By Esther Mann, LCSW
My husband and I have been best friends with Breindie and Moishe for quite a while. They were the first couple to invite us over for a Shabbos meal when we moved into the neighborhood—and, as they say, it was love at first sight. The four of us got on so well. None of us had ever experienced such a situation before, where all four parties appreciated each and every other individual.
It was just a given that Saturday nights we’d all run out together for a bite or something. Though we all have siblings, we felt closer than sisters and brothers.
Over the past few months, something strange has been going on. Breindie and Moishe always appeared to have an amazing marriage. We would know, since we spent so much time together. They treated each other with respect and kindness. Though I can’t complain about my marriage, I always felt that Moishe was a wonderful role model for my husband, Yitz. I think Yitz learned a thing or two from Moishe about how to be even more caring and calm. It was all good.
But it’s been obvious to us lately that something is going on between them. They seem to be constantly bickering with each other, rolling their eyes and behaving badly. They are almost unrecognizable as a couple. Somehow, though, with all that must be going on between them, they still want to go out together with us as much as before. Maybe even more.
Neither Breindie nor Moishe has offered us a clue about what is going on between them. Yitz and I are finding it very difficult to be around them. Besides the fact that it’s simply uncomfortable to watch their bad behavior, I find that once we get home, Yitz and I start fighting with one another. I’ll inevitably defend Breindie’s behavior and Yitz will defend Moishe’s. Before you know it, we’re fighting with each other!
Yitz and I realize that it’s not good for us to be around them anymore. But of course that’s hard to do, for so many reasons. We don’t want them to think we’re abandoning them during their difficult time. We also really like them and depend on them as our very best friends.
Where do we go from here? Do we pull away and hope they resolve their issues, and reenter their lives when that happens? Or do we just hang in there—grin and bear it and continue to show our support, even though it causes us hardship?
It sounds like you and Yitz find yourselves caught up in Breindie and Moishe’s conflict, without the benefit of knowing who, what, where, or when. What I find interesting is that your foursome is as close as close can be, and yet it appears as though there is very little sharing of the real story about what matters most—what might be causing the sudden change between Breindie and Moishe. Without this knowledge, it’s hard to know whether you and Yitz can be supportive in some way, offer advice, give comfort, etc. This fact makes your situation that much more confusing, besides the obvious discomfort.
Under these circumstances, I don’t think your options should be narrowed down to the two you mentioned—pulling away or continuing as if nothing is out of the ordinary. My first reaction to most things is to explore whether there is any possibility for meaningful dialogue. But it seems pretty clear that Breindie and Moishe are keeping their issues in their private vault, which is their prerogative. Nevertheless, you can stay alert, should Breindie or Moishe ever hint toward a desire to share.
In the meantime, while you don’t want to drop them, particularly while they are going through such a rough patch, maybe you need to pull away just a little. Instead of going out with them every Saturday night, try every other Saturday night. That way, besides sparing yourselves the agony of being affected by their bickering, you and Yitz will have time to go out alone and focus on your relationship, taking care to keep it healthy and happy. Or you may want to get to know some other couples better.
What should you say to Breindie and Moishe, when you explain that you’d like to spend some alone time? Nothing wrong with the truth. You can say something like “It’s been a little intense with you guys lately, and we feel maybe it’s best for you two and for us to focus a bit more on our own relationships. We still love both of you and want to stay connected, but we also need a little more space right now.” And who knows—maybe this will create an opportunity for them to share a little, and then perhaps you and Yitz might have some helpful suggestions. Or, at the very least, you can suggest that they consider going for some couples’ therapy.
Additionally, when you do go out with them, it’s very important that you and Yitz make a pact with one another that neither of you are allowed to discuss Breindie and Moishe upon returning home. Not even a little! There is no reason why your relationship should be tarnished because of their difficulties.
In the interim, while Breindie and Moishe hopefully are sorting things out, you and Yitz should be working harder than ever to be kind and gentle with each other, since this development is clearly painful for all four of you.
Esther Mann, LCSW, is a psychotherapist in Hewlett. Esther works with individuals and couples. Together with Jennifer Mann, she also runs the “Navidaters.” She can be reached at email@example.com or 516-314-2295.