The 5 Towns Jewish Times

Dating Forum: When Age Is More Than a Number

By Baila Sebrow

Question:

I am a guy in my thirties. When I was younger and started dating, my parents never let me date anyone older than I am or even close to my age, but I was always attracted to older girls. I guess I was very mature and couldn’t get along with younger people. When I got older, I started dating who I wanted.

I recently got involved with someone, and she is everything I want in a woman. She’s beautiful, smart, talented, and very special. She is also much older than I am. We want to get married, but my parents went crazy when they heard.

When she found out that my parents don’t want her in the family, she backed out. We still keep in touch. I am ready to marry her even though my parents are against it. I don’t even care if they don’t come to the wedding — that’s how much I love her. I also want to mention that the rav from my parents’ shul is against this, too. He says I have to marry a woman who can have children. I feel it’s always up to Hashem. But this is all too much for me to handle.

Response:

Your letter is bittersweet. You were blessed to have found reciprocal love. Yet, instead of everyone who matters to you being happy, they are antagonistic. I must commend you for your level of maturity and the open-minded method you have utilized throughout your dating experiences.

From early on, you recognized what works best for you, and you refused to follow the masses as so many others do, particularly when it comes to choosing a partner for life. You are amongst a small percentage of men who believe that having children comes only from Hashem. Sadly, there are those who think that marrying a younger woman will guarantee the offspring they want. What a breath of fresh shidduch air it is to hear otherwise.

One of the huge challenges that shadchanim face is helping older men who have never had children find a shidduch. They insist on being matched with much younger women, and, more often than not, those women are not on board. There are even men who, although they may have children from a previous marriage, insist on having more. They, too, refuse to date women their age. I am not surprised to hear that your parents’ rav advised you not to marry this woman on the basis of his negative assumption regarding her fertility. Sadly, this is not the first time I heard about such an opinion. With much respect to this rav, he does not possess the power of Hashem. I have seen many wonderful surprises where women who got married older did produce children.

As much as I disagree with your parents, I understand where they are coming from, at least from their social perspective. But I will say that the frum community is beginning to see changes in this respect. Perhaps your parents may not be aware of that fact yet. There are now marriages, even in the frum world, where the husbands are younger than their wives. In some frum communities, the girls are deliberately chosen to be older than the guys they marry.

How disappointing that you previously heeded the advice of those who assumed they were correct in telling you to find someone younger. I don’t know how some people shoulder the responsibility in advising that you can just pick a person who may not be compatible and date her just because she is age-appropriate, and drop someone because she is not young enough according to their standards.

Just like the secular world, even our frum society has an obsession with youth. It used to be in years past that people would be proud of getting older. Each wrinkle and gray hair was a sign of life achievement, the fact that they are making it to an older age. In present times it is no longer just the Hollywood lifestyle that resorts to plastic surgery, Botox, hair transplants, etc. Frum people are now doing that too, and some for shidduch purposes. The conversations about surgically reconstructing oneself are taking place on a regular basis among frum people, with recommendations on where to get the best look for less.

When it comes to shidduchim, even when men tell me it’s because they want to have children, I truly believe, especially when they already have children, that their request is not always coming from a halachic standpoint. Rather, and forgive me for being crude, they are seeking arm candy for society to feast their eyes on.

It’s no different where parents of guys are concerned. People tend to judge others on many frivolous things, including whom their children marry. So it’s no surprise that you were encouraged to break up with this woman.

That she did not want to hurt your parents and so she ended the relationship indicates that she is a sensitive person who does not want to see family strife — and especially not be the cause of it. I cannot imagine the pain she felt when she ended her relationship with you. It is no easy feat meeting someone you feel compatible with, but to reach a level where you feel ready to marry that person is a blessing. Regrettably, those around you did not see it that way. It sounds like she is one-of-a-kind. I applaud you for not letting her go, and for still keeping the lines of communication open. Good for you!

I would like to advise you to run and marry this woman. But first I want you to make sure that your need to marry an older woman is not just based on your perception of her maturity. The reason I am saying this is because when you were younger I can understand that you might have felt that someone very young was perhaps not as worldly or mature as you may have been. But now, in your thirties, surely you must have come across women equally as mature as you. You need to figure out why women who are closer to your own age do not appeal to you. It could be that you are more mature than other men your age, and older than your years. You might possess an older and wiser type of intelligence. Perhaps the younger women everyone is advising you to date might even feel that you are intellectually too deep for them. Or perhaps your personality may lean towards the serious side, and many young women demonstrate a fun and lighthearted personality.

In other words, please make sure that what you seek in a spouse is coming from a wholesome place in your heart. I advise you to speak to someone you trust and who knows you well. It could be a professional therapist or someone you look up to for mentoring.

If your reason for dating older women has a healthy basis, you should definitely be dating a woman who is older than you. And if this woman fits the vision of the woman you want to marry, then you should continue fighting for what you want.

As much as it is psychologically important to gain the approval of your family, losing out on love and marriage would be tragic. I don’t want that to happen to you. In fact, halachah does not mandate that one must have his or her parents’ approval when seeking a spouse. On the contrary, one is permitted to go against the disapproval of his or her parents, provided he or she is marrying a person who is Torah-observant.

If you can convince this woman to marry you regardless of what anyone else thinks or says, then do not ask for anyone’s opinion. Just inform the people in your life that you proposed to her, and she accepted. Give them the date of whatever celebration you will have prior to the wedding, and invite them to that, as well as to the wedding. Be very clear that you will not listen to any negative talk about her, as she is going to become your wife whether they like it or not.

I am not telling you to be disrespectful to those who may oppose this (hopefully) reconciled relationship. But if you truly feel that this woman can bring you the happiness you crave and deserve, then no other person has the right to be judgmental about her. You have both already lost enough time. And if you are lucky enough to get a second chance with her, you will need to move fast and make it happen.

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.