Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

6 Kislev 5766 - December 7, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Home and Family

Single Parent, Older Single Children, and More

By Rebbetzin Nomi Travis

Question: "I'm very touched by the sensitive thorough manner in which you tackle the subject of shidduchim. I decided to write to you anonymously, with the hope that your wise words would help me. I've been divorced for many years and have been trying to raise my kids the best way I can. Nothing prepared me for the challenge of helping my children in shidduchim. I have a few older single children and not much contact with shadchonim . . . Anonymous

Answer: The situation of single parents marrying off children can be very difficult. Many times, one of the parents is more involved then the other, and consequently has a lot of responsibility to shoulder. It is hard enough for a couple working as a team to marry off their children, but when one parent is alone it's even harder.

I have heard of cases of divorced parents who, although for obvious reasons were not in contact, both separately do help the child, considering that their outlooks are similar.

But it gets even more complicated when one parent raised the child and the other also wants to help but there are conflicting values. Often, when parents remarry, than there are even "more then one father and mother in the picture" (hopefully with the best of intentions).

It goes beyond the scope of this article exactly how to handle such complex situations. But I will try to bring up some general thoughts on the subject.

Emotional Support

There is a famous saying that two heads think better than one. Even the most level-headed single parent needs to seek guidance. A good friend can be an ozen kasheves, a faithful listener who needs to be caring and non- judgmental.

Beyond the particular situation of a divorcee, I often write about the importance of getting advice from someone older and wiser. We have to be humble and admit that we don't have all the answers. By presenting predicaments to life- experienced individuals, we get a much richer, thorough perspective on what we are supposed to be doing. I also wrote in a previous article that since we don't have prophecy nowadays, Hashem still gives us daas Torah with Divine assistance to guide us.

I personally know a family whose father is very distant. The divorced mother purposely looked for a fatherly figure for her children. Besides her close male relatives who are very caring, she encouraged her son to have a close relationship with a warm neighbor. The neighbor made time for them and was very helpful, especially in the crucial formative years. When the son became older, he also established an invaluable relationship with a Rebbi from the yeshiva. The mashgiach even found time in his extremely busy schedule to help the mother with shidduchim inquiries.

I also know many divorcees that felt the need to reestablish family ties with relatives with whom they weren't much in touch in the past. The divorcee became closer than before to immediate family and to more removed relatives like cousins. A person who feels the need for family involvement will make an effort to get along and benefit from the positive unique support that only close relatives can give.

At times, a person can feel alone. It could be natural then to despair. But don't let a feeling of helplessness dominate you. Please fight those emotions and make an effort to seek out others and ask for assistance. It might take time and effort to find the right shlichim to assist you, but don't give up.

Making contacts In the realm of practical hishtadlus, the key is to make connections. In shidduchim, it is essential to network and reach out.

We live in a close-knit society. Although the communities are large, our lives vibrate towards communal life and there are ways to broaden our relations in the frum world. Everyone has a best friend, who in turn has a best friend. In our daily activities we come across relatives, acquaintances, neighbors, teachers, rebbes, co-workers, etc.

You might assume that your relations know your children. That's true, but at the same time, people have very busy lives and can't possibly be attentive to everyone's needs. They might have even thought of your children at some point. But for one reason or another, refrained from bringing up suggestions. They might know you or only part of the family, and therefore not know enough about your situation. Or they might even want be helpful, but not know how to go about it.

People need to be reminded and sometimes even gently nudged. And still, if whoever you talk to doesn't know how they can be of assistance, you can always ask for ideas from others they know who are indeed well connected.

Obviously, you need to approach acquaintances who are caring and resourceful. And even if a conversation doesn't seem to lead anywhere, hopefully, that person will be kind enough to make the effort to mention your children in their davening. And who knows? Maybe that's exactly the hishtadlus that will open the doors to the great yeshuah! Prayer should never be underestimated! And the main one Hashem wants to hear is from your child (and you)!

