Our Two Cents: New religious lifestyle tests old friendship

Dr. Sharon Ufberg and her three children offer advice about family, love and life. Send your questions to ourtwocents@jweekly.com.

My best friend got married last year to a pretty religious guy. My friend was Reform when she met him but started getting more observant throughout their relationship. Now, after they got married, their religious observance has gotten even more intense. They don’t just keep kosher; they keep Shabbat, etc. For a long time, the religious issue didn’t get in the way. Lately, though, I feel like my friend is leaving me out because I’m not in her circle of religious friends. We spend less time together, and I feel less close to her. I am beginning to wonder if she is judging my less religiously focused lifestyle. What can I do to preserve my best friendship? A.R., San Francisco


Alexis: It’s understandable that you feel pushed out. Your friend has a new community and you’re simply not — and probably never will be — a part of it. But this doesn’t mean you can’t still play a leading role in each other’s lives. Sometimes it’s even more fun to have a friend on the “outside” of your central social circle so you can share everything that’s going on in the “inside.” Of course, it won’t be the same — your groups are just different now, and your interests and lifestyle choices have diverged. But here’s the nature of longtime friendships: The circumstances change, but the love and respect don’t have to change with them.

Sharon: I have to be honest; it can be very tricky navigating through a close friendship where one party wholeheartedly embraces a new direction — whether it is religion, sport, cause or passion. This new agenda usually takes precedence over all previous priorities, and the people already involved in this new interest become more a part of the day-to-day life and plans. It is great that you are not feeling judgmental about your friend’s new love affair with a more observant lifestyle, and hopefully she will continue to honor your lifestyle choices, too. I imagine that as she starts a family, this gap may be even more pronounced, so you will likely need to give her plenty of space to fulfill her obligations and still connect with you. Perhaps you can try to etch out a special time of the week (not Shabbat) for the two of you to grab lunch or coffee regularly so you can feel connected to the special friendship you both still cherish. I am sure that she, too, is feeling the pull of competing forces and would like to balance her past with her present.

Saul: I understand your worry about losing a close friend to a new religious zealousness. But I think you can still stay close friends even though her religious orientation has changed. I would try to continue to find activities that you both enjoyed sharing together that don’t have any crossover with religion or observance. Think of something you both loved doing together and just do it.

Jessica: Rather than worry about how your friend’s new, more observant life will distance you from each other, I would focus on confirming a monthly date with one another, so you have a set time when you know you will connect. If your care for one another is mutual, then the separate social lives you lead shouldn’t drive a wedge into your relationship. Try to find some common ground to keep the friendship strong. With all that said, if you find that your friend really can’t make room in her new lifestyle, it may be time to re-examine the friendship and ask yourself if this is really worth holding on to. But first things first: Set a regular date to see one another. This is the best way to ensure you stay a part of each others’ lives.

Dr. Sharon Ufberg
is a Napa-based radio host, journalist, consultant and integrative health practitioner. Her daughters live in San Francisco: Lawyer-turned-writer Alexis Sclamberg, 28 and married; and hair colorist Jessica Sclamberg, 26 and single. Saul Sclamberg, 24 and single, studies chiropractic in Los Angeles. Read more at http://r-2-cents.com.

Ufberg/Sclamberg Family