Oh, mechutens … what to do with the mechutens? If you’re unfamiliar with what the heck a mechuten is, it simply means “in-law” in Yiddish. In-laws present an interesting situation. You are forced to become family with them because of who you marry. You grow up with your own parents for your whole life, and now all of a sudden, you enter a new world with another set of parental figures, and it’s a bit, well, strange. I’m not exaggerating even a little bit when I say in-laws get brought up at every single dinner I go to with friends, and I’ve heard it all. I’ve heard horror stories, and then I’ve heard the other side of the coin. Why are in-laws, specifically Jewish in-laws, such a big deal?
I can’t speak to other religions or faiths, but in the Jewish world that I know quite well, I’ve learned that dealing with in-laws can potentially lead to disaster. Not mine, of course (Hi Cindy! Hi Barry!), but in general, I find that a mechutainista (mother-in-law), for example, can walk a very fine line with her daughter-in-law. It might be because the mother-in-law doesn’t want the daughter-in-law to think that she is trying to replace her own mother. It might also be because she knows that if she pisses off the daughter-in-law, the son is going to be an unhappy camper who may even distance himself from his dear old Mom in order to side with his wife. In situations like this, I find the mother-in-law aiming to please her daughter-in-law at every moment, to the point of walking on eggshells to make sure no feathers are ruffled.
Then, we have the over-involved mechutens – oy to the vey. These are the ones who think their son or daughter is still a child who has to abide by their rules. Newsflash, mechutens: your “baby” is now almost 30, so let’s dial it back, shall we? This can become a major problem, and one that needs to be dealt with almost immediately. If not, the relationship might be headed in a bad direction. I’ve seen it before; when the mechutens get too involved and meddle all the damn time, it does not help the marriage at all. In fact, more than likely, the marriage won’t last.
Then, there’s the under-involved mechutens. This type you actually wish called more, helped more and were more involved in your life. For those who can’t imagine their in-laws ever being under-involved, they probably think this would be heaven on earth. The grass is always greener though, right? In these situations, couples can either ask the in-laws to be more involved or simply accept that they won’t have that close relationship with them that they might wish for.
Can’t Cut The Cord
The worst, I’d say, is when the in-laws just can’t cut that cord. It’s quite literally as if their child is still attached to them, and heaven forbid he or she makes any life decision without Mom and Dad involved. As mentioned above, this can really be harmful to a relationship. Boys (and girls, but typically I see this with the men), if your mother can’t let go and understand that this girlfriend (or wife) of yours is your #1 now, you need to sit down and chat with them. You need to explain that while you’ll always be their son, you are an adult now, and should be treated as one.
Here’s the thing. Mechutens can be great. But they can just as easily be a huge source of stress in your relationship. Focus on making sure you and your partner are on the same page on this matter, and your relationship should be golden.
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