Yet Another Passive-Aggressive Letter to a Daughter-in-Law

three musketeersThis week, Gilui Daat published another letter to an uncooperative and unappreciative daughter-in-law. My own daughter wondered whether both letters were written by the same person, but the details don’t match.

Here’s the previous letter: With a Mother-in-Law Like This, Who Needs Enemies?

My translation from Hebrew, and some notes at the end:

To our very dear daughter-in-law,

You two married a year ago, to much joy and happiness. We tried as hard as we could to welcome you as a daughter—as we did the rest of our daughters—yet you distance yourself from us, and from the rest of the family.

We are a united and loving family—one for all and all for one.1 Your husband, our son, ben hazekunim [son of old age] has also distanced himself from the family.2 There are not only elderly parents, but brothers, sisters, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law and nieces/nephews that grew up with him, went with him to the snif (youth group) played soccer and basketball with him, and were part of him.3

We understand that you are a young couple, building your home and your future. You are doing many things: Studying, working, volunteering, and you also have many friends that you invest [time] in.4

We love you very much. We are a part of you and you are a part of us. 5

But remember that there is only one family.6

We so much want you and don’t know how to behave. If, God forbid, we did something inappropriate, if you were offended, come and tell us. Don’t cut off your husband from us. We raised him for you with blood, sweat, and tears.7 An amazing guy [bachur le-tiferet]. And if he chose you, then you are the one and only for him, and also for us.8

You are at the start of your journey. You will also have children, God willing, who will fill your home with noise and happiness.9 So please, think of us, of Abba and Ima and the whole family who want to be united, happy, and loving.

And again we remind you, daughter-in-law: You are like10 a beloved and dear daughter to us.11

Notes:

  1. We like meaningless cliches.
  2. We still blame you.
  3. “Were” being the operative word.
  4. Can you say, “misplaced priorities?”/li>
  5. We were taught to sandwich criticism between loving, affirmative statements.
  6. And that one is ours.
  7. You owe us, big time.
  8. At least, that’s what we keep telling ourselves.
  9. So far there is no sign of grandchildren, but we haven’t given up hope.
  10. But not quite.
  11. If we say this enough, maybe you will start doing what we want.

Gilui Daat is a weekly alon distributed in synagogues, containing a weekly open letter contributed by readers.

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With a Mother-in-Law Like This, Who Needs Enemies?

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Comments

  1. My 2 Cents worth- and this is an English translation- I understand much is lost going from Hebrew- English. So, with that being said- Genesis 2:24- ” for this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” I believe this means the man leaves the authority of his father and mother and creates his own family authority. He is no longer under his mother’s and father’s. His only responsibility from then is to honor them as his parents. He can receive their opinion if he desires it, but they have no control over his family.
    That being said, the husband of this poor girl should stand up for his new family and set his mother’s expectations so she will respect his new family and his new position as head of that family.
    There you have my 2 cents worth…

  2. OK, I’m a mother-in-law (X5) now and have been a daughter-in-law for a very long time so here’s my take:
    It isn’t (always) about YOU! Getting set up and used to married life is a challenge and some couples need more space than others. My policy is to ‘be there’ for them but not push myself on them. If they feel secure in your acceptance it will be easier for them to make time for you. If they feel you resent them, they will avoid you.

    • Risa, I read something similar in a book for in-laws. It said never to make a couple feel bad for not coming to you–if the other side does that, they will enjoy coming to you more!

  3. This is the best use of footnotes I’ve seen in some time. I will refrain from any in-law commentary.

  4. I’m confused…. where exactly is this published? Why would anyone write a private letter, publicly???

    (maybe it’s a cultural thing?? because I would NOT be happy if my MIL wrote me a personal letter like that which everyone could read!)

    • Elle,
      It’s either a letter that someone has sent, or would like to send, that supposedly has a universal message. It’s almost always anonymous.

      • hmmm yeah I’d file that under passive-aggressive AND self righteous.

        (P.S. I dislike my MIL more than any one else I have ever known (and with good reason as she is cruel) but I still would never post something like that. it seems childish

  5. Funny, my two Israeli sister in laws have the worst relationship with their MIL’s. I happen to have a great relationship with my MIL (their mother) and they can’t understand it at all. I have been known to call up my MIL to bring the kids to visit and sleep over occasionally when my husband is away and they are shocked they I would willingly pick up a phone and voluntarily be in my MIL’s presence without my husband.

    I’m wondering if there is some kind of natural animosity in Israeli MIL/DIL relationships that isn’t really there in American/Israeli or just American relationships.

    My MIL has done some annoying things in the past in terms of me and I usually have just sucked it up. When things have gotten bad (mostly in terms of not enough attention for the kids) my husband has spoken up. But they know their sons don’t call (they just joked about that last week) and they certainly have never seen me as “kidnapping” their son away from them (if I made him move to the states, that would be a different story).

    I wonder if Israeli mothers have a more intense but less mature bond with their sons and therefore see the DIL as more of a threat than American mothers do. Just my dining room chair analysis of these two letters.

  6. “Amazing guy” – I realize this is a translation – but I went back to your previous mother-in-law letter post and in that letter the MIL described her family as an “amazing family”. How can everyone be so amazing?

  7. They’ve been married for a year and no children?! A shandeh!

    And don’t they know, it’s supposed to be one Shabbat at the husband’s family, one Shabbat at the wife’s! You’re never supposed to spend Shabbat home alone as a couple. G-d forbid, you might get to know each other, or produce those grandchildren….

    When I was engaged to an Israeli guy, one of the surprising and unpleasant parts was the natural expectation that we would alternate weekends… I am so glad that we spend Shabbat at home, almost every Shabbat.

