Dear Emuna,

I come from a family with six children and I am the only girl. My family is warm and loving and I have a great relationship with my parents – until recently. I am 25 years old and I just got engaged. The wedding is supposed to take place in May 2015 so we have plenty of time to prepare. Because I am the only girl my parents, particularly my mother, are going a little crazy with the preparations. At first I was thrilled and excited but now I’m getting frustrated. Every time I make a suggestion they sort of smile and turn away and then do exactly what they had in mind. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard them say “I’ve always imagined” or “I always dreamed of.” What about what I imagined or dreamed of? I love my parents dearly but this is my wedding not theirs. I don’t want this happy occasion to drive a wedge between us but I don’t know what to do. Please help.

Daughter of Parentzillas

Dear Daughter,

I wish I could help. If your parents had written to me, I would have emphasized your point – that this is your wedding not theirs. They had their turn and now it is yours. I would have told them that it is not about their dreams; it is about your dreams. This is not their chance for a do-over of their own wedding day. Maybe their parents were similar to them and they never got the wedding they wanted. They see this as their second chance and don’t even recognize that they are emulating the behavior of their own parents that they so despised. Maybe they also feel that since they are paying for it, it’s up to them and perhaps since it’s their celebration also they are focused on what will provide a good time for them and not you. I would try to hammer home the point that they should shift their focus to your needs, not theirs and that just as that has always been their parenting focus, there is no reason for it to change now.

But they didn’t write me and so I need to address you instead. Firstly, they are your parents and you owe them a tremendous debt of gratitude. Secondly, they are paying for it and that does give them a perhaps disproportionate say in the event. Thirdly, and more importantly, most of the details that you are so fixated on right now just don’t matter. Please God you will have a warm and wonderful marriage and the color of the flowers on the day of your wedding will be irrelevant. You will be too overwhelmed on that day to notice most of these things and frequently too busy/nervous/preoccupied to eat that dinner whose menu you spent hours discussing, tasting and choosing oh so carefully.

I know this is hard to hear and perhaps you don’t believe me and think that this is always the way “parents” talk, but it is true. My best piece of practical advice is pick one thing that is important to you – the photographer perhaps – and go to bat for that and then let go of the other details.

My husband and I were privileged to get married in Jerusalem. A few days before our wedding he went to Meah Shearim to buy some last minute items. “Is there anything else I need?” he asked the shop owner. “Fear of God and good character traits,” the man replied. That should be your pre-wedding focus. That will serve your marriage after the album collects dust on some shelf…

-- Emuna

Travelling Husband, Strained Marriage

Dear Emuna,

My husband recently started a new job that requires a lot of travel. It is a big jump in pay and he is really challenged by the work but I miss him terribly and it is taking a toll on our marriage. Our conversations are stilted, we are not always in the same time zone and it is creating a distance between us. I am glad he is feeling fulfilled but what about my needs and the needs of our marriage? I’m very torn and I don’t know what to do. Please help.

Loving wife

Dear Loving Wife,

Well, what are your options? Do you want your husband to quit his job so that you can have more time together? Then what? Not only will you have no income but he will be bored, unfulfilled and resentful, certainly not a strategy designed to put the oomph back in your marriage! So even though that may be your fantasy I think we can agree it would not really be a livable solution. Once you accept that, then you need to find some practical answers.

Is there any way to reduce the travelling slightly? You don’t mention if you have children or their ages. Is there any way for you to travel with him some times? You also need to fill your life with friends and meaningful activities so that you are not constantly dependent on your husband and you can handle limited separation better. As for the stilted conversations, I certainly recognize that challenge. Between time differences and the completely different spheres of activity it’s sometimes hard to find that place to connect. It doesn’t mean it’s impossible, it just means it requires more effort. One suggestion: modern technology has given us the gift of Skype and Face Time. Being able to see the person we’re talking to, at least some of the time, helps bring them closer. Maybe pick a book that you are both reading simultaneously so that there is a shared and stimulating mutual interest.

You need to be creative, you need to be accepting and you need to let go of the resentment before it destroys you and, God forbid, your marriage. Get professional help if you are unable to manage this on your own. And ask the Almighty to give you and your marriage the strength to thrive and grow.

-- Emuna

No, She’s My Best Friend

Dear Emuna,

A group of us are planning a party for a friend’s 40th birthday. Although we are all friends with her, we are not all friends with each other. This makes for some awkward and tense planning moments. In addition, some of the participants are very controlling and only want the party done “their” way. We all want this to be a special evening for the birthday girl but the planning process is getting stressful. Any suggestions to ease the way?

(Trying to be) Flexible Friend

Dear Friend,

These types of situations are definitely tough. There are some people who are so kind and loving that they attract many different types of friends but that doesn’t mean that their friends will all get along with each other. Working with a group on any type of project can be challenging. There is perhaps an added tension here as people jockey to assert the primacy of their own relationship with the guest of honor.

At a very young age children seem to be taught that it is important to have a “best” friend and they always seem to be trying to figure out who theirs is and who yours is as well! Some of us never grow out of that phase and the need to make everyone else understand their “special” relationship with the birthday girl remains paramount. Additionally some people may have shared talents – an artistic eye, great cake decorators etc – and they want the event to reflect their vision and skills. I think it will be impossible to eliminate all the stress but I think what you want to emphasize, perhaps repeatedly, is that the goal is for the guest of honor to enjoy herself and not feel trapped in the middle of her squabbling friends. For that evening (at least!) everyone should be encouraged to put their differences aside and focus on giving her joy. I think the planning process will still be uncomfortable but, with good will, the event need not be.