Dear Dating Coach,
I’m seriously dating a girl that I have really connected with. We share the same hashkafa and vision for the future. Her family however, has a more modern background with a home life that is completely different than the one we hope to make. My more typical frum family has been cautioning me to take this into consideration. Does it matter if her family is different than we are?
Oh, the dreaded wedding color scheme. Did I say dreaded? I apologize, I’m projecting. Bless all of you kallahs who believe that an all chartreuse wedding party is essential for your dream day. We all know that when you, your sisters, sisters-in-law, and newborn niece are tasked with finding that perfect color green, you all first immediately google chartreuse, (sounds fancier than it is), and then begin to frantically plan for the impossible. Leaving simpler tasks like mediating world peace and neurosurgery to lesser mortals, you must take on a far more complicated mission; shade hunting. After intense stretching, mindful meditation, and a quick pep talk you begin your search. Later, victorious – but bloodied and bruised, covered in mud, and exhausted, you leave your local mall. (What? Shopping can be intense.) Then, when the wedding finally arrives, you all line up for photos in your various chartreuse interpretations. You privately decide that you all look more like tree doubles, but worried about being turned into lumber you wisely keep quiet. Everyone does look cohesive (ish) and most importantly the kallah is happy, so just smile and say green.
What mazel to have found someone that you like so much. A girl who shares the same values as you and has the same desire to create a frum, torah home. She grew up differently than you however, and you are to be commended for listening to your family’s concerns. Instead of just brushing off the variations in Torah values that you know exist, you have decided to acknowledge that you come from differing backgrounds so that you both can make the best decision for your future. This is the time for you both to sit and talk seriously about this issue, so that instead of dismissing it, you can embrace it.
Black and White
Marriage requires two people with different thoughts, feeling, and habits to live together in a cohesive new home. Having similar backgrounds can alleviate one difference between the two of you. If her home was comparable to the one you grew up in, you could focus instead on your new home. You would probably find that many of the choices you face would match up, because you were raised with the same hashkafa and minhagim. This of course is not a guarantee that you will agree on everything. It can however, eliminate one challenge in creating a unified new life because your previous homes did things so similarly. Perhaps your Pesach seders were led the same way, or both of your homes were filled with Shabbos guests. Perhaps your zemiros sound the same, or the divrei Torah you grew up with carried the same message. This all helps a new couple to feel equally comfortable with both sets of families, and at both sets of homes.
However, those who grew up with different backgrounds can certainly build loving and successful marriages. As long as you are cognizant of the disparities, you can consciously decide how you as a couple will lead your home together. In fact, it can be incredibly powerful to make these life decisions, bonding you both even further. Accept that one in-law’s house may offer a different yom tov than the other, and you can decide where to celebrate each one. Accept that your new father-in-law’s lingo may not feel familiar as you walk to shul, and your mother-in-law may dress differently than you are used to. Be sure that you both are clear on your shared ideals, and how that will affect your long-term decisions; like kashrus, schooling, and general hashkafa. As long as you discuss this openly as a couple, you can make mindful decisions that will unite you, rather than divide you later on.
Make this choice with your eyes wide open, and you will be able to celebrate the tremendous bracha of finding your bashert, even though she wasn’t raised in the same shul as you. You will be able to commit to creating a new home together based on your shared Torah values, rather than simply relying on your backgrounds. This will allow you to welcome both of your families into your future together, because you will understand that your new home is the only one that matters. It may not be as easy or as picture perfect as a conveniently shared background, but sometimes different colored dresses make the photo even more special.