I try to provide practical advice when I give advice in this column. True, most of the time I write of something that I feel is unfair or that should be brought to the attention of others. In previous columns I have written that it is a huge adjustment to go from thinking of “Me” and “I” to “Us” and “We” once you become part of a couple. It took me a bit of time to adjust to that when I became a kallah. I was someone in my mid-thirties who never, for example, had to consult someone else when I wanted to purchase something or go somewhere. I’m a fast learner, so the adjustment period wasn’t all that long. But for some, the shock of having to ask another person “permission” to do something, go somewhere, or to buy something is shocking and it may seem ridiculous. I don’t think of it as asking permission. You’re not going on a class trip and in need of your parent’s signature. This is a new life. You will live with this person and I refer to it as “keeping him (or her) updated” and “asking for another opinion.” Your actions and decisions will be affecting someone else, just as his decisions will affect you. As you will read below, this kallah found out the hard way that she should start thinking of herself as part of a “we” rather than a “me.”
I became a kallah and I think I got so wrapped up in the excitement of it all that I forgot to include my chasan in some decisions. He let a few things slide and didn’t make a big deal about them, but I think I finally broke the camel’s back.
My chasan and I spent many Sundays shopping for furniture, linen, towels, dishes, etc., for our new apartment. I thought it was very cute that my chasan wanted to be included in what I thought of as wife responsibilities – picking out colors of towels and patterns of china. But at times, I was able to tell that he was getting dizzy from everything. I thought that I was doing him a favor when my parents offered to buy a particular dining room set that we had liked, but was too expensive for what we are currently able to afford. It was a gift, and you know the expression of not looking a gift horse in the mouth. I guess I was wrong, because my chasan blew a fuse when he found out that I agreed and the dining room set was bought without consulting him. I thought he’d be thrilled, but I was wrong. While he is appreciative that my parents bought us such a generous gift, he feels that he should have been consulted about it and asked if this was indeed the exact dining room set he wanted. He said that if it was from another relative or a friend, he wouldn’t be angry, because then it would have been a surprise for the both of us. He said that because my parents told me what they were going to do, I should have called him. But I wanted it to be a surprise! I guess I was surprised.
My chasan told me that I now have to consult him when there are decisions to be made. I understand that I am part of a couple now and can’t just think of myself. I wasn’t thinking of myself when I accepted the gift from my parents. I was thinking of how wonderful the dining room set would look in our home. I was thinking of all the guests we would be able to invite for Shabbos and Yom Tov meals, etc.
I suppose my question is: How do I know when I have to consult my chasan and soon-to-be husband and when I can make a decision on my own? When can I surprise him and when will the surprise be on me that I made a mistake?
This Is Harder Than I Thought
Thank you so much for your email, Harder, and mazal tov upon your engagement!
Yes, it is hard to know when certain decisions can be made by one-half of a new couple and when both parties in a “new couple” have to have a discussion before a decision is made. Couples that have been together for a while basically know which decisions require both to weigh in or which can be made solo, but occasionally an error can be made. Everyone runs into this issue, so don’t worry about it. I remember when I was first married and had to adjust to asking my husband “permission” to buy something. He kept telling me, “I’m not your parent; you don’t need permission to buy something.” I didn’t know what I had to ask about and what I didn’t have to ask about so I asked about everything! But then I quickly used my seichel and was able to decipher which decisions needed my husband’s opinion.
I read the beginning of your letter twice. You wrote, “I thought it was very cute that my chasan wanted to be included in what I thought of as wife responsibilities – picking out colors of towels and patterns of china…” I understand what you mean when you refer to “wife responsibilities,” but don’t forget, your chasan is excited about getting married and starting a new life with you. He wants to be included in the decision-making. He may get “dizzy” from picking out all the necessities and the accessories that go into setting up a new house, but his participation and wanting to be part of the process proves how excited he is.
How do I know when I have to consult my chasan and soon-to-be husband and when I can make a decision on my own?
You mentioned that you had refrained from including your chasan in some decisions, but the dining room “surprise” was the final straw. I don’t know what the other decisions were, whether it was what color to paint the bedroom or what pattern dishtowels to buy, meaning I don’t know how important the decision was or how much it meant for your chasan not to be included. I suggest that you have a discussion with your chasan and ask him what he would like to be included in and what you can decide on your own. I’m sure he is making some decisions that will affect you as well. Fair is fair. You should discuss it. Sometimes husbands don’t want to be involved in decisions regarding the house, but some husbands want a say in everything. True, it was a generous gift from your parents and your intentions of surprising your chasan do seem pure and innocent. But how would you feel if it was reversed and your future in-laws bought you a living room set or a dining room set and you weren’t consulted? I’m sure your chasan appreciates what your parents did, but I can understand that he wants a say in how his apartment or house is furnished.
Time will help you with these decisions, as will getting to know your husband’s likes, dislikes, and opinions – on all matters. Always ask yourself if you would be pleasantly or unpleasantly surprised if your husband made the same decision without consulting you first. Shanah rishonah is the hardest; it’s full of adjustments. This is just another one of them.
Open communication is key in every part of a relationship, whether you are dating, engaged, or married.
Hatzlachah to you all!
Goldy Krantz is an LMSW and a lifelong Queens resident, guest lecturer, and author of the shidduch dating book, The Best of My Worst and children’s book Where Has Zaidy Gone? She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.