By Baila Sebrow
I have a friend who’s been divorced for almost 10 years now. She wanted to get remarried all these years and was actively dating. She was in a long-term relationship with someone; however, friends advised her that he doesn’t care about her, as he has a busy, demanding schedule. (This could have been a misunderstanding or people judging too quickly in giving their advice, but it’s not my place to decide).
She was presented with a shidduch prospect, another divorced man, and decided to date this person (we’ll call him Yitzchak), while keeping in touch with the previous guy (we’ll call him Aaron).
Things got serious very quickly with this “new” boy, Yitzchak, and he proposed after about five weeks. (The wedding is a few weeks away.) She did not know he was planning to propose and felt slightly uneasy at the time, but she accepted the proposal and was happy and excited to finally move on with her life with someone else.
She told Yitzchak about her relationship with Aaron, which she had never actually ended. (Also, it seems that Aaron did not know she was dating someone else, as she did not tell him, based on the advice she received.) She told Yitzchak that she would speak to Aaron to let him know that she’s engaged. She called Aaron to give him closure. However, her chassan Yitzchak followed her and caught her talking to Aaron. He grabbed the phone away from her and called Aaron back. He was in a rage, losing his temper and threatening her that he will break off the engagement.
He was trying to figure out if she had called Aaron or if Aaron had called her. When she tried to explain, he told her that he didn’t want to hear it from her, only from Aaron, as he didn’t trust her. He added that based on Aaron’s answer, he will decide whether or not to break the engagement. She was crying and scared, and Aaron didn’t tell him that she was the one who called, due to fear of hurting her. Yitzchak, at the same time, was cursing Aaron out, wishing him bad, while using profanity and calling him names that typical good guys don’t use. Ultimately, Yitzchak made her tell Aaron that she had chosen Yitzchak and not to call her again, while Yitzchak reinforced this and told Aaron he is blocked.
While it might not have been right for my friend to call Aaron, Yitzchak seemed extremely jealous and insecure. I feel like my friend got into this rebound relationship while she still had feelings for Aaron, as she never actually ended it with him; they’ve always kept in touch. While Yitzchak courted her, he bought her gifts and flowers and made her feel special. I think she’s feeling an infatuation, as she doesn’t really know Yitzchak that well, after only five weeks, considering it’s the second time around for both of them. Based on this incident, it seems Yitzchak has control and abuse issues. Furthermore, he had a past, where he engaged in stuff that was “illegal” (for anonymity, I won’t disclose). He also doesn’t have a stable job and was dishonest to her about what he does. He keeps on changing jobs, while promising her a bright future. He is also making her move away from her family, friends, and a job to live near him.
I’m afraid that if things unfortunately don’t work out in their marriage, he’s the type to hold a get over her head, just as he used the engagement as leverage, where she got scared and immediately became submissive, obeying his commands. She now has to tell him who she speaks to, what they say, etc.
She is fully under his control. He is of the mentality that he gets to decide who she can or can’t speak to, because he was the one who put the ring on her finger. She has blocked several of her friends who tried speaking to her, likely per his instructions, due to fear of Yitzchak getting upset or breaking off the engagement. She feels she did wrong and has to regain his trust (as he told her). I know that when she was growing up, she claimed that she was being controlled. It’s possible she’s going back to her childhood. This is a trait that she craves.
To me, all of this seems like a big red flag, especially a rushed engagement and wedding. I know that you’ve dealt with control/abuse issues in the past so I would very much appreciate your insight here. Also, it seems that if anyone tries talking to her or confronting her about it, she will just block them out, likely to appease Yitzchak’s commands. Initially, when people made comments about him, she also attributed it to their “jealousy” instead of viewing it as a possible sign and looking into things more closely. What do you advise?
I will start my response by complimenting you. In taking the time to write such a detailed letter on your friend’s behalf, you are demonstrating the sincerity of your friendship. Moreover, that you are so careful to protect her anonymity and dignity shows how selfless you are and that you are blessed with a beautiful soul.
Based on what you are saying, your friend is going through much emotional turmoil and is in a fragile state of mind. It sounds like she is reliving past pain and trying to make it better with the people presently in her life. Let’s take this apart so that you can understand where she is holding now and what you can do to help her cope with the situation she’s in, so that it will bring her the least amount of pain.
