CONTENTS AT A GLANCE
PART ONE: A BRIEF INTRODUCTION TO
PSYCHOLOGICAL AVOIDANCE OR DESTRUCTION
OF A "SERIOUS" RELATIONSHIP
1a. PSYCHOLOGICAL CAUSE
MANIFESTATIONS, BLOCKAGES AND PATTERNS
PART TWO: TRUE STORIES
2a. "HE'S A
DENTIST, SHE HAS TEETH...IT MUST BE A MATCH!" - TRUE AND EYE-OPENING STORIES OF
2b. FRUS-DATING! TRUE
STORIES OF HOW SINGLES SELF-SABOTAGE OR CAUSE THEIR OWN RELATIONSHIP TROUBLES
[All stories are based on true events.
Names and some non-essential facts are changed to protect identity. Some stories are
composites of several similar stories or have been otherwise modified to make the meaning
clear or to make the story suitable for public presentation. Some are very precise
renderings of the actual story. In all cases, stories have been selected for their
instructive value and represent important and true messages.]
PART ONE: A BRIEF INTRODUCTION TO
PSYCHOLOGICAL AVOIDANCE OR DESTRUCTION OF A "SERIOUS" RELATIONSHIP
1a. PSYCHOLOGICAL CAUSE AND
In this internet site we have talked about
many issues central to effectively finding a mate who one may reasonably expect to keep.
We've discussed how to meaningfully date, what goes into compatibility, how to check a
person out, how to tell who the "right one is," how to halachically seek or give
information and how to tell if your judgement is reliable. This is all empty unless both
parties are equipped for a happy relationship and a lasting commitment. A major problem in
today's "singles situation" is that many young people are not psychologically
equipped for a stable, intimate and committed marriage relationship. There are many causes
and manifestations of this and they each generally require considerable serious and
sustained counseling to remedy. Since many people enter into marriages in which one or
both partners may not be equipped to give the relationship they promise to the other, I
will write two installments about representative psychological conditions which can
interfere with the entering into, sustaining or succeeding in a marriage relationship.
If the single saw a bad marriage in his/her
parents (e.g. anger, violence, fighting, strife, divorce, spite, confrontation,
domineerance, infidelity, abandonment or punitiveness); this puts into the single's mind
frightening associations and thoughts that marriage will automatically cause anxiety,
pain, shortchange or failure. The person may not be consciously aware of this fear of
commitment, and may even feel a longing to be married, but that fear will work powerfully
upon the mind and behavior of the single. If a parent was a survivor of and traumatized by
the holocaust, or was emotionally abused or neglected by his/her parents, a pattern of
emotionally injurious behavior may exist in that family. A professional exploration may
reveal psychological and behavioral similarities or linkages between the single, one or
both of his/her parent(s) and/or relating partners.
If one or both of the parents were hurtful
to the single as a child, a fear of vulnerability or entrapment can develop. If a parent
was domineering, stifling, cold, aloof, emotionally or physically unavailable, critical,
abusive, punitive, exploitive or demanding; such becomes generalized and associated in the
young person's mind with all close relating, never mind when "stuck" in a
commitment. The single may not have been emotionally nurtured; may be untrusting of having
another's approval, love, understanding, appreciation, compassion, respect or commitment.
Closeness may be unmanageably frightening and threatening. A person may mistreat or avoid
others to keep them distant. A woman, desperate for feeling loved or approved of, may be
promiscuous. A man or woman with a broken self-image may do unreasonable, excessive or
self-deprecating kindnesses and favors (at unhealthy levels) or allow him/herself to be
used like a "shmata (rag)" for the approval or acceptance of others, in or out
of a close relationship. But, it is never real or close relating.
A dysfunctional background affects what a
person is attracted to and how one chooses and disqualifies partners. On a deep
subconscious level, relationships must always fit into the person's emotional needs and
conditions, and into the mold of the person's inner psychological situation. The person
develops "antenna" for partners who feed into neurotic needs and patterns. The
person may have an intellectual list of ideals to look for, but the person is motivated
and driven on the emotional level and pursues relationships which hit the emotional
"hot buttons." The ideal "list" is abstract and meaningless. THE ISSUE
IS NOT LOGICAL, IT IS PSYCHOLOGICAL.
The person can engage in self-defeating and
self-sabotaging patterns in relationship after relationship, repeating the same basic
problems and patterns. An intense emotional and committed relationship can be frightening
under the best conditions; all the moreso with complex and unhealthy issues in one or,
very often, both partners. Marriage requires enormous maturity, responsibility,
unselfishness, humility, flexibility, giving, discipline, sacrifice and will power. BEING
LONELY OR SENTIMENTAL IS NOT SYNONYMOUS WITH BEING READY TO GET MARRIED. Two incomplete
halves cannot add up to a complete whole. ONLY TWO REASONABLY COMPLETE HALVES CAN ADD UP
TO A COMPLETE WHOLE (even though imperfect, they both must at least be functional and
non-harmful). Both partners must be in, what I call, the "FUNCTION-LEVEL
BALLPARK." Being emotionally scarred from childhood or a terrible previous marriage
can severely impact subsequent marriage.
If a pattern occurs time after time, it
always does not work, it is "always the other's fault" and you are repeatedly
attracted to the same pattern or type of person; then there is a contradiction between
what you want and the fact that it does not work. Generally, this requires considerable
work and unraveling with professional counseling for this to be resolved and for life to
"get on the right track."
If a relationship drags on for more than a
few months and does not escalate to marriage, or it escalates to marriage and then becomes
stormy, my counseling experience shows that often something intrinsic and fundamental is
missing. Both have some profound and unhealthy need, dependency and/or lacking. The
relationship offers something that the parties would like to have received from one or
both parents in childhood, which affected the single with deep emotional and mental
impact. The relationship provided some form of needed emotional comfort, convenience,
relief, sensation or (imagined) safety. Ironically, when very neurotic, such a poisonous
relationship is often hard to break. As it gets worse, there is more intensity, sabotage,
provocation, blaming, punishing, hurt, instability and fighting. Both might be surprised
that something that was once so beautiful degenerated to such a low point. But the trouble
was there from "day one," if not childhood. These are types of troubles which
need objective and professional exploration to obtain resolution.
Never marry someone on the basis of
expecting or demanding psychological or religious change. The person may not change, may
revert back or may change in ways you never anticipated. My advise is to gently but firmly
say, "I am seeking a relationship with this (psychological or religious)
characteristic. If you change yourself, and this can be validated by your (counselor or
rabbi) and I am still single then, you may contact me in your changed form in the future.
