Dear Dr. Yael,
My mother often gives me advice how to raise my children. My husband resents this intrusion and finds my mother’s advice annoying. Sometimes her advice is helpful. I am able to use her helpful advice and tune out that which is not helpful. Recently she recommended a certain yeshiva for us to send our children to and my husband does not want to send them to this yeshiva. Our family was very involved in creating and funding this yeshiva. I feel conflicted between my feelings of duty to my mother and my wifely relationship with my husband. Please advise me how to deal with this situation.
Dear A Fan,
Your question is short, and I have many questions in order to be able to respond appropriately. Firstly, how does your mother give you her advice? Does she give her advice as a suggestion in a soft tone or does it sound annoying and intrusive? The delivery of her advice means a lot in the way it will be received. Regardless of how your mother gives you her advice, it may be prudent to have your mother share her ideas with you privately. In this way, you can implement her ideas that you agree with or share the ideas that you find helpful with your husband without making it a mother-in-law issue.
It is unclear what type of relationship your husband has with his own parents as well as with your parents. Are your husband’s parents alive and well enough to be involved with your children and your family? Sometimes the in-law relationship can reflect the relationship between the spouse and his own parents. You state that your husband feels that your mother is intrusive in your lives. Is this accurate? It seems like you need to have an open and honest conversation with your husband about this and show him that you respect his feelings. It is paramount that your husband feels that you respect his feelings and that you discuss child-rearing issues with him. Does your husband feel excluded in any way by your relationship with your mother? If yes, do you think this is also impacting this issue?
In a previous column I discussed psychological triggers. The mother-in-law/son-in-law relationship as well as the mother-in-law/daughter-in-law relationship is often complicated. The Gemara goes as far as to state that testimony given by a mother-in-law about her daughter-in-law can not be considered valid testimony. Your husband may feel threatened by your mother, which may be exacerbating this issue. If you feel he is threatened by your mother, it is important for you to not take your mother’s “side” against him and talk to your mother about being more careful in front of him to not give advice.
Years ago, I had the privilege of giving a lecture with Rabbi Moshe Meir Weiss. His sage advice in that lecture was to treat your in-law children like diamonds and you will have a better relationship with your children and grandchildren.
Does your mother try to make your husband feel special? Does she compliment him? Does she buy him gifts or special treats?
I am not sure what your husband’s relationship is with your mother. Your question reflects certain issues. Why would your husband not want to be affiliated with a yeshiva that your family has funded and created? Does he object to this yeshiva for any valid reasons or is he feeling controlled by your mother? Often people object to certain ideas when they feel controlled or directed to do something.
Is there anyone in the family who has a good relationship with your mother and your husband who can help forge a more positive relationship between them? I do not believe that you should be the person who must deal with all these issues since you love both your mother and your husband, and you are in a difficult situation with this relationship. Regardless if there is someone who can help them improve their relationship, you should work on not talking to one about the other. You can help improve their relationship in an indirect way by not telling one of them what the other said or did and vice versa. It would only be helpful to share positive views of each of them (e.g., tell your mother something that your husband said positive about her and tell your husband something your mother said positive about him).
Perhaps you have a Rav that you trust that can help build this relationship. If you feel that this is affecting your marriage in a very negative way, it may be helpful to seek therapy to help you navigate this in a more positive manner without hurting your marriage. Hatzlacha in finding the right path and in continuing to have a positive and loving relationship with your husband and your mother.