People don’t know what goes on in the divorced world. They think it’s all fun and rosy, but there is so much drama! I have been divorced for five years and I’ve been meeting people mainly through online dating sites and Facebook groups. Nothing else worked for me. But even though I’ve met men that way, each relationship ended in heartache. The divorced men are horrible, and the women are just as bad. They don’t keep Shabbos. They lie about who they are and what they do. They aren’t tzniyut. There is so much promiscuity going on. Some of the men are big gamblers and get into relationships with rich women to steal their money. And they also have so many other addictions. There is no one I can trust, even my so-called friends.
The men I date get all excited in the beginning and chase me, and then they don’t want me anymore. They cheat. They will date one woman and lie that they are exclusive while they are dating others.
I’m a normal woman who wants to have a normal relationship with a man and get married.
Am I better off dating a widower? I feel guilty asking, but should I just wait until a man loses his wife?
Let’s begin with your last question for the purpose of debunking a common myth. As a shadchan, I get frequent requests from women to be introduced to widowers. There is such a demand that women go through the trouble of reading the obituaries to find out if a man is sitting shivah for his wife. I promise you that I am not kidding. When I ask them why they prefer a widower, they tell me that a widower is a good man, not like the divorced men, and it also means that he was a good husband. I respond by saying that the difference between a widower and a divorced man is that unfortunately with a widower there is no longer a witness alive to tell the truth about what happened during the marriage!
The bottom line is that it’s a case-by-case situation. A widower could have been a wonderful husband or an abusive one just as easily as a divorced man.
How the marriage ended, whether by divorce or death, should not be the principal guide in your search.
Although I try to respond to letters in a timely manner, please forgive me for taking such a long time in answering you. Your letter is so serious that I needed the time to do the research in order not to give you a generic response. Even though you are still alone and have had many disappointments, I gather that, baruch Hashem, you have not been badly damaged as a result of your journey in the divorced world.
Your letter represents so many others who are not as lucky. There are people whose lives have been shattered because of their blind trust in what they thought was “frum” social media. And so, to help you and others who read this column, I took the time to interview divorced singles. I even did a bit of undercover investigation. What I will share with you is based on concrete evidence and first-person stories.
Regarding what goes on in the divorced circles, it is much worse than “bad” or “not rosy;” it is an outrage. There is a very dark side that is unknown to the rest of society. Everything and anything that occurs in the secular world is prevalent in the frum world among the divorced crowd. It doesn’t matter what hashkafic circles the person might come from or how chashuv his or her family could be, but chillul Shabbos, abuse of all sorts, immodest behavior, promiscuity, addictions, non-Jews pretending to be Jewish, severe mental illness, criminal behavior, blackmail, cattiness, and back-stabbing among men and women all truly exist.
Why is this happening? In a secular environment some of those aspects can be a natural result of growing up and being in similar surroundings. When such things occur in the frum world it is because there is so much loneliness that the divorced social-media world opens its doors to anyone and everyone. Additionally, when people get divorced, they no longer identify as much with their friends who are still married, so they seek to meet others who are just like them. And where do they turn to? Social media. That’s where they find solace, but it’s also the place where some meet with tragedy and disaster.
There are infinite numbers of Facebook groups and online dating sites where administrators boast of thousands of members. But who are those members and where do they come from? The answer is that you don’t know. People pretend to be the way they want to be perceived. And behind their computer screen they could be anybody they want to be. The person living in a dinky, filthy apartment can say that he or she lives in a beautiful home on the French Riviera. The person who has not worked in 20 years can pretend to be an international entrepreneur and ensnare somebody who is wealthy and then find a way to embezzle their funds. The normal-looking professional can have a violent history with the people in his or her life.
The list goes on and on, and there is no end to how dangerous these things can get. When tragedy strikes and one becomes a victim, it is rarely reported, except for a post here and there, and then the reporter gets bullied, threatened, and blackmailed to take the post down. So the perpetrators of crimes who find their victims online continue their predatory tactics.
There are people who try to find shidduchim through social media. But what they don’t know is that some “candidates” are still married to their spouses. In addition, there are non-Jews who specifically seek Jews, and the way to find them is online. There was once an incident where a young woman found my contact information via Facebook to help her find a shidduch. She initially claimed to be Sephardic, but something about the way she spoke gave me the hunch that she wasn’t Jewish. I confronted her with my suspicion, and she told me that she is a convert. When I asked her the name of the rabbi who converted her, she replied that she is in the process of it! Meanwhile, all her photos and posts were about gedolim. She eventually did get married to a frum lonely older man, and he later found out that she wasn’t Jewish and then divorced her. Where is she now? Who knows? She probably opened a new social media account under a different name and photo. Yes, people do that!
Another incident involved a man who lived in a frum community and had a rabbi he spoke highly of. I was helping him with shidduchim, and one day he made a suspicious comment about his grandmother. I probed further, and he admitted that his maternal grandmother was black and not Jewish. When I expressed my horror and shock that he dared to misrepresent himself, he blocked me on social media. I hear that he meets frum women through Facebook and online dating sites!
I know of a case where a man got involved with a woman he met on an online site. This woman spoke the right lingo, knew halachah, and even made berachos before she ate! He eventually discovered that she wasn’t Jewish. There are other cases where it turns out that the person is still married, is in a serious dating relationship with multiple people, has a criminal history, or has any number of distasteful inclinations.
When I warn singles about the danger of dating people they don’t know they tell me that the person is OK, because they share mutual friends on Facebook! That’s exactly what a con artist will do. He or she will deliberately “friend” an upstanding individual in order to authenticate themselves in meeting the type of person they can easily con. Unsuspecting people, in their state of loneliness, buy into it, and a relationship begins.
And if you think Googling somebody will give you information, that is the biggest joke of all. People who have the most to hide will pay to have themselves removed from an online search, or their information will be buried. There are companies and people who specialize in removing information. So there are people with criminal and violent pasts, yet if you Google them, all you will find is positive information about them because of some tzeddakah cause they gave to or raised money for. And the innocent, vulnerable person who buys into their game eventually becomes their victim.
As wonderful as it would be to meet your bashert, meeting somebody online and allowing him into your life just because he appeals to you is irresponsible. To be fair, there are happy endings where people met normal individuals who later became their spouses. But it does not happen too often. In most cases the person you trusted because he said all the right things and tapped into your psyche will likely cause you tremendous heartache. Such people are unstable, and you can never have a normal relationship with somebody who is emotionally unhealthy.
Going even further, those with mental illness glamorize their condition by posting all sorts of heart-tugging memes. The sensitive person will comment or send a message of support, and a friendship begins. All would be fine except for the day the sick individual goes off his medication. And what if you have no idea that the person is even sick to begin with?
In my shadchanus, I have witnessed that the drama and fights between people in the divorced world are overwhelming. People bring their emotional baggage and bitterness and project it onto others, and not just through social media. It’s just that social media has become the vehicle for people to increase their network of friends.
I am not telling you to stop meeting people online if you are unsuccessful using other methods. Rather, you should not be too quick to give the benefit of the doubt to somebody who wants to befriend you for either romantic or friendship purposes. Such naiveté puts you at risk for trusting your life to a lying con artist (even with a yarmulke and good family roots) who may one day steal, cheat, and even blackmail you. Why? Because you trusted that person. And I’m not just referring to romantic relationships. Friends, too! Do your research. Believe nothing until the person is proven innocent and trustworthy. The bottom line is to never let down your guard with anyone you befriend online.
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.