I am 31 years old and dating a guy. Our parents hate each other. We met on our own and although we knew that our fathers had a falling out in business years ago, we continued to date. In the beginning we kept hoping that they would come around. We even tried all kinds of things to make peace with them. Once, at a bar mitzvah to which both sets of parents were invited, I grabbed my mother’s hand and his mother’s hand to dance together. They actually made a scene by refusing. So even though we have been dating for a whole year and we are so happy together, they forbid us to get married. They said that if we do, they will not even come to the wedding.
We went to a rav for advice. The rav said to the guy I’m dating, “There are other fish in the sea.” My relatives all say that there are many guys out there, but one set of parents. My friends say that it’s important for everyone to get along.
We desperately want to marry each other. How will I ever be able to go to the chuppah knowing my parents won’t be there? Can you give me some advice?
By Baila Sebrow
I am certain that most people reading your painful tale of woe will be anguished by your dilemma. This will also strike a chord in those who have read or are familiar with one of Shakespeare’s most popular plays—Romeo and Juliet. As much as this fictional ill-fated couple tried to reconcile their feuding families, they were unsuccessful. Hopefully your efforts will be more productive.
In a perfect world, children grow up relying on their parents not just in nurturing their physical needs, but their emotional needs as well. When children reach the shidduch stage, the emotional aspect of their needs require parental fulfillment most. It doesn’t matter how old the single guy or girl may be; they still crave the approval of their parents. Most people grow up believing that their parents have more wisdom based on life experiences.
The trust that most children have in their parents is not only critical to their emotional health, but is almost a given. Children view their parents as the salvation to every problem all through life. The challenges of dating in this day and age make it more than necessary for the single guy and girl to get that selfless, well-meaning advice that can usually only come from a healthy parent–child relationship.
There are times when parents are not wrong when objecting to a prospective spouse their child may be dating. There are cases where there are obvious flaws that make the couple incompatible with each other. And that is not an easy situation to be in either. The parents are trying to do what is best for their child, and the child is fighting back in asserting his or her status in maintaining the dating relationship. The more the parents fight with the child, the stronger the bond between the dating couple.
A while back, a woman asked me for advice on how to break up her daughter’s relationship with a guy who had a troublesome past and did not do much to improve his present state. I advised to do nothing extreme, except to speak her mind in a respectful way while discussing this guy with her daughter. I further stressed that the more drastic actions she takes or histrionic behavior she displays, the closer the two will be drawn to each other.
Whether or not the guy you are dating is truly compatible with you, the strength of objection your parents are demonstrating only makes the two of you want to get married more. That is natural.
You state that it was a former bad business dealing that caused your parents to become such aggressive rivals. We do not know if that is the complete story. Not even you or the guy you are dating can be entirely sure. Please understand that I am not taking sides here. My intention is to give you the best advice with no ulterior motive on my part.
I am so sorry that upon reaching this milestone in your life and meeting someone you consider for marriage, the happiness that you are entitled to is now being blighted not just by the opposition of your parents, but the guy’s parents as well. There is no decision more important and exciting at the same time than in deciding to marry someone. That you do not have your parents’ involvement to give you their blessings or support is a painful burden. And I believe you are not able to find peace with yourself as you struggle with mixed emotions.
The first thing that you and the guy need to do is conduct a thorough investigation as to the relationship both your parents had with one another once upon a time. I know how bad this is going to make you feel—that you are sneaking around the people who brought you into this world and raised you. But you must figure out whether their objections are based on something tangible, or, forgive me, based on a selfish reason.
Even if you discover a selfish motive on their part, it does not make them bad people; rather they are misguided. In the society we are living in today, external pressures are severe. And it might be that a matrimonial partnership between the two sets of parents may tick off people they associate with. They might be struggling with issues of societal acceptance.
Once you get the story straight, or at least most of it, you and the guy whom you want to marry must sit down and strategize maturely. If it turns out that your parents are projecting their own fears and issues, which have nothing to do with this relationship, then they are likely trying to protect you from something they believe is negative. It sounds odd, but in such a case the motive is love, though it still does not make it right.
Remember that if you discover something distasteful where it turns out that your parents were right, then as much as it will hurt both of you, you will have to consider the future impact should this relationship continue.
It sounds like you have both tried everything possible to get your parents to approve. If the two of you really belong together, and from your perspectives whatever the relationship these people had with each other has nothing to do with the life you want to build with this guy, then you are doing nothing wrong in marrying him. The Torah, with its commandments to honor your father and mother, teaches that even if parents do not approve, one is allowed to marry whomever he or she chooses, and it is not considered disrespectful to do so.
You and the guy will each have to tell your parents how much you love them, and how important it will be to have their approval. With a self-assured tone, tell your parents that you plan to move ahead with the engagement and marriage.
From what I have observed, most of the time the parents will eventually attend the wedding. The mechutanim may ignore each other or shoot darts with their eyes to one another, but to save face they will be there. However, be realistic, as it has happened before that the parents may not show up. You will need to make the necessary arrangements beforehand, should such a need arise.
I do not know if the rav who advised this guy by telling him “there are other fish in the sea” examined the situation from all angles, or if he said so in the hopes to bring peace and end all fighting. However, my response with kavod to him is that just as each fish has its identity, you might be destined for this guy.
Please do not lose hope. Historically, these things have a way of falling into place. As much as it is important for everyone to get along, there are many marriages that have succeeded without that. May you and this guy be blessed with the strength to see this relationship progress to the life you both crave, and may both your parents be blessed with the clarity to understand your perceptions.
Baila Sebrow is president of Neshoma Advocates, communications and recruitment liaison for Sovri-Beth Israel, executive director of Teach Our Children, and a shadchanis. She can be reached at Bsebrow@aol.com. v
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