Barring that, we must be through."
Real relationships should meet and fulfill
real and healthy needs and promote real, steady and significant good for you, your spouse,
your children and the world around both of you. Both parties will care for and respect
each other, relate to the entire other person (including needs, shortcomings and
concerns), be supportive and communicative, help and appreciate each other. A happy person
can make a relationship happy, but an unhappy person can't depend upon a relationship to
make him/her happy. We now continue by discussing specific destructive relationship
manifestations and patterns.
MANIFESTATIONS, BLOCKAGES AND PATTERNS
One representative practical psychological
manifestation of fear of commitment is called "Approach-Avoidance." The person
may start relationships, even sweetly, but, as they grow closer ("approach"),
the drive for distance sets in ("avoidance"). An intimate relationship is
assumed to be unacceptably adversarial, rejecting, futile, faulty, risky or injurious. The
person 1. may provoke the other (with sadistic, abusive, unreliable, contemptuous,
repulsive or other irrational "off-putting" or upsetting behavior) into behaving
explosively, defensively or unreasonably; so that the person can have an excuse to run
away ("You are evil, crazy, impossible...I can't stay with you!") or 2. may
provoke the other into running away. Either way, the single remains "psychologically
protected" from the expected hurt and disappointment that comes from a close, and
therefore vulnerable, relationship. The once-sweet person has become irrational, unstable,
irresponsible, shrewd, explosive and/or unbearable. To the untrained eye, it can seem a
Another manifestation can be attraction to
the unattainable. This performs the psychological service of enabling the person to feel
(s)he is going through "normal motions," or "is normal." The other
person could not commit or be available to him/her, so it is always the other's fault that
no relationship can work out. A person with a faulty, broken and/or dishonest personality
or character seeks to place blame everywhere but on him/herself. The truth hurts.
In the case of poor self-esteem, the person
will keep others away for fear of it being "discovered" that the person is
"nobody," fault-ridden or "worthless." This is the "truth"
that the person with poor self-image assumes about self. The person keeps distant, aloof,
a facade or compulsively busy so as to never make meaningful relating possible. It is a
frightening prospect for this "truth" to be "discovered" because this
"certainly" will eventually result in pain of rejection, failure and
verification of being "nothing." Intimacy and commitment force a person to
reveal what (s)he perceives of self. Further, a person with a crippled self-image will
often develop contempt for relating partners because 1. "there must be something
wrong" with anyone who could be interested in such a deficient person as him/her self
or 2. the person is conditioned to view it as normal that everybody is worthless and
Some insecure people choose relationships
not for what they ARE but rather for what they REPRESENT, e.g. someone good-looking,
wealthy, professional, with status, etc., to make him/herself feel like a
"somebody," like one who finally "made it." The relationship is for
the impression or symbolism, so it is not a relationship for the person's true self, and
therefore not truly a relationship. The person rejects valid candidates and healthy
relationships. The person may have unrealistic or grandiose expectations. The person does
NOT have real or sustainable relationships.
Another manifestation is to be
fault-finding, picky, critical and perfectionistic. Allowing a relationship with someone
imperfect means (in the individual's mind) that (s)he is bad or dirty, or that the
person's numerous or intense needs will not be satisfied, or that something better may be
precluded. The person may have compulsive habits and drives psychologically designed to 1.
make the person feel clean, superior, desirable or above criticism; or 2. to keep the
person too occupied to face faults, pain, fright or anger within.
Another manifestation is to be controlling,
steamrolling, demanding and/or manipulative, to keep the relationship delivering what is
needed. The person uses the other person and tends to be very rigid, abusive and
one-sided; and the partner is reduced to essentially being an object. To "win"
the partner, the person may start out as sweet, charming and personable. Upon becoming
secure with the relationship, the individual becomes tyrannical.
Another pattern is the "rescuer."
If the person chooses relationships with others who have worse problems, the person: can
be saved from feeling inferior, has what to offer (and can be "validated"), does
not have to fear rejection (the person can feel important, helpful or needed), can feel
control and security ("I can do the rejecting, if rejection is necessary," or
"If I get rejected, it is only rejection by this problem-ridden misfit").
When married and single people come in for
counseling, their position often is that they are fine and the other person in their
present or past relationship is wrong or crazy. If that is one's stance even before
marriage, especially when rigid about this, the prospects for a compatible and happy
marriage are crippled. One of the best things singles can do in searching for their mate
is to take control over their own part in it. The single is the only element which is in
his/her control. The as-yet-unfound mate is not even there, any relationship partner is
not in your control and, for sure, Hashem, the Ultimate Matchmaker, is not in your
control. The main advice that I can give any single seeking his or her mate is to be the
best and most marriageable mate you can possibly be - but in a very real sense. The more
you are ready to be the spouse G-d wants you to be, the more likely He will let you be a
PART TWO: TRUE STORIES
2a. "HE'S A
DENTIST, SHE HAS TEETH...IT MUST BE A MATCH!" - TRUE AND EYE-OPENING STORIES OF
Bracha went with her mother to the
matchmaker. They specifically wanted to convey who Bracha was and what she was looking for
in a husband.
Bracha was attractive, bright, talented,
tall, slim, principled, a student in a master's program. She wanted a guy who was a
mentsh, "put together," professional, strong of character, tall, slim and whose
life stood for something meaningful. She was prepared to give. She had a lot to offer. She
didn't want any mismatch. She and her mother described Bracha and what she was looking for
clearly, thoroughly and accurately to the matchmaker.
Bracha was eager to meet this evening's
date. The matchmaker said he was "adorable." She and her parents were waiting in
the livingroom when the doorbell rang.
When the door opened, Bracha and her
parents had to fight off showing that they all were overcome with shock.
Mendel's pants had blotchy stains. His
allegedly white shirt, which was half hanging out and half tucked in, was yellow from
wear. His hair was wild, sticking out in several directions. He smelled like he hadn't
taken a bath in "who knows how long." He was four inches shorter than Bracha was
and he was pudgy. He was slow, shleppy and spoke in a squeaky voice. He was the opposite
of everything the shadchan was told that Bracha wanted. This would not be a date. It would
be a "nesayone (test from Heaven)."
Her mother astutely said, "Bracha,
please remember that your father and I need to go out at eight o'clock and we need you
back to watch the baby."
It was after dark. When they got to
Mendel's car, he tried to put the key into the door to let Bracha in. He dropped the key.
He tried looking for it. He was fumbling around her feet. She stepped aside, in awe that
this was really happening. He found the key. It had rolled a bit under the car.
