Dear Dating Coach,
I am engaged to a wonderful girl who seems perfect for me in every way. The only small glitch is that her parents are very wealthy and I am worried that they will try to control every decision and plan that we make in the future. They are already full of “suggestions” that feel more like directives, and I am not sure I’m OK with that! How do I tell them that our future is our own?
Over Yom Tov, a friend of mine was upset about her very serious “cake dilemma.” While she was enjoying the holiday and all of the beautiful food it offered, she worried that her skirts didn’t concur. There were so many tempting desserts just waiting to be sampled, but the more she tasted, the less her clothes seemed to like her. With every bite of chocolate cake, her outfits seemed to get smaller and smaller, refusing to work with her love of sweets.
Hence her terrible quandary: Eat the cake and start wearing rubber-waisted skirts, or switch to salads and reconnect with her closet. I couldn’t help but laugh as we talked, as she unwittingly offered the most literal illustration of “You can’t have your cake and eat it too.”
Mazel Tov on your engagement! How lucky you are to have met someone that you are so happy with. Yet, before you could even change your status to “engaged,” your future in-laws were already offering unsolicited advice. Perhaps it was as innocuous as picking wedding colors, or maybe it was more serious – where you should finish school, where you will work, or where the two of you will ultimately live.
Herein lies your decision: to take or not to take. When you have in-laws who would like to support you and your future family in a way that you would not be able to for a long time, you are choosing to perpetuate a dynamic that isn’t different than a child living at home. When a parent of a child living at home generously decides to lease that child a car, the parent will of course choose the make and model. The person who pays will always expect that his input be respected. To expect financial support without any impact or input is immature and unrealistic. Thus, you have a decision to make.
And You Shall…
Do not discount that many young couples struggle for many years after they are married to make ends meet – to pay for schooling on their own, housing, insurance, and the like. Do not scoff at parents who are willing to help pay your future children’s school tuitions, your Pesach hotel stays, and Israel vacations. Many young couples scouring the sale racks at Target would be thrilled to have a credit card paid for by their parents. However, it is simply naïve to believe that those tuition checks will come without an “opinion” about which school you should choose for your children. Likewise, it’s self-indulgent to expect your in-laws to buy you a house without weighing in on the neighborhood you should choose.
This does not mean that parents who are unable or unwilling to offer financial support to their married children never offer “advice.” However, when you alone pay your mortgage every month, you can listen (and even heed) your parents’ advice, but you will not feel obligated in the same way. When you act like an adult and pay your own way, you get to make adult decisions. When you allow the parents to pay, you alone are responsible for blurring the boundary lines.
So it’s time for you and your kallah to make a decision – with neither path being incorrect. You can choose to make your own way, or you can accept the gifts that your in-laws are offering you with a grateful heart and an open mind. Regardless of your choice, you and your spouse will still be a unit of two. Ultimately, it is up to both of you to agree on what will work best for your future together.