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Why is it hard for my wife to visit my parents?

My wife finds it very difficult to visit my parents, which puzzles me very much. My parents are easygoing and don't make a fuss about anything. They're also accepting and welcoming to my wife; they literally spoil her and are loving and caring. They also have no expectation of receiving anything in return and are careful not to make any criticism or comments. In short, there's nothing to make her feel uncomfortable.

I didn't pressure her about it. If she doesn't want to visit, then OK, we won't visit. But still, we did sit and talk about it.

She thought about why she's reluctant to visit and thinks maybe it has to do with my shortcomings — that because of our good relationship, she doesn't focus on my shortcomings, but tacitly blames my parents.

I suggested that maybe it's because of the different approach to life between her parents and mine. With her parents, every action is very deliberate and measured, and the message in the home is that you must work hard to achieve anything in life. I actually agree with this perspective, but I think it's extreme with them. While with my parents, life is fun. They pour love on her without any obligation, and maybe that feels strange to her or even scares her.

What do you think?


"We sat and talked about it." How wonderful is that! This is truly how to behave in a Jewish home. Talk about everything, literally everything.

As for the question itself: without talking to your wife herself, I can't conclusively determine the drivers. We can discuss some options and their remedies, which may be helpful to the larger audience, but cannot be conclusively applied to your specific situation.

According to the question as it is presented here, I would answer as follows:

  1. Almost without exception, a woman in her husband's parents' house feels as though she is being tested. No matter how nice they are and accepting and accommodating, she will still feel that way. Of course, if she is truly not accepted, she will feel as though she's under the gun in a big way. When they do accept her, she will feel it only in a small way, maybe even very small. But somewhere inside, the feeling is there. The degree to which she feels tested also depends on her level of sensitivity. In order to deal with this feeling, she should challenge herself. Why do I feel tested? Do I have evidence of it? Try to bring evidence! Then she must answer the questions for herself. Did they in fact not criticize her (even when or if she did cross the line)? Did they in fact show their love for her as she is? You can help her flesh out the evidence of their treatment toward her. It can be very useful to argue with oneself by making both sides of the case (see Alei Shur, Part II, pp. 363).

  2. Your wife's reason seems a bit far-fetched to me. There may be something to it but no more than "something." What is more concrete in her words is the desire to discuss something about your shortcomings. Talk with her about what's bothering her about you.

  3. Regarding the reason you brought up: there may be some truth to it, but the word "scary" is not accurate. She may feel she has to return the favor to your parents. If she receives so much, then she may feel it demands a lot from her in return. Recognizing and being grateful for receiving kind behavior and those who bestow good can sometimes feel very burdensome. Receiving good may weigh on a person's conscience like a debt owed, and no one wants to feel obligated. The solution is to actively focus on the positive. This is essential. However your wife must allow the heavy sense of obligation to be released. She should tell herself that she doesn't owe anything in return, that the people who are good to her don't want anything in return. It's simply good for them when it's good for her. That's all. After observing life in this way, the soul of its own accord freely wakes up to recognize both what it received and what was good for it, and then tries to give back, freely and of its own accord. When the sense of obligation is removed, this process is more effective. This may be the solution for your wife.

  4. What seems most correct to me is as follows: you have to give her the feeling that she comes first to you, over anyone else. It may be that when you arrive at your parents' house, you focus — if only a little more — on your parents and siblings. It is also possible that she remains a little more alone at the same time. It seems to me from your words that this isn't happening in an obvious way, that you are usually alongside her. But it probably sometimes happens, especially in a place where you are accepted, accommodated, and having fun, etc. If a topic comes up for discussion, even if it's not an argument but rather a nice, robust conversation, and your wife takes one side and someone from your family takes the other — where are you? Make sure that you back up her opinion — always! Even if you don't necessarily agree with her, explain her opinion to the "opposition." Explain the logic behind her words. Be with her, not against her, and don't be silent either. In general, try to convey in any way you can that in your eyes she is superior to everyone else. In this manner, your parents' house won't threaten her. She won't feel second place in your eyes. This is a very important message for everyone. The value of the other in your eyes should be paramount and clearly expressed in every possible way. Every person has enough virtues that you can highlight them when possible. Feel free to even over-value their virtues, talking about them in any way possible and as much as possible.

In short: apparently when you are with your parents, she feels a little sidelined and less important to you. Even if it's not true at all, you still need to demonstrably convey the opposite to her.

Good luck!

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