Dating is hard. I feel that we should always do what we can to make it easier. For instance, you
can have a list of Wants/Prerequisites or however you may refer to it as, but if you are unwilling to bend or compromise, you may be staring at your list for a long while before you stare into the eyes of your chasan (kallah). It’s hard enough to find someone you feel comfortable with who has more pros than cons and who you think you may want to share your life with, but no one will have absolutely every quality you are looking for.
Life isn’t perfect. We may want the Norman Rockwell picturesque family but end up with a family out of The Munsters (ghoulish mother, weird younger brother, monster as a father…), but you make the best with what you have. True, there is the saying that you can’t pick your family – but maybe with in-laws you can have some say in the matter. If you don’t like the mother-in-law or aunt or cousin, you can steer clear of the shidduch (although I think that would be crazy, because you are passing up the opportunity to be with a great person because of a relative of his or hers. But I have heard some crazy stories in my time.) The letter from the woman I have printed below speaks of the sister of the man she is dating, and how she worries about the sister’s lifestyle and if it can influence her future family should they marry.
I’m dating someone and it looks like we are getting close to engagement. Everything is lining up. We’ve had all the serious discussions and are still dating. We have just begun speaking about “when we are married/engaged…” But I am worried about one thing: His younger sister is OTD (off the derech) and lives at home. I know there was a lot of upheaval and fighting when she was becoming OTD, but now (years later), the family accepts her for who and what she is. He told me that his parents didn’t want to fully lose a daughter. They still love her and want to be a part of her life and she theirs, so they have made peace with the fact that she no longer wants to be frum. I was told that they ignore when she leaves the house on Shabbos and if she’s home on Shabbos, in her room using the phone or computer. The sister is respectful enough of her family not to eat treif in the home or be m’chalel Shabbos directly in front of their face. Parents and siblings are all very close in this family as they have a family business. The OTD sister is part of the business. I guess it made sense to try to work out their differences with the situation because they live and work together.
The guy I’m dating was very honest and forthcoming about this, because he felt it was important for any girl he seriously dates to know. I think it’s great that he told me about it, but now that things look like I may be a part of this family, I am afraid of what influence she will have on future children I will have and if any of her actions or behaviors will rub off on her brother.
I may be overreacting, but what if my future children want to spend time with their aunt? Do I let them? What if she takes them to Burger King or does something my husband and I wouldn’t want her to do with the children? What if her ways start to rub off on her brother, my would-be husband, and he starts becoming lax in his derech? I have met his sister and she seems nice and fun. But it’s one thing to meet her and spend an hour with her, and another to be part of her life and have my family be her family.
What do you think?
Thank you for your letter, Tali – but you don’t want to know what I think. Even if I told you exactly what I think, the publisher may not print my answer. So let me rephrase my thoughts.
It has taken you this long to find someone you feel can be your bashert, and I think you are just looking for trouble. You can’t control your relatives, let alone your spouse’s relatives. In the letter, it seems as if you think the sister is plotting for when she can lure her brother and your children “to the dark side.” Why can’t she be living her life and you live yours? Her family “made peace” with the issue, so why are you bringing it up? Don’t you think the family thought of this? If you think that the man whom you may marry, this woman’s brother, isn’t steadfast in his emunah and bitachon and can be lured to the “dark side,” then you have more of an issue with him than just his sister being OTD. (By the way, I hate the term OTD.)
I have never liked it when a frum person groups all non-Jews and non-frum people in one category, which is the category of BAD. These people don’t live the same lifestyle as you do, they may have a different religion than you, but that doesn’t make them evil. Do you like it when people stereotype the frum community? I hate it when I see a religious Jewish family depicted on television as tichel-wearing, Yiddish-accent-speaking people who don’t think that the English secular law applies to them, with Klezmer music in the background (love you, Law and Order, but you have been guilty of this too many times).
When I was younger, I used to think that I was the only one with Conservative or Reform cousins. I was embarrassed, because I didn’t want others to know that I had family that wasn’t frum. But soon I came to learn that just about everyone has family members who are less frum than they are (or not frum at all.) Tali, you may be scared because instead of the not-frum person being a distant cousin that you only see at the occasional bar mitzvah or wedding, the relative is more closely related and you and the family will have much interaction with her.
This fellow’s family has been through a lot. It may seem nice and comfortable now, but I am sure there were months (maybe years) of arguing and tears – maybe even therapy so that they are able to love each other and to co-exist in the same house and business, accepting each other for who they are. Don’t make light of what this family has been through. I don’t think you have voiced your concerns to the fellow you are dating, because if you did, you would not have written this letter. He would have explained all to you, so when you wrote that you had all the serious discussions, I think you may have left one out.
You referred to not wanting your future children to spend time with their aunt, or you fear that his sister’s ways will “rub off” on the man you are dating. I don’t want to be mean or rude, but you sound like a young sheltered girl, with the wording that you used. This woman may be the best aunt in the word (doubtful, because that’s me). You may be denying future children the opportunity to spend time with and enjoy time with an aunt who would love them very much. There is a big vast world out there with billions of different people in it. Just because someone made a life choice doesn’t mean she would try to indoctrinate others to join that world. You wrote that the sister is “respectful enough of her family not to eat treif in the home or be m’chalel Shabbos directly in front of their face.” Is it hard for you to believe that she would never do anything that goes against the way you or her brother want to raise your family? Frumkeit wasn’t right for the sister. Are you saying that her decision, years ago, is now influencing your decision to be part of this family? Again, I wish you the best, but don’t look for trouble where there isn’t any.
Hatzlachah to you all.