Children of marriageable age that live at home have a dynamic with their family. Even in an otherwise healthy family the single child may stand out and make the parents feel powerless to help. They were hoping for a quick marriage, grandchildren and ‘nachat’ (satisfaction) and this child comes along and ruins their plans. The following is a painful story of Meira a young woman whose family dynamic caused her parents to unjustly leave her out of the family loop even as she lived at home. You must read it to believe it.
I’ve looked for a match for a few years. At first it all seemed a play with actors. After each date, I would discuss the date with my girlfriends and we’d have a good laugh. It seemed so improbable. This was when I was ‘in line’ to be getting married, after the older sibling before the younger one. My parents didn’t press they must have felt that ‘when she matures she’ll understand’ that this is for real. My classmates all got engaged one by one and for my girlfriends and I going to weddings was sort of a game. We’d dress up really nice, all done up, dance spiritedly bless the bride wholeheartedly and come home tired in the middle of the night. Another wedding and another and my group is shrinking. But at each wedding I’d take a good look at the groom and ask myself: “What did she see in him? And this continued until I was almost the only one in my class that was still single.
I began to understand something was amiss when I came home late after an especially spirited wedding. I danced we went wild and I came home tired. I had to get up early anyway for a regular work day but sleep alluded me. I thought I heard voices in the living room. My parents were having an animated conversation in whispers and the tone seemed conspirational. I got up and went into the living room. My mother looked at me and I asked: “What happened?” She replied: “We’re sorry this conversation is not for you so when you leave the living room we will continue.”
You should understand that I wasn’t a little girl any longer; I’ve been working successfully at a job now for a few years so I felt hurt by this treatment; I didn’t think it was appropriate. I turned around and left the room.
A few days later the house was abuzz with activity but I was left out of it. My older married sister did know what was going on and I asked her what was going on. She replied astounded: “What, don’t you know Yossi (our little brother) is getting engaged tonight?” An engagement party? That means he had a few dates and all this was right under my nose and he found his match. So THAT was the conversation my parents had a few weeks before and asked me to leave so as not to hurt my feelings which they succeeded in doing any way. Yet this was far more painful. It was only an hour or two before the party and my mother still hadn’t breathed a word about it to me.
All the planning of Yossi’s dating and engagement ‘campaign’ had one overriding provision; that I should be left out of it because I’m single and they don’t want to hurt my feelings. How thoughtful! I was the only obstacle to Yossi’s successful engagement! Did my parents believe that Yossi would get married and I wouldn’t know? I was angry at my parents but what about Yossi himself? I always was there for him lending him money when he needed it or anything else he needed, yet he played along with my parent’s request. Was only good enough to lend him money but not to be his big sister and share in his happiness. Why were my parents so convinced that I would be happy for him? I really was happy for him but my head started spinning painfully from this impossible situation. I had nowhere to run and hide.
I started crying in my room and I tried hiding the tears. My mother passed by and without any explaining started to browbeat me that I was going to ruin Yossi’s party. I promise you that I will never treat my children the way my mother treated me!
Respecting my parents is still a value I cherish and I washed up and sat with everyone. They all expected me to help serve; after all I’m single and have a free set of hands. If I’m not married at I shouldn’t just sit there totally useless. But my hands refused to budge. I smiled quietly with a smeared on smile to everyone’s blessings and well wishes.
I felt something was happening. Yossi didn’t speak to me after the engagement either, nor did my mother. She told everyone to let me be and I was seething inside me. I almost decided on shipping the wedding. I checked out overseas flights or some hotel room away from it all, not that being alone would be so enjoyable but at least I’d be far away. I could disappear and not be there. It was so painful. But I was still part of the family and ended up going to the wedding. I felt myself a guest and not family. For everyone else it was a happy wedding and for me it was hell; the first of 3.
Something inside me broke. I always felt my mother had something that held her back from explaining things. She was a doer and not at all an explainer, she limited expressing her emotions. I was quite different than her. Perhaps that’s why my students say that I explain things so well; was I overcompensating for what didn’t get at home? Meanwhile my mother and I almost don’t talk to each other. Before I would tell her what was going on in my life but not lately. Doesn’t she miss me? She doesn’t turn to me unless she needs to go buy something. Am I supposed to be happy that I at least can express myself even if she can’t?
2 years later I saw my parents in the living room whispering late at night and I already knew what to expect. I didn’t go in, nor did I ask or wait for answers. Everything was predictable; soon there would be another engagement party, this time for my brother Israel. Knowing what would happen made it somewhat easier. There were no surprises but I decided that I would not let anyone ruin my happiness even if they left me out of the loop until the last minute. Israel was my ‘baby’ and he actually came and discussed his bride with me once or twice to include me somewhat. I have a special place in my heart for Israel and I danced enthusiastically at his wedding. I noticed that everyone around me had it easier when I was happy and not in battle mode. I was happy with everyone and felt a bit bad for myself. Must I dance their dance so they don’t run away from me?
Someone included feels like a partner. They could have included me and even asked me for help. But sometimes it seemed I was invisible. I was some forgotten personality that lives at home. The more my mother kept me out of things the greater the distance grew between us. I wouldn’t dare offer now for she might reject my offer to help.
I came home one afternoon really tired from work. All I wanted to do was to put my head down and rest. My father was there and my mother probably went out shopping. He turned to me and asked”
“What are you doing here?”
I asked back; “What do you mean? I just came back from a long tiring work day…
“You don’t understand! I’m asking you what you’re doing here in this house. Why aren’t you married?”
“Does it bother you that I live here?”
“Yes, it bothers me very much… you don’t need to live here.”
“Okay, I won’t.”
I grabbed a luggage, packed it up and ran off to a friend. I thought I would start to look for an apartment because staying with others is not so pleasant. My friend took me in but I felt I was invading. I’d cut telephone conversations short and tried to minimize my presence so as not to be a burden.
A few days later my sister called me asking: “Where are you Meira? What happened, why aren’t you at home? She asked in my father’s name that I come back home because it’s hard for a girl that doesn’t live at home to find a match. I was hesitant; I was hoping they really wanted me at home but it was only that they were concerned what “people would say”.
I came home and felt a bit safer. They were very careful with me. Yet when my sister Ruti started going out I felt my strength ebb. Round 3; more conspirational whispers and concealment; I again feel bad.
I need to change something; to get out of the house. My mother may have communication problems but before I can help her I need reserves of strength for myself. Believe me, these past few years I went into finding a match quite seriously. At age 28 I understand what I didn’t when I was younger. I understand that if I don’t do it for myself no one else will. I pray from the depths of my heart for all those who still haven’t yet found their match that they should find their match with ease.
And I also ask myself the big question: Was I mature enough to understand then what I know now? Will every one looking for a match be smart enough to know that if not now, when? And that if I’m not for myself who will be there for me?
Let me know what you think. It’ll help me feel I’m not alone.
Henya Goldberg is a family psychotherapist that also deals with matchmaking challenges. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org