Bracha normally would not want to go to a
movie on a date. Since she didn't want to be seen publicly with him, she asked him how
he'd feel about going to a movie, where it is dark. He said it was OK, as if he would have
said OK if she asked him what time it was, where he studied or what his name was.
Something wasn't all there.
When they got to the theater, there was a
line and Bracha's only thought while waiting was her hope that no one she knew saw them.
When they got to the ticket window, Mendel said, "Gee, I thought I brought a twenty.
I guess I forgot to bring money."
Bracha was almost fit to be tied. Keeping
in control, she said she had money. She offered to pay. After about three quarters of an
hour in the movie, Bracha said to Mendel, "I have a bad headache. I was even thinking
before the date to cancel but I didn't want to hurt your feelings. But, it really has
gotten bad and I have to get home anyway to babysit. Do you think you could take me home.
After she got home, Bracha's mother called
the matchmaker. "How could you do this? How do you call this boy 'adorable.' How can
you set Bracha up with this boy after how explicit we were about what she's all
The matchmaker replied, as if supplying a
brilliant answer, "Bracha came to me with her mother. The boy came to me with his
mother. That's something in common. Bracha's mother is pretty. The boy's mother is pretty.
That's two things in common!"
Feigy's family belongs to a chasidic sect
and lives in a community heavily populated by that sect's chasidim. When Feigy got to
marriageable age, her parents approached a shadchanis (lady matchmaker) to make a match
for their eligible daughter. The matchmaker had "a good boy from a good family."
Feigy's family approved of the match and Feigy was agreeable, so the couple married.
For the first several months, the marriage
seemed to be rolling along alright. On one occasion, the couple was invited to a wedding.
Chasidic weddings typically proceed late into the wee hours of the night, so it was a
little out of character when, relatively early, her husband told Feigy that he wanted to
leave. She asked him why and he evaded explaining. She told him that it would not be
appropriate to leave so early without just cause and she wanted to remain. Her husband was
basically silent, but his face was disappointed. She went back to the festivities and
didn't think about it.
An hour or two later, there was some
commotion. A man was going wild, carrying on, screaming out of control - and a crowd was
growing around the spectacle. To her horror, Feigy found out that it was her husband. It
turned out that her husband had a severe psychiatric condition and took pills to control
it. He neglected to bring his pills to the wedding. When he asked his wife to leave early,
it was time for his pills and, since he forgot to bring them to the wedding, he wanted to
go home so that he could take his needed medicine. When he hadn't had his dose, his
condition came out and he had gone wild.
She was so infuriated that she was deceived
- she was never told that her husband had a severe psychiatric condition by the shadchan
(who knew about the condition) or the man when she was considering marrying him - that she
demanded an immediate divorce. She had the full and angry support of her entire family.
Just at about the time she gave birth to a baby, she received her divorce
("get"). She lives alone with the child.
I wrote an article entitled,
"Responsible Matching," which was published by a Jewish magazine [most of it is
reproduced in the "Responsible & Meaningful Matchmaking" portion of this
site]. A reader wrote a letter to the editor in response to the article, from his personal
experience. I will share the letter (except for material which would identify the writer
and magazine, and for reference to an unrelated article).
This true case is a good example of a
person being pressured to marry because of the shadchan's self-interest. The shidduch
ended in divorce, with two children caught in the middle of ongoing and vicious court
battles for custody. The children keep shuttling back and forth to live with a different
parent at different times, and their lives are burdened by psychological instability and
by ongoing active hostility between their parents. The causality for all this damage is
blockheaded matchmaking, which included intentional cover-up of the ex-wife's
psychological illness. When asked, after the marriage failed, why they made the match,
their defense was that the groom didn't seem so normal, so the couple should have been a
perfect match! Now, relevant excerpts of the letter.
January 7, 1993
Dear [Editor's name]:
This letter is to tell you how I reacted to
your last issue. I...liked the article about Responsible Matching. I hope that Shadchanim
[matchmakers] read the article. I myself am registered with a number of shadchanim who
just give me phone numbers and leave me to go on my own from there. They fix me up with
nice girls but they don't guide me as far as my feelings after I meet them. I am very
sensitive. I am easily influenced by whether the other person likes me instead of whether
they are what I need. I am divorced and consider the first matchmaker to be a complete
blunderer who pawned me off to an unsuitable girl. I feel that I relied on the Shadchan
heavily and was paid back miserably. I feel very wary about trusting a Shadchan again, but
shadchanuss is a system that I want to use. Singles events are risky because of interest
based on physical attraction. Friends fix me up infrequently and generally as a courtesy
without enough consideration. The problem is that a Shadchan seems like a job people take
without any training. They only make some matches in order to stay in business, and
nevertheless they can be messing up the lives of many of their clients. I therefore feel
that there should be more classes, articles and books about how to be a competent
Shadchan. The rabbi who authored your article seemed very knowledgeable on the subject,
and I noticed he is teaching a class at [name of synagogue] about marriage. Maybe he can
write more in your magazine or give lectures or write a book. Please tell Rabbi Forsythe
that I would welcome such ventures. Please continue the good work. Yours Truly, [Name of
[This case is an example of frequent
complaints by singles that matchmakers treat them with rudeness, arrogance, blame,
disrespect or condescension - popularly called "singles bashing".]
Mrs. Becker sponsors a weekly Torah class
in her house. A large number of young single women of eligible ages attend. Over a number
of years, Mrs. Becker has gotten to know a good hundred or two hundred young women through
their regular attendance in her house. She "looks out" for the girls and does
some matchmaking. However, she has a rather rigid and narrow view of religiosity and
imposes her views in her matchmaking. Although some of the things with which she was
concerned are reasonable and conventional in Yeshivish circles, her intensity and
judgmentalism were striking.
Word got to Yerucham that Mrs. Becker does
matchmaking. Yerucham is a very nice fellow who learns Torah with a fair degree of
regularity and accomplishment. He is a gentleman and is particularly respectful of women.
The right girl would be thrilled with him. He dresses in a more modern way than the
typical yeshivish fellow but is religiously on the yeshivish "wavelength." He
called Mrs. Becker and they made an appointment.
Mrs. Becker seemed to have had a set mental
questionnaire and Yerucham felt like he was being thoroughly grilled in an F.B.I.
investigation. His Yiddishkite was scrutinized. He was asked for references. He was asked
about personal habits. His less than perfectly conventional appearance made Mrs. Becker
interrogate him with what progressively developed into a condescending, suspicious and
rejecting tone and attitude. Her questions grew painful in detail.
