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Tammuz 5764 – Shidduchim – Trust Your Instincts?

1 Tammuz 5764


Shidduchim – Trust Your Instincts?
Mrs. Chana Silver

Dear Chana,

What I am about to share with you is probably the most bizarre experience that I have ever encountered.

Close to two years ago, I started going out with a boy who learns in Lakewood. Before going out, I had a very good impression of him. My mother knows his brother and likes him. From the way my cousin and others described him, he sounded like a sincerely frum, growing, nonmaterialistic guy with really good middos. I also knew that he’s very bright and tops in his learning, and nice looking too ( which never hurts!)

The truth is, it sounded a little too good to be true, and I admit I was a little dazzled by what I heard. I was also amazed to find the first few dates fun and interesting. He also seemed very honest, sincere and bright, and had a great sense of humor. (I do remember feeling that he seemed a little rough around the edges, but wasn’t overly concerned about that.) After the fourth date I was feeling very positive. But somehow things started changing by the fifth and sixth. I started getting mixed messages (at certain points he seemed interested, other times he spoke in ways that gave the impression he wasn’t interested) and at the sixth date he said a few things that astounded me. The only one I can remember was that we were sitting in some mall and he had just said something that disturbed me (cuz he was making fun of a guy he accidentally discovered I had gone out with.) When he saw my expression, apparently to stop me from saying something, he told me to get him a drink.

I can’t remember everything that was said, but I can remember at the end of this date feeling very confused and then coming up with a funny feeling that this guy wants some kind of dysfunctional relationship. I called the shadchan and said I didn’t think he was interested, and it was over. Then a couple days later she calls me back and tells me he was floored that I felt that way, he was very interested and she was quite pushy herself. So I told her I’d call someone. I decided to call a mechaneches who is also a social worker. (Unfortunately she didn’t know me.) But I figured if I told her the worst things that were said, she’d surely tell me to stay away and then the shadchan would leave me alone. After each thing I described to the mechaneches, she practically attacked me. I was made to feel that I was being judgemental and That I should work on that. She felt that him telling me to get him a drink was being refreshingly playful, something she would personally appreciate. She didn’t acknowledge that his behavior was unusual, and didn’t seem interested in hearing more details or taking my concerns seriously. She said maybe I was too sensitive for him but she didn’t seem to have any problem with the things he said.

I was so surprised by her reaction that I started to doubt my own feelings. Maybe I was too sensitive and there was really nothing wrong with him. So I would try again. Maybe I can get used to the way he speaks like I have with other people when I get to know them, and if not, so I’ll end it. From this point and on, my parents were basically divided about this, (my father thought I should end it and my mother wasn’t sure.)

I went out some more and again, I had fun, it was interesting, but there was always at least one or two things that he said on the date that troubled me. It actually felt a little verbally abusive. We’d make a little progress but it would be 2 steps forward and then 3 steps back. I didn’t feel comfortable or feel that I could trust him. On the other hand, there was a lot I could appreciate and respect, which is something that usually deteriorates as I continue going out with guys. But I was feeling that time was going by and we weren’t getting anywhere.

Around this time, I was a tutor in a kiruv program for girls. So I took advantage of some of the frum staff that was there. After speaking with the younger less experienced one, she didn’t like what she was hearing, she asked me if he was kind and caring and when I couldn’t answer “yes”, that clinched it for her. And I was very ready to take her advice. But then when I spoke to an older person who was much more experienced with giving advice to girls about shidduchim, she encouraged it. She said guys are very immature, especially when in yeshiva and older, and that he is an unfinished product. She also gave me an excellent piece of advice. She said I should speak to a rebbe who knows him well and speaks with him about his shidduchim. She felt it would be a good idea especially at this time, that a rebbe could give very valuable information and shed some light on things.

