By Baila Sebrow
I’m an older single woman, past my prime for having children. I was never married or engaged. Once I turned 50, the only men who will date me are the guys in their seventies. I’m not willing to date a man the same age as my father. Anyway, right after Pesach a lady called me about a divorced guy around my age who wants to go out with me. I literally jumped for joy. That doesn’t usually happen. Also, since he has kids already, I figured he won’t care so much that I can’t have any at my age.
He called me, and we spoke on the phone, and he told me that he only dates “age-appropriate women”—meaning, his age—who either were never married or are widowed. I asked him why and he told me that his rav said that it’s better to marry a woman where there is no man in the background.
This guy is recently divorced. We agreed to go on a date, but I said that I first want to check him out. I called people I know, as well as the rav of the shul where he now davens, and I was told that he got divorced just recently, but really he was separated for many years because he didn’t give his wife a get. I spoke to my friends about it, and they told me that they heard bad things and to stay away from him. One friend spoke to the rav of the shul where he used to daven when he was married, and the information came back very bad.
I asked him about what happened when he was married, and he told me that he was just immature and that’s why it didn’t work out, and that he would have given her the get but whatever it was that happened, just happened. He also said that if we would get married and I wanted a get, he would give it to me, with no problem.
I said that I would think about it. Meanwhile he keeps texting me that he wants to go out with me and even sent me flowers for Shabbos. I don’t have too many choices out there. Should I give this guy a chance?
I might get flak for this, but the short answer is: no. Before you flinch, please understand that I don’t know who this guy is or anything about him, the circumstances surrounding his marriage, separation, alleged get refusal, or ultimate divorce. However, the fact that the rav of the shul in which he now davens doesn’t think too highly of him, and everyone else is telling you to stay away, including the rav who knew him when he was married, is enough reason for me to tell you that, in this case, giving a man with his reputation a chance is like playing Russian roulette with your future happiness.
I always explain any strong statement that I make, and I will do the same for you. To be fair, there are men who are accused of withholding a get and the facts made public are not necessarily accurate. Meaning, if the wife wants the get on Monday and the husband can’t do it until the next day or until the following week, there are those who will say he doesn’t want to give his wife a get, and automatically coin her an agunah. While that example is a bit of a stretch and clearly an exaggeration, you get the idea. Sometimes it takes a couple of weeks or even a month or two for logistical purposes, and not because the man deliberately won’t let his wife out of the marriage. So that’s not a real get refuser.
A true get refuser is a man who refuses to halachically terminate his marriage, and his wife is desperately seeking a get. By such conduct, he is preventing his wife from remarrying. The husband is generally summoned to beis din, and if he refuses to show up, typically a seruv is issued against him for that infraction. There are many other aspects to such circumstances, and as every situation is different, I am sure there are plenty of facts and features in this guy’s situation that you are not privy to.
As a shadchan, some of the stories I’ve heard from guys with that history is that they wanted a different beis din and not the one that the wife summoned them to, or that they wanted to work out financial or custody arrangements first, etc. Though not in every case, in many situations all that amounts to is a control tactic. And that’s what you’re likely looking at if you date this guy.
There’s another thing to consider. You say that this man has children. Ask yourself: why would a woman with children be so insistent on divorcing her husband? What really happened in that marriage that the ex-wife wanted out so badly? He said that his marriage didn’t work out because he was immature? Withholding a get or using it as blackmail or as a bargaining chip does not sound like an act of immaturity; it seems more like victimization.
All people deserve a second chance in life if they acknowledge and take responsibility for their wrongdoing and learned from their mistakes, especially if they changed their life around. Telling you that if you were to ask for a get he would give it to you right away is not a demonstration of accountability for his role in the fracture of his marriage. It just means he realizes that being a get refuser caused problems in his life, and he doesn’t want to go through that trauma again. That statement is all about him and what would serve his benefit in the future.
What did he do in his marriage that he will not do to a future wife? It doesn’t sound like he is too forthcoming with information that is of any substance. As a result, he is leaving you to base your decision on what people are telling you. That is all you have to rely upon, unless he is hoping that someone feeling desperate or vulnerable will overlook his past and fall for whatever he promises.
That brings me to his claims that he only dates “age-appropriate” never-married women and widows. On the surface, it sounds like the comment of a sincere man, because many men in their fifties prefer to date much younger women. But why won’t he consider a divorced woman? He says that his rabbi told him not to? You can be sure that there is more to that claim than what he is sharing. However, to his credit, it’s certainly crafty!
In my experience, men with a questionable past specifically seek out a woman who is vulnerable and trusting. A middle-aged widow who was married for a long time typically fits that distinguishing characteristic. And a never-married woman who only gets suggested to men who are much older also falls into a category of desperation and vulnerability. Women in such instances are also easily persuaded. If such women do not have reliable mentors in their lives, they have been known to fall into terrible situations. Baruch Hashem, it sounds like you have a good network of people who look out for you. If you really want to give this guy a chance, please ask your friends to do a thorough background check on this guy and speak to as many people as possible—those who knew him in the past and those who know him well in the present. Find out if he has dated at all since his divorce, the type of women he dated, and whatever else they can uncover for you. It is also very important to find out whatever you can about his children and his relationship with them, as that will have a huge impact on his future marriage.
In conclusion, I want to address your challenge of being single over the age of 50. It may not help much to hear this, but please know that you are not alone in this predicament. Way too many wonderful women have fallen through the cracks and remained single. I don’t know what your particular situation was when you were younger, whether you were not well-connected to the right shadchanim and opportunities to meet men, or that incompatible shidduchim were being suggested to you. The bottom line is that you are still single, and it sounds like you very much want to be married. Additionally, it appears that you are open-minded, and that quality puts you in a very high category of success.
I agree that a large majority of men your age seek much younger women, but that does not mean that you will not meet a man within your age bracket who has good references about his past, and who has lived a stable life. Reach out to shadchanim who specialize in older singles. Attend singles events for people your age. I have witnessed many shidduchim result from Shabbatons and other singles events and lectures where people have a chance to get to know one another and they discover mutual commonalities. As much as you want to be married, please be careful not to jump into a problematic or dubious situation. It is never worth taking a chance with one’s life. May you be blessed with much siyatta d’Shmaya, as you travel this challenging journey in your life to the blissful destination of marriage.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Read more of Baila Sebrow’s articles at 5TJT.com.