Who Gets Priority, Wife or Parents?


Supposed a married man’s wife wants him to spend time with her and his failure to do so could threaten the well-being of his marriage to her. At the same time, one or both of his parents want him to devote his attention to them to have their pressing needs met. He can only please one or the other. The scenario comes up suddenly and there is no time to ask a rabbi the moment it happens. Who is the man supposed to give priority to?



  1. It is hard for me to answer your question specifically because I do not know the dynamics of any of the relationships – not that of the husband and wife, nor the relationship between the husband and his parents, and not the relationship between the daughter-in-law and her husband’s parents. What I can do is to offer some general comments about the Halachic obligations of a husband to his wife and to his parents.

    Perhaps the place to begin is that within Jewish Law the husband’s first obligation is to his wife. Once married, a husband’s first concern should be for his wife and her well-being. However, having said that, the command to honor parents does not disappear with marriage. Rather, it needs to be integrated into the marriage in such a way that the wife does not feel that her in-laws are always taking precedence.

    Under normal circumstances I advise my students to bend over backwards to help their spouses perform the commandment of honoring parents. I am a firm believer that only good can come from being flexible in this Mitzvah, especially when there are children at home watching. Because, when the time comes for them to marry and to establish their own homes, the way that their parents acted will have inculcated in them the understanding of how they should relate to their parents. Both for the good and for the bad.

    Of course, all that is only true when it is possible for the son and his wife to work together in harmony to fulfill the Mitzvah. If it is going to be the cause of arguments and ill feelings, if it is going to upset the Shalom Bayit (marital harmony) in the home, then the husband would be obligated to everything he can so that his wife feel cherished and cared for – even if it is at the expense of his parents’ wishes.

    Best wishes from the AskTheRabbi.org Team