By Baila Sebrow

Question

I am a ba’alas teshuvah and my best friend is a modern orthodox frum-from-birth woman, but we have the same problem. Men think we are easy and have no morals. We get set up with men who have no respect for us. And when we meet men on our own at an event or other venue, they are even worse. The only men who show some respect are the ones who are much older than us or have low-paying jobs or none at all.

The men our age who are accomplished and good-looking show no respect to women and are looking for younger women or just have no interest in getting married.

What’s wrong with men today? Why can’t a woman find an accomplished, nice-looking man — who makes a good living — to marry?

Response

To some degree, how a woman wants to be treated, believe it or not, is in her hands. While there are men who are disrespectful to women, it is up to each person individually to set the boundaries between their comfort zone and what feels offensive to them.

I agree that women who are ba’alei teshuvah and even those who are frum from birth but modern orthodox are viewed by certain types of men as not having morals. That view is indisputably offensive and inexcusable. Those who behave in such an outlandish manner assume that just because a woman was not religious at one time, or may dress less conservatively than a woman who appears more to the right, it gives them carte blanche to act no different than an immature, unrefined boy in the locker room with his equally small-minded friends. And in their minds, they actually assume that their overtures are welcome. That is why I implied earlier that it is up to the woman who feels offended to put her foot down and set the boundaries by telling such a man that his behavior is unacceptable. Follow up by cutting off all forms of communication with such an individual.

The problem is that many women will not do that. They want to be known as nice and genteel, and silently hope that it will not happen again. So they tolerate disrespect, whether in the form of speech or other unprovoked misconduct. Instead they just complain about it, and the cycle continues. So please share the advice I gave you with your friend, and you will at least eliminate the frustration of being treated with a lack of respect.

You brought up some issues that matchmakers are grappling with when trying to help their female clients find a marriageable man. For the benefit of all women in similar circumstances, I will not mince any words. You do not state your age, or that of your friend, so I have no clue how old you are. However, from the way you are describing your dilemma I get the feeling that you are not very young.

Whatever issues may be standing in the way of marriage among young people in their twenties, the fact remains that at the end of the day, most people, including men, want to be married and have a family (although there is always the exception here and there). What you are describing is very common among the mature divorced crowd and those who were never married.

But here, too, there is always the exception. It is no secret that within our society a large percentage of mature men seek younger women. Most will openly admit to it, and often those who vehemently deny it reveal their true intentions by gravitating towards much younger women. As a matchmaker, I have tried reasoning with these marriage-minded men who want younger women by explaining to them that the success of a marriage to a woman closer to their age is greater than marriage to a woman half their age. Of the many reasons I cite is that intellectually they will certainly have more in common with someone in their own age bracket. And by the way, they don’t deny that to be true!

But what these men have shared with me is that for them it’s an attraction factor. They claim that they are not attracted to a woman their own age. Telling them to look in the mirror and that they are no spring chicken either does not help. Yes, I had the chutzpah to say that to a few (select) men! The bottom line is that they want what they want, and they will not let anyone try to change their minds.

So the question becomes, do they get what they want? There is an expression “be careful what you wish for.” Those who are sincerely marriage-minded and have a few coins jingling in their pockets will usually get their young women. Are they receiving love, devotion, and compatibility, or did these women marry them for a meal ticket, high-limit credit card, and to change their title to “Mrs.”? I don’t need to spell out the answers to that question. Look around and see the results of most of such relationships.

That said, you are correct that many accomplished men will go after the younger women. But you shouldn’t even want such a man to begin with. Because after a few years, his young wife will become older, and, sadly, in many cases, he will trade her in for a younger version.

Then of course, there are the accomplished men who don’t want to get married altogether. They may have a family from a previous marriage, and so what they are looking for is some socializing on weekends. And because there is always an available woman to keep them occupied on those days, marriage is the furthest thing from their minds. In such circumstances, it is the women who are to blame for being partners in their game, especially when they know that there will most likely be no commitment of marriage from them.

So is there any hope for a woman to marry a man compatible to her in age and who is also accomplished? The answer is yes, but it depends on what one considers “accomplished.” If a woman is looking for a man of considerable wealth, marrying such a man comes with a steep price tag. There is an expression that if you marry for money, you will earn every penny. Not only that, but if a person feels that he is a commodity on the market, his lists of requirements increase. Meaning, if there are fewer available men of that stature, then in most cases, they will have higher demands where it relates to the characteristics they seek in a woman.

I understand your irritation and annoyance. You have every right to feel the way you do. What can you do about it? It might not be a bad idea to make a mental (or privately written) list of what you can and cannot live with. In other words, of the qualifications you seek in a man, what are you willing to forgo in order to be married? I don’t know if you have ever been married, but every person should make a similar list when seeking marriage. It does not mean that you are settling, G-d forbid. No one should ever feel that the person they married was someone they settled for. But if you can eliminate a few factors or compromise on other aspects, at least for dating purposes, you might find that it will open a whole new world for you. For example, the woman who only wants a tall, dark, and handsome man but is not successful in finding him may discover that by giving somebody who has a different look a chance, she may find happiness, and that he will turn out to be the type of man who will treat her as she has always dreamed. We often see cases of men and women who have a very specific type of person in mind for marriage, and the person they ultimately marry bears no resemblance to their wish list; yet, they are happy together as two peas in a pod.

You will never change people or how they conduct themselves in the dating world. You can only change yourself and your priorities. If you and your friend are very serious about marriage, reevaluate your list of characteristics you are seeking, and relinquish those of less significance. Above all, give everyone a chance, and do not be quick to dismiss somebody by the way he appears. I know it looks bleak out there, but remember that a raw diamond is found in soil. Be open-minded, and you will be surprised to find that there is a gem waiting to be picked by you.

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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