By Baila Sebrow

Question:

I was very young when I got married for the first time. When I came home from seminary I only dated boys who learned full-time, and that’s the type of boy I married. We got divorced for many reasons. Not having that much money was not the reason we got divorced, but I did hate having to penny-pinch.

I wasn’t divorced that long when a shidduch was redt to me. He was supposedly rich, and he was very generous with me. He moved us into a big beautiful house. But not long after we got married, he became very cheap with me, even about household things. He spent money on what he thought was important. I used to complain, and he would tell me that he is the one bringing in the money, and that was it. We fought all the time, and I then got divorced for the second time. This was years ago, and because I had young children, I wanted to wait until they got a little older before I started dating again.

My rich ex-husband didn’t give me a dime after the divorce, and I struggled very badly, barely having food to eat. I am on my feet again, and now I am seeing a man who just has a set paycheck. He is very nice to me, and I can tell he is different from my two ex-husbands. But if I marry him, the only place we could afford to live would be in an apartment. I live in an apartment now, but I can’t live like that for the rest of my life. I enjoyed the beautiful house that I lived in with my second husband, even though there were so many other problems with the way he treated me. I am torn and I don’t know what to do. Does it have to be one or the other? Can a man be rich and nice, too?

Response

I am sorry for the hardships you endured in your earlier years. However, it sounds like whatever else you are seeking in a husband, it comes down to your desire to be married to a wealthy man. And only because you know what I am talking about, I will stress the obvious. Being married to a wealthy man is no guarantee that he will share his wealth with you or that he will even be generous by indulging you with the finer things in life that you would expect from being married to a man of financial means.

You are not the first woman to fall into the type of marriage you had with your second husband. However, now that you are inclined to make that same mistake again, you must be extra vigilant in doing whatever it takes to not allow history to repeat itself.

Being short on funds is no fun, and barely having enough food to eat is a grave problem. But being married to an arrogant man who doesn’t respect you and who will deny you the things you know he can afford can be emotionally destructive. There are many women who insist on dating men specifically because they are assumed to have money. I will go so far as to say that wealthy men—even if they are reputed to have treated a former wife unfairly — will have an easier time getting dates than the man with less money.

As a shadchan, one of the first questions I get from divorced women when I suggest a shidduch to them is what the guy does for a living. If his job or profession is assumed to be less financially appealing, at that point any other wonderful quality I list is ignored, and the shidduch is immediately declined. On the other hand, if the man is recognized as a person of means, regardless of how he treated a former wife, women seeking to date such a man will make all kinds of excuses for him even though they never met him! And from what I see, you are almost defending the negative marriage you previously had, because you lived in a big beautiful house. Did you realize that?

You talk about how you were mistreated by your wealthy husband, yet in the next paragraph you declare that you can’t live in an apartment with a nice guy because you enjoyed the living arrangements with the bad guy. I get that you enjoy nice things. Who doesn’t? But finding a nice man to date is not as easy as you think, especially if you are compatible with him in other ways, too. You were lucky to finally find that the third time around. So he has a set paycheck, not the big salary that you would like. Your main complaint about him is that you will have to live in an apartment rather than a house. Do you not see what is wrong with your perception of a happy life? Did you not learn from being married to your second husband that marriage to a man with money and nothing else to offer can lead to misery?

There is an old Yiddish expression that no one needs to eat soup with two spoons at the same time. One does not need wealth in order to be happy. I wish women would not only comprehend that concept, but those who know that to be true from a prior bad experience would seek character first.

You ask whether you have to choose one or the other, and can a man be rich as well as nice. In a perfect world, everyone should be nice and treat each person as they want to be treated. However, the world is far from perfect, and the reality is that there are poor men who are also not nice. However, choosing a man specifically because he has money, and discarding a good man who doesn’t, is just plain wrong.

There are people who have something going for themselves that might be less common amongst most others in their circles and will use it to their utmost advantage. Whether it is money, yichus, profession, or physical attributes, those who feel superior to their counterparts sometimes feel that they don’t need to work on themselves in any other facet of their character.

What happened to you is not just the fact that your wealthy ex-husband mistreated you; he was stingy, too. Just because someone has money does not guarantee that he or she will be generous. And even if they are generous, they sometimes get a kick out of the control factor in having the last say in how the money should be spent. In their mind, such men feel justified that since it’s their money, they have the right to make the decisions without their wife’s input.

To be fair, just like not every less-wealthy man is nice, one cannot assume that all wealthy men are not. Money does not have the power to design the character of a person. People should be judged for who they are inside, not their bank account. And when it comes to choosing a marriage partner, one needs to be extra vigilant that the person will actually treat them as a partner. Being a partner in an alliance does not mean accepting commands at face value just because one person brought in more money than the other. Once you are married to someone, the only way to maintain a happy home is when you both consider that you have become like one person. I wish people would realize that.

To sum it up for you, I feel that the guy you are now dating is someone you should seriously contemplate building a real relationship with. However, if you will always hold it against him that he cannot indulge you in the material things that you feel you deserve, then you will not be doing him or yourself a favor by marrying him, because what it really boils down to is that you will not be able to respect him. And a marriage without respect falls apart, which is something that you already know and experienced. So why subject this man to a taste of the same medicine you were forced to ingest? My advice is either to take a break from dating and think about what you need in life and cannot live without, or take it slow with this nice guy, and explain why you are having reservations about him. Ultimately, it’s the only fair thing to do.

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 5townsforum@gmail.com.

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