By Baila Sebrow
My single friends and I are women in our mid- to late-twenties, with professional careers, and we are wondering about a few things. For example, at what point do we start going out with divorced guys, whether they have kids or not? If we don’t get married by 30, should we say yes to dating plumbers, etc.? Also, everyone keeps saying that if we don’t get married by 30, we should start looking into freezing our eggs, or guys our age won’t go out with us. Is this something we really need to do?
We have all been dating since we got back from our year in seminary, but we never found what we were looking for. People call us “older girls,” and we hate going to shul for that reason. We kind of liked it when all the shuls were shut during COVID. It’s very painful to be with people who look at us like there is something wrong with us. We want to get married, which is why we even talk to these people, because they do introduce us to men, but it’s not too encouraging to be around them either, even though we know that they really mean well. Is it true that older girls have to settle if they want to get married?
Simply put, you should not do something you don’t want to do. For starters, I recommend that you find a different group of advisers regarding life decisions, particularly where it involves marriage and medical procedures.
I don’t know what type of community you are living in, but from the way you are describing your apprehension about going to shul because of the way people view your singlehood, I cannot believe that these are the kind of people competent enough to find you a shidduch compatible with your needs. To successfully assist a single man or woman with finding his or her bashert, the shadchan needs to understand where the person is coming from. The shadchan (professional or not) needs to feel and breathe the yearning of the single person and believe in him or her with full care, kindness, and compassion. People shouldn’t feel compelled to judge you or lecture you on what they deem is right for you at any given time. The person assisting you with a shidduch has no business doing anything but suggesting shidduchim and keeping the focus on the goal of getting you to the chuppah.
I will offer my advice on the two topics you brought up. With regard to you and your friends dating a divorced man, such a recommendation should not be made because anyone feels that you are getting older. That is absurd. If you prefer to date only never-married men, there are plenty of such types available. But if you are open to dating men who have been previously married, you need to walk into that situation with your eyes wide open and with full comprehension of where they are coming from in life as opposed to where you are standing.
There are well-meaning people who might also suggest divorced men to young ladies because they do not consider the divorced status as something that defines the person being suggested, and it also increases the pool of single men in your age bracket. I am mentioning this to you so that you understand that suggestions you might not agree with do not always come from a bad place.
There are many wonderful marriageable divorced young men who could have had a bad streak of luck early on in life, or perhaps they got married when they were not emotionally mature enough to handle being a spouse, or a host of other reasons that should not be held against them if they are presently healthy, sincere, and in a good place. However, there are realities that a young lady will have to face if she commits to that type of relationship. Unlike a never-married person, the previously married person has an ex-spouse, and if there are children there will usually be ongoing communications between the ex-spouses.
For somebody who has not experienced marriage and children, the interaction with a past marriage can oftentimes cause resentment. And if the children have an issue with the stepparent, in terms of accepting the new person in the parent’s life, it may heavily impact on the shalom bayis. There are also financial matters to bear in mind. If a man is supporting children from his previous marriage, unless he is super-wealthy, there is only so much cash to go around. In other words, he will have less money to spend on a new wife and children. All these situations are real facts of life that need to be considered and addressed before a never-married person decides to think about dating somebody who is divorced.
And now for the once-taboo subject that has become table conversation in many frum homes and social circles: egg freezing. It has gotten to the point that unmarried women in their thirties and older who volunteer the personal information that they froze their eggs are actually considered more marriageable in the eyes of some shadchanim and men. I have been told that there are rabbanim who advocate for this procedure for women who are still in their early thirties. The encouragement for this procedure is coming from a place of concern that if marriage will be delayed for a long period of time, harvesting one’s eggs will hopefully ensure that the couple will not deal with infertility complications when they do marry. Many of the rabbanim confer with doctors who agree that the optimal time for a woman to freeze her eggs is in her early thirties.
Whether a woman decides to freeze her eggs or not should be a personal decision, and not based on others’ expectations. Moreover, this is not a subject matter that she should be sharing with any shadchan. It is nobody’s business but her own, though if the topic comes up in a relationship with a man about whom she is serious, that would be the time to discuss it. I reiterate that you should not feel pressured to freeze your eggs, but if you ever do consider it, please educate yourself about the procedure.
You need to understand that it is a medical process, and not as simple as those who encourage it make it out to be. Based on your own medical history, find out if there are any risks specific to your case. Speak to other women who have successfully gone through it and ask them how they felt after the hormone shots and the retrieval of the eggs. And of course, the cost factor is something to consider as well. You might want to investigate insurance coverage for the medications. This is also not a one-time procedure either. You may need to do this four times, and though most people don’t talk about it, there is no guarantee on how long the eggs will be sustainable. At the end of the day, if this is not for you, do not give in to pressure or scare tactics about loss of fertility as time goes on.
That brings me to the issue you brought up early in your letter. From what you are saying, you are looking to meet somebody compatible in terms of education and intellect. You ask if you should just date a “plumber” once you reach the age of 30. I can’t tell you who to date, but since you are describing the plumbing profession in a disparaging way, I can’t let that slide flippantly. It’s a shame that people are stigmatized by their jobs, education, and age. You and your friends make mention that people refer to you as “older girls.” Whenever I hear anyone say that about a young lady who is not married by a certain age, I don’t let them get away with such a rude, distasteful label. So please forgive me for not giving you a free pass for your negative insinuation that dating a plumber implies that a young lady is “settling.” Plumbing is an honest, lucrative profession. With that said, it is within your right and privilege to marry a man whose occupation you feel is compatible with yours.
This leads me to addressing your last question wherein you reference “older girls” and ask if they should settle in order to get married. That is the wrong question. Finding someone to marry is about being realistic. Ask yourself if who you are and what you are bringing into the marriage is comparable with the type of man you want. Oftentimes it is assumed that women or men who married somebody different than what they originally were looking ended up settling. But in most cases that is not true. There reaches a point in a dating person’s life when he or she comes to the realization about what he or she truly needs in a spouse that would ultimately bring happiness. It could take many dating experiences, or even a bad relationship, for reality to finally sink in. Sometimes it’s about reaching a certain level of maturity. You and your friends need to honestly establish if all these years of dating have just been a dating game for you.
The fact that you reached out to me gives me cause to believe that you are more than eager to be married. When you meet a man compatible with your needs, the most important factor is your mutual respect for one other. If you can both say with confidence that even if you disagree on something, you still admire and validate each other, you have found success. The perfect spouse is the person who makes you feel happy, safe, and secure.
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. Baila also hosts The Definitive Rap podcast for vinnews.com and Israel News Talk Radio. Questions and comments for the Dating Forum can be submitted to email@example.com. Read more of Baila Sebrow’s articles at 5TJT.com.