Congratulations! Mazal tov! Another one of your friends just got engaged, and now you are officially the only one left. Just kidding. Although it isn’t true, I can relate to that feeling when I have a l’chaim every night of the week and my Whatsapp groups are constantly exploding. It can be hard to feel happy for those around you when you yourself are so utterly single.
It’s no secret that the “green eyed monster,” or jealousy, can get in the way of even the most sound friendships, but with dating, these types of feelings can manifest in a more sinister way, perhaps even bordering on sabotage. A good friend of mine, let’s call her Tova, recently told me about an interaction she had with her friend Baila. She explained that as she was talking with Baila about her shidduch prospects, she mentioned a boy’s name who was recently suggested for her, whom she was excited to pursue. Baila retorted back, “Oh him, he was already suggested for me. I don’t think he’s for you at all, you’re just not frum enough for him.”
It is possible that this suggestion is not so shayach for Tova, however, I suspect a different reason for Baila’s response. Baila had recently gotten out of a serious relationship– which can be extremely difficult, especially when other people innocently ask, “When are you getting engaged?” In many ways, she is very similar to Tova and could potentially see herself in competition with her friend. When I suggested this, Tova agreed that this seemed likely since throughout Baila’s relationship she would often brag that she had found “the best” guy out there. Unfortunately, I had to inform Tova that Baila is not a true friend. Let’s address the problems before we can talk about how to remedy them.
First, when you are in a relationship and your friends are not, making statements that highlight how lucky you are and how difficult it can be to find someone is simply not nice. For example, “Oh gosh, I’m so happy I finally found someone, I thought I’d never avoid the shidduch crisis, he’s truly one in a million.” On one hand, you can expect a certain level of support from your friends, but putting additional stress on them will not foster that support, and can breed resentment. If you constantly make statements which remind them how grateful you are to not be single, can you blame them when they aren’t disappointed if it doesn’t work out? If you want to have close friends, then you need to be understanding of their own anxieties and not rub in your success. You can be excited while tempering the tone of your statements to respect the feelings of your friends. For example: “Thank G-d its been going well; he’s really great for me.” By putting the focus on how well-matched the two of you are specifically for each other, as opposed to how great the boy is in general, you subtly remind your friends that this isn’t a competition, and each person is simply trying to find a person that works best for themselves.
Second, when hearing a suggestion for a friend, you must make sure that you are being supportive. For example, telling a friend “You are not frum enough for him” is not only demeaning and hurtful, but also not productive. If you think that their hashkafot are not in line, you can ask questions using specifics. For example, if you know that the boy will only date someone who wears stockings and you know that your friend does not, you might consider mentioning it so she can investigate. “Oh, I was told that he prefers a girl who covers her legs. Would you consider starting to wear stockings?” For all you know, she started wearing stockings, or the boy doesn’t care about that at all. In a case like this, it is really important to emphasize that you don’t know anything for sure, and encourage your friend to investigate, since it could be hurtful for her to begin dating him, only to have him end the relationship for a similar reason. A different case, but an important one nonetheless: if you know he does not want to move to Israel but that aliyah is a key factor for your friend, you might consider asking, “Do you know if he wants to make aliyah one day? Are you open to dating someone who isn’t sure?” If she is willing to give it a shot, then great for her.
In all these cases, remember that tone is so important. When asking questions, the focus needs to be on what aspect may or may not work for the match, not what is wrong with the person. There is a significant difference between saying “he’s not frum enough for you” as opposed to “I noticed you want a boy who davens always with a minyan and he told me that he doesn’t always daven. Would that bother you?”At the end of the day, you can let your friend make her own decision without passing judgement. I can’t tell you how many times people have said, “Oh, I totally don’t see that match,” and then it resulted in a happy marriage.
Another way to combat this type of jealousy is to try to help your friends out. Although it seems counterintuitive, it can help condition your brain to see helping others as part of your nature. I know of students who specifically will share their notes or mesorah tests because they tend to be competitive with academics. Similarly with dating: when you personally invest in trying to make your friends happy, it will be nearly impossible to be jealous of them, especially because of the gratitude they feel towards you. A really easy way to do this is to pass along guys the names of who ended up not working with you for your friends. It is so common for friends to be similar in certain ways that might make a match seem shayach, but not in others. It is so simple to reach out to the guy and ask him if he would be willing to hear a suggestion. I always find that the more I think about shidduchim for other people, the more people think about me. Whenever I am in a “dry spell,”I start thinking of ideas for my friends. Its a lot less stressful than focusing on yourself– and who knows, if this works out, maybe you can meet a friend of his at the l’chaim.