When she got to asking him about what
"zmiros (shabos songs)" he liked to sing at the table, he answered that he was
not a singer and he wasn't "into" zmiros. When she heard this, she gave him what
amounted to an arrogant "harrumff," stood up, started walking him to the door
and said, handing him his coat, "None of my girls would want you."
Yerucham couldn't help wondering where she
got this "my girls" from. Does she own them? Would not even one of them be
interested in "trying him out" at all? He is into learning. If the girls come to
regular Torah classes, they would appreciate his Torah. Mrs. Becker never got to find out
about his individual personality and qualities as a human being. And is someone who isn't
"into zmiros" supposed to not get married and not be spoken to like a human
being? He was quite hurt. The "punishment didn't fit the crime."
Yerucham is a very frum and a very sweet
fellow. He would make a superb and devoted husband. You would never know it from
[Many matchmakers go by externals or by
their imposition and projection of their values, interests and/or conceptions upon the
individuals who they are making matches for. One matchmaker told me that she sets up
people based on the eye color, height and similar physical features that people say they
want (she only asks external questions so that she, naturally, thinks that's all that
singles want). A dissatisfied client of a certain matchmaker came to me saying that the
other matchmaker sets people up based on how similar the wealth levels are in a couple. A
happy, strong and lasting marriage is predicated on the qualities of the heart and on the
competent linking of two hearts. They project onto you what they think you should marry.
There could be no connection whatsoever to what you indeed should choose in a mate. From
such a matchmaker, RUN. This true story tell of how one matchmaker made superficial notes
on index cards and made matches based on the index cards]
The matchmaker told Shimon that Matilda is
"into midos" and according to her INDEX CARD, the match "sounds good ON
PAPER." On the phone, Shimon told Matilda, who lives on 86th St., that he finds
driving and parking in Manhattan burdensome...would she mind if he came by subway? She
said, "fine." After eating at the 84th St. pizza place, she asked Shimon to get
his car so they could go to midtown and do something. He said that he specifically asked
if she would agree to his coming by train and she had agreed. Her face twisted with fury
and screamed at him, "You didn't bring your car? YO-U-U-U-U'RE RIDICULOUS!" He
was stunned and after two minutes frozen in place with shock, he calmly said, "I
don't think there's any potential here," and silently walked her home. Shimon, by the
way, never returned to that matchmaker. He doesn't want a marriage that's good ON PAPER or
a spouse whose midos are good ON PAPER.
Carol was still in her teens when she got
married. The matchmaker promised that the fellow was an outstanding Torah scholar and a
wonderful fellow. On their wedding night, as he was beginning to retire, he unscrewed a
wooden leg. Horrified, she wouldn't let him near her and she demanded an immediate
divorce. Carol was traumatized by the
misrepresentation/omission. She now is 41 and has not yet been able to trust a matchmaker
again. Through no fault of her own, she cannot accept the risk of a repetition of
vulnerability to the matchmaker's (and the fellow's) false or substantively incomplete
representations. Tragically, she has never been able to marry.
Although common and taken lightly in
matchmaking contexts, lying is evil and potentially destructive on a very practical level.
In this case, the matchmaker's gross and unprincipled misrepresentation/omission
traumatized Carol to the extent that she may never have the happiness of marriage or
children. It would not be enough for the matchmaker to cutely say, "I never said he
DIDN'T have a wooden leg." Who thinks to ask, "By the way, he doesn't have a
wooden leg by any chance, does he; and would you take a lie-detector test about your
answer, just in case, please?"
The shadchan assured Reuven that Shirley
was "a sweet, kind girl."
Reuven had a date to pick Shirley up at
6:30. On the way, there was a massive, parking-lot style traffic jam. He arrived at 6:50.
There was a note on the door saying that Shirley waited till 6:45 and then had other
things to do and left; maybe Reuven could come back tomorrow evening at the same time.
After that aggravating traffic jam and justifiably insulted at the profound contempt,
upsetting selfishness, inconsiderate rudeness and appalling midos that Shirley
exemplified, he simply wrote on the bottom of her note, "No thanks. I'll pass."
[The following depicts a fellow who
displayed immaturity, irresponsibility, thoughtlessness and instability in many ways. He
would be silly at times that were serious, repeatedly not show up for appointments (with
no call or notice of any kind), bounce from job to job and take on mounds of debt which he
could not conceivably pay back. He behaved compulsively so you never knew what he would do
next. Compulsivity is a personality disorder which is psychological escapism from an
unbearable underlying emotion, such as intense pain or fright. The person is pressed to be
unnaturally and uncontrollably busy so as to block buried feelings from having an
opportunity to surface and to be experienced. For example, one time I was on the phone
with him having a confidential conversation. All of a sudden, without a word of warning,
he made a three-way call to a friend, who had nothing to do with our conversation, and
made a social arrangement with the third party while I was on the line. He had invented
new heights in the art of interruption.
His upbringing was very rough on him. He
was pressured into a destructive and unhealthy marriage by a shadchan. He came to me for
counseling after a highly charged divorce which terminated a marriage that stemmed from
one of the most imbecilic, destructive and irresponsible examples of matchmaking that I
ever heard of. Neither party was anywhere near marriageable. Together, this couple of two
"ultra-neurotics" was "dynamite." The shadchan must have believed that
two broken halves add up to a whole!]
Yaakov's parents divorced when he was an
infant. He has no memories of his parents being together. His mother's parents divorced
when his mother was very young also and his divorced grandmother was an alcoholic. On many
levels, and for many generations, his background was dysfunctional. There was very little
in the way of stable family structure. He grew up shuttling back and forth between one
parent and the other. Each parent married several times. There were new sets of
step-parents and step-siblings coming and going, from time to time.
Extraordinarily sensitive - to others as
well as within himself - the absence of a stable atmosphere impacted him. The trauma of
his early life hit him very hard, destabilizing his personality. This sweet, soft,
talented and brilliant boy was painfully lonely and confused.
As a child he noticed that he got attention
and approval from classmates by making jokes and funny noises. Because he obtained ongoing
positive reinforcement, he always had to be a comedian.
When the drug era came, he turned to drugs.
He met a rabbi who influenced him to go to yeshiva at about the time he graduated high
school. He was given some attention and concern at the yeshiva. He traded-in his drugs for
a gemora, becoming a baal tshuva.
He switched yeshivas because the learning
did not fulfill him. He spiritually grew at the second yeshiva. Deemed ready for the
plunge, he was set up by a shadchan who Yaakov described to me as incompetent and pushy.
The shadchan pressured him into a destructive marriage.
