By Baila Sebrow

Question

Love has no age. There are many women who remain single for 10–20 years; what a loss! Not because they have not found quality men, but because they want younger men. Age does not make for a good relationship, as numerous same-age couples divorce. It is the man’s character that makes a woman happy, and vice versa. An honest, hardworking, caring, Torah-abiding man is not to be undervalued or passed up. To remain single for 10–20 years when one could be quite happy during that time is a tragic crime.

Marrying an older man with fine character is a definite gain, while holding out many years for a “possibility” that may not come definitely forfeits the present and possibly also the future.

Is there any loss in marrying an older man? Will he die before you? Perhaps he will. But that’s only a maybe, and you can always remarry, whereas rejecting a good man now who is real and in front of you is a definite loss.

My advice is not to forfeit a reality now for a “maybe” much later.

Torah is timeless. To say that large age gaps between spouses was only fitting back then is foolish. People have not changed throughout time… As the Patriarchs and Matriarchs cared nothing about age, and enjoyed life with spouses decades older or younger, we today are the same. This is a Torah lesson. And ponder this: if your beloved spouse found out that he or she was much older or younger than he or she believed, that would not change your feelings. A birthdate is not what the person is. Care more about character, and you will find someone sooner.

Do you agree with this?

Response

What you are saying about love having no age makes perfect sense—usually on paper only. You come across as an intelligent person, so I am sure you can appreciate my instinctive reaction.

Here is the real scoop. Choosing a spouse is one of the most important decisions a person will have to make in his or her lifetime. Getting married does not equate with buying a material item in that you might love your purchase and feel happy you were lucky enough to find such a bargain, but in the back of your mind you make peace with the idea that if it no longer suits you, you can discard it. Granted, there are people who enter the union of marriage with such an unhealthy notion. But for the most part, people take this significant milestone seriously.

When you are sincere about something that matters in your life, you take into account that whatever decision you make will have a vital impact on generations to come. You are not just marrying someone to share your life with. Rather, you and your spouse become the foundation of your lineage. I am not only referring to the act of choosing someone to have children with. How one feels about the person he or she is married to impacts on the future. I will explain what I mean by that. We have all heard of couples in years past who had a reputation for disliking one another, or that one of the spouses disapproved of the other. There are many well-known jokes about such relationships. Why anyone would want to push for a relationship where it is common knowledge that the spouse is not looking to marry such a person is beyond my scope of understanding.

I can agree that a woman should not carelessly disregard the suggestion of an otherwise compatible man because he might be a few years older than she would have initially wanted. It would be prudent that she look into his qualities and see if perhaps she should give him a chance and get to know him better. However, there is another sensitive aspect to this topic. In all practicality, when there are decades between them, how much compatibility actually exists? It would be a case-by-case situation. Although solid marriages between huge-age-gap couples exist, for the most part, the younger wife feels some dissimilarity as time goes on.

You bring up potent points. Yes, the Torah is most certainly timeless. But here’s what is not timeless: women needing to get married in order to be taken care of. Years ago (and even in certain cultures today), women would specifically seek to marry older men who were financially established. These men were not necessarily super-wealthy, but they were able to provide shelter and food to eat, and they removed the anxiety of having to figure out how to pay for ordinary daily expenses. But these were also women who oftentimes did not have the ability to earn as much as a man. And even when it was not for practical money matters, society at one time believed that an older man makes for a better husband.

Fast-forward to the society we are living in today. There is no profession from which a woman is excluded. Women are pursuing higher education more so than in years past. There are graduate programs that have a high female-to male student ratio. Not only that, but the longer a woman remains single, the more she will typically advance herself and the less she will feel the need to marry a man with whom she has little in common. Also, the more educated she is, the more she expects, at least intellectually, from the man she will spend the rest of her life with. The sense of mutual compatibility is of utmost importance to an intelligent and sophisticated woman.

Almost every day I get requests from very mature men to introduce them to women 15–20 years younger than them. Their reasons range from wanting a woman who is of childbearing age to the matter-of-fact justification that they are only attracted to young women. Please understand that I am not faulting any man for his desires. He is as much entitled to want what he wants as a woman is to refuse.

I will share with you that in all my years of shadchanus, never have I seen such a number of older men specifically demanding that shadchanim introduce them to much younger women. Some have even shamelessly offered me high sums of money to deliberately lie to young women about their age in order to get a date with them. By the time I am done rebuking these men, they no longer talk to me!

Some women are at fault, too. Plenty of mature women have expressed their wish to marry a younger man. That is also a fairly new trend in the shidduch world amongst women ages 30 and up. They will cite various instances where an older woman married a much younger man. And I know firsthand of such examples, too. Interestingly, however, the women in those cases did not necessarily go looking for it. They just randomly happened to meet one another at a function or informal setting. But when women deliberately build a fence around the ages of the men they will date, that is when they are doing themselves a tremendous disservice as well.

The divorce rate is going up, as is the number of unmarried people. That, my friend, is the tragedy. To say that the women’s unwillingness to marry older men is a tragic crime is a false assumption. No one should be talked into something that feels unpleasant. A young woman feels incredible pain when a shadchan suggests a much older man than she wants. It gives her the impression that she can never aspire to marry the type of man she prefers. If it becomes the woman’s own decision, whereby she meets an older man and happens to like him, that is entirely different. Other than that, one must be sensitive to the feelings of another person, whether it’s the man or woman.

Forgive me, but to keep in line with objectivity, I need to present an option to this predicament. How about if men would start considering women within their own age bracket? Would that be so tragic, according to you? Would that be a crime, in your opinion? Why are men rejecting amazingly accomplished women their age? I think that it is the men who are doing themselves a disservice, too, “for a possibility that may not come, definitely forfeits the present, and possibly also the future,” as you say.

Why are men bypassing bnos Yisrael and leaving them to go into their old age alone? Do you think this is what the Torah wants or encourages? And if you want to start a dialogue about the statistics regarding the age that women can bear children, I will tell you that a G-d-fearing person leaves such matters to Hashem. Life, when it begins or when it ends, chas v’shalom, is in His hands. After all, you do say that if a woman marries an older man and he dies, she can remarry. So why not leave everything else in His hands, too? If we put our trust in Him, as you urge, there is no picking and choosing just to suit our personal desires.

Your last sentence sums up my feelings on this dilemma, as your quote so eloquently states: “Care more about the character, and you will find someone sooner.” Why can’t a man or woman, regardless of age, give each other a chance to get to know one another better? I wholeheartedly agree with you that “a birthdate is not what the person is.”

It works both ways, my friend!

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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