your in-laws. Who knows, you may be in for a nice surprise.

As for looking for the right things in a prospective shidduch, I could not agree more with your view. Time and again individuals are blinded by money, falling into negative and destructive situations. While being wealthy is nice, it is not what is important in this world. We are here to serve Hashem and to be good to others, while having money is just a perk and can sometimes even be a nisayon. Thus, to all single men and women: please look for spouses who will hopefully meet your needs, not just your wants. Hatzlachah!

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