My Friend Has Issues!?

By | September 9, 2015

Question:

I have a close friend who will soon be entering the shidduch parsha. This guy has a great head for

learning, wonderful aspirations for a future in Torah and chinuch, and is handsome too. There’s

only one problem: he has emotional issues that can very likely be me’akeyv (hinder) when it comes

to this parsha.

During different stages of my relationship with this bochur, I’ve seen him beat himself up verbally

on one end of the spectrum, and be manipulative to others (including me) on the other end of the

spectrum. It’s quite possible that he might even need the help of a professional. I care too much

about this friend not to say anything, but I don’t know what to say or how to say it!

Any advice would be appreciated!

A Friend

Dear Friend,

No one ever said being a friend was easy! That’s quite a dilemma you have here.

It sounds like you understand that being a true friend involves much more than hanging together

and having a good time. When the mishna in Avos exhorts us to “knei lecha chaver, acquire for

yourself a friend,” it’s teaching us about the absolute necessity of friendship.

A true friend is close enough to know our issues and yet distant enough to provide some objective

reflection. A parent who sees a flaw in a child will have difficulty separating from it; they will

often experience it as an extension of their own failure or pain. While a good friend sees the issue,

they don’t own it the same way. They can therefore hold a mirror to the friend’s behavior without

being overly invested in the reaction/outcome. Their feedback becomes about the friend, not about

themselves, and is therefore a priceless gift.

I think you know this, and own this responsibility; you are just not sure how to provide this “gift”

because you sense your friend’s vulnerability. I saw a beautiful quote recently that stated, “A true

friend is someone who sees the pain in your eyes while everyone else believes your smile.” You

seem to intuit your friend’s pain and know that approaching him will not be easy as his defenses

are so raw, and self­awareness doesn’t seem to be his thing.

The consequences of not confronting him, however, are potentially devastating. When the core of a

system is rotted, everything that sprouts from it will be diseased as well. When a spouse enters a

marriage with an eroded sense of self (i.e. emotional issues) they can’t function well as an

individual. This in turn corrupts the marital system which then leads to a toxic home environment

that poisons its inhabitants. The members of that family then go on to pour out their pain in their

extended environments causing untold pain to everyone around them. I mean no drama here; this is

simply the core of so much suffering.

Your friend must acknowledge and own his behavior before he can enter an intimate relationship. I

agree with you— he may indeed require professional intervention. I can’t draw any conclusions

from the little information you shared, but he certainly exhibits behavior that might indicate a

personality disorder.

I don’t know much about your relationship. Do your conversations ever go down personal roads?

Do you feel you can bring this up in the context of an article you just read or a story you just

heard? If you can muster up the courage, it would be beneficial to lovingly point out when your

friend lashes out (either against himself or against you). Yes, it may be awkward, but you are

opening the door to his chance of a fulfilling life and potentially sparing another family in Klal

Yisroel much anguish.

Your friend must feel your love and concern above all, so only have this conversation when you’re

completely centered and not angry. If you feel there is no way you can broach this yourself, you

will need to engage the help of a wise and trusted rebbe of his.

Although you don’t explicitly ask, I infer that you are also concerned about what to do when

you’re approached for shidduch information about this friend. The first thing you must do is clarify

your halachic responsibility, as you need to know what you can say, and what you must say. I’d

suggest asking the shaila and formulating your response now so that you’re not caught completely

off guard when it comes up.

You may be in the unique position of knowing crucial information about your friend that isn’t

available to his more casual acquaintances, and this information carries heavy responsibility with

it. These calls are difficult — no one wants to relay information that may be a deal breaker, yet

neither does anyone want to be responsible for withholding information that could potentially be

harmful to an unsuspecting shidduch. So prepare carefully beforehand.

I wish you much hatzlacha in this sensitive and necessary venture.

All the best,

Sara

Category: Advice and Chizuk

About sara

Sara Eisemann, LMSW, ACSW, is a therapist who lives in Oak Park, Michigan, with her husband and five children. She is on temporary leave from the field (about 10 years now) as she raises her family, but has maintained her love for working with people. Sara lectures on topics related to relationships, personal development and growth. She has a passion for humor, writing, and kiruv but mostly for promoting self-awareness and authenticity in our relationship with Hashem and with each other. She welcomes questions, comments, feedbacks and interaction.

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