I’m an older woman who has been divorced for many years, and my past is holding me back. I went through hell growing up, and I experienced a rough patch with my Holocaust survivor parents while I was in college and I got turned off from Yiddishkeit. In medical school, I met a non-Jewish guy who swept me off my feet and we got married. It was a disaster, and he eventually left me and my baby for another woman. That was so many years ago, and I still haven’t been able to get my life back.
I learn and go to shiurim regularly. I daven and say and do all the right things. But my past keeps sneaking up on me. People reject me because I was once-upon-a-time married to a goy, even though I divorced him. I do meet men, but they end up leaving me for stupid reasons, like if I get mad at something stupid that they do. Most men are that way, I am sorry to say. Am I supposed to act like an airhead woman? Do men like stupid airhead women who dress provocatively? I see that those are the only ones my age who get the men. I even try making friends with matchmakers, to give myself an edge, and then it turns out they don’t even want to be friends with me, and that hurts. What’s the answer for my life?
The answer is to first change your mindset, and perhaps that might give you a leg up. There are no guarantees, but it is definitely worth a shot. I will try to address all the issues that you laid out for me.
Because I am a matchmaker too, I feel inclined to respond to your statement that you try to make friends with matchmakers in order to get preferential treatment. DON’T DO IT. Matchmakers do not choose this profession or chesed interest because they are looking to make friends with singles. They perform this service because they feel that they are good at it and that it is their calling. More importantly, successful matchmakers are intuitive, and if they detect that somebody is trying to get closer to them to be in a more favorable position for finding a shidduch, it is the biggest turnoff. Nobody wants to be used or made to feel that way. Treat your matchmaker like any other professional. Would you go out of your way to become friends with your doctor, lawyer, accountant, electrician, plumber, etc.? I believe you get the idea. Keep it professional and respectful all the way, on both sides.
With regard to men breaking up with you, it sounds like you do manage to get dates, and perhaps even develop relationships. Had you not shared that you get mad at these men for doing “stupid things,” I would have otherwise been trying to figure out why these relationships don’t work out. What exactly do you consider stupid? A better question is why you feel so superior to the men you date that you have the audacity to call most men stupid. Is it an education thing? Do you purposely try to attract men who are less educated than you, have a less-impressive job, or perhaps earn a lower salary than you? Are you struggling with anger-management issues? Those are questions you need to ponder, and you need to do some major introspection to figure out why you choose the men you do.
One of the components of my matchmaking style is that I get involved and am available in the coaching aspect of the match and relationship. I do so not just to help the couple keep their relationship intact, but also so that if a breakup is called for, each party understands what may have gone wrong. Whether it is something somebody did to sabotage the relationship, or even for the person who did everything according to dating etiquette code, there is a learning experience to be gleaned from every romantic association, irrespective of the outcome.
Now is the time to do that for yourself. How do you choose dating partners? What criteria must they meet for you to feel an emotional connection? And when you are dating them, how do you feel about these men? Do you respect them? Because from what you are disclosing, I think that you do not respect them enough to begin with. That might be the reason you get mad at them for doing things that you refer to as “stupid.” Please reassess your needs and correct whatever it is that you discover you might be doing wrong. It might be something as simple as learning tolerance. Yes, tolerance is important for successful relationships of all kinds. No person is perfect, and every individual has his or her own idiosyncrasies. Implement a policy of making peace with what you can tolerate in a person and declining what you know you cannot.
Initially, I was not even going to give any credence to those negative expressions by responding to your query about men preferring women who are “stupid” or “airheads” and dress “provocatively.” But I will do so specifically to point out to you the manner in which you judge people. The fact that you refer to any woman, regardless of her IQ, who finds a man to date, as an “airhead” or “stupid” leaves much to be desired within your own character. I am deeply sorry that I even have to say this to you, but in defense of the women you are disparaging, I need to do it.
With reference to a woman who dresses provocatively, that is sometimes entirely subjective. What may appear provocative to you, others may not see that way. Here too, I need to point out that such disparagement is out of line. There is something to be said about not judging a book by its cover.
I left the first issue you presented in your letter for last in my response. You started off by saying that your past is holding you back and that the choices you made many years ago are still haunting you to this day. And that is a huge problem in the frum world of dating. People have long memories, and the sad fact of the matter is that their method for searching for a match is not about looking at the positive qualities to accept a match. Rather, it is about finding something negative in order to nix the prospect.
My heart goes out to you for all that you suffered growing up and as a young adult. Being a child of Holocaust survivors comes with its own set of issues. Fortunately, there is so much being done today that recognizes the intergenerational consequences that affect descendants of Holocaust survivors. The fact that you are a second-generation Holocaust survivor means that you had to learn to understand the inner demons that your parents were battling at the same time as they tried to raise a family. While you were still very young, you probably did not “get them,” and they likely did not “get you.” It is possible that you needed to escape life by going on a different path.
I do not know why you were swept off your feet by a non-Jewish man. It is very likely that where you were holding emotionally at the time made you feel that you would be much better protected or even privileged to be married to a non- Jewish husband. That is not an uncommon phenomenon for children of Holocaust survivors, and more public awareness needs to be brought to the fore by trained professionals who deal with this issue.
After the war, survivors lost many family members. Some were sole survivors of formerly large families. As such, they lacked a support system. For some, their way of dealing with the unspeakable trauma and atrocities that they endured was to get married to neutralize their pain. Moreover, they felt an overwhelming need to recreate families to compensate for all they had lost. However, it was as though they were swimming against crashing waves, and, inadvertently, many ended up causing emotional pain to their own children who loved and adored them.
I do not know how old you are, but please avail yourself of the myriad of services available nowadays for all ages. I urge you to address your issues and concerns, because you have a whole life ahead of you with an abundance of opportunities waiting for you. Allow yourself the chance to be happy; you deserve it.
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. Read more of Baila Sebrow’s articles at 5TJT.com.