By Baila Sebrow
I have a daughter who is 18 years old. We decided not to send her to seminary because she never had any friends in school, and she was ignored by the other girls. We were afraid to send her far away to Israel, where she might have the same problems.
She is now working as an assistant in a preschool and everyone loves her. My husband and I think it would be a good idea for her to get married, so that she won’t be so lonely.
In our community, girls her age are not into shidduchim yet. It is more common in the chassidishe circles. My daughter needs a more modern type of guy. So we were wondering if you could advise us what to do about her situation.
With regard to getting married, the most important piece of advice anyone can give you is that marriage is never a remedy for any type of ailment or grievance in life. Loneliness should not be the sole reason for marriage. One of the causes of the high divorce rate amongst young people is that they marry for the wrong reasons. Marrying her off because she never had friends while in school is setting your young daughter up for even bigger disappointment in the long run. A marriage brought about for the wrong reasons cannot sustain itself.
Marriage is meant to be a beautiful, everlasting partnership between two people who are destined to be together. Marriage is not a quick fix, nor is it meant to make up for what one was deprived of in childhood. Yet, somewhere along the way, it has become an accepted approach to use marriage as a cure.
Those who get married for such reasons end up feeling unfulfilled. Their spouses usually have a difficult time understanding where they are coming from emotionally, and how to perfect that which is lacking. In such cases, the spouse feels that whatever he tries to do, he still cannot make the cut. Eventually, he stops trying altogether, leaving the embittered person feeling unloved and unwanted. This scenario is typical of the vicious circle resulting from such marriages.
Families and friends of singles who have endured a challenging childhood—whether the cause was family or social issues—feel that their problems were merely a temporary inconvenience, the attitude being that “kids will be kids.” Their belief is that childhood, even a negative one, is just a phase in life. The reality, however, is that people bring every experience along with them into a marriage—from the good to the bad. And those experiences can either enhance the relationship or potentially destroy it.
This is not to say that everyone who has been through a traumatic childhood episode is incapable of having a happy marriage in the future. On the contrary, many who suffered while young have grown to become strong and sensitive people. Many leaders in society have borne much pain and grief in their past. People who were victims of hurtful childhoods can turn out to be model spouses and parents. But that will usually come about only if the person invested serious effort in overcoming the issues or traumatic events, whether though therapy or some other effective means.
If you would tell me that your 18-year-old daughter is a mature young lady who is very much ready to get married, and that she has successfully moved on with life despite what she went through, I would give you a thumbs-up and immediately advise you on how to find her a compatible shidduch.
Just to set your mind at ease, it is not only in the chassidishe circles that boys marry young. While it is true that it is their accepted practice, you will find that even amongst those of Modern Orthodox hashkafah, there are guys as young as 19 who seek to get married.
My concern in your daughter’s case is that you make no mention of her readiness to embark on the major milestone of marriage. You do not indicate that she has moved past her experiences. You and your husband specifically did not send your daughter to seminary because you were afraid that the same issues she had while in school would ensue. You feared sending your daughter to a seminary in Israel because of the distance and the possibility of her problems repeating themselves. So, why would you think that marriage will be any different?
As a married woman yourself, you know that in marriage one also has to continue dealing with social issues. There are in-laws, friends, and other societal obligations that a guy will expect his wife to join him in fulfilling. Surely you and your husband do not believe that a perfect husband will be one who will abandon everyone for his wife.
In addition to all that, you said nothing about your daughter’s feelings on the matter of dating and marriage. Does she even know what you are considering on her behalf?
It sounds like you and your husband came to this decision because of difficulty in helping your daughter overcome unhappiness about her lack of social acceptance.
There is something else that is not sitting well with me. You say that your daughter is working as an assistant in a preschool. You did not mention that she is seeking to advance herself by means of further studies. She is only 18 years old, and girls after high school typically seek to increase their academic knowledge and achievements for professional development. Although everyone at her job seemingly likes her, is she comfortable permanently remaining in the status of an assistant? In the circles that you imply that you live in, it appears to be a bit out of the ordinary.
