By Baila Sebrow
I am a 32-year-old man. I don’t live in a large Jewish community, and finding someone to date has not been easy for me. I work long hours in my family business, so traveling to New York on weekends for first dates that usually end up going nowhere is not a great option.
A few months ago I met a girl, also 32, through a Zoom dating event, and we really hit it off. The best part is that she is willing to move to my city where I need to stay for my business. We had our first few dates on Zoom and continued to date that way until we both felt sure that this was something special. I flew in to New York several times, and she always insisted that we meet at a specific place. We would talk about my lack of dates, and she would talk about how difficult it is to find someone to go out with. I never understood why. She’s a pretty girl, dresses beautifully, and has a great job and many friends.
Whenever I asked to meet her parents, she always came up with an excuse for why it’s not a good idea. We started discussing marriage as the next step, and still she did not want me to meet her parents. One day I decided to surprise her, and I showed up at her home. Her mother opened the door and invited me in. I met her parents, and, I am sorry for saying this, but there is something off about them (the mother more than the father). Their apartment was a complete mess and it smelled. My girlfriend had gone to the grocery store, and when she came home and found me sitting there, she lost it and started to cry. She said that I invaded her privacy. I took her out for dinner and apologized to her, and she accepted my apology.
When I flew back home, I told my parents what had happened. They decided to make a few phone calls to find out about her family, and the information they received was very bad. I don’t know what to do at this point. It’s not that my parents are forbidding me from marrying her, but they say that a girl who comes from such a background must be unwell, too, and that she is hiding it till we get married. They are also worried that I will have to take care of her parents later on when they get old. What is your opinion?
There are times when I receive letters about tragic circumstances; before I even reply, I oftentimes cry, allowing my emotions to escape first so that I can place myself in an impartial position to best assist the person. While your situation is not of catastrophic proportions, baruch Hashem, my heart breaks for the young lady in question, and so I am treating your query in the same way as the sort of letter that brings me to tears.
On the exterior, your girlfriend seems to have it all, but inside she is broken, and from what you are saying, it is no fault of her own. Children do not pick their parents, nor do they have any control as to how their parents will raise them and conduct their household. Your girlfriend is totally blameless in that regard. Based on the report your parents received about her family, I can only imagine the rejections this young lady was forced to endure. That she shared with you her inability to find dates is an understatement.
I am sure that whatever is really going on in her home was exaggerated many times over by so-called do-gooders who were her references. And I have no doubt that these people did not take the time to assist this young lady in finding a compatible match that is centered on her own merits and accomplishments. But Hashem runs this world, and He is the One Who is mezaveig zivugim, and so the situation was set in place so that the two of you would have the opportunity to meet and get to know one another before you heard negative information about her family. Such states of affairs are always the workings of Yad Hashem. Please bear that in mind as you consider any future with her.
I am happy to hear that your parents will not stand in your way of your desire to marry the young lady. It is understandable that they are concerned about her family and the impact her upbringing will have on your married life. Furthermore, their fear that you will have to take care of her parents in the future is something that I agree could be a possibility, and it must be discussed with your girlfriend. It is essential to find out where she stands on this issue, and if in fact it could become a significant matter, what sort of plan of action will be instituted at such time.
It is important to note that dating events via Zoom have taken off in a big way, at first as a result of COVID. What I have found fascinating is that the interest in such venues among singles has not waned, even though, at present, in-person events are taking place. It gives singles the opportunity to meet others who are like-minded, where previously they felt they had nowhere else to turn. Not only that, but singles are finding that long-distance dating or even in-town dating is so much more convenient than the standard mode of meeting in person. Singles have been developing long-term relationships that lead to marriage because of the ease and convenience that Zoom dating offers.
However, with every benefit, sometimes there are risks, too. While I am a strong advocate of Zoom dating events in conjunction with in-person events, I am skeptical about developing deep relationships that are based off an on-screen romance. There is something to be said about direct eye contact and body language that is almost impossible to pick up from your computer screen. Sadly, there have been divorces resulting from quick engagements where the couples decided after a few Zoom sessions that they found “the one.” Even when they meet in person, the problem is that if romantic feelings have escalated, then even if something peculiar or troubling is identified on a date, it is oftentimes dismissed.
What I am about to discuss has nothing to do with her parents. My question is: How well do you know this young lady? How much quality time have you spent with her? I can understand her shame when she found you sitting in her untidy home. Quite frankly, that was wrong of you. You should not have shown up there without prior warning. The tidiest homes may not always look their best, and when people want to make a good impression on somebody important, they need the chance to do whatever it takes to achieve that.
The objective right now is for both of you to discover whether you are emotionally compatible with each other. It does not sound like you spent much time together in person. Give yourselves that opportunity. It is also vital that you get the chance to view her interactions with other people, especially family members and friends. Do not hold her parents’ upkeep of their apartment against your girlfriend, and if she feels ashamed about it, respect her feelings. However, that does not mean that you should not have ample occasion to spend time with them. Invite her parents to join you both for a cup of coffee or someplace else that is quiet to get to know them better. These people will one day be your in-laws and grandparents of your children, G-d willing, if you marry the young lady. There needs to be a certain comfort level, but, more importantly you need to see if you are feeling OK with the way she treats her parents. In addition, invite her to meet your parents so that she is offered the same privilege.
When you marry someone, you are not just forming a future with that person but taking on her history, too. Despite popular belief, you are not just marrying an individual; you are marrying the entire family and everyone important in the person’s life. Even if you have little to do with them in the future, they will always be part of the marital picture. I wish that more people would adapt that viewpoint before marriage to lessen disappointments later on.
Nobody is perfect, and nobody comes with a completely perfect set of circumstances. It comes down to whether you can live with a particular person’s imperfections and his or her imperfect circumstances. That is how one determines whether a shidduch is a perfect match.
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.