I just turned 40. I’m not a shiksa and I’m not a modern girl either, but Shabbos is very boring and lonely when you are single at my age. I text on Shabbos, and I even went swimming on Shabbos during the summer. There are a few other things I sometimes don’t always keep so well. All of my friends are married, and I dread being home with my parents. When my nieces and nephews come with my siblings, I just want to stay in bed the whole day. So my phone keeps me from going crazy.
I pretty much gave up on getting married, but if it happens someday, I don’t want to marry a modern guy. I know that you’re going to think that I’m a hypocrite, but I come from a black-hat yeshivish family and that’s the type of guy I want to marry, and maybe then do the things that my family does. The problem is that I also want a guy who will understand me. I apologize if this does not make sense to you. And I hope you won’t lecture me about using my phone and everything else that I do on Shabbos.
I really do understand what you are feeling and saying, and please believe me that your struggles make total sense to me. I do not think for even one minute that you are a hypocrite. A hypocrite is somebody who preaches a specific lifestyle but behind closed doors lives a different way of life. You are not pretending to be somebody you are not. On the contrary, I think that you are trying to spare the feelings of your parents and family about what is really going on with you, and you should be proud of that.
People who are married usually look forward to Shabbos so that they can spend time together with their families. Additionally, the way some communities and congregations are set up in terms of social gatherings is solely for the benefit of families. Those who are not married are typically made to feel that they do not belong or count as members of their community. And that is most unfortunate.
Shabbos is the most dreaded and loneliest day of the week for those who are not married. But it goes further than that. Even those who sometimes get together with other singles may still feel awkward when they are not with people who are in the same circumstance as themselves. By that, I mean that there are various reasons why somebody is single; each situation is different. There are singles who have been previously married and those who never married. Even within the category of “previously married,” some have children, some don’t, the ages of the children vary, and not everyone even has contact with their children. There are so many variables within those categories that even when you are in the same place on Shabbos amongst other singles, you can feel the disparity and the sense that you do not belong there.
Although I am frum, you are not going to get any lectures from me, and I think you know that or you wouldn’t have written to me in the first place. I am not a halachic authority, so any response I will offer you will not be about matters pertaining to halachah. However, it would ultimately be comforting to you if you can find a rav who is non-judgmental and who is able to be there for you when you need to talk.
I do understand why you would feel comfortable marrying a guy who is also from a yeshivish family and wears a black hat. That is what you know and what you are used to. That doesn’t make you a hypocrite. I needed to state that again so you believe me when I say that I do not visualize you that way.
As a mature woman, you must have come across modern or traditionally observant men and even some who are not frum at all. I assume that you found no commonality with them. It sounds like you realize that marrying somebody who is the opposite of your upbringing would not work for you.
When opposites attract, that oftentimes stems from an unconscious desire to be different. It can come from being unhappy about your background and the wish to be like the other person. You might already understand this, but unless one of the partners in an “opposites” type of relationship conforms to the other, in the end they often clash bitterly. You demonstrate that you appreciate the home and family you were raised in, and you don’t want to stray from that.
So let’s figure out how you can find an appropriate shidduch. My first question to you—and this is something that you also have to ask yourself—is how you envision your life as a married woman and a mother of children. Do you intend to continue your practice of swimming and using your phone on Shabbos and the other things that you have not identified in your letter? Because if you do, the type of guy you would eventually like to be married to will never tolerate it. And if you marry such a guy and are not honest with him, I think you know where that marriage will be headed, G-d forbid.
If you are ready to keep Shabbos in the way that a yeshivish, black-hatted guy would expect of his wife, then we have another problem. I am not saying that it’s impossible, but do you feel that you can just go cold-turkey and start living that type of lifestyle the moment you meet such a guy and things start looking serious in the relationship? And what would happen if you have a disagreement with your husband while married, and you get upset? Do you see yourself running to your phone to distract yourself? I am putting that out there for you, because such issues do occur.
There is another facet to this. Do you want to commit to never doing the things that you know are contrary to the type of life you would like to have? You need to do some serious soul-searching, and the time to do that is now. If the answer is yes, I have a few suggestions that will not just help pass the time on what you feel is a boring, lonely day, but will also take you away from the pain of seeing that your siblings have children, baruch Hashem, and that you have not yet reached that milestone.
If moving to a frum singles-friendly community is not an option, there are plenty of volunteer opportunities that are available specifically on Shabbos. Have you ever considered staying over Shabbos with a patient confined to a hospital or a nursing home? Doing so will help alleviate the pressure on the patients’ family members, as well as offer comfort to the patient. Those who volunteer for that type of service find the experience rewarding. You might also consider visiting homebound people, talking, reading, or even davening with them.
If you speak to those who give of their time to others as a chesed, they will tell you that they are the beneficiaries of their own chesed. Giving to others and feeling needed helps them appreciate what they have, and it also provides them with the encouragement to pursue endeavors that they may have long ago relinquished. If this is something you think you would like to do, speak to people in your community and your local Bikur Cholim office.
My other suggestion is to find a savvy, open-minded, and nonjudgmental shadchan you trust and tell her or him that you have not been as observant as the way you have been brought up, but that you would like to meet a man from a background similar to yours who has also gone through comparable changes in observance. You would be surprised to discover that there are others who share the same experiences, but it is a matter of finding that right person.
For your benefit, it would be a good idea to be receptive to suggestions that are a little different than what you originally set out to find in a spouse. Just as your life experiences have altered your way of thinking, please be flexible in agreeing to meet somebody who might be more dissimilar to you than you would have initially considered. I will say again that it is of great emotional importance to find a rav or even a mentor you can talk to. Everyone needs someone in their life in whom they can confide and from whom to seek direction. I hope that you will come to welcome into your personal life the type of lifestyle you were raised in, and build a beautiful frum home with your spouse, b’karov.
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 Dating Forum can be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org.