After that, I went out once more and there was something he said that was extremely disrespectful and not tsniusdik, and I told him so. His reaction was the same as usual when I let him know something he said bothered me, which was to laugh. (Letting him know something bothered me didn’t stop him from repeating the behavior soon after.) After that date, I told him I would need a number of a rebbe he speaks to about shidduchim, and he gave me the number of a rav from one of his yeshivas in Eretz Yisroel. This rebbe spent a half-hour on the phone with me, telling me he could tell this guy likes me more than the others and that he has a problem with dating but that he was a really good boy and would make a wonderful husband. He urged me to help him get through his problem.

What this rav said definitely put his puzzling behavior into focus for me but I still didn’t want to go out with him again. (I didn’t exactly relish the idea or consider it normal to become the guy’s therapist and take such a chance with a guy who treated me this way.) Finally my mother spoke to our rav. He didn’t even have a chance to hear about some of the craziness, because after hearing how long we were going out he felt strongly that I should end it. And I did. The day after I ended it, the shadchan called asking me to reconsider because the boy had called her and was very upset.

I have to say that being conscious of shmiras halashon particularly with shidduchim made things extremely difficult. She wouldn’t let me off the hook, and wanted detailed explanations. Then when I finally gave into the pressure a little, she said we probably shouldn’t speak lashon hara, and I agreed,but she refused to give up on this shidduch. She called again about 5 or 6 times during the following months. I kept insisting that it’s over each time, but she wouldn’t let it go. She would call my mother and try to convince her how nice he is. This past summer after I came back from Neve, I received a call from my cousin’s wife on the boy’s behalf, trying to convince me to go out again. As if that wasn’t embarrassing and annoying enough, right after that he had the wife of a good friend of his call my mother. This wife grew up on my block She likes him a lot, said he eats by her all the time and she feels he’s such a good person etc.

My mother became convinced that maybe I SHOULD reconsider and go out again. She couldn’t understand that even if he’s very interested, it won’t change his behavior, no matter how many times I tried to explain it to her. (I also argued that people don’t just change so easily with such problems.) This unfortunately created a lot of stress and arguing. I can’t totally blame her, it’s not a normal way to behave. (And she is emotionally involved in getting me married.) This kind of thing is hard to believe or understand unless one has personally experienced it.

When our former neighbor started calling it made matters worse, since we know her and she was pretty convincing with my mother. I’m convinced that he acts like a really nice good solid person when he’s not on a date. I’m only grateful that Hashem spared me from getting engaged or Chas V’shalom married before becoming aware of this serious problem.

After several more calls from his friend’s wife and the shadchan, my mother mentioned that he said he was sorry for things he shouldn’t have said. This was the first apology I ever heard from him. But I still wouldn’t consider it. However, I was so sick of this constant calling and pressuring, I figured maybe there’s a reason I’m constantly harassed about this. Maybe there’s some unfinished business that I didn’t take care of. So I made an appointment with a woman who I trust who’s shiurim I’ve been going to this year. I felt she got to know me a bit and she might have some ideas. I spent 2 hours describing everything, and at the end of it she told me she thinks I should try going out with him again. I could tell she really seemed to understand, she acknowledged the strange behaviors but felt there might be something to work with.

I figured at this point that it can’t hurt to go out on one or two dates and see if anything changed. At least then he won’t harass me anymore. So we went out and he acted even more crazy than before! I think his problem has become worse, if anything.
This time, he didn’t even hide his issues from the shadchan. After it was over the shadchan told me he left some crazy message on her machine, complaining about some stupid thing about me and claiming that I was responsible for what happened. She finally decided that she’s not setting him up anymore. His friend’s wife spoke to my mother after that, and she said the same thing. From what he said to her, she realized he had sabotaged things. She told my mother she felt bad that I had to go through all of that. Also, the mentor I had spoken to told me she felt bad for advising me the way she had. She had spoken to someone else about this recently and that woman had said these problems tend to repeat themselves.