Contacting Shadchonim

Obviously, you are looking for contacts who know candidates in the category you're looking for. Not all shadchanim relate to older singles. Clarify this when you first call, to avoid unnecessary disappointment and waste of time.

Besides the so called "professional matchmakers," there are teachers, Rebbes, etc. that could just be the right link. For example, if you have older daughters, you might want to get to people with connections with yeshivas that have older bochurim. Or even if they are not learning full time, they might still study on some part-time level in certain kollelim. People try to stick to a group that fits them in one way or another. In general, an older bochur won't feel so comfortable in a yeshiva with young single boys.

Preferably, call shadchanim who were highly recommended by people you trust. Besides reliability, you want to call successful individuals. Unfortunately, there are more than enough well-intentioned ladies out there who lack the insight and don't know what involves setting up a couple. For example, some might insist on pushing down your throat an offer that you clearly know is not in the ball park. Others might not be discreet and sensitive.

I personally prefer to work with referrals. If someone calls recommended by someone I trust, it is much easier to make the acquaintance. But an unknown call will take me more time to place and verify the information. I therefore suggest that whenever possible, when you make the introductory call to the shadchan, give her a reference point. If you heard about her from her friend Mrs. G., automatically you are no longer a total stranger to the matchmaker, but "her friend's friend."

That's how a lot of the relations in the Torah world develop. For example, regarding admittance to a seminary. The way to do it is through people you know who are connected to that school. Unless, you have a child who already attends the institution or you yourself are a well- known public figure, the registrar will want to make sure that your daughter is suitable for the institution by checking her out through their own channels . . .

And even if the shadchan doesn't have ideas at the present, don't give up. Try to keep in touch with her. I always say that the number of suggestions don't impress me. To throw names on the table anyone can do; it can only be taken seriously if the suggestions seem relevant.

Older Singles

Having a child in shidduchim is hard enough. Having one older single — harder. But a few older singles . . . that's very stressful (to put it mildly)!

Older singles are often "burned out,' tired of all the years of the shidduchim "roller coaster." The accumulated disillusionments, frustrations, and bitterness take their toll, not only on the tired individual but on the mother as well.

Even the family, friends and shadchanim sometimes feel let down after years of setting someone up. No one has the right to judge your child. We don't always understand why some get married with the first one they met, while others suffer through years of watching their classmates and companions marry, while they have to wait longer . . . We are dealing with people with feelings, wants and complexities . . .

I can have lots of ideas of who Malky should or shouldn't meet. But who am I ? I can't live her life. And more than that, I'm not in control. If the Ribono Shel Olom doesn't wish it, there is no amount of pushing that will bring those two individuals together . . .

Even if you feel that they should be more open to certain suggestions, you have to be tactful. No one likes to be told what to do. An adult is an adult, even though s/he is your child.

Often the child has the most difficulty receiving guidance precisely from parents, for many reasons, perhaps mostly because of the generation gap. Parents and children have different life experiences and society changes quickly, even if deep down, the love and Torah are immutable.

If you are sure that your child is not being realistic and has issues to be worked out and you can't help, encourage the guidance from an additional older person. Hopefully, a logical, well-supported insight from a respected figure will influence one to rethink priorities. Hopefully, daas Torah will put most of us in our place. Encourage your child to talk to a rav to clarify what is a must to look for and what to compromise on.

I know of older singles who at a certain point finally considered options they wouldn't hear of when they were 18. The main point I want to make here is that whatever decisions are made should be done with good common sense and thought. A person has to be realistic, know the situation they were put into and be aware that nothing in life is perfect. But they should hopefully feel good about their choices and in the company of whom they marry.

By being as calm as possible and trying to internalize that Hashem will help, you'll be able to give the most encouragement to your child. We are not in control and never are alone — may the Only One Who can help bring the salvation soon and answer all our prayers!

Rebbetzin Travis has many years of experience and success in helping people through shidduchim. Please note that all names have been changed unless specified with the exception of well-known public figures like Gedolim and educators. Any comments, questions and stories can be sent to: or at (02) 656- 3111


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