We have a son who is 20 years old. He went to regular mainstream yeshivas, but he wasn’t matzliach. He is not a learner and was always picked on terribly by his rebbeim. As a result, he never had any friends, and the boys in his class made fun of him throughout the years.
When our son was in 12th grade, his menahel recommended a yeshiva that my husband and I didn’t think would be good for him, so we decided it would be better for him to get a job. Baruch Hashem, he is doing very well and making a good salary.
Because of all the troubles he faced when he was a child, we feel that he is mature enough to get married. We think that with the right girl, he will finally have a friend for life. We called a few shadchanim but we got turned down. One shadchan told me that he is too young and that we should wait. I told her that my husband was 20 when we got married, and I was almost 23, and, as you can see, it worked. Another shadchan told me that he needs a girl with issues, which we don’t want.
He is looking for a nice, cute girl from a good family. She doesn’t have to be the top of her class, and he would also go for a girl who is a little older. Do you think we should wait a year or two, or start pushing for a shidduch for our son?
When it comes to maturity, I have always found that the number in years does not necessarily correlate to behaving like an adult. For a person to be considered mature, he or she needs to exhibit the wisdom that comes with life experience. Additionally, he needs to take responsibility so he can be relied upon to handle and solve important matters in a socially accepted manner. That said, there are 30-year-olds incapable of doing any of that, and there are much younger people who have proven to be mature beyond their years.
Despite your son’s unsuccessful history in yeshiva, he demonstrates a good work ethic. Academia was not a positive experience for him, and I am sure the right decision was made by not sending your son to the yeshiva the menahel recommended. Clearly, his menahel failed to provide a secure environment where your son could feel respect and acceptance from his educators and peers.
Your son sounds mature, but that is not what the main issue is here. From what I am gathering, you seek a solution to whatever went wrong in his past by marrying him off quickly. However, marriage is not a remedy or rectification for past or present damages. Although a wonderful marriage often features a husband and wife who are best friends with each other, nevertheless, seeking a friend for life because one lacks friendships should not be the main factor for marriage.
One of the many reasons we have such an alarmingly high rate of young divorced people in the frum society is because parents oftentimes marry off their young children in order to right a wrong. And that is always a wrong reason to get married.
Let’s talk this through so that you get a clear picture of the situation. Your son was belittled by his rebbeim (big shame on them!) for not being able to keep up with the rest of the class academically. That set off a chain reaction for his classmates who then viewed him as inferior and felt empowered to bully him. Yes, a child making fun of another child is bullying. How traumatizing for your son! That he got as far in life as he did is something he should be proud of and is also a credit to you and your husband. You definitely did right by him, making your home a safe and loving environment free from the unkind and cruel influences of the outsiders. Kudos to both of you, dear parents!
You helped bring your son to this stage in life where you feel he can get married. But what would happen if, G-d forbid, he does not find the acceptance and security that he seeks in his wife? His young wife (even if she’s a few years older than him) may not be emotionally equipped to fulfill what he is missing. She may not be able to take the place of male friendship. As I mentioned earlier, it makes for a beautiful marriage when the husband and wife can be best friends, but it is very healthy for each of them to maintain other friendships, too.
Those who get married for such reasons end up feeling unfulfilled. Their spouse usually has a difficult time understanding where they are coming from emotionally, and how to perfect that which is lacking. In such cases, the spouses feel that whatever they try to do, they still cannot make their spouse happy. Eventually, they stop trying altogether, leaving the (victimized) spouse feeling wronged, unloved, and unwanted. This scenario is typical of the vicious cycle resulting from such marriages. A marriage of this type is a disaster waiting to happen, because it could potentially trigger him and mentally bring him back to the negative period of his childhood.
I will reiterate my point that it is not his age, per se, that I take issue with, but rather the reasons you give for wanting your son to get married. I realize that your husband was also 20 years old when he got married. You don’t make mention of any extenuating circumstances for that motivation, so I will assume there were none. And therefore, it worked. But where your son is concerned, we are dealing with an entirely different situation.
Marriage is meant to be a beautiful, everlasting union between two people who have chosen to be together. Marriage is not a quick fix, nor is it meant to make up for what one was deprived of in childhood. Yet I see that it has become an accepted approach to use marriage as a cure.
This is not to say that those who have been through a traumatic or difficult childhood are not capable of having a successful marriage in the future. On the contrary, many who suffered while young have grown to become strong yet sensitive people. I do want to make it clear that people who had painful or deprived childhoods are capable of successful marriages. But their marriage was not based on making up for what happened.
There are many parents who ask if it would be a good idea to marry off their children at a younger age. Their motive is that they themselves may have gotten married young, as is the case of you and your husband, and their belief is that couples should marry young. Had you left out all the other pertinent facts, I would have no problem with it, as long as both your son and his future wife are emotionally mature to be married and also have financial footing one way or the other.
But my concern is that you make no mention of your son’s readiness to embark on the major milestone of marriage. You said nothing about his feelings on the matter of dating and marriage. Does he even know what you are considering on his behalf? You also do not indicate that he has moved past what he endured. His success at work is not enough.
It sounds like you and your husband came to this decision because you find yourselves out of options to help your son who is likely very unhappy about his lack of social acceptance and possibly even trust in people.
There are numerous long-term effects that adults who were socially persecuted during their childhood need to deal with. Bullying of any kind destroys one’s sense of self. Not having friends while growing up means that these children do not learn necessary social skills. Social development starts with innocent, fun friendships with peers. Your son was unfortunately deprived of that.
I recommend that you and your husband speak frankly with your son. I don’t know how much was discussed about his yeshiva experiences with regard to his feelings while all this was going on. Now is the time to discuss it. Additionally, if he has not received professional help, please arrange it for him to help him deal with his painful past. The therapist you choose for him should be someone who also understands where you are coming from as a family.
If the therapist determines that your son is emotionally ready to start dating and deal with whatever comes along with the territory — namely, rejections — you can then feel comfortable being proactive in finding him an appropriate match.
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 email@example.com.