Please do not get the impression that I am blaming your daughter for her lack of ambition. I am not stating that she is responsible for the way she is presently living her life. I believe that what happened to her in school was not her fault. Sadly, she might even have been a victim of bullying. Excluding or ignoring a classmate is a form of bullying. Anything that someone does to make people feel bad about themselves is persecution.
There are many long-terms effects that adults who were bullied as children need to deal with. Bullying of any kind destroys one’s sense of self. One of the complications resulting from not having friends while growing up is not learning the social skills that all children need to develop. Your daughter was cheated out of that privilege.
You do not bring up how her difficult circumstances were addressed while your daughter was in school. But that is in the past, and so we need to focus on improving her present and ultimately future situation.
You and your husband need to speak with your daughter. Gently bring up the painful episodes she suffered while in school, and ask her how she feels she is coping with the aftermath of those experiences. Explain to her that it is always a good idea to speak to a professional who understands situations such as those she suffered through.
Your daughter might tell you that she is fine and does not need to speak to anyone. If so, you and your husband should offer to go along with her. I feel that once your daughter is comfortable being in therapy, the issues that you and your husband are now concerned about will eventually work themselves out.
When all conditions are healthily stabilized, it might come to the point that getting married at a young age will ultimately be beneficial for your daughter. Sooner or later, though not before she is fully ready, you will then want to reach out to shadchanim who have access to boys on your daughter’s hashkafic level. v
When Singles Are Excluded
In last week’s Dating Forum, the question was from a single describing the pain of being excluded from publicly marketed singles’ events. This rejection is experienced by singles who fit the stated criteria of age, hashkafah, and profession and who register well before the deadline, to no avail. Worse, they find out after the event that people who did not fit the criteria did make it in. The writer asked, “Why do these people who run events have to make it so difficult to meet someone; isn’t the purpose of an event so that people can meet and get married? And how can I make myself a more desirable candidate for an event?” In my response, I validated the writer, citing my own experiences as a shadchan who has facilitated at these so-called “exclusive” events, and I shared insider’s information about such shenanigans.
Since this article was published, my inbox has been filled with e‑mails from grateful singles, parents, event organizers, and other shadchanim who thanked me for my response. However, I also received a few angry e‑mails from other event organizers who felt slighted by it. As my column is geared to be a public service for the singles community and those who care about them, I will clarify the issues that might have caused angst in anyone.
As I stated in my response, most people who organize events do so because they have an understanding of the plight that singles endure in today’s shidduch world. Those organizers are well known to go above and beyond the call of duty to assist singles in finding their bashert. There are even some who use their own money, ensuring that their events will fairly include those singles whom they wish to target for the particular venue. However, life is not perfect, and just as we have good amongst us, we also have those few who are not. The author of the letter is complaining about the organizers who are hurting singles.
I will point out that there are times when single women are excluded from events because of an uneven ratio of men to women. If more women apply than men, it stands to reason that there will be women who do not get in. But that is not what the author is disturbed about or referring to.
Those who, time after time, exclude singles who fit the criteria demonstrate a lack of sensitivity that not only hurts the possibility of those people finding their bashert, but also the future of Bnei Yisrael. Such behavior cannot and should not be condoned. The danger of not calling out abuse of any kind is that it will perpetuate such behavior in the community.
For organizers who are particular in selecting whom they prefer, it would be a healthier option to not publicly market their events, but rather to invite those singles they are interested in by recruiting them in a private manner. This method will spare the pain of rejection among those the organizers do not wish to include.
For singles, I always advise that they take a proactive role by running their own events, especially those singles who find that they are repeatedly rejected. Baruch Hashem, many singles are already doing so, with very positive results to show for it.
May all singles be zocheh to stand under the chuppah with their zivugim, b’karov, and may their pain be replaced by joy.
Baila Sebrow is president of Neshoma Advocates, communications and recruitment liaison for Sovri-Beth Israel, executive director of Teach Our Children, and a shadchanis.
Questions and comments for the Dating Forum can be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org.