Dear Jewish Food Hero,
I feel guilty saying this, but I really don’t enjoy Purim. It’s supposed to be a fun, happy holiday, but it’s ruined every year by the fact that my husband gets drunk pretty early in the day and I get stuck with the all the responsibilities – sending out Mishloach Manot*, cooking for the meal, taking care of the kids, serving the meal, cleaning up, etc. And on top of all of that, I have to keep an eye on him, to make sure he doesn’t do anything dangerous. All the joy of the holiday is lost on me and I start dreading it around Tu B’Shvat!
How can I make Purim better this year? Do you have any tips for connecting to the essence of the holiday in spite of the situation?
From: Jewish woman looking for a Purim miracle
*Mishloach manot (Hebrew: משלוח מנות literally, “sending of portions”; also called a Purim basket, are gifts of food or drink that are sent to family, friends and others on Purim day. The mitzvah of giving mishloach manot derives from the Book of Esther. It is meant to ensure that everyone has enough food for the Purim feast held later in the day, and to increase love and friendship among Jews and their neighbors.
Dear Jewish woman looking for a Purim miracle:
It is no wonder that you are not enjoying your Purim experience. It sounds like you are alone taking care of your children and all the holiday responsibilities while your husband is drinking.
Although you did not write this, I imagine that you might feel resentment towards your husband. You might be asking yourself, “Who made the rule that my husband gets to be the ‘special person’ during Purim (or any other time for that matter) while I do all the work alone?” and/or “Why do I always have to do everything?”
It sounds like your secret wish is that you and your husband worked as a team during Purim so that you could both observe and enjoy the holiday. Underneath your words, it sounds like you wished the holiday was not centered around your husband’s drinking. You might be wishing that his actions demonstrated that he cares about your holiday experience as much as his own.
Good to Know: While drinking is considered an integral part of the Purim celebration, it’s not mandatory, and getting drunk is certainly not required. It’s possible to get tipsy enough to enhance enjoyment without drinking too much. The main time for drinking is at the Purim feast itself, so there is no reason to start drinking first thing in the morning (or the night before).
The Jewish holidays can often feel stressful and out of your control, filled with obligations and activities that you don’t exactly feel inspired by, but also don’t feel empowered to change.
I believe that no matter what our level of observance, each of us has the right and opportunity to make changes in how we observe the holidays based on our unique preferences. Added to this, each of us can request that others make behavior changes to accommodate our needs.
For my response, I am going to assume that this problem between you and your husband is solvable. In reality, this circumstance might be reflective of a larger ever-present issue about inequality in your marriage, your being the over-functioning person in this relationship, and/or about your ability to skillfully communicate your needs to your husband.
To create a new Purim experience, center yourself and set some intentions for the experience you’ll create for yourself and your family. Find a quiet space to pause, take a deep breath, and answer the prompts below. Plan to respond to these questions before you start planning your holiday, and return to your answers as needed during the planning process in order to ground yourself.
Purim Intention Prompts
How do I want to feel during Purim?
What are my three priorities for Purim?
What three things will I do during Purim to enjoy the holiday?
What three actions could my husband take leading up to and during Purim that would make me feel supported during this holiday?
What specific holiday tasks and activities do I want my husband to help me with BEFORE he starts drinking on Purim?
For me, it would be better if my husband started drinking on Purim at this time:
For me, I would prefer if my husband drinks like this: (Specifically, how much alcohol do I think he should drink? When do you want him to stop drinking? What is the worst part of him being drunk during the holiday?)
What do I want my husband and I to agree to in advance of the holiday so that I do not need to worry about him while he is drinking (i.e. leaving his car keys at home, sleeping over at the location where he is drinking, etc)
After you answer these prompts, you can have an intentional conversation with your husband and request behavior changes before and during Purim based on your preferences.
Positive Conversation Tips (These tips are inspired by my favorite guide to making marriage work.)
- Begin your conversation with a “soft start up.” This means that you begin with positive words and body language. For example, “It would mean a lot to me if we could take some alone time this week to plan our Purim schedule together” is softer than “You never help me during Purim! This year, I am not doing everything on Purim because you are too busy drinking!”
- The opposite of the “soft start-up” is the “harsh start-up.” The “harsh start-up” is one that is loaded with negative power and energy. Starting this conversation (any conversation!) with a “harsh start-up” basically dooms the conversation to spiral into more negativity and fail to bring about positive changes in behavior or feelings.
- Say please and thank you! Men and women don’t respond well to being “bossed around” in their intimate relationships. Saying “please” and “thank you” can keep your behaviour requests from sounding like “demands” and “orders” in his head. We tend to speak calmly and use positive language with our friends and we can do the same with our partners to achieve best results.
You can reimagine your Purim. Answer the prompts above and initiate a positive conversation about changing the way Purim unfolds between you and your husband.
The silver lining in this experience might be self learning and behavior change. You are learning about, and creating behavior changes in, yourself, your relationship with your husband and the marriage you share and co-create.
May you find renewed joy in Purim and your marriage,
Jewish Food Hero