There were signs before the marriage that
the girl was imbalanced, but between youthful naivete, the shadchan's pressure, and being
used to the unstable as the norm, Yaakov married.
The girl had tantrums, called the police
for unjustifiable complaints, claimed he didn't support her. On one occasion, she
forcefully tripped him, and when he was down, she pulled his head by the hair to hit his
head onto the sidewalk. They separated, reunited briefly, saw that it was not going to
work, and divorced. When the fellow was awarded custody of their children (as the parent
who is more fit), the ex-wife psychologically wrecked them by constant court battles over
custody, sick "mind games" and her putting them in the middle. The
"kishkas" of everyone involved are tense and torn.
[This case tells how judging by vague,
meaningless and unsubstantiated generalizations stood to destroy a worthy match, which was
ultimately made because Hashem Himself structured events to overcome the unjustified
failings of the matchmaker.]
Shmuel and Libby Leibowitz are chasidim who
live in Jerusalem. They had a son of marriageable age who had come very close to
engagement. Ever since the shidduch failed to go through, both parents - extremely
sensitive people - longed very much for their son to marry.
On one occasion a shadchan named Mr.
Friedman proposed a set-up with a girl. The Leibowitzes started the standard investigation
on the girl - her family, background, character, education, etc. The information came in.
They heard some bad things. The conclusion was that their son would not call the girl.
They phoned the shadchan to say that there would be no shidduch.
After rather high expectations of the
canceled shidduch, Mrs. Leibowitz cried and decided she would go to the kosel (Western
Wall) and pray that her son find his zivug. She was praying with such emotion, piety and
sincerity that she attracted the attention of a modest, sensitive young woman. The woman
came over to Mrs. Liebowitz and asked if there was anything she could do for the obviously
sorrowful woman. A conversation started. When describing herself as a member of her
chasidic sect, the young woman asked, "Do you know Shmuel and Libby Leibowitz, who
are from this same chasidic sect?"
Mrs. Liebowitz was caught by surprise that
this stranger "happened" to ask about her by name. Mrs. Liebowitz didn't answer
the question, but rather asked the young woman to tell a little more about herself. The
conversation progressed and the two women, neither having said their name, developed a
close personal sense of connection. Mrs. Liebowitz saw clearly that this was a woman of
warmth, kindness and fine character. After a while, Mrs. Liebowitz asked the woman why she
had asked if she knew the Liebowitzes from her chasidic sect.
The woman explained that a shadchan named
Mr. Friedman had proposed a shidduch for her with the son of a Shmuel and Libby Liebowitz.
The family said that they would need some time to look into the information. That's the
last the shadchan told her. It had been a while, and she herself was trying to find out
about the Liebowitz family in general, the son in particular and what was going on. She
had come to the kosel to pray because the girl wanted to get married to a good boy from a
good family. Not having heard from the shadchan for some time, the young woman had grown
concerned and felt the need to pray for Hashem's help.
Mrs. Liebowitz emotionally told this very
obviously sweet and pious girl that she was Mrs. Libby Liebowitz.
Because she told Mr. Friedman that she was
calling the shidduch off AND because Mr. Friedman had not yet managed to call the girl,
both women felt compelled to come to the kosel to pray to their Father in Heaven! G-d
answered their prayers simultaneously by having them meet. Through this, the shidduch went
It turned out that the Liebowitzes received
false information about the young woman - hearsay, vague generalities, unsubstantiated
objections which amounted to slander. She was indeed a very fine young woman. She married
the Liebowitz's son and, after several years, they are very happily married.
Two lives hung in the balance because
someone glibly and irresponsibly reported false "facts." It took a literal
miracle to establish the real facts about the girl and to remove obstacle to the shidduch
caused by frivolous misinformation. We see how important it is to be honest, careful and
accurate in verifying and conveying all information about a person in a shidduch - for
both good and bad "facts."
Zelig was getting so burned out with the
dating scene that he was simply losing the energy and motivation to go out on superficial,
ill-chosen blind-dates, set-up by ineffective well-meaning people.
At one singles event, he met Rabbi Lieber.
They got into a nice conversation, they seemed to have a pleasant rapport and Zelig took
Rabbi Lieber's phone number to keep for reference.
Zelig had occasion to phone Rabbi Lieber
soon thereafter. Although the evidence has it that Rabbi Lieber was entirely well
intended, and even sincerely concerned about Zelig's stagnant social life, the good
rabbi's method backfired.
Rabbi Lieber is not a congregational rabbi.
He is the owner of a successful industrial business. He engages in community projects as
his way of expressing his "rabbinical self." He personally was one of the
sponsors of the non-profit singles event at which he met Zelig. He sincerely wanted to
help single people get married.
Upon hearing that Zelig was not going out
with women anymore, Rabbi Lieber went into "lecture mode," right at the start of
the phone call. He said to Zelig, "I'm a technician and a businessman. I know how to
get things done. I'm going to get you married within six months. I know nice girls. I'm
going to set you up with ten girls. If you don't find one that you want yourself, you'll
take the best one of the ten and just get married. I guarantee you: you'll be happy."
Zelig gently replied, "But your giving
me ten set-ups is artificial. There's no guarantee that I'll want any one of them. I want
to choose someone who I want. I want a human relationship. Your method is impersonal. You
can't say that you can send me ten set-ups and guarantee I'll find one I'll love."
"I promise you that you will have
love. You're not getting any younger. You've got to have children while you still have the
energy for them. Yitzchok didn't didn't see Rivka before Eliezer brought her to him, and
Yitzchok loved Rivka."
Zelig, remaining gentle, but displeased
with the way he was spoken to, replied, "You're not Eliezer [a Biblical saint who had
Heavenly help] and you're not giving me a Rivka [a Biblical progenitor of the Jewish
people]. You can't guarantee I'll be happy with someone chosen in a such a technical
"I'll tell you what. You have nothing
to worry about. If it doesn't work out, I'll pay for your divorce!"
Feeling demeaned, drained and disheartened,
but remaining gentle and well-mannered, Zelig said, "No thank you," and felt
even further away from dealing with people who were bent on getting him married. And, he
never spoke to Rabbi Lieber again.
[In this case, the shadchan's perverted
sense of "truth" caused her to "stab" with her mouth, being literally
abusive and cruel.]
Laizer had been referred to Mrs. Weiss, a
shadchan. After speaking to him, she described a girl to him as being "big boned and
"Does that mean she is fat? I really
am not attracted to fat girls. I'd rather go out with thin girls. I've been set up with
too many people who I haven't been attracted to and I know I won't be attracted to someone
who isn't thin."
