By Baila Sebrow
Question

This is a sensitive issue, and my husband and I can’t talk about it to anyone who knows us, but we both feel the same way about it. We have been married for 35 years. In the beginning it was OK, because we went to our parents, a’h, for Shabbosos and Yomim Tovim. We had children one after the other, and we were so busy raising them that we didn’t feel how incompatible we were until the kids got older. Then we figured that we would wait until all our children are married so that we could get divorced.

Two of our children did get married, but the younger ones are still single. We feel that we are getting older and we were never happy. We both had other chances with people before we met when we were very young, and we feel that now we could go out in the singles scene and start over and be happy in a marriage.

Since divorce is more common today, we want to know if you think it would hurt our children’s chances for finding a good shidduch if we would get divorced. I also see on shidduch applications that they ask if the parents are divorced. Why does that even matter?

Response

Your last two questions are tied in together. I agree with you that divorce is more common today than in years past, and the stigma has lessened to some degree. So, children of divorce do not necessarily face the same problems in shidduchim as in years past. However, in the frum world there are those who still regard divorce as a stigma. To such people, whether the parents are married or divorced makes a huge difference in their acceptance of a match. And that is the reason why certain shidduch applications will ask if the parents are divorced in their questionnaire.

Your story is very sad, and I cannot comment on the decision that you and your husband made previously to stay together for the sake of your children. I will respond to your present situation. Whatever is wrong with your marriage, I do feel that you are both fortunate to have communication and willingness to decide amicably. Not every couple contemplating divorce has that type of relationship. So, before I advise you on how to help your children find a shidduch, or offer tips on how to navigate the shidduch process when one’s parents are divorced, I want to focus on you and your husband first.

I am not a marriage counselor, but as a shadchan who deals with all ages, including middle-aged divorced people, you need to hear the inside scoop of what really goes on not just in the singles scene, but behind the scenes in that arena.

You seem confident that once you have your divorce, happiness is yours for the taking. Please take this piece of advice. Unless your marriage is unbearable, the grass of a newly single person is not greener. On the contrary, you will likely be walking over to a dark side of life.

When people decide to get married for the first time, the emphasis that dating young couples have is mostly on each other. Attraction, mutual interests, and the ability to get along with one another are the factors that contribute to choosing whether or not to marry someone. Those aspects are important in marriages of every age, but among middle-aged people that is not always enough. There are outside forces that will wreck the best dating relationships. It could be a child from either partner who might disapprove of the person his or her parent is dating. Sometimes it is an elderly parent who never got over their adult child’s divorce and can be resentful of the new person becoming a daughter or son-in-law. However, in the majority of cases, it is usually a child who has the most influence on his or her parent in a relationship with someone new. And trying to win an endorsement from a person who sees you as the enemy is no enviable feat.

But that does not even scratch the surface of the problems that are out there. You say that you and your husband had chances with others when you were younger and before you met each other. Please forgive me, as I don’t mean to sound cruel, but while that’s all great for walking down memory lane, do not kid yourself into thinking that there will be a line out the door of eligible suitors waiting to marry you. Most people in your age bracket are not as eager as their younger counterparts to get married. That is because both men and women can be afraid to remarry, although it’s more common among men.

Anyone who has been through a divorce after a long marriage is shell-shocked. For someone to have reached the point of divorce, there has to have been a certain amount of emotional trauma. No one gets divorced because they are in love and they think that the person they are married to is wonderful. If that were to be the case, they would stay married. That said, whatever was wrong with the spouse they divorced can sometimes make them fearful that the next person will turn out to be the same. That is also why you hear about middle-aged people who will run from relationship to relationship, none of which culminate in a marriage, or, if it does, they divorce again.

Then there is the issue of money. There are multiple reasons why finances get in the way where a subsequent marriage is concerned. Prenups do not necessarily calm the nerves of every person. There are many variables where it relates to assets and funds. And money is another big contributing factor in commitment phobia.

There is no question that divorced women experience more challenges than divorced men. While there are middle-aged people remarrying, the statistics are not too high. Even if things work in your favor, and you happen to meet someone who sweeps you off your feet, please realize that no human being is free from faults. It usually means that you might be trading in one set of problems for another. With that said, if you and your husband could possibly manage to find a way to make your marriage work, I highly recommend that you both do your due diligence in trying to save your marriage.

If you are determined to get divorced after all your children are married, there is something that does nag at me. Do you realize how deceptive that is to the mechutanim and the in-law children? I am familiar with such cases where the parents play the charade of a happy family in order to make good shidduchim for their children. Then, not too much later after the wedding, the parents split up. No one likes to be made a fool. So I do not recommend doing that. If you need to end your marriage, avoid dragging innocent people into a game of deception.

My concern for your children is not whether they will get married if you get divorced, but rather if they know how to relate to a spouse. I don’t know what they witnessed while growing up. There are times when children who were raised in homes where there was discord between the parents may have a negative attitude towards relationships and marriage. You don’t state how old your single children are, what their position is in all that you and your husband are contemplating, and how they dealt with the climate in the home while growing up. It’s not always what’s going on in the environment that can have an effect on people (especially children), but how the situation is dealt with.

Did you and your husband demonstrate disdain for one another all these years, or were you able to maintain an emotionally safe, happy, and secure environment for your children? If they saw loathing between their parents, then I recommend that you get them some therapy before worrying if anyone will marry a child from a divorced home.

Children of divorced homes can and do get married. They may not marry into families that have a problem with it and who will disapprove of them, but if they want to get married and are open-minded, it will happen for them just like anyone else.

Baila Sebrow is president of Neshoma Advocates, communications and recruitment liaison for Sovri-Beth Israel, executive director of Teach Our Children, and a shadchanis and shidduch consultant. She can be reached at Bsebrow@aol.com. Questions and comments for the Dating Forum can be submitted to 5townsforum@gmail.com.

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