By Baila Sebrow

Question
I very much want to meet a man and get married, but I am having problems with that, and I think the reason is because I am no longer religious. I eat kosher for the most part, but I don’t keep Shabbos at all. I do want my children to be raised with a Jewish identity, though. Since I was raised religious and went to religious all-girls schools, I would like to meet a man with the same type of background, who is also not religious anymore.

I am 32, I have a great profession, and I own my apartment, but I’m having a tough time finding a decent man. I’m serious about marriage, so I’m not into the bar scene. On weekends, I usually just hang out with my friends and chill. I’m not ready to become religious again, and I feel that if I meet a man who is religious, he will want me to become that way. Are there couples where the wife is not religious, but the husband is? I kind of feel that might be more feasible. I see that the people I know who are religious are married. My parents tell me that until I become religious again, I won’t get married. That really hurts. Are they right?
Answer

It seems to me that you left out a big chunk of your life experiences—the parts when you were religious and when you made the choice to not be observant anymore. It may or may not make a difference regarding what I will advise you. And since we are not sitting across from each other where I have the liberty of asking you questions to clarify your story, I will try my best to assist you with the bits and pieces you have given me.

It sounds like you have been through some challenges, yet you are doing your best to hold on to your heritage. I admire you so very much for that. Wanting to instill within your children the identity of their roots even though you no longer connect with the observant community is huge. You are also intelligent, and you realize that your best chance to achieve that goal is to marry a man who was also raised religiously and educated similarly to your family’s hashkafah, yet, for whatever reason, he veered off. But you already know that such aspirations are not necessarily easy to attain, because each case, although seemingly parallel, is still different.

Irrespective of what turned you off, you don’t want to make that your living legacy. The problem is that many people who leave the religious fold go through life with a hatred for anything religious (unlike you). That hatred is not only apt to stay within them for life, but they make sure that everyone they come into contact with will be made aware of their abhorrence.

Please understand that I am not blaming people who are living in such circumstances. It must have taken much pain and disappointment to trigger that decision. But, at the same time, we cannot deny that these people typically have no interest in maintaining any connection to their heritage. That said, a man who despises his heritage cannot be compatible with you. You might initially find an attraction to each other due to shared experiences, but, ultimately, it will come to either you or the relationship being destroyed.

The other issue, as you mentioned, is that many singles in your situation are into the bar scene. But even if not, a great percentage are not committing to marriage anytime soon. They might say they want to, but any person dealing with unresolved conflicts is not ready to get married or stay married.

Let’s delve into the point you made about marrying a religious man while you remain irreligious. You question whether such a marriage can work. Anything is possible, and no one truly knows what goes on behind any couple’s closed doors, but here are my thoughts. If it would be the other way around, then there would be an easier adjustment period. Meaning, if a religious woman marries an irreligious man, the chances of maintaining a religious home is greater.

Realistically speaking, and not to sound politically incorrect, but it is the wife who sets the tone for Yiddishkeit. It is the wife who lights candles, observes and takes on most of the responsibility for taharas ha’mishpachah, keeps the home kosher, and usually ends up having a big say in the upbringing of the children. Not only that, but mothers are also prominent role models in the home. I am not undermining the position of the husband and father, as he unquestionably is part of the family’s foundation, but when the wife is violating commandments that the husband cannot and will not accept, the marriage will, in most cases, dissolve. If you are insinuating that you are thinking of dating a religious man and perhaps convincing him that you will be religious, yet you may go back to the way you were, surely you realize that you are asking for trouble.

It appears that you have a relationship with your parents. I am not sure how healthy it is at this point, but at least you have communication with them, thank G-d. Please keep that up, and if you have any other family members you might have a fondness for, see if you can include them in your life, too.

I do not agree with your parents that you will only get married if you become religious. They are likely saying that not because they want to hurt you, but as their tactic to convince you to become religious again. Or it could be that they really believe that a religious man will be more inclined to have an interest in marriage. What would be wonderful is if you could meet a man who is similar to the way you are now, and you both find your way back to the beauty of religion.

Your mission to get married consists of taking a direct approach. You will need to reach out to people who are connected to singles who are religion-friendly, or even those who are religious yet open-minded, approachable, and welcoming. It could be a Chabad house near you, or any other establishment, or even just a spiritual person with whom you can form a friendly rapport and who will understand you but will never judge you. See if you can get invited for a meal there and find out if they will have other young people in attendance at the same time. Whether you meet a man to date in such a surrounding or even if you just network with like-minded people, that will ultimately be very beneficial to you.

The other option you can try is matchmakers. You might think that a matchmaker only deals with religious singles exclusively, but you never know. By explaining who you are and where you are coming from, an idea might pop into someone’s head. In addition, there are events where ba’alei teshuvah and also traditional or not-yet-traditional marriage-minded Jewish singles are welcome to join. You might want to scout the various events that are advertised on social-media sites that catch your eye.

Finding a compatible man to date is only half the journey towards marriage. Each case that might appear similar to your current state may feel like compatibility; however, whatever happened to him along the way is also coming along with him into the marriage. You need to find out as much as you can about his past prior to meeting you, just like any other person should. I am saying this to you because people who have gone through painful experiences tend to be more liberal about someone else’s past, particularly if they really like and care about the person they are dating. It is also important that you don’t make any rash decisions. Introduce him to the people in your life to see what type of impression he is making on others. Keep an open mind when you hear what they say.

I will leave you with one final point. Whatever it is you need to accomplish in a proactive way will involve the assistance of other people. That said, any person who will help you achieve your goals and aspirations should be someone who treats you with love, kindness, and respect. No one has the right to preach to you or rebuke you regardless of how much they will do for you or how good and selfless their intentions are. Whatever it is that turned you off to religion, I hope that you find a comfortable path that will bring peace and happiness into your life.

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. Read more of Baila Sebrow’s articles.

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