Dear Dr. Respler,
After reading the letter written for the April 23rd issue, I would like to share my experience and some of the lessons that I’ve learned related to the topic of friends, both single and newly married.
My story sounds exactly like the one you printed in your column of April 23, however, I did get married seven years ago at the age of 27, and I have three children.
All of my close friends from high school got married at age 19 during the year after seminary/ high school. They all moved to another city or state, New York or Israel with the exception of one friend who moved to the other side of town.
I was so happy for all my friends, since I really didn’t feel the urgency to get married, just yet. However, soon thereafter, I realized how lonely I was, and how much I really missed their friendship. I complained to my friends when they came into town for Yom Tov, only to have my words fall on deaf ears. I so desperately wanted to see them, speak to them, get together. I was especially hurt by the one friend who only moved to the other side of town. Couldn’t she have invited me for Shabbos? She had already stopped phoning me and certainly made no effort to spend time together despite my complaints. I would have been more than happy to help her with her errands, just to feel that I was still part of her life.
As the years went by, my hurt only grew and I began to feel very resentful towards all my friends. I didn’t know how to get this message through to them so that they would change. I begged them to treat me like a chesed case, but that didn’t help either. They rarely tried to set me up with any shidduch either. People told me to make new friends. I really did try, but I wasn’t very successful. After several years, I did meet a couple of single girls, but I just didn’t feel the same way about them. I eventually lost touch for the most part with almost all my old friends.
I was determined that when I got married, I would not treat my new single friends the same way I was treated. I knew too well the loneliness of being single. I knew too well the feeling of being at everyone else’s mercy to get a date.
I finally did get engaged, and during the time of my engagement, my father suddenly became ill, and my parents found out at the same time that they lost a good part of their savings in a bad investment. (My parents had always made me feel that they had enough money to marry me off and to put a down payment on a house for me. Suddenly my parents were in a financial crunch, as well. This piece of news was also a shock for me, since I spent most of the money I had been earning.)
During this time, I was working part time and going to school for my Master’s degree, which alone was a heavy load. And to top it all off, I had a lot of engagement anxiety. I kept wondering whether I had picked the right man, after all! My mother was so overwhelmed with everything that it was hard for her to focus on wedding plans, which left me with a lot to do. My schedule was quite overloaded. Getting married, especially after such a long wait, was supposed to be a happy time. For me, it was a very hard time. None of this really changed for the better during my first year of marriage.
Despite what was going on in my life, I never told my new friends what was really going on in my life. How could a person be an emotional life support for a single friend when she feels that she herself needs emotional life support? Well, I tried. And here is the crux of the matter. While tried to do a little bit for everyone, I sacrificed my husband and marriage
Besides helping with many needs of my parents and siblings still at home, there were times that, night after night, my husband would wait for a long time for me to hang up the phone, either when just arriving home from work or before going to sleep while I took care of one friend or another who needed me. I would many times carve out of my busy schedule time to meet the demands of these friends. I avoided mentioning it to my husband since, when he asked me a favor, I would find it hard to make the time for it.
I spent time trying to set my single friends up with the few single friends that my husband had. I argued with my husband about inviting them for Shabbos when he had an overloaded schedule, and he told me he wasn’t up to having company. Believe me, considering my schedule it wasn’t easy for me either to do all the extra preparation for company. But I was on a mission to take care of everyone, except for my husband and my marriage! What a mistake!
My husband was so kind to me that first year. He was so patient and understanding. He tried to help me through the hard time I was having with my father’s illness and family. But the message that I gave him was just the opposite. Everyone else came before him. It was not long before he started to feel rejected and hurt… Sometimes, I wonder if my marriage would be better today had I taken the first step in the right direction. I guess I just wasn’t able to balance everything.
To The Singles
This is my message to all those singles who are feeling lonely and rejected by a newly married friend.Realize this: Your friend just made a major life change! That means that, yes, she has a new, intimate best friend – a partner. She has to learn how to get along with this new best friend. That requires a lot of adjustment. She now has a private life, which she should not be sharing with you, even though, up until her wedding, she told you everything! She has to form a border around her husband and herself in order to become a unit.Yes, it is sad for you because she really doesn’t need your friendship in the same way anymore. And when you get married, you hopefully won’t need it in that way either. It surely is a hard adjustment for you. It’s definitely a loss.She now has to make his family a priority and make time for them. She has many more responsibilities than she had as a single person and so, there’s less time for other things.
