Odd one out
Dvorie was twenty-six years old when she came to Kav L’Noar. She had moved out of the family home several years prior. She was living with other single women in a shared apartment. In her ultra-orthodox community, to be twenty-six and unmarried was a source of shame. Dvorie felt sure that people were saying to each other that there was something wrong with her. Not only was Dvorie’s older brother married with children. But two of her younger siblings had also celebrated their weddings already which poured salt on the wound. Dvorie’s parents persuaded her to seek help from a therapist at Kav L’Noar. The hoped it would help to try and resolve whatever was standing in the way of her finding a match.
The classic reject that everybody pities
Dvorie introduced herself to the therapist as ‘the classic reject that everybody pities.’ In response, the therapist invited Dvorie to share how she thought different people in her personal circle would describe her, such as her house-mates, friends, siblings, parents.
Dvorie said that her housemates would describe her as passionate, opinionated, and literary. She was the only person they knew who liked to buy poetry books. She felt her old friends didn’t really know her anymore because they were all busy raising young children. It was uncomfortable trying to maintain friendships when they seemed to be living such different lives. Dvorie said with an eye roll that her siblings would describe her as ‘deliberately awkward’. They would say she refused to like what everyone else liked or fit in with what was normal and expected in their family. She remembered overhearing her sister saying that ‘Dvorie is so busy doing things differently that she forgets to be happy’. When the therapist gently said, ‘and your parents?’ Dvorie looked suddenly furious.
In their minds, I’m still a sulky teenager
“My parents have no idea who I am.” They spend all their time poking their noses into my life, invading my privacy, judging me, and arguing with me. But they have no interest in what I actually want or value or connect to. I don’t think they even realize that I’m a grown woman. In their minds, I’m still a sulky teenager. And they are so old fashioned and closed-minded there’s no way I could ever share things with them. They already decided what they think and what they care about and they’ll stick to all of it no matter what!”
When their conversation turned back to romantic relationships, the therapist asked Dvorie if she had been upset when dates didn’t work out. Dvorie said that each dead-end was depressing because she did want to move on with her life and she felt left behind. But she wasn’t that interested in the men themselves. “All this sitting in hotel lobbies and drinking coffee is so boring. The men I meet are just as boring. They all look the same, they all dress the same. They all act equally terrified whenever I say how I feel about anything.
I don’t think I belong in my own community
What can I do, I wear my heart on my sleeve, I recite poetry from all over the world without being asked, and I’m too much for people. I don’t think I belong in my own community.” The therapist asked if, since she felt that way, Dvorie had considered dating men from outside her community? “But then a man might try to come closer to me and I definitely don’t want to take that risk! That freaks me out more than anything else! It’s disgusting!”
Dvorie had gone red and shaky during this exchange. The therapist was sensitive to Dvorie’s religious upbringing and sensibilities but felt that there was a strong possibility that something else lay behind her reaction- that something had happened to her. But no matter how many times they revisited the topic, Dvorie was hiding her feelings and was never ready to go any further.
Instead, the therapist started working with Dvorie on becoming more comfortable in her own skin and in relation to her family. They explored her relationship with her parents more deeply, working out what lay behind Dvorie’s intense anger with them and how things had unfolded over the years. The therapist helped Dvorie to identify her own feelings more easily. Likewise, she helped her to understand when she was feeling hurt or defensive or sad. Finally, she helped her to recognize when she was hiding her real feelings from herself as well as from everyone else.
Dvorie became noticeably calmer and more stable but she was still very much in the middle of the process when she suddenly stopped her therapy sessions. She wanted to take driving lessons instead. “I can’t afford to do both therapy and driving lessons,” she explained. “I am grateful for all your support and insights- I really understand a lot more now- but now I need to prioritize other things.” Her therapist was privately disappointed that they didn’t get more time to work things through, but hopes that the foundation they laid together will help Dvorie move forward.
*All names and identifying details have been changed to protect client confidentiality. Picture is for illustrative purposes only.