I come from a secular background but I have become more connected with Judaism over the past two years. Now I wrap tefillin, study halachah, and do my best to keep the mitzvot. I am approaching 30, and I am worried about finding my eishet chayil due to my age.
I know that most religious people get married in their twenties. I am worried that a holy woman who didn’t get married by her mid-twenties might have some problems that could make for a less than ideal marriage.
In your opinion, can a ba’al teshuvah in his early thirties find a holy woman in her twenties? I should mention that I am in the process of making aliyah from Spain.
Whenever I suggest to somebody a shidduch of a man or woman past the age of 29, the first questions asked are: “What’s wrong with him or her that he or she is not married yet?” Is he or she normal?” My usual response is: “Is it possible that there are people who rush to get married specifically because there is something wrong with them or something in their family?” Or there are times I need to reply, “Are all married people normal, and would you say that every married person is emotionally healthy?” I am not trying to disparage, G-d forbid, one marital status over another to win an argument. However, it silences those who dare pose such questions long enough for them to think and understand that marital status does not represent superiority in any way, shape, or form. All it means is that a married person is married, and a single person is not married.
Why some people are married while others are not is a case-by-case situation. There’s no one-size-fits-all answer. Some simply don’t feel ready to be married, whether it’s due to a desire to finish their education, concern about earning a substantial living, family obligations of various natures, etc. Then there are people who just endure tremendous challenges in finding their bashert. I want to make it clear that throughout all my years in shadchanus I have met incredibly good-looking, educated, and accomplished singles with beautiful middos, from illustrious families who struggle with finding their soulmate. Many of them desperately wish to be married but have not met the person they connect with on a level that they could marry them. There are those who, after a long wait, will throw in the towel and take the next person who wants them. But in most cases, an emotionally healthy person knows what he or she has to offer and can bring into a relationship and marriage, so he or she will not marry someone just because that person has a beating pulse.
Before I go on to explain some of the challenges that singles deal with, I am taking this opportunity to express my admiration for your commitment to upholding the laws of Judaism, and to wish you mazal tov on your upcoming aliyah. You must have had good role models in accepting the beauty as well as the yoke of Yiddishkeit, and you, as well as those who inspired you to reach such heights, deserve much praise. That said, you have also been made aware of the prejudices in the shidduch scene, too.
When a person wants something very badly regardless of what it may be, it is assumed that all that he or she must do is look for it, and it will be found in a timely manner. Picture that type of scenario when one is looking for his or her bashert.
Due to the fact that you are uprooting to Eretz Yisrael, you will surely appreciate when I tell you that location is sometimes a huge reason why shidduchim do not work out. For those who live in what is not considered the tri-state area or a geographically desirable location, finding somebody compatible is like searching for a needle in a haystack. And even for people who do live in an area that is heavily populated with singles, if a person meets someone they really like from a state or country far away, and neither are able to relocate, the shidduch is off. I am sure you or others might be thinking that location should not be a factor, but there are many components that come into play where the dynamics in somebody’s life make relocation impossible.
Let’s also talk about trust issues. Lots of people, including young singles, have gotten burned; whether it was a result of the person they were dating, or they were misled about information, the level of defensive attitude and mistrust can generate suspiciousness to the point that any hint of untruthfulness or feelings of uneasiness will be cause enough to end a relationship or not consider a particular shidduch in the first place.
Then there are those younger singles who seek to replicate what they saw in their home. I recently had a situation where an accomplished young lady was looking for an equally accomplished guy who, in her words, “will make time for learning even if he is busy, just like my father.” I explained to her that her father is middle-aged and settled in his career and therefore feels more at ease to take on extra obligations than a young man who is just starting out. Thankfully, she took my advice and is getting more open-minded with regard to accepting suggestions that were initially not on her list of choices.
But it could also be about watching parents in a happy, loving marriage, who get along great and have different interests, or may even be from different hashkafic backgrounds. Years ago, it was not uncommon that singles who came from Modern Orthodox, or sometimes non-religious, homes ended up marrying spouses who were raised in homes that were more to the right. Nowadays that is not as common. People reject one another because of a school or camp attended. This is how skewed views have become. I cannot blame the singles in such a circumstance. Rather, I blame society’s concept of compatibility.
I cannot leave out what I refer to as the candy-store phenomenon. It happens very often that a single man or woman could be dating someone wonderful, but the idea that there is a better shidduch out there will oftentimes cause such disruption in their search to the point that it becomes major self-sabotage. I want to mention that there are parents of young singles who are the ones who do that to their children. Meaning, they are always worried that maybe their children could do better than the person they are dating or is suggested to their son or daughter.
There are singles who are trying to find themselves and may have a lot of self-awareness so that they are astute enough to wait until they feel settled in whatever area of their life they realize still needs growth. There are too many unfortunate stories of people who married young, while they were still finding themselves, and the result of such marriages is that the partners grew in opposite directions and the marriage needed to end in divorce.
“Looking for love in all the wrong places,” is another explanation for why young singles marry later. Not every young man or woman has strong enough family connections to be redd shidduchim that are plausible for marriage. I am referring even to families that are well-known in their community. If the children are compatible with shidduchim that are dissimilar to the community they are living in, it does not matter how influential such a family might be. Then there are singles who do not know where to search for a spouse, including which shadchan, dating app, website, or singles events are most suitable for providing the outcome they seek.
I will not discount that there are people who have unrealistic expectations. They might be wonderful otherwise, but based on various subtleties, they cannot marry the type of person they feel is compatible with them. Compromising for such singles is not an option, because to them it might feel as though they are settling. And a shidduch is always a personal decision.
There are certainly many more motives to why singles marry a bit later. However, whatever the reason may be, time marches on and waits for no one. Before you realize it, a week turns to a month, and a month turns to more months and eventually years. Birthdays happen quickly! And as I intimated before, it is a mistake to marry someone randomly, as it will lead to major disappointments later.
Please do not fall into the self-destructive trap of assuming that all the good ones are taken. Look for your eishet chayil. She is out there for you. Sometimes people attract what they demonstrate about themselves. Keep an open mind and realize that not everything that is shiny is gold, and also that some of the most beautiful treasures are hidden for a while and are only exposed to the lucky person worthy of discovering it.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Read more of Baila Sebrow’s articles at 5TJT.com.