I read your column, and most of the letters you get are about young people who are in shidduchim. They ask you for advice, which you give them, and then they get married.
Do you ever get questions from older people, too? There are plenty of us out there who are lonely. I am talking about the 60-year-old+ crowd. I was married for 38 years and my husband decided one day that he doesn’t want to be married to me anymore. That was a year and a half ago. I was almost 60 at the time, though I could have passed for 45. Everyone assured me that I would have no trouble finding a new husband (I wanted to begin dating right away). Why would I? I have a lot to offer a man. I am financially stable, have a beautiful home, and my children are all successful and happily married.
I’ve been set up with many men, had a few relationships, and each ended in heartbreak. All the men I went out with were suggested by matchmakers, and I thought that meant that the men are serious about marriage. But I found out that it’s not true. They want a new girlfriend every few months. I’m at the point where I have given up on dating, but I can’t stand the loneliness. I am so good to the men I date, never demanding and always going along with whatever they planned for the date.
What can I do to find a nice-looking man who is healthy and financially comfortable, with whom to share the rest of my life?
I wish there were a simple answer to direct you about what you can do to guarantee you will meet that special person in your life to live with happily ever after. Finding somebody to share one’s life with is a dilemma that people of all ages encounter. Young people do not have it as easy as you might think. Though they frequently reach out for assistance with questions, even with all the answers and advice they are given, getting married is not always so simple for them either. Very few people have it easy, and those who do are the random “needle in a haystack” cases. The rest of society in the dating scene experiences various trials and tribulations before they reach the finish line, which, in the case of shidduchim, is the chuppah.
In order to find a solution to your problem you need to understand what is really going on in your age group. The reason you may not see too many questions and articles about the dilemmas regarding frum, mature older singles is because typically each woman experiencing similar problems assumes that she is the only one. People do not realize that what the older age group is dealing with is a global problem, no different than what goes on in the secular and non-Jewish world.
Women who are newly divorced enter the dating pool with high hopes, assuming that because they have so much to offer, they will find a man similar to them in no time. Just as you have done, they reach out to matchmakers who introduce them to accomplished, healthy men. They date for a while, and then the men break up with them. Instead of realizing that the men may have been insincere, the women internalize and personalize the problem, believing that they are at fault. They think that they may not be young enough, or pretty enough, or whatever nonsense they talk into themselves, as the reason that all these men break up with them. Yes, they believe they are responsible for their still-lonely status.
You, on the other hand, are astute enough to realize that not only is it not your fault, but you have done everything right and in your case it’s the men who don’t want to get married. So, I will talk about the topic that has become taboo in the mature-singles world. Yes, it is true that there are accomplished men who do not want to get married, and that is OK — if they are honest about their intentions upfront. However, as you say, there are men who are dishonest and even retain the services of matchmakers, claiming that they want to get married, in order to be introduced to women. You are correct that at the end of the day they are only interested in these women as girlfriends for a while. This has become a pattern for many men.
One can ask why it is that these older men do not want to get married. The answers vary from person to person. Sometimes it’s because they prefer to marry a much younger woman, and they bide their time with a woman close to their age until a younger one comes along. There are those who have been previously married and have a family, and they feel no pressure to remarry because they have children and grandchildren. If they have been through a costly divorce, the fear that it may happen to them again is strong enough to hold them back from taking the risk of remarriage. Adding to that fear is that they view others who have remarried and divorced, and that causes them to quickly revert to their single status even though they may be in a relationship with the most wonderful woman in the world. They get cold feet which can happen over and over again, for many years.
Another issue holding back older men from remarriage may be finances. They are looking ahead to retirement age, and they are not so sure they want to share their savings or investments with a new woman when they would rather give it to their children and grandchildren. There are quite a few cases where the grown children will discourage their father from remarriage, specifically for that reason. They are not interested in sharing their father’s money with a strange woman! Even with a prenup, a married man will usually still have higher living expenses than if he remains single.
One might ask, aren’t these men lonely? The answer is yes and no. They get lonely, but the advantage they have over women is that with one or two phone calls or texts they can find a woman who will accept a dinner invitation when they go stir-crazy from the quiet. If they need a woman to show up to a couples’ event, there is always a woman available to jump at the opportunity. Sadly, such women lack the self-respect to realize that they are being used to fill a void, only to be quickly discarded.
When a woman is suggested to a man who agrees to go out with her upon the matchmaker’s introduction, she has every right to assume that the man is serious about marriage. I take issue with matchmakers who suggest shidduchim to these older male serial daters without delving into their story. I have no doubt that these men tell matchmakers that they are serious about getting married. When doing an intake on a new client, it is of utmost importance for a matchmaker to find out how long the man has been single, whether he has been in any long-term relationships, and what happened with each of them. If the man responds generically that it didn’t work out, or the famous “they were all crazy,” then it behooves the matchmaker to spot that red flag.
Do your homework. Never invest time and emotion on any man who has a reputation for dating many women and then breaking up with each of them. Never assume that you will be the chosen one to turn him into a husband. Yes, there is always that exceptional story where one woman managed to tap into the soul of such a man and changed his confirmed bachelor status. Why would you or anybody play Russian roulette with their emotions?
There are still plenty of men who have been in long marriages that ended just like yours and are seeking to reestablish their lives. They might not be standing in the financial bracket that you would like, or perhaps they no longer possess the looks you seek, or they might even be a few years older than you would be comfortable with. But, yes, marriage-minded men do exist. You can meet them through a shadchan, singles event, friend, etc. However, it’s on you to be vigilant and not ignore any negative vibes you may feel so that you will avoid any future heartbreak.
When you get into a relationship, be on the lookout for the way a man dates you. Does he want to see you only for specific reasons or to go to a particular place? Are you a priority in his life, or do you feel that you come second? Does he break dates or reschedule often? Is he comfortable introducing you to his family as a significant other? How consistent is he when he talks about the future with you? These are just some examples. Most people who have been in relationships that ended poorly will later recall that there were signs along the way that they chose to ignore. Remember this: if something does not feel right, it usually isn’t.
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. Questions and comments for the Dating Forum can be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org.