Dear Rosie & Sherry,
I very much enjoy reading your responses. You express kindness, and provide an excellent forum for Jewish dating issues. Now I am facing a problem and hope you can help.
I live in Canada and met the woman that I am dating in the U.S. two years ago. We love each other and want to get married. The problem is deciding where to live. I want to live in Canada because I am in a good position to be able to provide for her best. If I moved to the U.S. it would be difficult for me as a foreigner to find a job, and I would have to be "sponsored."
Now the crux of the problem: She acknowledges that Canada is best for us, but her parents feel differently. They do not want to accept her moving away. I have spoken to her parents about this and I understand their position. But I told them clearly: I love their daughter and want to spend the rest of my life with her.
Another reason I don't want to move to the U.S. is because after speaking with her mother, I fear that the mother will try to control our relationship. I want to marry her and not her mother.
My friend says that she would give up her parents for me. I don't want her to have to do that, because there will always still be a problem. Of course, I would prefer that her parents support us being together.
Could you please offer some advice. I don't know what to do.
We see two very encouraging signs in the difficult situation that you describe. The first is that you genuinely want this woman's parents to be happy about your marriage plans, because you realize how valuable it is for married couples to maintain good relationships with their parents. The second is that this woman is willing to put the needs of your marriage first, above the needs or wishes of her parents. These are both very important considerations when a couple is thinking about marriage. The Torah tells us to honor our parents; it also tells us that when a couple marries they separate from their parents and cleave to each other. Striking the balance between these two messages can be very difficult for many couples. The two of you have approached this challenge with healthy attitudes, and we believe you will be able to work this out together.
We agree with you that Canada appears to be the best place for the two of you to make your home. We can understand that this woman's parents are not happy about this -- most parents prefer to be close to their children geographically.
We live in an age where many couples live great distances from their parents, but with affordable travel and telephone costs (and even cheaper Internet connections) they are still able to maintain strong family ties. You and this woman have probably traveled considerable distances to see each other during your courtship, and you probably take the fact that you can have a healthy long-distance relationship for granted. Since your future in-laws have not shared your experiences, it may be difficult for them to imagine how they can stay emotionally close to their daughter, and even enjoy their grandchildren, over a distance. They'll need a lot of reassurance from the two of you, and it may even help for them to talk to other parents who have successfully dealt with a child living a long distance away, or even in another country.
If you ultimately decide to live in Canada, you should keep an open mind to the fact that even though Canada and the U.S. have many cultural similarities, this woman will need a while to acclimate to a new city, new job, new friends and a change in her family ties.
As you make plans, we suggest that you map out a plan as to how you can continue to nurture your relationship with this woman's parents. How often will it be practicable for the two of you to visit them for a long weekend, a Jewish holiday, or a week-long block of time? How often would it be practicable for them to visit you for these same blocks of time? When you discuss this, take into consideration the economics, work schedules, and above all, the fact that the two of you will need time together as a couple and as members of a social circle, synagogue and community.
Once the two of you come to an agreement about all of this, it would be advisable to sit down with this woman's parents, together, to jointly explain your difficult decision and the manner in which the two of you believe you can still maintain a close and loving relationship with them. Once you reassure them that you are committed to maintaining close and frequent contact, you can ask for their emotional support and their blessing.
Don't be surprised if it takes them a long time to get used to the idea that their daughter will be moving away. Even if this woman's parents want the best for their child, it will still be hard for them to accept your decision. They may have to live with it for a while before they realize that it isn't nearly as bad as they once thought, especially if you keep up with regular visits, telephone calls and e-mails.
There is also a possibility that your girlfriend's parents will react more negatively to your "announcement." One of the reasons why they oppose their daughter's move may be a real or perceived loss of "control" over her. You mentioned this in your letter, and while you may be correct, it is hard for us to say so without knowing more about this woman's relationship with her parents.
If they have an extreme reaction to your announcement, such as refusing to give you their blessing unless you do as they say, then you can be pretty sure that this is a control issue. Other times, though, the control aspect of the parent-child relationship is more subtle. There's one thing we are sure about, however: If you and this woman both sense that her mother (or both of parents) want you close by in order to maintain control, you are much better off living a distance away.
Having a controlling or manipulative parent/in-law in the background can be very damaging to a marriage, unless the husband and wife both agree that they will work as a team to build up their marriage and mutually support each other despite the parent's attempts to interfere in their lives. One of the ways a couple can minimize this interference is by living a comfortable distance from the problematic parent. Another is by establishing "boundaries" (i.e., no telephone calls after 10 p.m., no just "dropping by" to visit, no "cash incentives" to get you to do what they want). Explain these guidelines to the parents, and abide by them strictly. We certainly hope that the two of you will not have this problem, but if you do, we have more suggestions about how to keep in-laws from becoming out-laws in our book, "In The Beginning."
It sounds like you have a healthy attitude about your predicament, and will make a decision that ultimately works out well for everyone. We wish you the best of luck.
Rosie & Sherry