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29 Adar 5766 - March 29, 2006 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Home and Family

Older Singles

By Rebbetzin Nomi Travis


Dear Shadchante, I can identify with the mature single girl who asked about taking the plunge and deciding to meet widowers and divorced men . . . The problem is that as much as I realize that time is flying, and the parade is passing by.... I can not psych myself up to meeting previously married men. (maybe a divorced fellow without kids married a few weeks ,,,,)

I know that I am limiting myself on this front. It is also difficult for me to "compromise" re: accepting a fellow from a hard and problematic background. Where can I get the energy and strength to go in this direction? People feel sorry for me and try to encourage me but often the road to Gehinom is paved with good intentions. They cause me a lot of pain. Can you help me find comfort during my lonely vigil as I wait for Mr. Right to appear? I speak to a "mentor" but find it difficult to run to a big Rav with my concerns and shaylos all the time. I would appreciate hearing from you.

Thanks again

A reader who divides her time between two continents waiting for her basherte.

LETTER II Dear Shadchente

In a recent column, you discussed the obstacles and difficulties in doing research on divorced men..

I fall into the category of a "mature single," and I find that when/if I get shidduch offers, many have obvious and hidden pitfalls. Recently I was introduced to a single fellow in my age bracket who seemed to meet many of my requirements, but I did not want to continue to see this fellow because of a problematic background. My parents agreed with me, but the shadchan gave us a hard time.

What role should background problems play in shidduchim? How far do I have to go back into family background? What about the siblings: let's say, if siblings are "drop-outs", divorced, ill? What about divorced parents?

Thanx again,

Alone (and not at last)


If you are an older single woman, or the parents of older daughters, chances are you, better than anyone, understand the problem. The eligible bachelor seems to have a long list of potential marriage partners. The eligible "bachelorette" sits patiently by the telephone, hoping that it will ring with a suggestion of a possible suitor. As the telltale saying goes in shadchanus: "A boy needs a secretary, a girl needs an agent."

Low Self-Esteem and Reality

Whatever the reasons, the fact remains that the singles population is getting larger and older. I believe this dilemma is one of the difficult challenges of the birth pangs before the coming of the Moshiach! Although hopefully, most older singles do go on with their lives, studies, career, etc. the pain is there. Bitterness, shattered dreams, disappointments — you name it.

Without claiming to have the answers, I would like to explore the situation from one possible angle. A contemporary godol said that we live in a generation that suffers from low self-esteem. People have such low self-confidence that they doubt they can accomplish much. In the worst of cases, it can lead to depression. But even the average person nowadays doesn't feel pleased in general.

Once the self-image is so distorted and out of focus, a person will really feel much worse than he really is. On those lines, we tend to exaggerate and blow things out of proportion.

When a person dwells in such negativity, it's not surprising to be overwhelmed with doubt and despair. It becomes a self- fulfilling prophecy that they might really in the end not get too far.

It's human nature to try to balance off a lack by shifting their expectations to compensate for it. It is not uncommon for people to hide behind a title that's not their own, but that connects them to a well known public figure. If the candidate is the cousin of the sister-in-law of the Rosh Yeshiva of the brother of the Rosh Kollel, etc. I'll have protektsia. Or the more beautiful the better — why settle for average? The same goes for financial issues and other aspects as well.

At the same time, if one doesn't feel good with himself and blessed with his lot, there will be a tendency to compare oneself much more with others. I've heard time and again, "If my child's married friends got x, y and z, why shouldn't we also get?"

We don't know everything about someone else's lives. Their glitter certainly shines, but the dirty laundry is kept secret as much as possible.

Just like no one is perfect, how can one be expected to meet someone with all the mailos? Up to a certain extent, every shidduch requires a certain amount of compromising.

Sometimes people come to me with such a long list of musts, that I wonder if they themselves fit all those categories that are so hard to meet!

"A matchmaker corners a yeshiva bochur and says, "Do I have a girl for you!"

"Not interested", replies the student.

"But she's beautiful!"


"Yes. And she's very rich too."


"And she has great yichus! Comes from a very fine family."

"Sounds great." says the boy. "But why would a girl like that want to marry me? She'd have to be crazy."

Replies the shadchan, "Well, you can't have everything!"

I am not coming to criticize anyone. I don't feel I have the right to tell who is realistic and who isn't. And there are also plenty of very level-headed people around who really try very hard to make their hishtadlus and soundly consider offers, but unfortunately haven't yet found their mate.

What to Compromise On

I'm sorry, but I can't give ready-made answers that fit all cases. The first question is who you are. It depends on your background, personality, flexibility, adaptability, etc.

At the same time, besides the hang-ups that might bother you, you need to put them in perspective with what mailos the match has. What one person can't stand, another might be prepared to put up with as far as there is enough positive going for the suggestion.

