By Baila Sebrow


I recently met a woman at a singles event who has been divorced twice. That doesn’t bother me. She seemed very nice when we spoke, and I asked her for her phone number. When I mentioned to someone that I am planning to go out with her, the person told me troubling information. I found out that the woman doesn’t want to return a very expensive ring her second husband gave her, and that they are divorced for a long time now. Before they got married, the deal was that if anything goes wrong between them, she will return it, and she did not keep her word. No matter who asks her to return it, she refuses.

I wanted to find out more about that and about her in general, so I asked around, and a rav who knows the whole story told me to stay away from her. He said that the ring is a family heirloom. Her ex never should have given it to her, but he was very sad after his first wife’s death, and when he met this woman, her bubbly personality gave him hope that he could have a happy life with her.

After they got married, he discovered that she’s an alcoholic and does crazy things when she’s drunk. She embarrassed him many times in public while she was drunk, and she was also mean to him and his family, so he had no choice but to divorce her. He is remarried, baruch Hashem, and now lives a normal life.

I was very impressed when I met this woman, even though I see how she can be eccentric at times. My question is whether people can change. Can they grow?


I recently coached a dating couple. The man in the relationship reached out to me because he had a major concern. He and the young lady were both present at the session, and he expressed that early on in their relationship he asked the woman if she is growing as a person, and she replied that she does not think she can grow more. He took that as a bad sign, but since she is a very spiritual person, he continued dating her anyway. As the relationship intensified he started to get cold feet, so he told her that he wants to go for coaching. He confessed that what he really wanted was for me to agree with him that her assertion that she does not see herself growing is a sign that he should break up with her. I asked him why, and he said because a person should always want to grow and be better.

After he finished speaking, I turned to her. She said that she did tell him that, but that he never gave her the chance to further explain what she meant. She remembers that he had inadvertently changed the conversation to something else, never allowing her to elaborate.

She had no idea that all this time he was carrying her statement in his heart and that it was brewing such resentment. Now that she had the chance to explain what she meant, she wanted to be heard. The woman stated, “As much as things change, and as much as people can grow, for the most part, deep down, they stay the same, because who they are does not change much.” With tears in her eyes, she expressed that she wanted him to see her for who she is now, and to appreciate what she has to offer at present, rather than have him think that she could be a better person or a different person and be disappointed down the line.

In answer to your question, regarding this woman you met, as much as she might change, or if life causes her to change, who she is will pretty much stay the same.

Where it relates to jewelry, an engagement ring given during the engagement period is a promissory gift and is conditional on marriage. If an engagement is broken, regardless of who breaks the engagement, that ring should be returned to the giver. However, if the couple gets married, it is customary that the husband does not request that the ring be returned, except in the circumstance that you described. The woman allegedly knew that the ring was a family heirloom, and prior to the marriage she agreed to return it if a divorce occurs. She broke that promise and is keeping something that does not belong to her anymore. From what you are saying, it sounds like she is a vengeful person. You have enough reason to believe that this type of behavior will continue.

There is an even bigger problem here. The woman suffers from alcoholism, and during her drunken stupors she behaves in ways that not only cause embarrassment to those around her, but are cruel. If she acted mean to her ex-husband and family, she might have even been violent, too. You want to know if I can foresee her growing and changing? Absolutely not! Based on all that you know, what you see is what you will get should you enter a relationship with her.

I always stress that people who write to me asking for advice are not just seeking a yes-or-no answer. They can get that from anyone. In some instances, they know what they need to do, but they need the validation given to them in their anonymous status. Other times they require a deeper explanation as to why a particular circumstance is or is not in their favor, and whether they should remain in or leave a relationship.

Though you met this woman once, there was something attractive that compelled you to search for more information. The more you found, the more inclined you felt to inquire about her. Perhaps you were hoping to discover something good so that you could feel comfortable about dating her. When you found out only negative information, you reached out to tell me about this woman, your focus being the possibility of her changing her ways.

Though I told you that it does not seem likely that she could change, my concern is that your attraction to her, or maybe loneliness, might drive you to consider getting to know her better. And that would be dangerous. I will explain to you what it is like to live with a person suffering from alcoholism.

The earlier alcoholism is addressed, the better the chance for a positive outcome. It appears that for her, this problem has been ongoing. People with this condition are unable to maintain healthy relationships. Every area of their life is affected by their drinking. Those who live with alcoholics deal with negative mood changes from one second to the next. Alcoholics are prone to temper outbursts that come out of left field, to the extent that they become aggressive and even violent. In that state, they have no control over their emotions, and it’s common for them to embarrass those around them.

Even on their “good” days, there are issues. They have low tolerance, they tire easily, and they are prone to impulsivity. Most are also hypersensitive, which creates problems in their interpersonal relationships. In most cases, they suffer from low self-esteem that presents in aggressiveness with family members and those close to them to compensate for their feelings. There is no way any normal healthy person can live with an alcoholic. There have been those who stuck around such marriages, and in most cases all it brought them was heartache and, at times, a tragic conclusion.

If you would have been in a serious relationship with her or engaged by the time you found out these things, I would have offered you different advice in terms of what you can do to help her and how to stand by her as she gets the help she desperately needs. But you have not had even one date with her, and all you heard was the information you shared with me. I am sure that it is not every day that you hear such stories and feedback about a woman you consider dating.

I understand that she made a good impression on you. Just because a person suffers from an addiction does not mean that it is immediately visible. Meeting this woman at a singles event meant that you had the opportunity to converse with her, and she might very well be intelligent and charming. But that is just the veneer to cover up the demons she is battling inside.

I take the topic of a person’s true nature very seriously, from personal experience. My husband, z’l, was niftar over five years ago. Among many other heartbreaking complications during his illness, he was bedridden, and in the months closer to his death, he was on a respirator and needed to be tube-fed. Yet, whenever he noticed that any of his nurses seemed tired, he would motion for them to sit down and rest. Not only that, but he would inquire by gesturing whether they had eaten. Throughout his life, he was always concerned about the next person. The painful and terrible circumstances he endured did not take away from the kindhearted person he was. n

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 Baila also hosts The Definitive Rap podcast for, Israel News Talk Radio, WVIP 93.5 FM HD2, and Questions and comments for the Dating Forum can be submitted to Read more of Baila Sebrow’s articles.


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