My brother, who was my only sibling, and his wife raised their children Presbyterian. He’s now deceased and my sister-in-law, nephew, and nieces are all scattered. We all live many miles apart in different states. I have a limited but loving relationship with them. Once in a blue moon I might receive a Chanukah card. Holidays are bittersweet. What are your thoughts? — Bittersweet
You need to figure out what aspects are most important to you about the holidays you celebrate and then take a more active role in fostering those aspects. Since you mention friends and family, I will assume that sharing the holidays with people you love is among the most important aspects. You say your friend of 22 years, whom you live next door to, doesn’t express holiday greetings to you. It may be that she doesn’t understand their significance or even know when the Jewish holidays are. If the holidays are important to you and it’s important that your friend understand that, why don’t you invite her to share some of your holiday traditions? Have you ever invited her over for a Passover seder, for example, or a Hanukkah dinner? Hanukkah would be simple because it isn’t the most religious of the holidays and can be observed with a simple prayer, lighting of the menorah, and eating some traditional dishes – like latkes and jelly donuts—-and who doesn’t like fried potatoes and jelly-filled sweets? If you want your friend(s) to know the importance of holidays to you, teach them a little bit about them and share some of the traditions.
If your friend still fails to acknowledge the holidays even after you try to include her in some of your celebrating, let it go. I suspect the bigger issue here isn’t that your friend doesn’t wish you a “Happy Passover!”; it’s that you feel lonely. Regardless of religion, the holidays one celebrates can exacerbate feelings of loneliness. Are you a current member of a synagogue? If not, join one. If you already belong to one, look for ways you can take a more active role in the community. My family belongs to a synagogue where there is no shortage of ways to gather in fellowship with other members. There are opportunities for singles to mingle, there are shabbat dinners at the synagogue, picnics, even opportunities to host shabbat dinners with other members that you’re randomly matched with (we did this once and hosted two families we’d never met before). If there are any opportunities like that at your synagogue, sign up! Instead of looking to non-Jews – your Presbyterian SIL and her kids, your Catholic friend — to fill the hole you feel during Jewish holidays, look to the Jews! They get it (the significance of the holidays, that is), so half the work is already done. The other half of the work is about them getting to know you (and vice versa).
When my current boyfriend and I were starting to date, he reassured me that he can do what he does anywhere (he’s in construction). So we continued to date exclusively, with me thinking that he would be willing to move with me if things progressed. Now, years later, he is saying he didn’t mean he would necessarily move to my hometown, but that he would be willing to move in the future somewhere else with me. He has kids that are adults (he’s much older than I am) and one that is almost an adult. He wants to wait until his youngest is 18 to even think about moving anywhere. While I respect his decision, because he is being a good dad and wants to be there for his kids, I feel like I was misguided by the things he said. And now I’m attached and my daughter thinks of him as a dad.
When I sold my house about six months ago, we moved in together. Things between us are up and down, and, unfortunately, we argue quite often and more so since I moved in. I feel like I’m on a roller coaster of highs and lows with him and needing to make a decision if I should just end things and move. But then I have so much anxiety about making the wrong decision because I do love him. Please help with my indecisiveness! — Missing My Hometown
There are some things I don’t understand about your letter and the decisions you’ve made. For example, if you were certain you’d be moving back to your hometown after your divorce was finalized, why didn’t you? You don’t explain what happened. Was it meeting your boyfriend that changed things? Were you not able to find a job? What? And then:
Why would you just accept your boyfriend’s statement that he could do his job anywhere without discussing what, exactly, that meant for him? Especially after a long and tumultuous divorce – after which your daughter was essentially abandoned by her father—-why would you then move in with a man without having a very clear idea of whether your goals and plans aligned? If you were committed to moving back to your hometown, why on earth would you not make sure your boyfriend was 100% up for that, too? He had at least one kid under the age of 18; did it not occur to you that he might not want to move away from that child? Did you not think to ask him about that, to make sure he was willing to do that?
It sounds like you made some assumptions based on what YOU wanted and not based on any discussion with your boyfriend. You moved in with him with your daughter and now she thinks of him as a dad and you two are fighting all the time and can’t agree about moving. It was a really, really big mistake to move your daughter in with him without having these things figured out in advance.
I’m concerned, given your history of making assumptions based on what you want (vs. reality), that you might also be envisioning certain things about moving to your hometown that may not materialize. For example, how involved in your life do you think your brother and his wife and their three kids will be and vice versa? How involved in each other’s lives are you now? You live only two hours apart from each other; if you aren’t making concerted efforts to see each other now, you may be surprised to find that that might not change much when you live in the same town. They have a life there already – full of kids’ activities, family friends, and events and occasions they’ve likely been celebrating a certain way for years. They may not make space for you in their life in the way you are envisioning – it may not be the kind of space you are expecting. You will still need to make a life for yourself and your daughter that is separate from them. That’s not to say you shouldn’t move – there are so many benefits to living close to family, especially with cousins who are close in age to your daughter – but I want you to really think about what life might be like once you move based on what you know it is like now. And, of course, don’t move without a job and a home lined up!
As for your boyfriend, if you’re fighting all the time after only six months of living together and you feel like he wasn’t honest about the potential of his moving, it’s probably best to end things and move on. These are very real, legitimate concerns that speak to how you communicate and how well your needs are met. Alternatively, you could keep the relationship for the time-being and try doing the long-distance thing once you move. You might find the distance to be really good for your relationship, relieving pressure to set up a home together and making decisions about your future together. But you’d have to commit to making a life for yourself and your daughter in your home town, independent of your boyfriend — one that he can visit regularly but that is not dependent on him to function.