Pushy Shadchan

Then in walks "The Authority", the pushy matchmaker with all the solutions. Maybe this one will crystallize my dreams into reality . . . (Hopefully at the same time I will be the living image of what he has been aspiring to for all those long years . . . )

It's even worst when she uses "well-intended emotional blackmail." Have you ever heard: "I really care about you. You are so special that your foolishness hurts me. How can you keep wasting your time? Do you want to remain an old maid (or bachelor)? Who will want you? But I can help you now. I have just the right person for you, but you keep saying 'no' to an outstanding individual. So what if (s)he . . . . . . . .", etc, etc.

Chevy heard that more than once. She shared how a certain shadchan pushed her into certain matches: "This time, I found him for you. You are made for each other. This was Heavenly ordained. I can just see you together under the chupah, I am telling you . . . " I can't even begin to explain what a mismatch it was. Besides the fact that they had very opposite outlooks, he had rough manners . . . Perhaps the match was based on the fact that he wore pants and she a skirt! Chevy came home crying.

Not long after, the same lady called with a brilliant offer: "OK, this time . . . He is just what you've been praying for! Such a wonderful person, if I just had a daughter I wouldn't hesitate . . . Trust me, he is just exceptional, marvelous, excellent! Not the `run of the mill', but the `cream of the crop'! I am so happy to finally bring you the yeshuah . . . And he is very anxious to meet you. I can just feel how you are soul mates, ideal for each other."

Chevy said he appeared as old as her father. She eventually found out that he was in fact over 20 years older than her!!! And he looked very sickly . . . Unfortunately, she was told none of that. Only lies to get her to go out and build up her expectations. And all the shadchan claimed was "I didn't realize. Had I known . . . Well, I wasn't really acquainted with him so well." Chevy thought: "But didn't you say a few days ago you would have set him up with your own daughter?"

No, no one can insist of knowing the perfect intended match. I don't believe in pushing. If something is ordained, people have to go into it without others manipulating them. Hashem doesn't need anyone to take control. Manipulating opinions doesn't impress me.

Daas Torah

It can be extremely helpful to clarify issues with daas Torah. I agree with you, it's not easy to be asking questions all the time. But sometimes it's unavoidable. Especially in a case where a higher authority is needed.

I know many who are set on certain specifications. I read about a woman who after years of dating decided on two aspects that were really important for her: not a chossid and someone musical, for she holds that Shabbos zmiros are very important. She is today happily married to a chossid who is "tone deaf." I know of other similar stories.

I often tell older singles that if they are not sure what to compromise on, they must ask daas Torah. Certain characteristics are a matter of personal taste. Beyond that are facts that one should have in perspective if they should be overlooked or not.

You might have all kinds of justifications that you really know what is in store for you. However, as I wrote before, the closest to prophecy in our generation is the wisdom of the gedolim.

For instance, a scenario that repeats itself is the "older sibling who is blocking traffic." I am referring to younger siblings who start dating late because they are still waiting for older ones to get engaged. I heard from a well- known posek that although one should feel for the older single, he can't demand that the younger one(s) wait. (There might be different opinions.)

You could get general guidelines and it doesn't mean that on every suggestion you will have to run to ask again.


It is extremely difficult to be objective and set aside minor points from what really matters. Because the person going out can get very fogged in their own world of feelings and even convince themselves through twisted logic to come to decisions that might be regretted sooner or later. Especially if s(he) has been dating for many years and is "burned out", emotionally exhausted from the "ups and downs" of shidduchim.

I'm not referring particularly to a professional therapist, who should anyway be called in case of need. Ideally, whenever possible, a close family member, like a parent, would be the ideal mentor.

Often the parents themselves will see the benefit in encouraging their children to speak to a reliable person whom they trust. A rebbi, teacher, friend of the family, neighbor, etc. could be objective and give an added dimension of guidance that won't exclude the parents, but only reinforce positive encouragement.

It is better to draw near someone that you already know and who understands who you are. But sometimes people prefer a certain anonymity to approach precisely someone who is not part of their immediate life. A sensible public figure I respect shared: "As you mentioned, it certainly improves the quality of relationship between mentor and single if they have a previous connection, but I think there are wise women out there, and men, too, who can give good wholesome common sense back-up and a pinch of advise to older singles stuck in a rut and for those who are stuck with few suggestions, the mentors can help fish around for some new ones...."

If the advisor has helped others, it's even better. Success builds reliability and experience. It is imperative that the person you come to rely on has an exemplary and healthy outlook on life.

Such a "dating coach" shouldn't make all decisions for you but help you sort out your thoughts. A springboard to rethink your ideas, helping you to articulate and even reenact what you want to express.

In addition, you should look for someone understanding and non-judgmental who will be able to listen and be accepting, and at the same time, with more insight and good judgment then you. Hopefully, the acquaintance has survived shidduchim and is happily married. A friend your age also in shidduchim can be empathetic and share but will lack being able to see the situation from a different perspective, not knowing what to expect at the "other end of the tunnel."

We need to be humble and admit that we are not all-powerful. We don't always have all the answers.

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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