I have a son in shidduchim who’s been in the parsha for some time now. With every new girl he dates, we encounter a problem. My wife’s parents, who love their grandchildren and feel very close to them, are also very sensitive. I find that when we do not tell them about my son’s upcoming date, they feel hurt and excluded. However, when we do let them know, they get involved and offer their unsolicited advice. We often disagree and they’ll try to push my son to continue with a shidduch that we don’t think is nogeia or talk negatively about a shidduch that seems promising.
This ultimately puts us in an uncomfortable position, and either way someone gets hurt. What do they panelists suggest we do to avoid insulting my in-laws, while protecting my son from unnecessary confusion and advice?
Being that your question brings to light a struggle which occurs, regrettably, all too often for those in shidduchim, I would like to take a moment to first address the topic in a more general fashion.
When it comes to determining whether to continue or conclude an ongoing shidduch, there is really only one meaningful opinion: that of the single them self. The purpose of parents, friends, relatives, rebbeim, and teachers sharing their input, when necessary and asked for, is solely to aid the single person in discerning, of their own volition, what is best for them. It is categorically not, however, for others to be making decisions for the single person, or to create complication for the single person who is trying to make sound decisions.
Consequently, when advisors become corrivals – however well intentioned they may be, and regardless of their proximity and relationship to the single person – whomever is causing discord through their involvement must be detached from the process.
Such detachments may be highly challenging to accomplish successfully, and, of course, each situation must be dealt with in a manner that appropriately accounts for the unique dynamics and individuals involved, but it is simple what must be done. Recognizing the root of the problem, and subsequently removing it.
As it relates to your specific circumstance, koidem kol, I am going make a crucial assumption. Namely, that you, your wife, and your son uniformly agree that your in-laws are negatively impacting your son’s shidduch decisions.
If, however, there is any dissension in the ranks, a rav or coach who regularly and competently guides families through shidduchim should be approached to thoughtfully and carefully discern whose involvement is truly helping your son and whose is hurting him. It is vital that you are all on the same page before any further steps are taken.
Presuming, then, that you are all in agreement, I would recommend the following course of action.
Firstly, if your son is receiving advice from numerous family members, friends, and rebbeim, you must together make a judgement call, as a cooperative of three, as to whose voices are truly valuable and necessary, and whose are harmful or superfluous. The goal is to make the list as tight as possible, and adhere to it.
The next step is to inform your in-laws that a decision has been made to limit the number of people from whom your son will be receiving input regarding his shidduchim. This must be done delicately, and with the utmost sensitivity – while also remaining unwaveringly clear – and you must also consider whether it is you or your wife who is best suited to have this conversation with your in-laws.
It might be explained that while some people benefit from a large chaburas chachomim, your son finds the multitude of opinions he is receiving to be distracting and confusing. Navigating shidduchim can be immensely pressurized as it is, even more so when a single is trying to make sense out of a cacophony of suggestions.
To prevent your in-laws from feeling singled out, it may be judicious to mention that this same request has been relayed to a number of other individuals who had been previously advising your son. Additionally, and as long as this will not put undue strain on you or your wife, it might also soften the blow to let your in-laws know that they are always welcome to share their recommendations with you or your wife for consideration, so they do not feel cut out entirely.
In essence, you are depersonalizing the appeal by conveying to your in-laws that it’s not a them problem. You are simply requesting, respectfully, that they appreciate and understand the necessity for this change, and give their grandson space as he continues to make his way through the shidduch parsha.
It does not matter why they are being asked to take a step back, just that they are being asked to do so. If you can present this in a manner that in no way implies their past involvement to have been damaging, there is a greater likelihood that they will not be hurt by the request. Rather, hopefully, they will connect with their innate rachmanus and ahava for their grandson, and allow him the space you are beseeching on his behalf. And as far as the slightly perfidious nature of the request, as chazal tell us, mutar lishanois lmaan hashalom.
Now, there will always be the possibility, despite employment of the softest touch, that your in-laws will still take this resolution with a measure of sadness, but that is just the way it is sometimes. Your tafkid is to ensure that your son is removed from harmful eitzah, and, b’ezras Hashem, any pain your in-laws experience will be fleeting, as they settle in to this new hanhagas hamishpacha.
Lastly, it would be prudent to make sure that your son is comfortable “taking the blame,” and forewarn him of the potential for backlash in the form of anger or hurt, or comments which may come his way that insinuate pity correlated to his “need” to cut down the breadth of input he is capable of absorbing.
May The Borei Oilam, Hamavdeil bain ohr l’choshech, help you to distinguish the counsel which is most advantageous for your son, and may you be able to implement this alteration as smoothly and painlessly as possible for all involved.