By Baila Sebrow

By Baila Sebrow

Whenever my husband doesn’t listen to me or talks with the kids about the latest conspiracy theories at the Shabbos table, I feel like I am married to the wrong person. But when I hear that the men I dated 30 years ago, shortly before I met my husband, are now burdening their wives and children with addictions requiring long-term out-of-state rehab, get refusal, or criminal indictments landing them on the front page of the press, I feel reassured that Hashem did send me under the chuppah with the right man.

Despite explaining these harsh realities to my four single daughters, they are continuing to reject boys over the silliest things you could imagine.

My youngest recently came home from a date stating that she was turned off by a comment the guy made about wanting a no-frills “COVID-style” chasunah, with only 10 people and a chuppah made out of plastic tablecloth, despite his higher financial standing and being able afford a “Wedding of the Century” at Mar-a-Lago. She then made another excuse not to proceed because one of his references did not pick up the phone.

My oldest told me that she is no longer interested in continuing with the mensch she is currently seriously dating, after she became jealous of her friend who just got engaged to a bachur from a much larger family. She is also extremely jealous that her friend’s future mother-in-law has more likes on her Instagram page than the mother of this bachur she is seeing! Seriously? Is this how marriage works?

As a result of their generation’s hyper-consumption of their smartphones (and increasingly so during COVID-19), today’s young adults’ willingness to engage in effort and confront life’s basic obstacles, which is crucial for marriage, has been wholly inhibited by a need for instant gratification.

Anything in life that is not perfect at first glance, “#InstaWorthy,” or requires more effort than ordering an Über is written off as disposable and is further deserving of the full-fledged #CancelCulture treatment.

Also, when my husband and I were single, it was far more common to date and marry someone whose personality was incompatible with yours. Today, we still struggle to bridge each other’s personality differences, yet we are happily married for 30 years, as are all of our middle-aged friends.

Perhaps the “instant gratification” mentality causes my daughters and many of today’s singles to expect their future spouses’ personalities to be “already there” and automatically tailored to them on the first date.

What can we do to teach our kids and their friends how to treat the institution of marriage with more kavod?

Response

Thank you for your letter that so many people need to read; it is not enough to hear about this at lectures and shiurim. The perspective of a parent of children in shidduchim condemning singles’ attitude towards shidduchim today is refreshing.

Believe it or not, after the Holocaust, in which more than six million Jews were murdered, the rate of marriage was astonishingly high. The type of person someone had been before the war didn’t matter to those looking to get married. They took a “ba’asher hu shom” approach, marrying a person based on the way he or she presented at the time. Yichus was hardly researched in the DP camps when a couple made the decision to go under the chuppah, and, at times, a few kallahs shared one wedding gown! Not only that, but there were spouses who didn’t even speak the same language. And it is through that holy generation of Holocaust survivors who got married and created beautiful generations that we now have such a strong force of Torah-observant Jews, baruch Hashem. The magnificent yeshivas and batei midrashim that have been built are a direct product of those survivors. They were people who lost so much that they understood the significance of life and what truly matters—and what doesn’t.

The children of Holocaust survivors were infused with the same mesorah of their parents. However, their children and grandchildren—the generation of today—leave much to be desired in the area of appreciating that which is essential. Hence, their swift rejections in shidduchim. Who decided that a person on the quiet side cannot marry a more talkative person, or someone with some other trivial disparity in personality?

No one is interested anymore in overcoming any obstacle to make a relationship work, whether it is marriage or a dating relationship. The belief system that something better is out there and why bother putting in any work is without doubt stemming from the attitude of “instant gratification.” The irony is that with all the gratification in which people are indulging, there is so much unhappiness and anxiety among the very people who subscribe to instant gratification. They are depressed and miserable, seeking more and more gratification but never feeling satisfied. “Cancel culture” has infiltrated the dating scene with a vengeance. So, yes, anyone with something slightly off-kilter on the résumé, whether imagined or real, is quickly ostracized and thrown out of the shayach list of singles. Sadly, the shidduch system has become a devastating catastrophe.

There are many other issues to have befallen our society in recent years—the high rate of divorces, various addictions, get refusers, and, unfortunately, the chillul Hashem that comes from the small percentage of criminality that also exists. These occurrences lend themselves to all kinds of intriguing theories. It is no surprise that conspiracy theories circulate, ranging from topics of world politics to what is happening in the life of a fellow shul member. While the subject is hot, rumors become juicy tales that are eagerly circulated.

In refusing to bury your head in the sand and pretend that all is good, you have more control over the situation than most others who have children in shidduchim. You know what is going on and have identified each problem in its own right. You need to educate your daughters about the realities of life and the failed shidduch system that is operating based on facades rather than the essence of a person. The shidduch system as it stands now is not functioning, because it is running on a sheker system. Sheker has no long-term survival. You and your husband need to drill that chinuch into your children.

The other issues in our midst that you presented are certainly serious, and here, too, you must make your children aware of them and take precautions well in advance of an engagement. Get refusers are rampant, and people need to be made aware of the red flags that are common when dating a potential true get refuser. I am saying a “true” get refuser because not every story you hear should be taken as Torah Mi’Sinai. There are plenty of people who are coined a get refuser, but sometimes there is more to the story. It behooves people to do their proper research before spreading partial or imprecise tales.

Women who are unfortunately married to get refusers have expressed that there were signs during the dating stage that they inadvertently and sometimes deliberately overlooked. If a young lady is dating a man who is persistently obstinate beyond reason, and it is always “his way or the highway,” it is an obvious sign of the future to come. Controlling, incessant, and unreasonable demands and relentless and threatening behavior of the person and sometimes family members are typically evident before the wedding. Sure, there are cases where it appeared to the victim that it was a shidduch made in Heaven, but usually when these people reminisce about the time they dated, they admit that in retrospect the red flag was waving in their face. And if someone was previously married and was a get refuser, there should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that in this case, the “ba’asher hu shom” approach need not be utilized. There is no mitzvah to place one’s life in danger, and history can repeat itself unless the person undergoes serious therapy.

Regarding addiction, tragically, it is exceedingly prevalent in the frum community. Ask any therapist. Believe it or not, there are signs to look out for in such circumstances. Alcoholism, gambling, pornography, drugs, etc., all exist amongst people who look and dress like everyone else in their hashkafic circles, and people need to acknowledge that in order to avoid calamities. Therefore, I strongly suggest to all dating couples that they assign themselves a therapist or mentor prior to marriage. It is very easy when dating someone to become so infatuated that even if the signs are obvious, a person may still go ahead with the shidduch. It is imperative to get an objective, impartial view of the person one is dating and the way he or she communicates. There is no magic potion to prevent disasters. It is much easier to block danger from happening than to fix a relationship when it is broken. As the old adage goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

 

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, Israel News Talk Radio, WVIP 93.5 FM HD2, and talklinenetwork.com. 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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