Dear Mrs. Bluth,
I was fascinated by a letter published recently in your column, about an “aloof” daughter-in- law. It could have easily been written about me, but I have been married for less time and have no children. I wanted to thank you for arguing the daughter-in-law’s side, and to offer a perspective based on my own experience.
My husband’s parents refused to meet me while we were dating; he basically had to force-arrange an interaction between me and his family. They referred to me, in front of his extended family, as his “friend.” They guilted him in delaying the wedding by almost a year, guilted us into arranging a more elaborate wedding than I was comfortable with, and then said they weren’t coming. The day of the wedding they finally came, but refused to walk him down to the chuppah. This caused both of us a great deal of stress and embarrassment and the whole engagement period impacted on his health negatively. Some friends of his had to step in and do the job for them.
After the wedding, they began calling him several times a day. Shana Rishona was very difficult as my husband had never really been taught to take care of himself and it seems, had a learning disability that no one knew about.
At some point they decided that they liked me after all, but I was burnt out and not inclined to trust them after all they had put us through. They only recently allowed me, begrudgingly, into their home, but wouldn’t let me into my husband’s childhood room. They have insisted, since they decided to like me, that they have done nothing wrong and constantly try to get my husband to bring me along for coffee with them just once, at the suggestion of a therapist, to try to smooth things out, but neither of us are comfortable with this. We have learned that with them “just once” is never just once. They try to throw money at us but I refuse to be bought.
Over time, my husband has learned to set boundaries and has managed to get the calls down to once a week. He has also taken some time off from speaking to his mother, for the sake of his sanity. I support him in doing whatever makes him feel comfortable, and he is learning to stand up for me, too.
I have always done my best to be civil to them even when I felt uncomfortable, but I have learned that I need to keep my distance from them for the sake of my sanity. They regularly insist that I forget the past, that they love us both and that everything they did at the beginning was justified, or, didn’t happen at all. Meanwhile, I have noticed signs of instability in both of them, and have been warned to protect our future children, so they won’t be subjected to the deep-rooted traumas my husband suffered in his childhood.
It tears me apart knowing that I will, once again, be labeled “the bad guy” in that situation and I will have to explain to our kids why things are the way they are. My husband and I are fortunate that we still love each other and have managed to find a place of healing with each other. My own parents, who spent my entire teenage years finding fault with my school and career choices, embraced my husband from the beginning and even went out of their way to make our wedding a more memorable event.
My message to all in-laws: Accept the personality quirks and be grateful that your children have found their bashert. If your daughter-in-law doesn’t want to get close to you, there’s probably a reason for it and trying to push your in will probably only irritate matters. Let her exist, and be happy and grateful that she is taking good care of your son. This world would be a pretty boring place if Hashem had created all of us exactly alike.
Thank you for writing and sharing the view from the other side of the chuppah. However, there is a great deal of differences between your situation as described and what the father chose to share with us.
To your credit, you are to be admired for marrying your husband in the first place, having been shown what kind of reception you would face from his parents. Love often causes people to be afflicted with hysterical blindness, in which hey chose not to see certain things so as to remain a couple.
I must say, your situation is the most complex and you are to be admired for staying with your husband and working to create a successful marriage together. It is also amazing that you are helping him reach his full potential. I hope that you love each other and can be together for 120 years in good health and harmony.
Now, about those kids you are hoping to have… I’d recommend that both you and your husband have thorough medical examinations in all areas both, physical and mental, to rule out passing down any affects of the trauma and abuse both you and your husband have suffered at the hands of his toxic family. Also, having children may compound the stress and anxiety already present in your lives, so be sure that you are ready and fit for parenthood. It warms my heart to know that when a clean bill of health is issued, these children will be born into a warm and loving home.
As for your current relationship or lack thereof, with your in-laws, I agree that for you and your husband now is not the time to try and get close. But don’t completely bury the idea, especially if you entertain starting a family. Children could be enriched by having a close and loving relationship with devoted grandparents and, although now does not appear to be the time, your in-laws have made overtures of reconciliation that you may want to explore in the future. I would hope that you would keep an open mind about this, assuming you see signs that they are sincere in their efforts.
To all those who have written to us about this situation, please understand that every in-law relationship is different and thus require tailor made solutions to address our various problems and situations. There is not one treatment that will produce a cure for every ailment. The drug prescribed must be individually adjusted to produce the desired effect to address and cure the specific malady of every patient.