By Baila Sebrow
While some of my friends only recently started dating, at 25 years old I’m already a divorced man with a daughter. I want to remarry, but the type of girl I would be happy with is impossible for me to get. I want a girl who was never married, because I don’t feel like I was really married. I won’t be bringing my child into a new marriage, so why should I take someone who has kids? It’s not like I was ever a real father.
My marriage should never have happened. I saw what my ex-wife was like when we dated, but everyone—especially my parents—told me that she was a “top girl.” Ha! So I married her. And when the marriage ended, I had to agree to give up contact with my child. My parents convinced me that it was for the best and that in the long run it would help me with shidduchim.
Ideally, I’d want a girl between 21 and 25 years old, but all those girls say no to me because of my daughter—because every shadchan tells people about her right away. Girls who are 30 and older do say yes to me, and I’m ready to consider it. But my parents think I should hold out for someone younger. They think that I will regret it later, when I’m still young and my wife will look old. I know they mean well and want the best for me. They went through so much while I was married and especially when I got divorced. In your experience, what chance do I really have out there?
Your letter sat on my desk for a bit longer than usual, as I needed time to swallow my indignation over the many wrongs that you describe. But after much introspection, I believe that your previous actions and future goals are likely a result of misguided advice.
I am sorry that your marriage did not work out. I am even sorrier that although you astutely noticed signs of impending doom while dating your ex-wife, you were persuaded to marry her nonetheless. That aspect of your life is now behind you. You divorced your wife. She is out of your life. That happens. But why is your child out of your life, too?
I am disgusted by the idea that you were convinced to give up your child so that it would serve you best for future shidduchim. Your marriage, according to you, should never have happened. I get that. But your child, your flesh and blood, was very much meant to happen. This precious human being that you partnered in bringing into this world is your offspring. She exists, baruch Hashem, and she is here on this earth whether you accept her or not.
What exactly is your problem with the fact that shadchanim say that you have a child? It’s true. In my experience, what stands in the way of a divorced man finding a shidduch the second time around is not that he has a child or children. It’s if he has children but they are not part of his life. That’s always a red flag. And I believe that is your problem. Whether it was a legal, halachic, or personal decision, not being a part of one’s child’s life gives the impression of a serious flaw in the parent.
Because of your age, I will cut you some slack and assume that it was not really your choice when such a heartless decision was made for you. But, whether she is in your life or not, your child is real, and the young girls whom you would like to date have every reason to feel apprehensive and thus decline you.
You have not shared all the details of your divorce agreement regarding your daughter, so I cannot comment on what you can do if you are not happy with it. But you are an adult, so you may want to privately discuss the issue with an attorney specializing in family law, as well as a rav.
You are still young, and you are entitled to share your life with someone. You can continue to search for the type of girl you are really after if you feel that is the only way for you to be happy. It might very well happen for you, and if it doesn’t, it might not even have anything to do with your divorce or child.
Since you brought up the possibility of dating older girls, I will comment on that. Sometimes, an older girl who has not had an easy time with shidduchim will begin to consider guys they certainly would have rejected when they were younger. While a 21-year-old girl may say no to you, an older girl may give you the opportunity to date her. And that would be a huge leap of faith for a girl who has not experienced anything similar to your story.
Yet that does not sit well with your parents. Why? Because they are worried about how she will age in the looks department? How one ages does not always have to do with numbers. Genetics, health, and general lifestyle are what play a major role in the external appearance of a person, male or female, at any stage of life. If there is no other reason for their disapproval of your dating an older girl, then they are making a mistake.
Here is my take on what may really be going on in their minds. Your parents have always wanted to find you a shidduch based on what they feel you deserve. They wanted that “top girl” for you, even though you recognized a problem. And your parents have still not disassociated themselves from their desires to find you the “best” shidduch. That is not uncommon, as I hear similar requests from other parents of a divorced child. They want to turn back the hands of time. Sadly, that cannot happen for anyone.
You may still possess qualities that you had before your marriage. But, try as you might, you are not the same person anymore. As your life changes, so do you. You view things from a different angle, perhaps with more sensitivity and empathy. Or, as is natural, maybe you feel a bit hardened. You had support and love from your family, but you have been through traumatic experiences. It would be in your best interest to date someone who can understand where you are coming from.
Which brings me to respond to your final question, about what your chances are out there. I believe you would share commonality with a woman who has lived through similar challenges. A woman who has been through a marriage she was ambivalent about during dating and which proved to not work out would be more open to understanding you. Or even a woman who had high hopes yet was disappointed in the man she married. People who have been through painful challenges in a previous marriage can be more accepting. And whatever caused your relinquishment of your parental rights might be something she could be tolerant of, assuming you have not done anything bad except follow bad advice.
When it comes to marriage, one can overlook frivolous things. However, each partner’s history is an important factor in the building of a relationship and beyond. Opposites might feel attracted for romantic reasons, or to justify a past mistake. But in the long run, huge dissimilarities can make for difficulties.
You have been through a lot. Putting your parents’ wishes for you aside, don’t you think you need to place emphasis on finding someone who will grasp your fundamental nature? Additionally, you may still have some unfinished matters from your past marriage to address one day. Keep your heart open to all shidduch possibilities. Be up-front with anyone you date, and hopefully you will find the happiness and peace of mind you crave.
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. Questions and comments for the Dating Forum can be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org.