The main reason I wrote you about this is that I think it’s crucial that girls, especially younger ones, be made aware that while it’s very important to speak with people for aitzah about their shidduchim, they MUST trust their own instincts. Shidduchim can be VERY confusing, and during this vulnerable time, people’s well-meaning opinions and pushing have a way of messing with your brain. Ignoring your own feelings can sometimes be dangerous. Even if the mentor knows you extremely well, they can’t possibly have a complete picture of what is going on during the dates. Only the person going out does. Also, dating is a very individual thing, it’s important for the person and the mentor to remember that every feeling is valid and should be taken seriously. It’s also important to articulate specifically what is making you uncomfortable about the person and perhaps if the feeling persists to make notes of these things after each date while the details are fresh in your mind.

I’m not saying it’s not important to ask aitzah, or that people shouldn’t pay attention to pushing. I can think of at least 2 examples of girls who needed to be pushed and they are B’H very happy. On the other hand, I can think of at least 2 examples of girls who were pushed and ended up with very messy divorces. Interestingly, the girls who were pushed and are happy were 25 and 35, and the girls who were pushed and got divorced were both 19. But I think a girl’s personality plays a role as well.

Another reason I wrote about this parsha is because it brought up something that I think everyone in shidduchim struggles with, and that is Shmiras Halashon. It’s a very tough thing to know how to deal with the sensitive issues that come up. Before a shidduch, but especially during a parsha. Many people in shidduchim, shadchanim and others involved aren’t knowledgeable about halachos of shmiras halashon, which makes it that much tougher. (For example, through my own shaalos I’ve discovered that the only time a person can say anything at all negative about a person they went out with to a shadchan is if they are convinced that anyone this person marries will end up getting divorced. As a rav said to me, if Hashem makes one like that, he can make another! ) I think it would be a great subject for discussion on JemSem.

Thanks so much for reading this… I know it’s lengthy, but it is such an important topic.

Kol Tuv,
Name and Seminary withheld

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Dear JemSem Reader,

WOW!! A frightening situation indeed. Thanks so much for sharing it, there’s alot here to learn from. Much of what I would say, you summed up beautifully in the paragraph ” The main reason I wrote you”. It is very good that you did seek out advice from people, a person can’t do it alone, but what is interesting in this case is that you really did ask several qualified people and they came up with different answers. At the end of the day, they are not on the dates with you and may misinterpret information. It doesn’t mean not to ask but one must give over info as clearly as possible. It is also very important to have some time in between
the dates to have time to process what is really going on –
Think!!!!

Most importantly – trust yourself and your own gut feelings. Do aspects of the date leave you with a ‘choking feeling’ or a knot in your stomach? Is something going on that is making you uncomfprtable? Do you feel safe to be able to bring it up? When you are having a discussion, do you feel validated or put down? Is he hearing you? If you do have a feeling of discomfort- how often does it come up? Analize this feeling – are there patterns? If there was conflict between the 2 of you [which certainly is normal at times], how did the conflict feel? How did he react to your not agreeing? How was it resolved? Did you feel safe? A woman’s home is supposed to be THE safest place for her.

You mentioned that you were pulled in 2 different directions – on the one hand you didn’t feel comfortable or feel that you could trust him, but you did respect him in certain ways. Yes, it can be very confusing! But, the 1st sentence here is a bit of a red flag to me. If after several dates and the natural process of opening up and trust can truly begin to take root – and you have feelings of discomfort .. well, that certainly needs to be figured out. By talking it out with that mentor or 2, thinking things through on your own and looking for patterns.

You can take an active role in the dating and decision making process! There’s not any ONE thing that will necissarily tip you off, again you are looking for patterns, and also really trying to get intouch with your inner self – about how he makes you feel. Communication plays a big role in dating [and in marriage for that matter!] and there are of course many times when there is a misunderstanding and he didn’t mean what you thought, and you totally took it in the wrong way – or you misinterpreted his reasoning for doing something etc. That is why over a bit of time you can see if certain things repeat themselves.

There a many types of abusive patterns and some may be quite subtle. It would be nice if we could say it doesn’t exist in the frum world – but we can’t say that. If anyone is going through a situation and wants a great listening ear, advice or perhaps to be put intouch with a counselor, therapist, or Rav, The Shalom Taskforce Hotline is the place to call. 1888-883-2323 or in the NY area 718-337-3700.