As much as I can sympathize with your friend about her past history of relationships and bad advice from ignorant people, we cannot forget that an innocent person was somehow dragged into this mess. That person is Aaron. It is easy for people to judge him and say that he was too busy for your friend, convincing her to move on. But to deceive a person who was unaware of the circumstances happening right under his nose? Aaron likely had no clue that your friend was being advised to date another man; in his perception, he was still in a long-term relationship with her. Then, out of the blue, while being two-timed, he gets a call from a hotheaded man who verbally abuses, curses, and threatens him. For Aaron’s sake, I am happy to hear that your friend blocked him. He needs to be far removed from her and Yitzchak.
The issue, as I view it, is that your friend is convinced that she needs Yitzchak in her life. She must also believe that she is in love with him. That is why she is so afraid of losing him. To you and to other people in your friend’s life it likely seems strange to want to be in a relationship with an abusive person. However, there is nothing strange about it because love is not something that can just disappear in the blink of an eye. Your friend emotionally connected with Yitzchak and she is now attached to him. When she met Yitzchak, she was in a relationship with Aaron, who, because of his demanding job, was not able to cater to her neediness. Along came Yitzchak, who wined and dined her and was also able to give her all the time in the world that she needs, because he has no job!
Your friend is still viewing Yitzchak the way he presented to her in the beginning. She still sees him as the Yitzchak she fell for. Couple that with whatever trauma she endured previously and you have the final recipe of what you are witnessing now.
It sounds like she does not know what to do. Your friend is confused, not only because of her strong feelings; she is probably also dealing with feelings of guilt. Meaning, in her mind, she brought the anger and change about in Yitzchak. You need to understand it from her perspective. People can love their abusive partners. The chemistry developed before the abuse became visible. Additionally, she likely still maintains that chemistry. And even though he shows her how abusive he is capable of being, he must still make her feel good about herself, and almost certainly is also being kind and caring. Please realize that although she knows that his behavior is abusive, love does not automatically vanish.
Here is what you can do. Establish with her that you are being genuinely sincere. In other words, if she feels or suspects that you are talking about her relationship with Yitzchak behind her back, you will become the enemy here. Invite her to speak in person in a private setting. Compliment her and tell her how much your friendship means to you and thank her for it. Whatever you say to her, you must mean every word of it. As soon as you sense her comfort, begin to voice your concerns in a clear and articulate tone. Please be cognizant of the fact that she already has enough chaos in her life. Your friend needs to feel safe with you. Stress that you are not in any way blaming her, but that you want to be her support team.
Explain the specific behaviors of Yitzchak that are causing you to worry. Not only that, but when you give examples of what he is doing, ask her how that makes her feel. Encourage her to be frank with you. Gently point out to her that if a man did this to you it would not feel good to you. In other words, your friend needs to get to a place where she can acknowledge that there is something seriously wrong with the relationship she is in now. Do not be repetitive, do not lecture her, and, most importantly, do not present airs of superiority. Do not play “therapist” with her either. This needs to be a friend-to-friend type of conversation.
If she still insists on staying with Yitzchak, telling her to break up with him will only push her further away from you. Any forceful words from you will undoubtedly draw her closer to him. It might sound odd to you, but she is already in a relationship with a controlling person. Sensing that you are trying to control her will make her run to him even more.
If she does end up saying that she needs help in getting away from Yitzchak, calmly suggest a therapist (look into that before you even talk to her). The therapist needs to be someone who is her equal in terms of age and perhaps even status in life. For your friend to be helped by anyone, trust is a very important factor.
It is possible that no matter what you may say or do, she will still insist on staying with Yitzchak. If so, support her by telling her that you are there for her, and she should always feel that she can count on you. Not only that, but build her up and tell her that is the one in control of her life and destiny. The only exception to anything I have said is if at any time you feel that her life is in physical danger, you must seek help from authorities. In the meantime, just be there for her, in every sense of the word. You friend is very lucky to have you in her life, and may G-d bless you.
Baila Sebrow is president of Neshoma Advocates, communications and recruitment liaison for Sovri-Beth Israel, executive director of Teach Our Children, and a shadchanis and shidduch consultant. She can be reached at Bsebrow@aol.com. Questions and comments for the Dating Forum can be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org. Read more of Baila Sebrow’s articles at 5TJT.com.