Question: Please don’t think I am selfish, due to what I am about to tell you. I am a girl in my late twenties, and still not married. Until recently, my parents had held back my younger siblings from dating. But their friends have convinced them to start looking for shidduchim for the younger children.
My brother is one year younger than I, and he is dating heavily. I never had a problem with my brother dating, probably because I don’t see him picking up the girls from their homes.
The issue I have is with my sister. I watch her getting ready for dates, and I feel sick. When she leaves the house with a guy, I secretly hope that she won’t get a second date.
I am really not a bad person, nor am I jealous by nature. I do a lot of chesed and say Tehillim for cholim. However, the thought of my younger sister getting married and dancing at her wedding is very painful to me. I can only imagine the embarrassment I will feel when people will most definitely give me their pitying looks while wishing me mazel tov.
I can’t discuss this with anyone. I just pretend that I really want my siblings to get married. I even tell everyone that I hope they get married soon. In truth, I really want my siblings to wait for me to get married first. How can I get my parents to understand how I feel?
The Panelists Respond
You are not a bad person, nor are you selfish. You are experiencing normal feelings in reaction to a situation that is beyond your control. It must be very painful for you to witness younger siblings proceed ahead in the milestone of dating, while your life appears to be at a standstill.
Although you insist that you have no issue with your brother being in the dating process, I believe that aspect is hurting you as well. Compounding your distress is the fact that your sister, too, is now dating. Your experience in observing two younger siblings dating adds dimension to the breakdown of your morale.
In a perfect family setting, children marry in chronological sequence. However, often that is not the case. Children who are expected to get married by a certain age may not necessarily do so. This creates a major problem in families where there exists a narrow age gap between the siblings.
The “old school of thought,” practiced in the shtetls of Eastern Europe, was that all children in a family marry as they reach their turn “next in line.” The tragic drawback to this custom was that in many households none of the children ever married.
Within our contemporary circles there is still a prevalence of those who abide by the procedure of waiting for each child to marry based on his or her turn. Some parents will even reject compatible shidduchim being suggested to a younger child.
Your parents tried to hold your younger siblings back from dating for as long as possible, because they were sensitive to your feelings, while at the same time trying to be fair to their younger children.
From a realistic viewpoint, you understand that withholding your younger siblings from dating is not going to help your situation. Furthermore, I believe that as much as you secretly do not want your younger siblings to marry before you, it will be more painful for you to watch them reject possible zivugim.
That said, I think your pain originates from the fact that your parents made the decision to allow your brother and sister to date without discussing it with you first. They did not level with you and explain their position in the matter. In addition, it seems that they never asked how you imagine yourself to be emotionally and socially affected.
There are some in your situation who have moved away from home. However, I will not advise that, as it can be detrimental to your family relationships. Instead, you need a chain of logic that will be livable for everyone.
First, activate a heart-to-heart discussion with your parents. Following that, you need to take control of your pain by involving yourself in the dating lives of your siblings. A recently married woman confessed to me that shopping for trousseaux in preparation for her younger sister’s wedding, while she was still single, remedied her poor frame of mind. This is what she believes helped her find her bashert. Refocusing your attention will assist in the management of your feelings and the actualization of your own dreams.
Baila Sebrow is president of Neshoma Advocates, communications and recruitment liaison for Sovri-Beth Israel, executive director of Teach Our Children, and a shadchanis. She can be reached at Bsebrow@aol.com.
As the oldest sibling, you feel that you should be the first to get married. This is your right and by allowing your younger siblings to date, your parents are taking this right away from you.
One of the many unfortunate casualties of the shidduch crisis is the older siblings who have to stand by smiling while inside they are miserable. Yes, people will give you pitying looks. They will say, “Im yirtzeh Hashem by you” and remark to each other that they really don’t understand why the older one is still single. I am in no way discounting the shame and humiliation you will undoubtedly feel throughout every step. It is not natural for a younger sister to experience all of these exciting adult “firsts” while her older sister has to look on, still a child in her parents’ home. But there is nothing you can do about it.
How do you think your sister felt every time she attended the vort, shower, or wedding of one of her friends during the years when your parents made her wait for you and did not allow her to date? By forcing her to wait for you, you turned her into an older single. She missed out on dating when it was her prime time and younger than all of the eligible boys. She has been a good sister to you, and now you must return the favor and allow her to find her shidduch without making her feel like she is betraying you.
You need to focus on yourself and finding your own bashert and not be so concerned about what is going on with your siblings. I would venture to guess that all this worrying has made you somewhat bitter, anxious, and unhappy. If you are unable to detach yourself emotionally from the hurt and disappointment you are feeling, then I think it may be time to move out of your parents’ house so that you won’t have to be present to witness your sister’s date preparations. Perhaps find an out-of-town friend that you can share an apartment with or move in with your grandparents or an aunt and uncle. I think physically removing yourself from this situation and not having to watch it unfold before your eyes on a daily basis will make it much easier to handle. Additionally, this way if the unthinkable happens, and one of your siblings gets engaged before you do, you won’t have to be around while wedding prep takes over the house.
I think your parents understand exactly how you feel and this is why they held your siblings back for so long. You should consider yourself very lucky to have such caring, considerate parents. Now it is time for you to emulate these actions. Take a lesson from your loving parents, and when you tell people that you hope your siblings get married soon, try and really mean it. Hopefully Hashem will repay your kindness and bless all three of you with zivugim b’karov.
Alisa Berger is a Lawrence shadchanis and part-time dating coach. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. v
In each installment of the Five Towns Jewish Times Dating Forum, a question pertaining to contemporary dating issues will be addressed by our diverse and experienced forum panelists. Questions and comments can be submitted to email@example.com.