A Frustrated Husband
A husband who wants more privacy from his mother in law gets marriage advice.
By Dr. Ely Weinschneider
Dear Dr. Weinschneider,
“My wife and her mother were always very close, and while I appreciate that, I feel that their closeness interferes with my marriage. By nature, I am a very private person, and I resent that my wife always feels that she must share everything with her mother. Additionally, my wife constantly wants to go to her parents for Shabbos, and I simply do not want to go. I find that this is causing a lot of friction in my marriage. How would you suggest I deal with this issue?
There are a number of factors to consider when dealing with this delicate situation, and the fact that you are asking rather than bulldozing through it and insisting on having your way, says something very positive about you as a kindhearted husband.
First, I am assuming by the very nature of your question that you are relatively newly married, within the first 5 years or so of your chasunah. This is a quite common struggle for couples as they are becoming more and more a cohesive unit. The Torah states: Al kein yaazov ish…… A man will leave his parents and cleave to his wife, and they become one….. .” This, however, is a process.
You stated that your wife is close to her mother, and you are a bit more of a private person. Perhaps for you it is more normal not to share as much with your parents, or to spend as much time with your parents, but for her it was, and it still is perfectly normal to want to connect to her parents. As you said, this is something that you appreciate. It seems, though, that you feel it is somewhat unbalanced.
The first thing I would advise you to work on is patience.
Time is an extraordinarily strong factor, and over time you will likely see a shift. The more you can focus on making being home for Shabbos an incredibly beautiful experience for the both of you, the more she will want to spend time at home. The more the two of you enjoy schmoozing with each other, listening attentively to each other (i.e. beware of too much cell phone use while together), and spending quality time together, the more she will naturally want to connect with her mother at times that it doesn’t take away time from her being able to spend time with her husband.
Another factor I would encourage you to focus on is your state of mind. If you feel that you HAVE TO give in, and that you HAVE TO go to your in-laws, you can become frustrated and upset. If you can remind yourself that you love your wife deeply and want to make her happy, and that going to her parents adds to her simchas hachayim, then you will fell that you are giving to her, and you will happily WANT To give to her, and you will WANT TO go to your in-laws for Shabbos, because you love your wife. Chazal say that the shoresh/root of Ahava is “hav”, to give. Rav Dessler in Michtav M’Eliyahu has an extensive piece explaining that the more we give (of ourselves in a meaningful way), the more we love. Not vise versa, which is what most people think the case is.
One of the most important parts of communication should happen before you open your mouth: thinking carefully.
The last piece of this is communication. One of the most important parts of communication should happen before you open your mouth: thinking carefully.
There is an expression used in Carpentry: Measure twice, cut once. This is also a pretty good rule for communication. Think and measure your words, your tone of voice, your demeanor, your timing- all before opening your mouth.
You mentioned that you feel your wife shares too much with her mother. I would encourage you to think this through: If you think it through, and come to the conclusion that you are being overly sensitive, and that you can come to terms with the fact that your wife is close to her mother and appreciates her mother’s input, you are best of saying nothing. “Syag l’chachma shtika”. If, however, you are really bothered by their level of communication, and after thinking it through carefully, you feel there are subjects that should be kept between the two of you, I would recommend that you think long and hard how to bring it up in a very respectful, considerate manner, as it is a very delicate subject. “Divrei chachamim bnachas nishmaim”.
Dr. Weinschneider is a Clinical Psychologist in private practice in Lakewood, NJ, and the Founder of The PINNY Institute. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org for private appointments, speaking engagements or workshops.