I am a frum, modern-yeshivish girl in my early thirties. I’ve never been married, but baruch Hashem I never knew from “the shidduch crisis.” Since coming home from seminary years ago, I have always gotten many dates. A few times things looked like they were heading in the direction of marriage, but then either the guy broke it off or I did. I was also engaged once but broke it off close to the wedding.
Getting older makes it a little harder to find guys my own age to date, so people started suggesting that I consider going out with guys who are divorced. I had no problem with it, as long as there are no children.
A few months ago, I met an interesting guy. He was different from everyone else I had dated. He has children, but despite my misgivings we started going out–and I fell in love with him.
He is perfect in every way. He is a lawyer, and is also kovei’a itim. He is handsome. Our dates go on for many hours. The connection is strong, and I feel that this guy is the one.
My parents hate him and are against this relationship. They won’t even let him into our house anymore. They insist that I should break up with him; they don’t trust him, because he was married more than once. They say if it were only one time, they would have no problem with him.
There is so much tension at home that I try not to be there too much, especially on Shabbos.
The guy and I both don’t see what the big deal is all about. Each marriage was short. I don’t want to break up with him. What can I do to convince my parents?
By Baila Sebrow
What does “more than once” mean? How many times was this guy married? And the fact that the marriages were short should be of major concern to you, as I am sure it is to your parents. Furthermore, his priorities and intentions need to be questioned.
Although divorce has become too common in our circles, it should still be alarming when someone has been through more than one divorce. I am not suggesting that this guy was at fault in any of those marital relationships–and you will almost certainly never find out the true details of his marriages and the circumstances that led to the divorces. When inquiring about why someone got divorced, the answer you get is usually based on opinion, rather than fact. In this case, because there is more than one marriage, you will get many opinions and commentaries. Ultimately, that will leave you feeling more confused.
You might not think his former marriages are a “big deal,” either because you are so taken by him, or perhaps since you have never been married yourself. However, his casual attitude about it is what I find disturbing. At least in terms of how it must have affected his children, I would expect this guy to acknowledge the seriousness of the situation.
People may no longer bat an eyelash when hearing about some Hollywood stars who go in and out of marriages quickly, but the frum society of which this guy is a member does not take such things lightly. And he should know that.
In the real world, divorce is a shattering and life-altering experience for men and women alike. This guy’s behavior is demonstrating that either he is not in touch with his feelings, or that he might be disconnected from the reality of the society he is living in.
While divorce is unfortunately common nowadays amongst frum young people who marry quickly, there is usually a valid reason for it–at least for the spouse who wants out of the marriage. The fact that this guy was in and out of marriages–in a short span of time–is a major cause for concern and should be red-flagged.
In the best of circumstances, if you find out that this guy was not at fault in any of those terminated marriages, you should still be on high alert. Observe his behavior. Does he demonstrate any impulsive tendencies? Observe his manner of speech. Does he express himself in an exaggerated or dramatic tone? People who communicate in such a style tend to have a hard time gaining the trust of others. Furthermore, you need to tune in and focus on subtle signs, such as whether he consistently finds fault in others or cuts down their achievements.
You can’t really blame your parents for being concerned about this relationship. You have been dating this guy for a few months. In normal circumstances that would probably be enough time to determine mutual compatibility. But, based on what you are saying, I am not convinced that the compatibility factor is there.
The two of you are coming from polar opposites. While you were likely living a happy-go-lucky lifestyle, this guy was battling it out in marriages, and not existing in a functional way of life.
In addition to searching for a way to obtain your parents’ approval of him, your writing this letter also tells me that you might be privately questioning this guy’s past. At the same time, you are trying to dismiss any doubts you may have.
It is natural for a person in love to view the relationship through rose-colored lenses. It is expected that you would be sugarcoating any shortcomings you might perceive, because this guy seems to otherwise present the qualities you seek in a husband.
From your experiences in the dating world and your previous engagement relationship, you understand that people present themselves in the best possible light when dating. Few people have the courage to “let their hair down” and act like themselves while on a date, regardless of how many times they’ve gone out.
Although you say that you were popular on the dating scene, the fact is that you have been dating into your early thirties. Breaking your engagement close to your wedding, even if it was your decision, must have been painful. So, while it is true that you did not experience the actual “shidduch crisis” like that of your counterparts, you endured personal anguish of a different nature in your search to find your bashert. And finally this guy comes along who appears to have what you have been seeking for all these years. Being experienced in relationships, he knows how to “talk the talk and walk the walk” to get a girl interested.
So it’s no surprise that you would feel inclined to make excuses for any slightly disturbing clues you might have noticed. And the more your parents oppose him, the more you feel the need to build him. You want prove to everyone that this guy is perfect. You also wish that he will turn out to be as perfect as you inform everyone.
My advice is for you to explain to this guy that nowadays it has become popular for frum couples to seek premarital counseling. Coming from where he has been, such a request might make him go into a defensive mode. Therefore, you must stress to this guy that you are concerned about both of you and any issues that might need ironing out. I am certain that once the two of you are in therapy together, you will have more clarity about yourself, this guy, and relationships in general. Of utmost concern is that you do not get engaged to him before you seek objective professional help. Find a reputable therapist you are comfortable with who has experience in this area and allow yourself to be guided accordingly.
Baila Sebrow is president of Neshoma Advocates, communications and recruitment liaison for Sovri-Beth Israel, executive director of Teach Our Children, and a shadchanis. She can be reached at Bsebrow@aol.com. v
Questions and comments can be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org.