I just hit the 40-year-old mark, and I am now considered an alter bachur. I’ve had opportunities to get married, so I can’t blame anyone but myself for my single state. What happened to me was that whenever I got serious with someone, I ran away scared, like a little boy, because I was worried that the beautiful woman I was dating would one day be my wife — and gain weight, turn gray-haired, and become unattractive, especially after having children and getting older.
I have seen this happen to all my friends’ wives, and I have seen it in my own family with my sisters. I also see what happened to some of the women I dated who are now married. I don’t want to become that guy who flirts with beautiful women I see every day in my office. Plenty of frum married men do that, and it’s wrong.
I know what my problem is, so that’s not what I need advice about. I am now dating a beautiful woman who’s just a bit older than I am. Everyone who knows about my issue tells me that since she is older, how bad can she even get? That was my thinking, too, and actually one of the reasons I chose to date her. Everything was going great until I met her mother. She is a very nice lady, but she is very heavy. I asked the woman I’m dating if her mother was always overweight, and she said that happened when her mother was in her fifties. Now I’m ready to run away just like before. I know there is no way to make sure that the woman I’m dating stays the way she is, but how can I make myself not care if she changes? I can’t help it; I’m a realist.
When people embark on the stage of dating for marriage, they do so with determination, and there is almost always a main objective of what they are looking for. For some it’s hashkafah, character, intellect, education, etc. Yes, most people, male and female included, also want to feel an attraction for the person they will marry, so looks is something else that will be one of their requirements. There is nothing wrong with that. On the contrary, it is encouraged.
From a practical point of view, you should want to rush home to your spouse and be content with every aspect of her. The problem is that your requirement in a marriage partner is exclusively the physicality aspect, rather than the essence of the person. That mental framework is a recipe for disaster. Your fear is what you will do if you manage to marry the beauty of your fantasies, and after pregnancy she never reverts to her original figure, or something else happens to her along the way, and she is no longer attractive to you. I agree that you have a huge problem. Perhaps, in your case, it’s not such a bad thing that you’ve held off from marriage until you figure things out and set your priorities straight.
Let’s turn the tables. You say you are 40 years old. It might be that you look great for your age. But how can you predict what you will look like in 20 years from now when you are 60? You can be an avid gym attendee, watch what you eat, and follow a healthy lifestyle to the letter of the law. Do you really have a sealed guarantee that despite all you are doing to maintain your appearance that nothing can cause it to be altered, G-d forbid? And if your appearance were to change, should your wife get turned off and start flirting with men in her office? I think you see where I am going with this.
I will validate you in one area. There are women who feel that once they have a husband, they no longer have to put any effort into the way they look. And to be honest, I see this frequently. For example, women who before they got married were weight-conscious, and then after a while of being married, the pounds start piling on. I am not talking about pregnancy weight or weight due to a health issue or medication, but one too many cookies and cartons of ice cream, or perhaps one pizza slice too many — just because she has a husband so why not indulge and enjoy.
There may be a husband who doesn’t care if his wife lets herself go in the weight department. But if he does and he brings it to her attention, and she still does not care to do anything about it, that is selfish. That by no means justifies the frum married men flirting in the office. But one thing we do know — we know that there are major problems in such a marriage.
It’s not just the weight issue, but how she takes care of herself. Of course, gray hair is inevitable, but if Cleopatra figured out what to do about that so many centuries ago, I assure you that women today know what to do about the grays in their hair, too! And from your letter, I glean that you are worried about other issues that she may become lax about when she feels secure in her marital status. I see that also amongst married women. It’s an attitude that has always been around. In fact, I have heard a few never-married women comment that they can’t wait to get married so that they can either eat what they want or start wearing clothes that are more comfortable. It’s a sad state of affairs when women feel their husbands don’t matter enough to make an impression on them anymore.
That brings me to another aspect of your dilemma that you may have overlooked. A person who does not care to please his or her spouse is already not behaving properly. Marriage is a permanent bond between two people committed to one another. Both partners need to go out of their way to please the other. And when one spouse does not care to do so, it speaks volumes about her or him.
All that being said, it’s not about a guarantee that your wife will look as good as she did when you dated her. It’s about finding a woman who is capable of caring enough about you that your feelings and opinions will always matter to her.
You are now dating someone whom you find attractive, and you say she is somewhat older than you. I must say that it is commendable to hear that you aren’t narrowing your field of opportunity by ages, even though you initially did so to guarantee that your prospective wife will age gracefully. But other than her beautiful looks, what else is it about her that you like? Is she a good person? Is she kind? Does she appear to be the type of woman who will want to please the person she is married to? The answers to those questions will be indicative of what you can expect her to do to the best of her ability.
Regarding how her mother looks, and the fact that she gained weight in her fifties, there is no way for you to know for sure what happened, nor should it even make a difference. In the first place, you don’t know if her mother is dealing with a health issue. And in the second place, what makes you think that the woman you are dating will take after her mother? She also shares DNA with her father.
Do you realize how silly this is? Read your letter again. Read it several times until you fully absorb it. As a mature man, you will realize that you are playing a dangerous game with destiny, and I think you subconsciously know that by the way you refer to yourself as an “alter bachur.” You admit to declining women to whom you were attracted in your younger years out of fear of how they would age after marriage. And you based that on how your sisters and friends’ wives turned out.
Here is what I am having a difficult time understanding. You also mention that the women you dated turned out the same way years later. While I agree with you that there are women who stop caring about their appearance after marriage, you are making it seem like it’s the entire female population, and that all these husbands are feeling compelled to flirt outside their marriages. Not only is that ridiculous, but it is untrue. There are plenty of well-groomed married women in our frum society who care very much about their appearance and who do the best with what G-d has given them.
I don’t know what else is going on regarding your fear, or what experiences you may have encountered in your early years, but I strongly suggest that you seek the assistance of a therapist to help you gain some insight so that you can move your life forward in a positive and healthy way. In the meantime, I urge you to continue dating this woman in your life, and try to place more of your focus on her inner beauty. At the end of the day, the way one looks on the inside will always transmit to the outside.
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.