I just finished going through a divorce. There are people in both of our families who feel that I should try to work things out with my ex-husband and get back together, but that’s not what I am writing about.
I am nervous about being single again. I am 40 years old, and have many friends who are divorced. They all seem to be having fun dating again, but also complain that the guys out there are commitment-phobic. The frum divorced men I personally know have become “players.”
I know one woman who has been dating the same guy for eight years. While she is faithful to the relationship and doesn’t date anyone else, or go to any events, he is seen hanging out with women and having a great time.
What is the scene really like for a 40-year-old divorced woman? What are the chances of finding true love at my age? Are the guys in my age range looking to get married, or just to have a great time? I have also been told that men in my age bracket date women who are in their 30s and younger. Is that true? Will guys in their 50s or older be the only men interested in me?
By Baila Sebrow
You are raising a painful topic amongst second- or third-time single women, particularly those within your age range and older. I am strongly stressing that whatever decision you come to with regard to your divorce and possible reconciliation with your ex-husband should not under any circumstances be based on my response. Rather, I will tell you from the perspective of a shadchan the reality of what is going on “out there” in the dating world for those in similar circumstances.
The “shidduch crisis” that we all love to hate is a term that was originally given to the challenges young singles experience in the current frum dating system. An often overlooked problem and one that most people refuse to admit and deal with is that there is an even greater issue at stake. Namely, the emotional injustice that some vulnerable divorced women are subjected to which has become a shidduch crisis of their own.
Getting divorced is one of the most agonizing experiences a person can endure—men as well as women. In our frum circles, the experience is made more acute by the general stigma attached to it—even in this day with more sophisticated perspectives. Emotions are raw, sensitivity is heightened, and self-esteem is at its lowest point.
When in physical pain, various medications are used to alleviate the soreness. Those who are in emotional pain are not privileged to partake of similar potions. So, to quote the lyrics in an old song “How can you mend a broken heart?” Most people seek ways that will take the edge off—to dull the pain if even for just a short period.
Divorced people have unusually difficult challenges to overcome. For some men, going out and dating many women helps them to restore their confidence in themselves. Hence, the term “player” is applied. Some of these men have been victims of severe verbal and emotional domestic abuse, although this in no way justifies any offensive behavior they might transfer to women they date.
There are frum divorced men who will date more than one woman for many years, as in your friend’s case. But to be fair, being that we do not know the dynamics of their relationship, one cannot judge that particular guy. It is possible that although they have been dating for eight years, he might be open with her that he is not ready to get married or even consider her for marriage when he is. The fact that she is aware of his activities outside their relationship and is still continuing to date him exclusively is a choice that she has made.
The scene for divorced women your age is not trouble-free. Not only do such women have the challenge of finding someone compatible with themselves, but their financial situations may make them less sought-after for marriage. Some of these men are concerned that if the woman they are dating has children or other obligations, it might at some point become a financial burden to him that he cannot or does not want to deal with.
In addition, you are correct to assume that guys in your age bracket typically prefer to date women in their 30s and younger. To be honest, when I suggest a 40-year-old divorced woman to a man the same age, he will in most cases reject her. That is not to say that her age is the only basis for the rejection. There oftentimes are other factors too. But the reality remains that when I suggest that same woman to a man in his fifties, his reaction to accepting her is commonly positive. I need to point out that this situation is not necessarily across the board, as I have seen a number of exceptions.
A newly divorced woman is generally vulnerable. When a man demonstrates positive attention, it naturally feels encouraging that he is interested in her. Unfortunately for her, it is not always marriage that he ultimately hopes to attain.
The situation for women your age is not hopeless, and yes it is possible to find true love, as there are men seeking the same. But you have to be savvy in this market. If a shadchan suggests a guy that seems compatible with you, or if you meet someone on your own, make it clear that you are not open to dating for fun. Do not be shy about vocalizing your concerns and your seriousness in dating only for marriage.
When in a dating relationship, be cognizant of a guy’s attentiveness toward you. Allow yourself to be suspicious if the guy suddenly drops out of sight with no explanation and then makes a sudden reappearance. I am not advocating that a woman should start behaving like a detective when in a relationship, lest she turn the guy completely off. However, it is important to keep the lines of communication open. The concerns that you state only become problematic when a man and a woman are not on the same page. If a woman is looking to remarry and she somehow finds herself in a relationship with a guy who is taking advantage of her time and emotions, she must advocate on her own behalf and be strong to end such a relationship.
Please understand that despite what you hear and see, there are still plenty of exceptionally decent and honorable divorced men who sincerely seek remarriage. And playing games is not even on their radar. These men are disgusted by the type of behavior you describe, and will not even associate with such people.
I trust that you will find the true love you seek, whether it means embarking on a reconciliation with your ex-husband or entering the dating scene. Every person deserves to find what they need most in life. Believe in yourself and trust in Hashem to guide you with the insight to recognize the moment in time when your zivug sheini will come into view.
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. v
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