To the Shadchan:
I recently got engaged to a wonderful boy with a great family. His family is super nice, and I love going over there. I get along so well with his parents and siblings. The only issue, which I am beginning to see and which might be bigger than I realize, is my future mother-in-law. While she is really sweet, she seems controlling. She wants to know every detail of my day. My mother says that she’s just trying to be friendly, but it feels different to me. She is also trying to control every detail of my wedding. Yes, it’s my wedding. I am not trying to sound mean or anything, but the truth is, I have been planning my wedding ever since I was little. I really don’t appreciate someone trying to take away my dream. My chassan supports me and says that we should do it my way, but he would never stand up to his mother. It’s not an issue of money; both my parents and his are quite comfortable, b”H. We just have very different tastes. She is telling me how to do my nails! Should I be worried about her in the future? We will be living in the same city (away from my parents), and I am scared that she will try to run our lives. How should I deal with her in general, without being chutzpadik and ruining my relationship with her?
The Shadchan’s Answer:
Your question is not uncommon or unusual. The mother-in-law syndrome goes back as far as anyone can remember – certainly, plenty of jokes have been made about it – but bottom line is that a mother-in-law is just a woman who is somebody’s mother. I believe that, with a little good will on both sides, a wife and her husband’s mother can get along well and even have a supportive and enriching relationship.
Since you don’t mention any of his siblings having problems, I am going to assume that this is the first child getting married on the chassan’s side. If so, this mother is facing a new stage in her life, a transition that is at the same time joyous and painful. The classic complaint is that the mother is afraid to “let go” or lose “control” of her son. But that might be too drastic a description. It could be that, just as you are worried about how your future mother-in-law will impact your new marriage, she may be worried about whether you will “allow” her a place in your home and with the son she loves.
You say you have your “childhood” dreams about your wedding. I am sure you realize that she may also have dreamt of her children’s weddings and would like to be involved. You mention that they are a family of means, but you do not say if they are helping financially with the chasana. If they are, she certainly should have a say in whatever they are helping with – whether it is the band, the flowers, the photography or half of everything. She has a right to voice her preferences.
As far as the nail polish, this may be a matter of tznius in her eyes; perhaps she is concerned that you might choose bright red or some garish-colored nail polish. On the other hand, it may be that she’s simply trying to be friendly and make conversation about something small that she feels you can share thoughts on. With small suggestions like these, you can similarly take her thoughts into account and then decide on your best course of action for your wedding.