As far as the Lashon Horah aspect in shiddchim- we will try to do a future column on Jemsem.Hashem should allow to you find your bashert Zman B’karov and I hope he will be a caring, sensitive and warm Ben Torah.

With Warmest Wishes,
Chana

Archives

Sivan 5764 – Chillul Hashem vs. Dealing With Old Friends

1 Sivan 5764

Chillul HaShem vs. Dealing with Old Friends
By Mrs. Chana Silver

Dear Chana,

I was standing on the corner of an intersection the other day, which happened to have been two major streets in a frum neighborhood. I was looking down waiting for my ride to come pick me up and I heard my name called out by the voice of a guy. I looked up, a little startled, because it’s been a while since I was friends with any guys, and saw a guy I used to be friends with – someone who is very much off the derech and it is well-known throughout the community. At that moment, there happened to have been a lot of people walking by and the streets were very busy. I didn’t want to brush the guy off because it would have made a chillul HaShem in my opinion but at the same time I couldn’t help but feel that people were watching me talk to this guy and that it would look bad on my part. I felt horrible thinking that way and felt like it was a shallow thing to think but the truth is that I had my “fun” in highschool and I have worked very hard on changing my inner and outer self and now I feel like I’ve cleaned up my reputation and for me to talk to this guy in public would damage what I’ve worked so hard to achieve. I felt especially bad after he walked away and I saw that this now very super-frum boy I used to be friends with too was hiding behind something (so we wouldn’t have to have an encounter) waiting for him. I watched them walk away, the frum boy wearing black, white and a black hat, walking on the street with the kid, not seeming to care what other people thought. The truth is, the frum boy is a boy and that makes a world of a difference but then when my ride came and I mentioned to the girl who picked me up that the boy I just spoke with asked for a ride somewhere (which happened to be in the opposite direction, so it didn’t work out) and she said she would have been happy to give it to him. I then felt even worse for thinking people were staring at us when others chose to walk on the street with him and give him rides.

Where does one draw the line with reputation and chillul HaShem? I’m starting to feel like frum neighborhoods are filled with people who talk about others all the time, and should I let that affect my decisions?

Name & Seminary withheld.

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Dear Jemsem Reader,

It sounds like you are a young woman who has done alot of changing in the past few years. Let me commend you on that! To grow and develop ourselves in the framework of our Avodas Hashem is what life is all about on every level! The basic answer to your dilemma on the street corner that day that I would give you is that a person always has to be a mentch. If you see a guy from your previous life on the street, say hello in passing, acknowledge him, and then move on. You don’t need to be giving him rides or helping him out in any major way, but you don’t need to totally ignore him either. In the circumstance that you wrote about, I question if your friend should have given him the ride, [even if she would have been going in that direction] though she said she would have been happy to. I don’t think that would have been so appropriate. Every situation is obviously different and takes alot of thought or eitzah from someone, details can be vast and varied. The fact that the black hatter boy in your story was friendly and walking with him is fine and great. As you said it makes all the difference in the world that he is a boy! For a frum boy to be mekarev another boy or have what to do with him is probably a very good thing!

So here you are pitting yourself against two situational things that aren’t your deal at all. Yes, one does have to be careful and yes, others are watching, but the basic foundational thought to remember is where YOU are headed. Keep that picture of the more perfected you in your head at all times with the goals that you have set for yourself. With everything that comes your way, ask yourself “is this in line with who I am becoming?” If the answer is yes, so go for it, if not forego it. If you keep it straight in your mind who you want to be, sometimes the answers to these things can be easier and clearer.

