Photo Credit: Jewish Press

Dear Mrs. Bluth,

I have a huge problem that has brought on so much distress and arguments between my husband and myself, that it has completely changed the dynamics of our family and shalom bayis. I am married to a wonderful man for seven years and we have not ever, during that span of time, ever had an argument. We certainly did have disagreements and differences of opinion, but we worked through them and always reached a conclusion that worked for both of us. My husband is not the problem. It’s my mother-in-law, or more accurately, the man she recently married.


Just before my husband and I married, my father-in-law was diagnosed with a terminal illness and we had to rush the wedding so that he could still be able to partake in seeing his son under the chuppah. He was a sweet and gentle soul, much like my husband, and I truly was happy that he could take part in our simcha. Sadly, he passed away seven months later, four months before the birth of our son who bears his name. My mother-in-law was very dependent on us for a long time afterwards and although my husband and I didn’t have much time to ourselves those first three years, we did our best to comfort her and include her in everything we did and she was very appreciative and it was a pleasure to have her with us.

With a second child on the way, it became evident that there would be no room for her as we had a very small apartment, so she went on to stay with her daughter, who lived nearby. Whenever I could, I would spend time with my mother-in-law and she would often say how lonely she was and that her daughter tried to convince her to start meeting people, but she really didn’t want to. As time went by, I guess her daughter wore her down and she agreed to see a shadchan who specialized in second marriages and she seemed to cheer up. Last year, she excitedly told us she met a wonderful man and had us meet him before she accepted his marriage proposal. None of us were very impressed with him, but my sister-in-law waved our fears away and said this was the best thing for her. And so she married him.

They moved into his house not far away from where we lived, but we seldom saw them. Whenever I called to invite them over, my mother-in-law declined saying her new husband didn’t like to be a guest in other people’s homes but she would love to host us for a Shabbos. We accepted gladly, looking forward to getting closer with her husband and the kids missed spending time with their bubby. It turned out to be the worst mistake. Although my mother-in-law tried to smooth things over, it was obvious that her husband did not appreciate our company. Everything we did irritated him, the kids were an annoyance, they made too much noise, they made a mess at mealtime, they ran around too much and he didn’t want them knocking over his antiques. My mother-in-law looked on sadly but didn’t say anything. Needless to say, we left as soon after havdalah as we could.

We had our first argument that night when I told my husband that my mother-in-law was clearly miserable with this ogre she was married to and that we had to find some way to get her out of this horrible marriage. My husband told me not to mix in, that it wasn’t our place and that this man was not used to children and the noise they make as he had never been married before. But I couldn’t leave it alone as my heart hurt for my mother-in-law and I couldn’t understand why my husband and her other children couldn’t see how miserable she was and try to help her. Please tell me if I’m wrong. Maybe you can make them understand that what they are doing by looking away is harming their mother!


Dear Friend,

I’m so sorry for the heartache you are experiencing because it is clear that you genuinely care for your mother-in-law. However, this angst is also clouding your vision and good common sense.

It is quite apparent from your letter that you have built your opinion of “Mr. Wonderful” on his behavior towards your children, and possibly, for the cool reception he extended to you. I cannot excuse poor behavior, especially if it’s directed without cause and I certainly cannot agree or disagree with your assumption that he is an ‘ogre,’ without having met him and observed these faults for myself. What I will say is that as long as your mother-in-law has not reached out for help or support because of ill treatment by her husband, I must agree with your husband that you stand down until such time as you’ve spoken with your mother-in-law and heard from her how her life is with him.

Invite your mother-in-law over for coffee and chit chat about how life is. Just LISTEN to her, and ultimately, respect what she has to say. You may well be mistaken by what you thought you saw during your visit. Or, you may be right, it all depends on what she tells you. You cannot force someone to admit they are unhappy, even though you are convinced of that. She has to tell you she’s unhappy or you may be making things far worse. Have that little get-together and find out for sure. And if, indeed, you are proven wrong, give up being Sherlock Holmes and leave it alone. And shalom bayis will return to your home and to hers.


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