Monday, August 5, 2013

How I Got Married - Part 1

Some Shidduch Advice for Late Bloomers

Tragically, we are living in times when more and more men and women, young and not so young, are finding it difficult, or impossible, to get married, and are facing the prospect of a lifetime of involuntary solitude. For many years, I used to count myself among those women. After an early divorce I lived as a single mother for over twenty years – ten of them yearning; another ten actively seeking to get married.

With the help of Heaven I finally succeeded, and along the way I came to a few insights that I would like to offer here, in the hope that they might help other “late bloomers” to get married. It is a sensitive subject, fraught with anguish, and I must apologize in advance if even one word causes any reader pain, which is obviously not my intention. The intention is rather to shake you up a little, and possibly change the angle from which you are considering your predicament. The article is based on my own experiences and personal observations, and I would readily concede that there are many possible scenarios, obstacles and conditions that have not been addressed here. Therefore, I don’t pretend that these ideas are a cure-all for every situation. However, I believe that much of the below applies in many cases. (If I seem to be writing mainly for a female audience it is not intentionally so – I think all the principles apply equally to men.)

I offer these insights in all humility, knowing that ultimately all salvation comes from Hashem. Nevertheless, we are obligated to make every effort to allow Him to help us. We must hold out a vessel, into which He may pour out the blessing!

IMPORTANT NOTE: Some of the comments below may seem uncomplimentary to my husband, but don’t let that fool you! He is a tzaddik and I greatly respect him. I have received his permission and blessing to publish this text, because he understands that any drastic expressions in this article were written only in the hope of being helpful to persons who are suffering. And also to get a few laughs.

1.      Don’t (Just) Look for the Right Person – BE the Right Person!
Under this heading there are two aspects to consider. The first one is this: Even if you meet the right person you won’t realize, unless you are the right one for him. It could be that your zivug – your other half, the one Hashem has set aside for you – has a shortcoming of some kind, great or small. If you are not kind or patient or accepting enough to overlook this shortcoming you won’t be able to get married.

We have all heard the story of the young man who complained to his Rebbe that he couldn’t find the right girl, whereupon the Rebbe, gazing into the World of Truth replied: “Oh, you’ve already met her, but you thought her nose was too big.” This young man didn’t care about being the right person; to get married you must do so. Of course there are limits – I’m not saying you have to be ready to marry an unemployed, chain-smoking vegetarian with ADD, but you must be someone who is willing to overlook imperfection. Otherwise, how can you expect your spouse to overlook yours?

The second aspect is, of course, that you must be somebody that your zivug would want to be married to. You yourself have a desire to be married to somebody kind, generous, good-humored and adorable. Your zivug wants that too!

Whether you are a man or a woman, make yourself attractive and marriageable. Obviously, you need to address external things, like losing weight, updating your wardrobe or refining your grooming routines (ahem – gentlemen?!), but don’t forget to work ceaselessly on internal matters, such as your character, your mood and your midos. Do everything in your power to become clearly distinguishable as a “good catch”! Be cheerful and compassionate – try to be happy for your friends if they find their zivugim before you do. This can be extremely hard for a person who has been alone a long time. It hurts very much to be alone; repeated disappointments can erode one’s spirit, and it is easily done to slip into self-pity and bitterness. But fight against it! Remember that few things are more unattractive than bitterness.

I happen to know of a young woman, by now somewhat into her thirties, with a significantly younger sister who fell in love practically on her first date (“permission” to date had been grudgingly granted by the elder sister “but only to date; not to get engaged” if you can credit it), and got married very quickly and happily at barely twenty. The older girl now had a choice open to her: she could have rejoiced with her younger sister, and in the process gathered z’chus – spiritual merit – that would have put her alongside Rochel Imeinu. In so doing she would have made herself into an utterly lovable person – and into a most desirable marriage partner.  

Instead, she chose to give free reign to her pain, nourishing her bitterness and anger. During the sister’s engagement period, she virtually terrorized her family, freely releasing her envy, jealousy and resentment, forbidding them to mention the choson’s name in her presence, and going about with a permanent scowl on her face. Nobody says her pain wasn’t real and heartbreaking; nobody says it wasn’t a terrible tribulation for her – but frankly, what young man would want to marry a girl with such a personality?

Don’t be her. Join the Marines and “be all that you can be!”

2.      Do You Have Baggage? Believe in Your Own Worth!
Most people above the age of seven have baggage. It is called life. Sometimes the baggage can be a bit heavier than usual, and it is easy to believe that this will be an obstacle to marriage. Unfortunately there are many people who will try to make you think that because of your baggage you are not good marriage material. Don’t believe them – believe in you! (But of course, depending on what your story is, anything that can be rectified should be fixed, so that you can demonstrate an improved record!) It is important to maintain a conviction that you deserve to be happy, to be loved. That conviction alone – if it is based on a spiritual truth, not on arrogance – will greatly contribute to your attractiveness.

This is where you are going! 
The Chuppah represents the choson's home - 
his tent - into which he invites the kallah to 
come and live with him.
(Image from
One of the top-three messages of the entire Torah is this: it doesn’t matter where you are coming from – it only matters where you are going! As long as you are working on yourself with honesty, that is all Hashem requires of you. At a certain point you will be ready, and when you meet your true zivug the baggage will become insignificant, not because “you’ll discover that there is something a bit wrong with him also”, as a well-meaning, but stupid, former (!) friend once said to me, but because you will see that you are two pieces of a puzzle. “Our neuroses match perfectly”, as Woody Allen said. Not exactly so, but you may very well find that your own life experiences have given you a certain wisdom that makes you particularly qualified for this relationship; that everything you have gone through in your lifetime has led you to this moment.

This being said, it is important to consider the concept of correct timing. Don’t speak up too soon; the shidduch might not be right anyway – for other reasons – and you now have yet another person who knows a little too much about you, and who might spread it around in a way that is not productive for you. When you know that there is a real chance that this could lead in the right direction – then you may need to reveal yourself, step by step.

On our sixth date, when some mutual tender affections had become apparent, my future husband revealed a particularly juicy bit of baggage. Had he spoken sooner it would have been the end; as it was I staggered – but rallied. I told him about myself in stages, saving the best bit for the moment after he proposed to me. His reply was, “Do you think I hadn’t figured that out already?”...

More to follow next week...

Shalom Uv'racha!

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