By Baila Sebrow

Question:

I am having a major disagreement with my husband and mother-in-law about my daughter. She is home from seminary for almost a year, and, so far, I have been holding her back from starting shidduchim. I want her to be a little more mature and experience the world before she gets married. I want her to have a career. She is presently in college, and she is seeing that all her friends are dating; some of her classmates have already gotten married. So she also wants to get married.

My mother-in-law and husband are furious with me for holding her back. My mother-in-law says that girls and boys who are 30 and not married are not normal, and if I hold her back from getting married, she will turn 30 and not be normal. She says that in front of my daughter, and my husband agrees with her, too. She says that she can talk like that because her children got married young.

I got married young and never had the chance to live life, and I want so much more for my daughter than I had. I want her to be able to finish college and have a career. Plus, everywhere I go, I see young divorced people, and I don’t want that to happen to my daughter. Am I wrong here?

Response

I think that every person involved in your predicament might be wrong here. Let’s start with your mother-in-law. No disrespect to her, but the lady is way out of line. In the first place, if your daughter is home from seminary for less than one year, I will assume she is not at all close to 30. But even if she were, where does your mother-in-law get the idea that those who are unmarried by the time they are 30 are not normal?

Unfortunately, this is not the first time I have heard such repulsive sentiments so freely expressed. A person’s mental health is not defined by their age or marital status. Whether a single never-married man or woman is 30 or older has nothing to do with being abnormal. There are plenty of married people who one can say might be abnormal. And you are right that the reason your mother-in-law feels smug enough to dole out such statements is because all her children married young. And that goes for the rest of those who take it upon themselves to utter such horrible words.

A frum person knows that shidduchim come from Hashem. Not only that, but Hashem determines the time it will happen. Some people are lucky in that they meet their bashert at a young age, and others go through many challenges before they are zocheh to be brought to the chuppah. I realize that this woman is your mother-in-law, and she is older and therefore deserving of respect, but ask her to not express that opinion in the presence of her granddaughter. Scaring a young woman is not the method for obtaining a shidduch. She really needs to stay out of this.

With regard to your husband, it sounds like he is echoing his mother’s beliefs. Whether he is on board with her on this issue or not, I don’t know, but I hope he is not disagreeing with you in front of her or your daughter. I’m not a marriage counselor, but it sounds like there is a lack of healthy communication between the two of you where it relates to your daughter.

Your daughter is not in a good place, being the subject of a family feud and watching her friends and classmates date and get married. We don’t know what she really wants, and I am afraid she may not be sure of that either.

Since you were the one who wrote to me, I will address this matter as it pertains to you. From the way you convey the situation, I get the sense that you do not feel people should marry young. There is nothing wrong with feeling this way — as long as you are not projecting your own feelings and experiences on your daughter.

Just as there is nothing wrong with remaining single (if one needs to or chooses to) past a certain age, there is also nothing wrong with someone who wants to get married at a young age. Maturity is not always demonstrated in numbers. Meaning, an older person can sometimes behave in a childish manner, while a younger person might act with more wisdom and responsibility than an older person.

According to what you say, you feel that the only reason your daughter says that she wants to start dating is because she sees her friends doing that. That is not necessarily a bad thing. It’s not as though she is emulating destructive behavior. These days, especially in frum circles, girls usually do start dating after they return home from seminary. There is nothing wrong with that so long as their family does not place undue pressure on them to make a quick decision and get married.

I get that you feel that your marriage at a young age held you back from experiencing life. Years ago, a woman’s education and career came to a halt when she got married. Times are different today. It is not uncommon to see young married women attending college and higher education. They even have babies while going through grueling academic programs to achieve the career of their choice. In most cases, women today are no longer being placed in the position of having to decide between having a husband or career. They can and do have both. So please relax your apprehension about her finishing college before she starts dating.

Where divorce is concerned, there is nothing I can say to lessen your anxiety. The divorce rate is alarmingly high in the frum society, and, yes, that includes young people. Each case is different from the next, so we cannot always say that age was the contributing factor. Young people might be less tolerant of certain situations than their ancestors, and therefore will not remain in a marriage that is not viable. But because we never know what goes on behind anyone’s closed doors, it would be a waste of time to speculate about every story.

Your daughter is caught between a rock and a hard place. She wants what she sees her friends have. She is also dealing with her grandmother scaring her to get married, and her father going along with that tactic. Meanwhile, her mother has an entirely different plan in mind for her future. The poor girl must be stressed out beyond belief.

Here is what I recommend. You and your husband need to have a private discussion about what is best for your daughter. Hopefully, you will come to some sort of an agreement. If not, please reach out to your family rav or find someone wise who can help you sort it out.

For your daughter’s emotional health, it is of utmost importance that she sees her parents are on the same page. When that happens, sit down with her and ask her why she wants to get married. If her only reason is because she sees everyone doing it, or because of the hogwash she heard from her grandmother, then explain your concerns. Stress that there is nothing wrong with waiting a bit. Those who start dating for marriage before they are completely ready face a greater chance of early burnout.

If it turns out that your daughter is a mature young lady who has demonstrated emotional maturity and wants to share her life with a husband, then you should not be holding her back from her aspirations. On the contrary, you should do whatever you can to assist her by means of reaching out to shadchanim and introducing her to people who have connections to young marriageable guys. Not only that, but you should encourage her to continue her studies. I don’t know what your financial situation is, but if money may be a concern, urge her to get a part-time job, too, and persuade her to consider dating men who are willing to take on jobs that help pay the bills until they both have their education completed.

I know that you want the best for your daughter, and you would like to protect her from the negative elements that sometimes come with life. No one knows where their mazal will come from and how. And that is why it is very important to never hinder a child’s goals.

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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