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Dear Dr. Yael,

I am writing to you about the upcoming Pesach. Baruch Hashem I have a lot of brachos. I have a wonderful family, good marriage, and parnassah. We have a large, beautiful home and we host our parents, extended family, as well as our children who range in age from teenagers to toddlers. My husband is a tzaddik and invites many people to our seder. Many of them have nowhere to go, and they come for sedarim and yom tov meals. I can deal with these needy people as they are generally quiet and grateful to be invited. My husband has one divorced friend who comes often on Pesach with his children. He is very successful financially and buys my children extravagant gifts. He can be very charming at times and at other times is particularly toxic to his own children and to my husband. I see that he can say things to my husband that are very not nice. I do not want to invite him since I know he will say insulating things to my husband, but my husband feels sorry for him and wants me to invite him and his children and ignore his negativity. I think that he is jealous of my husband because of our marriage and our life. I read some of your previous articles on this topic as well as did some research, and I think that he is a narcissist. How can I invite this friend of my husband and protect him from his toxicity? I think it affects me more than my husband, so how do I protect myself as well? This friend can also appear to be very vulnerable at times so I am not sure he is a narcissist. At times he also shows a lot of empathy, but then I see him roll his eyes when my husband says something and his messages are so mixed. All I know is that I always end up feeling bad when he is here because I hate how he treats my husband and I hate the toxicity I feel around him.


A Reader


Dear A Reader,

It is difficult to diagnose someone’s friend in a column. However, I will ask you questions about your husband’s friend’s behavior and try to give you ideas on how to set boundaries with this friend. Firstly, he is not a friend. He seems like he is someone that appears to be a “Frenemy.” This is someone who acts like a friend but is actually an enemy. You must set boundaries with this person so that he does not ruin your husband’s or your yom tov.

It is hard to tell if he is a covert narcissist or an overt narcissist. Does he have a way of using empathy that is self-serving? Does he try to use power by demonstrating helplessness? Does he have an inflated sense of self-importance? Rolling eyes is a passive way of making someone else feel unimportant. Does your husband’s friend have an excessive need for admiration? A covert narcissist may use a woe onto me approach to get attention by getting someone to reassure them or pity them. Does he appear to be withdrawn and shy?

Covert narcissists are insecure, they can be passive aggressive and hypersensitive to criticism, but they have no problem being critical in a passive way. They are easily stressed, chronically envious, and put themselves down. Does he have difficulty with anxiety and depression and then blames others for his behavior?

Covert narcissists have superficial relationships. While they do have feelings and they can cry, they lack the ability to focus on anyone else other than themselves. They have difficulty fitting in. Some covert narcissists go above and beyond in everything as your friend seems to do in buying your children overgenerous gifts. They can be manipulative for personal gain, so they never feel like real people. They don’t care about other people, rather they only think of what others can do for them.

In order to protect your husband and yourself in this relationship, you must set boundaries. I would not accept these generous gifts. They give your husband’s friend the ability to manipulate your children into liking him. Avoid excusing his behavior. It seems like your husband does not take his criticism personally, but that you do. It is important that you do not listen to any criticism and that you also try not to internalize any of it. In reality, you are probably not able to change your husband’s friend. You can only change your own behavior. Try to build your own self-esteem and keep your distance by being positive in spite of all his negativity. If you are able to continue inviting this friend, then do so, but if you feel it is toxic to your husband, you, and/or your family, you may need to re-evaluate. Chesed begins at home and if indeed this friend is so toxic to your family, please ask da’as Torah to see if you should continue to do this chesed. Hatzlacha in this challenging situation. Wishing you and all my readers a chag kasher v’sameach and may we all see shalom for all of Am Yisrael!


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Dr. Yael Respler is a psychotherapist in private practice who provides marital, dating and family counseling. Dr. Respler also deals with problems relating to marital intimacy. Letters may be emailed to [email protected]. To schedule an appointment, please call 917-751-4887. Dr. Orit Respler-Herman, a child psychologist, co-authors this column and is now in private practice providing complete pychological evaluations as well as child and adolescent therapy. She can be reached at 917-679-1612. Previous columns can be viewed at and archives of Dr. Respler’s radio shows can be found at