    We are lucky that we can go to my parents for a meal without spending all of Shabbat with them. I hate hate hate being away from home!

  8. I was also shocked to learn that young couples are expected to spend so many shabbatot with their families (and don’t even get me started with chagim). How can young couples become part of their community and make friends within their shul if they’re never home? Does that not happen?

    We go to my ILs maybe 6-8 times a year, but at our convenience. (And they come here 2-3 times.)

    It is hard for these mothers to mind their own business? I suppose in a case where the son (child?) has been living at home until the wedding it can be hard adjustment, but wow…everyone needs a little space.

    • I think the “norm” is about once a month to each set of parents, depending on distance, number of kids, etc. It is definitely not what Leah’s fiance suggested, even among chassidishe families.

      • Yes, we go to my in laws once a month and we’re not expected more than that. Although, when we lived in walking distance to my IL’s, the expectation kind of turned into one meal per shabbat, which was a little much. But i think that had more to do with our laziness than my IL’s expectations.

  9. where do they get these letters from? Does the daughter-in-law submit them for publication?

    • Chana, my guess is that the authors submitted them and they are too chicken to send them directly to the DILs.

      • I don’t know, I think it may be that the MIL have already sent them to the DIL and since that didn’t work, they are now publishing them to make a more public spectacle of the whole thing.
        Perhaps this is just a bit of transference on my part, as these remind me of the letters my wife gets from my mother. After all my wife married an only(read heaven sent angel in the flesh) and proceeded to shackle him and drag him off to a foreign land(Israel) and there to produce quite cute(IMO) grandkids…
        Sorry sometimes blogging is therapy.

  10. i guess the idea that she has her own parents and is already someone’s daughter is not an issue.no matter how close a daughter in law is toher mil–she is not a daughter. i wonder what this mother in law’s relationship was with her own mother in law…….

  11. While I definitely sympathize with everyone who is critical of the MIL in the letter (and they have a right to be), there are situations where a DIL essentially keeps her family from anyone else in the family, and it causes much grief and strife.

    I can see how a mother would worry about such a thing, but to post an anonymous letter is not the way to address it.

    In a perfect world (ha), there should be a way for everyone to find a good blend of independence and familial loyalty. B”H, I have a good relationship with my in-laws, and my husband with my parents, and good communication has certainly helped with that.

    • Rivki, thanks for your response. There is definitely room for sympathy with the in-laws here, even if they are not going about it in the most productive way.

    • I can see this situation happening, but more often than not, it’s the situation that Fern describes- the husband just doesn’t want to have a lot to do with his family. And the MIL conveniently blames it on the DIL so she doesn’t have to face the fact that her son is rejecting her.

  12. This discussion brought up the “taking turns” issue: my parents the first seder, your parents last days Pesach. My parents Rosh HaShanna, your parents YK (jk). So maybe the kalla doesn’t know the “taking turns” rule, which could be upsetting her MIL’s equalibrium right there.
    Anyway, this MIL may be old enough to be her grandmother so there may be a generation gap/lack of communication going on.

  13. BookishIma says:

    When I was a child, before my parents moved to the states, we spent Shabbatot with alternating family. I can’t remember how often exactly, probably not every weekend, but a lot. Those Shabbatot are some of my favorite memories. They allowed me to be very close with family and remain so even after my parents’ move. Speaking as an adult, honestly I don’t think I could pick up and go somewhere every weekend, but it also makes me sad that my son is not growing up that way. I dream of living in a situation where it’s possible to visit both sides of the family often.

    For what it’s worth, I think my American and Israeli friends complain about their MILs about the same amount.

  14. What if it is the husband who doesn’t want to see his parents more often? I used to drag my husband to his parents’ house every other holiday, until I realized that it was insane to bug my husband to spend more time with his family. I guess he de-cleaved from them before he even had a chance to cleave onto me. Who am I to try a reattach him? 😉

  15. Nurse Yachne says:

    For years my sister, who is hearing-impaired, thought the term “passive-aggressive” was actually “Passover breakfast”, as in, “That behavior seems rather ‘Passover breakfast’ to me”.

    I mean, you get something edible, but it’s hardly the cornflakes you want.

  16. I think these are the letters no one dares to send (not sure even if real people write them).

    I think the telling sentence, is “We don’t know what to do” (I just read this in the original).

    Not a simple problem, just as couples must get used to being married, parents must get used to having a married child. Previously they lived nearby, now they are far away. This mother is really finding it hard to let her “baby” go.

    If on the other hand, the child is the oldest, there may be very small children who have a different relationship with the sibling now they are married.

    How to treat married children, is something all of us with children of marrigeable age have to work out.

    re MILs it seems that in Israel you are “supposed” not to get on with your MIL!.
    There is also a problem with built in Israeli expectations about Shabbat and Hagim (when we got married we were told we should tell our parents, that one in three weeks we will be at home), on the other hand, when do religious people, with no Sundays get to see their married kids? only on shabbat

    • Interesting, Keren, that Israelis are “supposed” to not get on with your MIL. I can’t think of any Israeli friend that I have that does, but I have many Anglo friends that get along with their MILs just fine.

      • I am sorry this is in Ivrit, but if you read hebrew, this is a post on the religious kipa forum called parenting and family.
        This is one of many similar posts and ends, “I hate my Mother in Law”
        http://www.kipa.co.il//community/show.asp?messageid=7174861

        Sometimes in these letters, women compete with each other for the worst stories of what their MILs do

        • Thanks Keren! When another poster who is an MIL asks what she should avoid doing, the one who hates her MIL said that the MIL makes decisions for them, and says that if they don’t like the decisions she won’t help them in other areas.
          If you want to accept help from your inlaws, you may have to put up with some things you don’t like.

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