DS: What about Rachel?
Michael: Rachel is very loving and her strength lies in her nurturing, caring personality. But, at the same time, she has not developed a more decisive personality, which I have developed with more life experience. I make some of the decisions that require my strengths, and she makes those that call upon hers. The rest of our decisions so far have been made together.
DS: It sounds like your complement each other. How are you getting along with your future mother in-law?
Michael: I knew from the beginning that she is a very strong Type A personality, who has a lot of influence over Rachel and the rest of her family. Because of this, her mother feels that she must be involved in every aspect of her Rachel’s life. This means knowing everything that goes on with us; and because she knows how to work her daughter, Rachel has an extremely difficult time resisting the constant pressure her mother puts on her to know every intricate detail about her life.
DS: So, you believe Rachel can’t resist her mother’s pressure.
Michael: I think so. I am trying to build a family unit and this is extremely difficult to do when her mother continues to have such a negative and overbearing influence on her. Rachel and I have spoken many times on this subject, and each time, I try to guide her to stand up to her mother and say no to her when she does not agree. I’ve explained that we cannot build a family for ourselves when her mother has such a major influence on her. We cannot take the chance that the decisions we make in our future are so influenced by what her mother thinks. Rachel has tried, but she cannot seem to overcome this pressure.
DS: How do you get along with your future mother in-law?
Michael: Now, as you can guess, her mother and I often clash with one another. I have had to step up many, many times to fight for us; but I cannot do this forever. I just don’t have the strength or willpower to spend a lifetime battling her mother’s control.
DS: What do you think Rachel can do?
Michael: I think Rachel needs to step up and start making her own decisions. In fact, they both have to make adjustments and come to the realization that Rachel will no longer be living in her mother’s house, and that soon we will be married and we will need the time to build our own family.
DS: It sounds like you’ve got a great basis for a marriage there – you’re very lucky. This is normal to a certain extent, especially if the daughter and mother are close.
Rachel by nature does not seem to be a Type A, so it’s believable that her mother would somewhat dominate her in situations. Type As have a tendency to do that. She has followed her lead just like she follows your lead to a certain extent.
I think you need to sit down and talk to Rachel about this. Explain to her that you’d like to set some type of boundaries as far as what’s acceptable and what’s not acceptable for you, for her to discuss with her mother. Come up with a list of things that might come up, and then the two of you can discuss what’s acceptable to both; there may have to be compromise.
Once a person is married, I fully believe that a person should let go of their parents and become one with their spouse. That’s impossible to do if there is a parent in the middle. I’d also let your kallah know that you’re trying to be proactive in stopping what you feel could be an issue further down the line, that may cause problems.
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Rabbi Daniel Schonbuch, MA, is the Executive Director of Shalom Task Force and author of a “First Aid for Jewish Marriages.” To order a copy, visit www.JewishMarriageSupport.com. For more information about Shalom Task Force, please visit www.shalomtaskforce.org. You can e-mail questions to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.