"They're a very fine family. They're
fine people. Don't close your mind. She's not fat, just big boned."
"I don't think so."
"I think you should meet her. I know
"If you know these people, you can get
a picture. I'm willing to look at a picture."
"I don't have a picture."
"If you know them so well, you could
Mrs. Weiss said that she would try.
After that meeting, Laizer referred his
friend Feivel to Mrs. Weiss as a shadchan. Feivel made an appointment with Mrs. Weiss.
Mrs. Weiss said that she had a possible girl in mind for Feivel. She would speak to the
girl and speak further with him subsequently.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Weiss had occasion to go
over to the house of the family and spoke with the girl and her mother. She asked for the
girl's picture, explaining that Laizer Berkowitz wanted to see what she looked like before
he would consider going out with her. The girl was offended. Her mother said, "I'll
tell you. Another shadchan mentioned this same fellow to me. If two people mention the
same guy for you, there's probably something to it. I didn't want to go out with your
father till I saw his picture. Let's give Mrs. Weiss the picture." The girl agreed.
Mrs. Weiss called Laizer and told him of
the meeting with the girl and her mother. "You mean you told her my name and you said
that I didn't want to go out with her because of her build? How could you say that? You'll
smear my reputation! You hurt the girl!"
"I speak the truth!"
"But truth has to come with kindness
and discretion. You don't just say things like that to people!" Laizer refused to
have anything further to do with Mrs. Weiss.
Feivel called Laizer and, in speaking,
mentioned that Mrs. Weiss was working on a shidduch with a girl from a certain location
and in a certain profession.
Laizer asked if it was so-and-so.
"Yeah! How did you know?"
"I'd gone out with her and I
recognized the description. It was an OK date."
Mrs. Weiss called Feivel. She said the girl
refused to go out with Feivel because he was too short.
Feivel called Laizer, saying that he was
hurt by Mrs. Weiss telling him that the girl refused to see him because he was "too
short." Laizer said, "Mrs. Weiss could have said the girl was dating someone
else. Did she say why she hurt your feelings?"
"Yes," Feivel replied. "She
said, 'I speak the truth!'"
[The following anecdote tells of a blatant,
intentional set up by a matchmaker, who said to a man that the woman was what he was
looking for. The girl was nothing of what the man described as what he wanted and
everything of what he didn't want. Although an extreme case, singles repeatedly complain
about inadequate care or judgement by matchmakers, which results in aggravating or
painfully dull blind-dates. The response by the man on the date was not particularly
mature, but he was pushed beyond endurance.]
Sam specifically told the matchmaker that
he wanted a girl with "college level intelligence," i.e. she need not
necessarily have gone to college, but she should be smart enough that she could get in if
she would have wanted to. This was Sam's way of saying he needs a girl with a mind. The
shadchan's face beamed and he enthusiastically exclaimed, "This is a gift from
Heaven! You can go ahead now and print the wedding invitations!"
Sam was learning in a yeshiva and lived in
the dormitory. He phoned Gwendolyn from a yeshiva pay-phone. She literally spoke like New
York's roaring '20's Governer Al Smith ("Toidy Toid Steet and Toid Avenoo" and
"radio" rhymes with "Daddy-o"). Will the East Side ever live it down?
She promptly steered the conversation to
making arrangements to meet (no trace of personality, tact or "human
connecting"). "So, when ya wanna meet?" They would meet the next evening
for dinner. When the call was interrupted by the phone company, to ask for more money to
continue the call for another three minutes, Gwen just said "Bye" and hung up.
Other girls would ask if he had more change or offered to take the number and call right
back to the yeshiva dorm pay-phone. Sam was struck by how she showed no personality and
how not up to college-level her intelligence seemed.
He picked her up at work and they ate at
the legendary Bernstein's-On-Essex. All she literally talked about was that it was raining
that evening and that there is a lot of traffic in Manhattan. She had nothing to say and
she said it plenty. By the end of the meal he couldn't take it. His nerves were racked
with unmanageable boredom and frustration. To whose wedding was he supposed to already be
printing invitations? Certainly not their's!
Normally a very good-natured and generous
soul, Sam walked her a block and a half to the subway and, drained and aggravated beyond
endurance. He told her to get herself home from Manhattan to Brighton Beach, he got into
his car (parked 20 feet from the subway entrance) and drove home, nearly shaking. He
didn't even phone back to the matchmaker, figuring that there are no lines that connect
[This story shows how meddling can be
destructive to the creation of a match and how hurtful it can be to a single.]
Marty is a very presentable match. He is a
professional, sensitive, concerned about personal growth, sincere about his religiosity,
and he is clearly marriage-minded. You would think the right girl would "jump at the
The shadchan set him up with a girl, let's
call her Nancy, whose father was a businessman and Talmudic scholar. When Marty showed up
for the first time at Nancy's house, her father sat him down and spoke with Marty for an
hour. The way Marty put it to me was he felt that he was being interrogated. The father
pounded him nonstop with all sorts of personal, grueling, intrusive questions.
When he passed muster enough, the girl was
finally permitted to materialize. As it turned out, Marty and Nancy really liked each
other and a relationship developed which presented prospects for "the real
thing." In religious circles, dating is exclusively for the purpose of exploring
marriage. If you get past a few dates, the direction is serious.
On every occasion when Marty would come to
pick Nancy up for a date, her father would sit them down and talk with them for an hour.
He was very controlling and domineering and would push to impose his views. Marty had to
really push to get to where he could leave with Nancy for their date.
If the reader will recall, I differentiated
in chapter one between faults which cause harm and faults which cause no harm. Marty had a
fault in the second category. Occasionally, when he had a head cold, his nose would twitch
They continued dating regularly for several
months. When Marty came to pick Nancy up one time for a date, when the relationship was at
a serious level of development, her father, as per his custom, said that he wanted to sit
with them, and he did so for an hour. Marty had a cold at that time. During this hour, his
nose twitched a few times.
Nancy's father asked what this strange
gesture was and Marty straightforwardly and innocently told him.
The next morning, Nancy's father called a
son in medical school (who, of course, knew nothing of Marty or Marty's medical condition)
to find out "the real story" behind such twitching. This "expert" said
that it could be any number of things, including what Marty said, or he could be on
medication or it could be mental instability. The father went back to Nancy to report of
his "findings." During the course of this conversation, he said to his daughter,
"Of course it's possible he MAY be normal, he MAY never beat his wife."
