Sun. Aug. 2nd-National Friendship Day: Step-Friendships and my article on Newsworks

From Friendship Day was originally founded by Hallmark in 1919. It was intended to be a day for people to celebrate their friendship by sending each other cards, but by 1940 the market had dried up, and eventually it died out completely. However, in 1998 Winnie the Pooh was named the world’s Ambassador of Friendship at the United Nations (believe it or not!), and in April 2011 the United Nations officially recognized 30th July as International Friendship Day, although most countries celebrate on the first Sunday of August.

My Essay on Step-Friendships:

We are all familiar with the term stepchildren, as when a woman remarries and “inherits” her husband’s children from a former marriage.  If the children are young, then the new wife becomes the stepmother. In my case, my husband’s children (and mine) were all grown and out of the house, so I never felt like a step-mom. Instead, I am introduced by his children as my dad’s wife, which if fine.  It helps me define my role as a loving presence in their father’s life, not someone who is responsible for raising them.

My role is not so clear when regarding husband’s friends from his first marriage, especially the three friends with whom he has been playing cards for about 45 years. The wives were all friendly and the four couples would go to dinner, invite the others to anniversaries, weddings, etc.  So when I married Alan 10 years ago, those friendships had been long established.  I became the “step-friend.” I am invited to whatever events the women plan and I am kept in the loop. But I never really feel like I am in the loop. The women are friendly, but they are not really my friends.

When I lived in Israel during the Yom Kippor War, our next door neighbors who were native-born Israelis (sabras), told us they did not make new friends anymore, because so many of their friends had died in the wars.  They were friendly, but made no effort to include us in their everyday activities or social events. I felt left out, but I understood where they were coming from.

I feel the three women married to my husband’s card playing friends are somewhat like the Israelis, but for a different reason. They have friendships that go way back to when they were in school, married, and had children.  I can’t compete with those relationships. And the women in my condo fall into that same category. Most of them are from the Main Line and have friendships that go back to grammar school, if not earlier. They don’t need to make new friends; they are busy enough with their long- term friendships.

Fortunately for me, I don’t take this personally. Having moved at least two dozen times, I have accumulated friendships that go way back to my teens. (My older brother is married to my girlfriend from high school.) Perhaps because I have moved so many times, I make a strong effort to stay in touch with my group of old friends.

There is one exception to this situation. One couple that Alan has been friendly with since his twenties are truly our friends, despite the fact that we know each other only since I remarried.  I am not a step-friend, but a real friend and we go to dinner and a movie every month. Perhaps this is because the wife, Jackie, was a coworker with my husband even before he was married. So her relationship with Alan’s first wife came through Alan. What I like about this friendship is that I never feel I am being compared to my husband’s first wife. Our relationship is based on the fact that we really like one another and enjoy being with both of them.

There are no rule books for step-friendships. No Miss Manners or guidebooks on the Internet that I could find. How do I know my husband’s friends’ wives are not just being polite and when they go back home, compare me with his first wife?  I have enough friends of my own before I met my husband that tells me I am a likeable person. But I am outspoken and very frank, and not everyone likes that.  Friendship, in a way, is like love. It goes beyond just liking someone.There is a spark or connection between two people who meet without being forced to be friendly. Whether that spark is one of feeling comfortable with them, or having similar interests, or laughing at the same jokes, or just being able to talk honestly, there needs to be a heart-connection. And that can’t be forced, because like the words in the picture above, “A friend is a precious gift to be cherished and nurtured.”

So, as I ponder this enigma of step-friendships, perhaps someone reading this has some suggestions. May we can post some guidelines on the Internet entitled, “Stepping Up to Friendship” or “Keeping in Step with Friends.” For now, I just swim in a sea of uncertainty, pretending that my husband’s friends are also my friends, when for the most part, they are really acquaintances who are very nice, but not really my friends. I feel like Yul Brenner in “The King & I” when he had a problem and would say, “Is a puzzlement!”

To read my article in Newsworks called Gift Horse, another essay on friendship, click on this link and you will see a photo of an “ugly Christmas sweater”:

One thought on “Sun. Aug. 2nd-National Friendship Day: Step-Friendships and my article on Newsworks

  1. Enjoyed your article very much. Many thanks for the “honorable mention” my real friend!

    It seems to me that if we have a handful of “real friends” in our lifetime, we are lucky. I feel grateful to include you in that group

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