I think that it is pretty common for newly married people to be a little homesick. Even if a husband and wife are happy together, and even if they live in the same neighborhood as their families, still, they are no longer living with their original families. This is even truer for people who move away from their hometowns. When they come home for a short period of time, they want to spend time with their families. (Sometimes, this issue creates conflict between a husband and wife. Whose family is more important? Which one gets first priority?)
Also, every person’s situation is different. Some young couples get lots of support from their parents and extended families. Other couples get limited help, and still others don’t get any emotional, physical, or financial support at all.
And then, again, maybe your friend is having difficulties in her marriage or family and isn’t sharing it with you, since it is private. (Maybe her husband is extremely possessive.) There are endless possibilities as to what can be going on that you don’t know about.
Every person has different strengths and weaknesses. Not everyone can balance all of life’s challenges and demands very well. Even if everything is going well for your newly married friend, she still may have a hard time balancing everything. And certainly, if she is not in a good place, she will have a hard time to be there for you.
Once a person ends the challenge of being single, she moves on to the next stage of life, which has its own challenges. Some of them are also real hardships!
If your newly married friend is able to maintain her close friendship with you in addition to maintaining a good marriage and dealing with obligations, then perhaps she has very little hardship to contend with or has a lot of (emotional/physical/financial) support from her family/in-laws. There are many more possibilities as well.
And if your friend had a baby, then, yes, she made another major life change! (I remember when my first baby was born, and at the bris my single cousin requested that I invite her for Shabbos in the very near future before the baby grows. That request reminded me so clearly of how it felt when I was single, to have that desire to be included in the simcha from the inside.
However, at the time of the bris I really was not up to having company. We had just moved to a new apartment. Most of the stuff wasn’t unpacked yet. I was feeling physically worse than I did when I was pregnant, and I didn’t have much help. Children and especially babies can be extremely demanding.
Finally, yes, make new friends! If your once best friendship has dwindled into an infrequent call, and you’re having a had time stomaching it, then especially you should even do everything in your power to acquire new friends, as it says in Pirkei Avos. Keep busy, as well. Volunteer your time for the people that really need it, sign up for dance classes, sewing lessons, and shiurim. Friendships really don’t always last forever.
To The Newly Married Friend (Or Not So Newly Married)
I would like to add only one comment to the letter in the April 23rd column.
If you sense that your single friend is hurting, or she directly tells you that she’s hurting due to the loss of your once close friendship, at least give her a clue as to what you are going through (if you’re going through a difficult time). (I wish that one of my friends had done that.) Please don’t share any private information. In a general way you can convey the message that you, too, are going through a challenging time. Marriage is a challenge.
If you are just simply involved in your own life and don’t have many issues, then try at least to make a little more time for your friend, and validate her feelings of loss. Please try at least to understand her situation. If you got married very young, then you cannot possibly understand the feeling of being single, lonely, searching for a spouse, and at times, feeling helpless and hopeless over the situation. It is imperative that you try at least to set up a shidduch.
Been There, Done That
Dear Been There, Done That,
Thank you for your beautiful letter which reflects your deep insights and sensitivity to others. If you realize what a special husband you have, please don’t say, “Sometimes I wonder if my marriage would be better today, had I taken the first step in the right direction.” Baruch Hashem, you realize your mistakes and you can work on improving your marriage today by making your husband and your relationship with him a priority. Find time to ‘date’ him. If you can, go away for even one night alone with him to focus just on your relationship. (Two nights are better, if possible.) Some of my clients go to local kosher hotels for a few hours to spend private time together and take a babysitter for a few hours, go to sleep at home, and then come back for breakfast in the morning. This is if you absolutely have no one to leave your children with for even one night.
Please don’t live with regrets. Instead, recognize your mistakes and make your marriage the best that it can be. You sound like a very giving and caring person. May Hashem bless you with health to you and may you and your whole family enjoy happiness and simchas. Hatzlacha in your marriage and in raising your children!
Dr. Yael Respler