When Marty next called Nancy, she was
strangely and extremely cold and distant. It was a very awkward, uncharacteristic,
uncomfortable call. Figuring it would be wiser to continue at a later time, he concluded
the call. When he called her later, she abruptly said, "I'm breaking up with
2b. FRUS-DATING! TRUE
STORIES OF HOW SINGLES SELF-SABOTAGE OR CAUSE THEIR OWN RELATIONSHIP TROUBLES
I repeatedly see, in workshops and
matchmaking, significant signs in singles that they are not equipped for the roles and
responsibilities of marriage. As I often say in lectures, "being lonely or romantic
is not automatic readiness for marriage." One has to be responsible, functional,
mature and stable. Further, matchmaking is an art and responsibility. Very often,
matchmakers are inept, indifferent, incompetent, sneaky or down-right crooked. Although
many are sincere and well-meaning, matchmakers are not "trained professionals"
nor adept at discerning personality qualities which make or break compatibility or
readiness. A single's dysfunction or immaturity; or a shadchan's ineptitude, lack of
principle or lack of diligence in checking into the single to a reasonable extent; can be
destructive. I have seen countless cases where the single and/or the matchmaker has been
the cause of a miserable or doomed marriage. I want to take several installments of this
column to bring true case histories in which the behavior of the single or the
irresponsibility of the shadchan brought clear relating problems or obstacles that could
be seen at the dating stage. From this we will gain insight into the failure of marriages
which managed to sneak past the dating phase.
After the shadchan arranged the set-up,
Leib phoned Gitty. On the call, Leib asked Gitty where she would like to go to eat on the
date. She said that she was open to what Leib would want. Leib said that he'd like to go
to Heimee's Hamburgs. Gitty said that this is a fast food kind of place in which there is
no privacy to talk. She felt this was unsuitable for a first date. She made a point to say
that she didn't need the place to be expensive but she asked that wherever they'd go,
she'd like it to be conducive to a first date and to be in good taste. Leib said,
"Okay. I'll think about it."
When they met, Gitty asked Leib what he
came up with when he thought about where to eat. He said that he hadn't thought about it.
He asked her what she wanted. She was a bit perturbed that he hadn't given the matter
thought as he said he would. She remained calm and said, "How about Canton
Kalman's?" He said, "Nah, I don't want Chinese."
"How about Dovid's Deli?"
"Nah, I don't think so."
She tried a third time. "How about
"I'd rather not."
"Do you have a suggestion?"
"Heimee's Hamburgs. Would that be
She was upset inside but didn't show it.
She remained calm, dignified and ladylike. "I told you what my feelings are. I'll
agree to whatever you like."
While eating, Gitty mentioned that she
would be traveling abroad for an upcoming vacation. Then, the conversation got into the
subject of kashruss. "What?" screamed Leib. You would eat XYZ? You're not kosher
enough! As long as you plan to travel abroad, you'd be better off spending your time in
Israel in a yeshiva learning! You should spend your vacation there and do something with
"I can't take the luxury of traveling
that distance or for such a long time. I have a responsible job. I'm content with my
Then, Leib started bringing defenses and
proofs for his religious ideologies. He started challenging her ideologies. He demanded
substantiations for her positions. His speech was driving and intrusive. Gitty felt tense,
more like she was on a debate than a date.
Gitty told the matchmaker after the date
that Leib is "off the wall" and rigid. The matchmaker agreed that his not
thinking about where to eat and his being inflexible about the Hamburger place wasn't nice
of him; that he was presumptuous in admonishing someone he didn't really know, loudly, in
an unprivate location and in an order-giving manner; and not knowing how to differentiate
between a chavrusa and a woman. He may have been religiously sincere, but his relating
approach was abrasive, tactless, alienating and out of line.
[This case describes a scene which occurred
about a decade and a half ago. The woman, projecting her fault and inadequate self-esteem
onto others, is still single today and near the end of her child-bearing years. Everything
that she said about the man applied to her and the man was good in every way that she said
he was bad. Her criticizing and delegitimatizing came from her own failure to look into
her own shortcomings and inner unhappiness.]
Mordechai has been described as a dynamic
personality. He is the head of a vibrant business. He has a brilliant and active mind.
Since childhood, he has stood out as a lively, creative and friendly person - the last guy
you would think of as a "dud." Today he is happily married and has a family.
When he was dating, he was set-up with
Yocheved. Yocheved was described to me as a dull woman who didn't have much that was
interesting to say. However, she thought of herself as having an A-1 personality.
On the date, Mordechai was rather quiet. He
saw nothing about Yocheved that evoked any particular response, so he said relatively
little and demonstrated just about no personality.
After the date, Yocheved complained to a
friend that Mordechai is real "nothing type of guy." Actually, she had given
Mordechai a "nothing type of chance."
A shadchan set Harriet and Max up and
shortly after the "go ahead," Max phoned her. Harriet felt that the phone call
went OK and was looking forward to the date, set for 8 p.m. a few evenings later.
Shortly before eight o'clock, Max phoned to
say that he didn't have a car and would be delayed till he could rent one. Harriet did not
require fancy treatment and a down-to-earth friendly walk in the park would have suited
her just fine. "Please don't bother. Just come and we'll do something on foot. It's
quite alright, really."
"No, No, Harriet. I want to make a
nice impression and show you a nice time."
"I just told you that I would be
impressed and have a nice time if you just show up on foot, on time and we'll do something
"Don't worry. I know I'm running a
little late but I'll be there soon. I'll just go to Alef-Bais Rent-A-Rechev. Catch ya
Harriet was a little disturbed. She though
that she would phone Alef-Bais, which was not too far away, try to catch him, and ask him
to just come over. She got a message machine which said that the business hours were until
six o'clock. What was going on? Is he a liar? Is he a kook?
About an hour later he called again and
just quickly said that he still was behind but that he was coming. Before she could say
anything, he hung up. She was all dressed up, waiting and waiting. She was getting
exasperated. About another hour later, her phone rang. It was Max again. "I'm just
letting ya know I'm still coming. Don't worry." He hung up, again giving her no time
to get a word in edgewise. "What's his agenda? What's his problem?" she
About 10:45, nearly three hours late, the
doorbell rang. He pointed to the street to indicate the nice chariot which he had arranged
for. She forced a polite smile. In marched Max, flowers in hand, and announced, "I'm
taking you to any restaurant you like. Let's make it something nice. I want to show you a
Her first thought was that it was too late
for that. Maybe if it would have still been eight o'clock. She was frustrated from waiting
three hours and she was getting tired already. "No perhaps we'll just stay in and
talk." The rest of the family knew to stay out of the livingroom.
