Why is it OK for a guy not to get married but the same is not OK for a girl? I have lots of friends and I make good money, but I want to live an independent life. My parents fight with me all the time. Shabbos and yom tov is just like a war zone at home. My friends tell me to move out, but I like living at home. I’m close to my family and my mother cooks dinner, so it’s nice to have that.
I do chores around the house, so it’s not like I’m a freeloader. I shop and clean and always help everyone in my family with whatever they need.
My parents tell me that I need to see a shrink to figure out what’s wrong with me. They say that it’s not normal for a girl to not want to get married. I promise you that there is nothing wrong with me.
In case you’re wondering, I did go out with some guys when I was younger, but it didn’t work out. It was like one or two dates, and they backed out, so I’m not interested in going through that stupidity anymore. Maybe one day I’ll get the guts to date modern guys. Right now, my parents would freak out.
I’m happy the way I am now, and I wish everybody would just lay off me and stop making fun of my choice in life.
Most of society does have the outlook that women need to be married, more so than men. Why that is has much to do with culture, regardless of religion or hashkafah. From what you are relating, your issue is not so much with society’s view on matrimony, but rather how your family is responding to your choice of lifestyle. You have every right to do with your life as you wish, just as a man does, and if you are truly happy with the way things are going, then, yes, it is your business and people should just lay off you. The question is if you really are happy with your life, or if you are afraid of rejection and getting hurt or something else entirely.
You say that you want to be independent. What does independence mean to you? Living at home with your family and having meals prepared by your mother, who waits for you to come home and eat it, is not exactly the picture of independence. That you do chores around the house still does not count as independence, even though you say that you are not a freeloader. It’s true, you are not a freeloader. You are your parents’ child, and you are living in their home as a well-behaved obedient child. That is OK if it works for everyone concerned. But that is not the case here. Your parents are miserable, and, most importantly, you are miserable.
I would like to focus a bit on the guys you dated in your younger years. How long ago was that? It sounds like it might have been quite a few years ago. Not only that, but according to what you say, you didn’t have a relationship with any of those guys. You only went out on “one or two dates” with each. The fact that you got turned off from dating because a few guys backed out after one or two dates is of major concern; it’s understandable that your parents feel that you need psychological intervention.
Rejection is unpleasant, and for many it can feel downright painful. Nobody will deny that. There are those who may need time and space to reevaluate their priorities and needs in terms of what they are seeking when they are ready to venture back into the dating scene.
You stated that if you do date again it will be guys who are modern, which tells me that you dated people you felt were not compatible with you. You recognized that, and it is possible they recognized it, too. Even though they were the ones to back out after one or two dates, that could be because they saw that you were not a match with them and that you were disinterested in them.
I see such scenarios often. Singles, whether men or women, first start dating those who are assumed to be a match for them. The reality is that people are not cookie-cutter shapes. A person could be raised in a particular style of home, attend a school of the same hashkafah, and socialize with schoolmates and friends from similar households, yet deep down that is not who they are. Maybe it’s curiosity about how others live their life, or maybe it’s a distaste for their way of upbringing. Whatever the case might be, should such men and women date people from backgrounds they don’t care for, it ultimately will not work.
In some situations, there are those who will be the first to decline dates with those they feel incompatible with. Then there are others who, while on the date, will relate in such a way that the person they are with gets turned off. One would think that it would be a relief to have the other person back out of something they didn’t want in the first place. However, that does not necessarily hold true for everyone. Rejection can still hurt, even though a part of them may have felt initial relief. I wonder if that is what happened to you.
I will touch upon another aspect to your situation for you to ponder. Is it possible that you really don’t want to stay away from dating, but you would rather date guys who are modern right now? You did say that your parents would “freak out” if you would date modern guys “right now.”
As peculiar as it might be to those who don’t understand a household that is very strict about their hashkafah, there are parents who would prefer that their child refrain from dating rather than date somebody that they consider not frum enough. Your parents may not have expressed that sentiment to you, but you might sense it or believe it.
Here is what I recommend. Take as much time as you need. Time, in most circumstances, usually heals, but it’s what you do with that time that will make all the difference in living a life that will bring you fulfillment. Please do self-introspection about what you really want out of life. If you would rather focus on work and enjoy your parents and other people in your household for the time being, then that is your privilege. However, if after much pondering you discover that you want something different, then go for it. If it means dating guys who are modern, then do it.
You live with your parents, and you naturally seek and need their approval and blessing. Have a talk with them. Sit down and explain that you think that the reason dating has been unsuccessful for you in the past is because you dated the wrong type of people. Tell them who you truly are in detail. Do not worry about their reaction. They might be shocked at your admission, but I have a hunch that they may have suspected it all along. That does not mean that they will be accepting of your wants. But this can be the time in your life that you will have to be the adult should they oppose you. You need to acknowledge that they not only have no right to tell you who to date or marry, but they are behaving immaturely should they “freak out.”
You are not alone in your situation. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of cases like yours out there in the frum dating world. What usually happens is that children from such backgrounds marry spouses who are not for them, and the marriage and lifestyle eventually feels like a sham. One can only pretend for so long, until it reaches the point that they get divorced. After the divorce, they end up becoming more modern on the outside. Fortunately, your life did not take that route. You chose a passive method. Not the best option either, but one that (for the time being) had the least negative consequences, while you still maintained your hashkafah on the outside.
Your parents are insistent that you seek therapy. Take them up on the offer. I’m not happy that they are using the slang term “shrink.” That is probably their way of making it seem that you are the problem. But that doesn’t matter, because from the way you convey your story, it is evident there is much you have not shared. You will surely benefit from a sensitive therapist who understands your hashkafah and the mindset of such parents. Together you will work on finding the best possible solution so that you will live the productive life you secretly yearn for.
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.