By Baila Sebrow

By Baila Sebrow

Question

Do you think it is possible for someone to change? I am having this debate with my friend. My friend dated someone for a short time and married her. He was never married before, though she was. After the wedding, he moved into her house, with her children. He paid all the bills, but he always felt like he was an intruder. She always made him feel like he was living in her house.

One day he offered to build an extension to her house, from his own money, mostly so that he could have his own space. She went loco on him and accused him of trying to steal the house away from her. He tried to calm her down, but before he knew what was happening, she called the police and threw him out of the house. She told the rav who was involved in the get (who told her that what she did was not nice) that she was afraid that unless she did something so drastic she would not have been able to “get rid of him.”

This was a long time ago, and my friend has since remarried and is very happy, baruch Hashem. His ex-wife is till single. Recently, a well-known shadchan who deals with divorced singles has been trying to convince me to go out with her. I agreed to talk to her on the phone, but I never told her that her ex is my friend. Right away she started telling me that she was married for a very short time to a conman. I called my friend, but I didn’t tell him what she said about him. I just asked his opinion on whether I should go out with her. He warned me that she is crazy, and that she would turn on him for the slightest thing that he would do wrong. This woman is gorgeous, and I think I should try. He didn’t really talk me out of dating her, but he did warn me. I told him that people can change. He does not think it is possible, but if I want to date her, he said that he is not against it. What do you think?

Response

There are a few things going on here with respect to this woman. In answer to your question about people changing, that depends on what needs changing. But before we get into that, you need to accept that people will not change anything about themselves unless they agree that a change is called for. That also includes health habits. If a person is not living a healthy lifestyle, where he deliberately eats the wrong foods and refuses to exercise, then even if his health takes a major nosedive, he’ll blame the consequences of his negative behavior on something else. However, with proper medical guidance, including mental-health therapy, it is possible to undo certain patterns of thoughts, which will ultimately change the negative behaviors. Bear in mind, though, that it still comes down to accepting that change is necessary, and when that happens, the person is the one who needs to reach out for help. When it comes to changing a personality or character trait, though it is possible with personal introspection and mental-health counseling and management, the person needs to first recognize that he or she must change.

Based on what you shared with me, it does not seem that this woman believes that she needs to change in any way. You stated that within a few minutes of speaking to her on the phone, she disparaged her ex-husband, going so far as to call him a conman. That is a very serious accusation. Not only that, but having been friends with her ex-husband, you were aware of the circumstances of their marriage before you spoke to her. Although we never know all the details of anyone’s marriage because much of what happens remains hidden behind closed doors, for a wife who was not abused by her husband to call the police and have him thrown out is an ugly action. There is no way to sugarcoat that.

It is evident that you are very taken by her beauty, and so you are trying to find a way to have a relationship with a woman who has proven herself to not be a good person. That said, what you are really asking is if it is possible for you not to become her next victim. So, let’s examine her actions for a minute. When a couple gets divorced, regardless of the reason, their relationship is over. If they share children together, or if one of the partners is still supporting the other, there will always be an attachment of sorts. However, in the case of your friend and this woman in question, the marriage was brief, she threw him out, got her get as she wanted, and he moved on. She should be very happy with the outcome. So why is she still bearing such animosity towards him? What is the point of bashing him to you? The answer is very simple. In an effort to depict a lovely picture of herself and defend the fact that she has not made progress in her romantic life while he has, she sullied him. A person with such characteristics has this type of pattern. If you date her, whether you marry her or not and whether she chooses to end it or you do will likely make no difference in the way she may talk about you as time goes on. It’s doubtful that she will say nice things about you.

Should you take the chance in getting to know her better? I am from the school of thought that people should do what they can to avoid regret later. And since you seem to want to date her, then as long as you know what she can do to you and you have made peace with it, then give her a chance.

I would like to bring something else to your attention. There are times that people regret a decision but have no clue how to deal with it. From the way you describe the circumstances of how her marriage ended, it sounds like she panicked and acted impulsively, and, believe it or not, she may even regret her judgment at present, especially since he is happily married and she is still searching for love. Not to justify what she did, but when she speaks ill of him, it could be her way of emotionally making peace with the consequences of her actions. People do that sometimes.

Look into the way she is living her life. Does she have a productive lifestyle? Does she have a source of employment that she has been able to maintain for a while? Does she have an active social life? How about friends? Are people in and out of her life, or has she sustained long-term relationships with former classmates, co-workers, neighbors, etc.? How are her relationships with members in her family? Does she get along with her children, parents, siblings, etc.? In what manner of speech does she talk about others? Is she always disparaging other people yet building herself up? Do you get the impression that she is prone to major mood swings? Is she always suspicious of people and their motives? Do you get the impression that she is a loner and is happiest that way? All these examples are clues into the character of a person. If you detect major flaws, then depending on how you tap into her psyche, she may listen to you. I have seen in several cases where a person dates somebody with major character flaws, and somehow, he or she is able to point it out to the person, and he or she is even willing to change. Here, too, it is about the willingness to change.

My advice is to give her the opportunity to prove herself to you. Get to know her but keep nothing back from her. In other words, you should let her know that you are friends with her ex-husband. Hiding that important detail will make you come across as deceptive. It could be that once she becomes aware of it, she will not want anything more to do with you. But if she is fine with it, make her feel at ease by assuring her that no matter what happens between the two of you, you will never betray her by sharing any details of your relationship. 

The real issue is if giving her the benefit of doubt will come back to haunt you. Pay attention to her actions and the things she says. Trust your gut feelings, and, most importantly, do not delude yourself that you can change an apple into an orange. Convincing yourself you can change someone will cause you much pain in the future. 

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 5townsforum@gmail.com. Read more of Baila Sebrow’s articles at 5TJT.com.

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