I’m going to add a p.s. to this letter, though this was not your question. It seems that with girls who are going to various coed colleges mostly in the NY area, that they carpool with guys who also have classes at those times and who live in the same neighborhood as they do. I do not feel that this is acceptable. That is just the thing that someone who is staying separate from the opposite sex would want to stay away from. An hour drive there and an hour drive back several times a week certainly seems like excellent breeding ground for ‘friendships’ that shouldn’t be. If you want to date those guys, by all means, find someone who can set you up in a kosher v’yosher fashion, but stick to carpools with other females.

With Warmest Wishes,
Mrs. Chana Silver

Archives

Iyar 5764 – Asking Mechila From Guy Friends: Revisited

1 Iyar 5764
Asking Mechila from Guy Friends: Revisited

Dear JemSem Readers,

In response to feedback from last month’s letter, I would like to clarify the situation. [Please see the column for Nissan] In brief -a girl had written me about the fact that she had stopped all her ‘guy friend’ relationships when she was in seminary and now several years later when she is in shidduchim and well past that whole era, she found out that 1or 2 othe guys that she was really close with were very hurt. She mentioned that this did bother her alot even though it was very much in her past. I advised her to write an impersonal letter to them explaining that she did it for her own growth, and to apologize because she did not mean to hurt them. The idea of the letter was certainly not to open up any communication between them nor to expect a response. It was simply to clear the air and her conscience.

In most situations a girl [or a guy for that matter] will have taken care of it and ended the relationship at the time either in person, on the phone, or in a letter. In general, no more need be done. It is over and finished, you handled it in the most mentchlach way and that’s it. Obviously with these things there will be some hurt involved on the othe side because that is the nature of boy /girl relationships. That is to be expected. You are under no obligation to do anything else, not even in the future.

If you have what you think is a more specific or complicated situation either at the time you are making the break or later on, you should seek out the advise of your Rebbe, teacher or mentor as to how to proceed.

This is exactly what that girl did. In this specific case, she mentioned that she had been very close with these 1 or 2 guys and that the fact that they were quite upset did bother her alot. In her situation I felt that it would be appropriate for her to write the letter. The answer that I gave is absolutely not a carte blanche statement, that wheneven a question of old guy friends comes up, you should always write a letter to them if you find out they were hurt etc.

ps. If you want to write a letter, you need to explore where this is really coming from within you and what exact purpose it would serve, and still ask aitzah about what you should do. Any guy/girl thing is complicated at best even if you were somehow under the impression that it might have been platonic, though that probably wasn’t the case anyway. So always seek out the advise of those key people who help you in your life and don’t trust yourself with this stuff.

An additional and related thought that I would like to add. In the dating world, after a good few weeks or months of going out with someone and the relationship doesn’t work, I have heard that because many people do feel so close to the other party, they still keep in touch or send emails to each other or call the person directly with other shidduch ideas. All of this is not appropriate and shouldn’t be done. When dating for marriage it’ll either work or not. If it does – great! You’ve got a terrific mate! If not, so then move past it. There is no reason to keep up any sort of relationship on any level. If you have a superb shidduch idea for the guy, [many shidduchim are in fact made this way] call a married friend and give it over to them to take care of. As I have said in a previous column, if the match works, you and the couple can split the shadchanus! But, there is no need whatsoever for you to deal with it.
So if you have any ‘loose ends’ or ‘hanging relationships’ make sure you finish with them totally and forge ahead!

I hope that this letter clarifies these important issues.

With Warmest Wishes,
Chana

Archives

Nissan 5764 – Asking Mechila From Guy Friends

1 Nissan 5764
Asking Mechila from Guy Friends

Dear Chana,
I read the answers in your section of “Jerusalem Jems” and I really loved them and found it inspiring. I was wondering if you could help me with a question that I have.

I used to be very friendly with boys. I had alot of friends that were boys [you know ‘guy friends’] and we were very close. During my year in seminary I ‘flipped’ as they say, and decided not to speak to boys anymore. I explained this to three of them [there were many more that I should have told as well] and they were nice about it and actually seemed to respect me for it! Since that time I haven’t spoken to any of them or mixed with them at all, it just isn’t my scene anymore. So here is the problem. I recently found out that one or two of them were very hurt by my decision, though they didn’t say so at the time. [obviously, because they are boys!]

