You’ve heard the story: Boy meets girl, girl loves boy, boy wants to marry girl… boy’s Jewish mother will carve out his still-beating heart if he marries a goy.
So let’s say you’re the Jewish boy and you’ve thought about this, you’ve talked it over with your fiancée, and she’s decided that—to appease your mother—yes, screw it, she’ll convert to Judaism.
If she’s agnostic and doesn’t really give a flip, at first glance, this sounds like a miracle-cure for all your problems. She curries favor with your parents, you can raise your children without religious complications, and she’ll finally get your jokes about hiding the afikoman. A win-win.
If she’s willing to convert, it seems like a no-brainer.
Beware. This decision will have several unintended consequences. So before she converts, carefully consider the following:
Unintended Consequence #1
Your in-laws will secretly despise you
Maybe your bride is the most laid-back, open-minded, spiritual-without-being-religious woman who has ever walked the planet. It doesn’t run in the family. From her parents’ perspective, you’ve just wrenched their little angel from the warm, loving embrace of Jesus Christ.
Thanks to you, she will now burn in Hell. Thanks to you, her soul is lost. Irrational, implausible, intolerant? Irrelevant. Part of them will never forgive you. (Note: obviously this is a cartoonish extreme, but the basic dynamic will hold, to a greater or lesser extent, for almost all parents.)
Unintended Consequence #2
She will secretly despise your parents
She’s happy today. She’s happy tomorrow. But how about after the wedding, then after a year, then after five years? You risk your wife spending years loathing your parents for changing her spirituality. This could easily backfire.
Unintended Consequence #3
She will secretly despise you
Perhaps “despise” is too strong a word. There’s a better than average chance, however, that she will begin to resent her conversion. She will think about what a compromise—no, sacrifice—she made, and she will subconsciously hold this over your head. It’s her ultimate trump card. If you argue about what car to buy: she converted to Judaism. If you argue about what movie to see: she converted to Judaism. You have no counter. Forever.
Unintended Consequence #4
She might soon know more about Judaism than you do
Converting to Judaism is a slightly more complicated affair than renewing your driver’s license at the DMV. The rabbis aren’t screwing around. They demand (and will test) that she has a mastery of the culture. So, in turn, you’ll have to get more hardcore religious. Soon you’ll find yourself lassoed into every holiday, staying strictly kosher, and faithfully observing the Sabbath. Remember this is a long-term decision. Are you sure it’s not easier to just stand up to your parents?
Unintended Consequence #5
She will lose respect for you
It was true in kindergarten and it’s true today: girls don’t like Mama’s Boys. There’s something not-terribly-sexy about a guy who can’t stand up to his mother. Even if your fiancée doesn’t tell you this, she’s thinking it.
Unintended Consequence #6
You will have to double-down on gifts
It’s inevitable. No matter how wholeheartedly she converts, no matter how devoted she is to her newfound religion…she’s going to be nostalgic. She’ll remember those happy, idyllic family gatherings of her childhood—Christmas trees, ornaments, stockings hung by the chimney, all that crap. She’ll feel “religious homesick.”
What this means to you: you’ll end up buying her a Christmas gift and a Chanukah gift. This will cheer her up and assuage your guilt. This, of course, is on top of the Valentine’s Day gift, the birthday gift, the anniversary gift…Welcome to your new life.
Do you have an issue we haven’t tackled? Hit us at [email protected] and we’ll post the answer.
These are just a few extra things to think about it. If you’re serious about this, you obviously need more substantive advice and counsel.