Let your friend do whatever will make her the happiest
Q: I'm a Jewish college senior born and raised in New York. My 20-year-old Mormon friend got married one year ago and is expecting soon. I went to high school with her, and when she moved to Utah for college we stayed in relatively good touch, even though we haven't seen each other in three years.
I've been having a difficult time coming to terms with the fact that this brilliant friend decided that what she wants most out of life is to be a stay-at-home mom. However, I hope my e-mails have displayed nothing but joy, happiness and cautious contentment with her decisions.
I worry constantly about her. Although her e-mails and blog posts are chipper, they also sound like she's trying to convince herself she is happy. I want to confirm with my eyes that she's truly happy. However, when I say I would like to visit, she never responds or even recognizes the question.
How might I impress upon her that I really do want to see her? Or do I resign myself to simply hoping for the best from three time zones away?
A: Seems odd to give us the whole story while your friend gets only a sliver, but I get it — you want us to understand you, and you want her to feel supported, not judged.
But you are judging her, of course. You think she's wasting her mind (and youth?) on marriage and kids, to the point where you're consumed by worry despite not having seen her since you both started college.
That means you're not only judging the work of mothers as unworthy of intelligent women, but you're also questioning your friend's competence at charting the course of her life.
It seems unlikely that you've been able to keep your correspondence entirely free of disdain. You haven't qualified your angst at all — you haven't said "She has to do what's right for her," or even "I realize we're different people." You show no signs of questioning your way as the "right" way, and certainty is a dangerous thing; people who possess it often fail to differentiate between universal truths and cultural assumptions.
Your old friend may simply not be interested in explaining herself to you, having picked up on your horror at her choices. And if that's not true — if you've really managed to display "nothing but joy" — then what would that say about the intimacy of your friendship these days?
Meanwhile, neither her culture nor your bias has anything to do with whether she's thriving. She either is or isn't, for her own reasons. The whole Jewish-Mormon issue is a red herring.
Which is why true friends challenge their own opinions on a continual, lifelong basis. Make it a habit to ask yourself whether you're seeing the issue unobstructed, or whether you're getting only the part that fits in your own frame of reference.
In other words, marrying at 19 doesn't mean she's going to struggle, and struggling doesn't mean marrying young is to blame. If her struggle is from marrying young, it doesn't mean you win at I-told-you-so roulette — it means she needs the empathy of equals. If you don't have it, either try to get it or don't be friends. Either one beats measuring her life by yours.