I was wondering if I should ask mechila from them, especially since I was so close with them.. I feel that they now hate me and think that I am extremely rude. This was several years back, but it does bother me some. I do stress that I am very past this and am now in shidduchim. What should I do?

Thank you so much for your time.

Name withheld by request
Michlala 5762

Dear JemSem Reader,

First of all I want to congratulate you on your wise decision of a few years ago to stop having friendships with boys and to having stuck with it! This is something that alot of girls grapple with and I am impressed with your ability to have acheived this. It is a BIG DEAL and I commend you for it!

I can however, understand your feelings of how they see it, and that it bothers you that you hurt them. What I think would be the most appropriate thing would be to write a letter. In it you could apologize for having hurt them while at the same time re-explain that you did this because you knew it was the right thing to do. You didn’t do it to spite them, hurt them, or demean them, but for your own personal growth it was something that needed to be done. I think the letter should be more towards the impersonal side, sort of matter of fact. What you don’t want to do is to reopen any can of worms or communication between you. It is a letter of apology that you felt had to be written, that’s it. You’re not interested in any reply or anything. Wish them hatzlacha in their life.

After this, forget about it all. That is all behind you now. As you said you are in shidduchim and have a wonderful future to look forward to. It sounds like you were able to make the changes that you needed to and are on to great things!
Haba L’taheir …

With Warmest Wishes,
Chana

Adar 5764 – Dating Guys With Family Issues

1 Adar 5764
Dating Guys with Family Issues

Dear Chana,

I have been dating this boy for a little while, and things are going nicely. He is kind, thoughtful, respectful, and treats me extremely well. He also has many other qualities that I have been looking for. The problem is that he has some family issues. His parents are divorced and he and his siblings don’t speak to their father. He was not a good father to them and none of them like or respect him. The father apparently has some psychological problems. Everyone else in his family is very close though. I think that this boy has certain qualities and strengths because of what he went through.

I am confused as to what I should do. I like him, but I’m scared that he may have undergone emotional issues that will surface in the future. My parents are also hesitant about the whole situation. Any advice would be great.

Thank You!

Name and seminary withheld upon request

***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

Dear Jemsem Reader,

Seldom does a person find a storybook situation to marry into. There is always something in one area or another – a skeleton here, an issue there.

The things that you need to do are as follows:

1) Do more checking about the situation. Ask about it from all angles. The Rabbanim who have been involved with the family, the divorce, the father and his problems, and friends and people in the community who truly know them and what is going on.

Check specifically with this boy’s Rabbaim that he is close to. Find out more emotional history about the boy and if they feel the boy is emotionally stable. Ask them if they see any manifestations of deeper issues going on with the boy.

2) Speak to a Rav that knows you well and get eitzah from him.

3) Speak this whole situation over with someone whom you trust that is older than you and married. Let them be a good sounding board for you and listen to what they have to say.

4) THINK!!!! You have to try and figure out if you feel you can handle a situation like this. Think into the future – Shabbosos, Yom Tov, not having married in-laws, being able to be supportive for your husband concerning all this. For some, this would not be what they want, however others could make peace with it. Perhaps you will be able to reframe that ‘fairy tale’ image that you conjured up all these years, and decide that this will be fine for you, or perhaps you will feel that this is just not what you want to be part of. Be honest with yourself. This is your life.

Of course, one of the most important things is the boy himself and your relationship with him. If he is stable etc., and you and he have a great relationship and can communicate and you respect him and, yes, like you said, he may even be more special because of the nisyonos he has been through…. well all this can count a lot in the positive direction. To find a gem of a boy with the qualities, middos, and hashkafa that you are looking for is truly a superb thing, and not to be taken lightly. Like I said, everybody has got something, no one is perfect, it is just a matter of figuring out which battles we want to fight, what we are capable of dealing with, or what we want to deal with.

With Warmest Wishes,
Mrs. Chana Silver