"Absolutely not! I want you to have a
She thought to herself that this guy is in
a world of his own and that two minutes with him was already beyond endurance. She forced
herself to remain polite and civil. "Given the hour, I'm really not prepared to go
out to a restaurant now."
"You've got to eat!"
She thought "I've got to sleep. I've
got to escape. Where were you at eight?"
"You'll be going first class. Look at
the car I have!"
Forcing herself to keep composure, she
said, "No, it's really quite OK. Let's just talk here."
Max was stunned. How could she refuse to
let him be impressive?!
They talked for about forty five minutes.
All the while she was privately jittery and wanted it to end. He made in impression on
her, alright: he doesn't know how to listen, relate or communicate. When he left, around
11:30, she was near shaking.
It was five hours. That was a nice length
for a date. The last several dates had run only an hour or two each, and they all turned
out to be classic duds. Her mother was starting to think that this guy today must be the
basherte that her daughter was hoping for. She was expecting her daughter to come home
smiling ear to ear.
Shaindl came home and found her mother
eager to hear how it went, complete with an excited facial expression. Before her mother
had a chance to blurt out, "Nu?" her face turned to stone...upon seeing
"Mommy, I feel like giving up."
Shaindl was on the verge of crying. "These guys are too much. I don't want to date
"Boobala, what happened?" her
mother asked softly.
"We went to Manhattan. We walked
around. The whole time he talked about himself. Every other word out of him mouth was 'I.'
It was never conversation. It wasn't two-way dialogue. He never asked me to say a word. I
couldn't get a word in edgewise. He talked about what he wants to do. He talked about his
past. He told me he fell in with a bad crowd as a teenager. He told me he has a 'dark
past.' Why should I want to hear about that? If he's OK now, why do I need to hear about
it, especially when he's making his first impression? If he's still into anything no good,
why is he dating frum girls? He was totally wrapped up in himself.
"He never offered me even a soda. At
the end I told him, 'If I don't get something to drink soon, you can take me to Beth
Israel Hospital instead of home.'
"He apologized and said, 'I'm so
sorry. I guess you'll never want to date me again.' Why should I? He wanted me to see him
again, too. Do you believe it? He probably needs a psychologist more than a shidduch. He
spoke about himself for five hours and doesn't know how to treat a woman. This is what the
shadchanim want me to marry?"
People come to me to ask me if, in my
experience, I might have met someone who might be a shidduch (match) for them (or for
someone they are concerned about).
After one of my many presentations at
Rebitzen Esther Jungreis' world-famed Hineni Heritage Center on Manhattan's Upper West
Side, Goldi asked if she could speak to me. She said that she is in her forties and is
looking for a shidduch. She asked if I could help her.
In speaking to her I found out a little
about her. It was relatively brief and in a public place, so my information on her was
rather incomplete. I took her name and number.
About a month or two after, in a workshop I
was giving for singles in Queens, there was a fellow who asked to speak to me after the
public session. He said he was having trouble finding a mate. He told me about himself and
that he would like a nice girl. He was in the low fifties. His nature struck me as
compatible for the woman I spoke to at Hineni.
I phoned Goldi. When I had her on the phone
I told her I needed to find out more about her because I have a guy in mind, but I need
more information to make an assessment about whether or not the two are
"candidates" for each other.
One of the things that came out in that
conversation is that Goldi still could have children, but she does not want children.
I told her that she said to me that she has
been observant all her life. Central to the Jewish value system is having children. You
would figure that a woman who is from an observant Jewish upbringing and background wants
and values children. Here is an observant man in his low fifties who has never had
I asked her, "Do you know that in
Jewish law, the first priority in getting married is to have children. It is a commandment
for a man to marry and have children. This obligation is not fulfilled until a man has at
least one viable son and one viable daughter. If you're telling me that you don't want
children, and given that you say you can, and let's assume that you really can, do you
realize that I cannot set you up with a man, in Jewish law, because his first obligation
is to get married and have children. In Jewish law a man who is capable of having children
and who has not yet had at least one son AND one daughter may not marry you. You could
only be set up with either a man who already has children so as to have already fulfilled
his obligation, such as someone divorced or widowed OR the only other alternative is to
set you up with a man who knows that he is not capable of having children, so that having
children is not an option for that man. Those are the only two options you've got. You
want a Torah observant man and you want him to be unable to have what the Torah tells him
to get married for."
Goldi told me, "You know, I never
thought of it that way. That's maybe one of the reasons I'm having difficulty getting
married. Men go out with me and they want children and I'm not ready to provide them with
children so they reject me. You're making me think that I have to reassess the way I'm
going about looking for a mate. It hasn't worked all these years."
Goldi has been inviting rejection. She has
been defining herself in a way that makes her ineligible when going out with
men for whom she wants to be eligible.
Menasheh hadn't been seeing anyone at the
time and had grown bored with his social doldrum. He and two of his friends decided to go
out together for dinner one evening in order to have company. Before the end of the meal,
Gila walked into the restaurant. One of Menasheh's friends had dated Gila. On the date
they decided that they were not for each other but they had a friendly time, so, when his
friend saw her walk into the restaurant, he called Gila over to say hello. She caught
Menasheh's fancy and he made a point to talk with her. They seemed to get along quite
well. Menasheh asked her if she would be interested in going out together. He hadn't
finished his meal and she hadn't eaten. He offered to take her to another eatery where
they could both have "a something," more as an excuse to make a date than to
make culinary sense. She agreed. They excused themselves from the two other guys.
At the other eatery, Menasheh asked Gila if
she'd like to go bowling. He really wanted to spend time with her. She was open minded and
said it would be OK. When they got to the bowling alley, the place was very filled up.
Menasheh said he didn't want to wait around so long. It was getting late and he had work
the next morning. She was agreeable again. He was really impressed with how nice she was
about everything. He took her number and said he would call her.
A few days later, he phoned her and asked
her out. On their date, Gila was entirely pleasant and easy to get along with. Menasheh
felt that he should be feeling happy, because this was someone who he could find no fault
with. But, instead of feeling happy at having a lovely date, he felt scared and nervous
inside. They agreed to see each other again. Owing to their respective schedules, they
basically fell into a pattern of meeting regularly once a week, when they both had
available time, like clockwork.
After about two months, Gila started
throwing out clear signals that she was expecting Menasheh to be serious with her.
Menasheh was in a dilemma. He couldn't put his finger on why he felt ill-at-ease and he
couldn't find words with which to articulate to Gila that he was not sharing her marital
The relationship came to a stagnation and
coasted at the same level for another couple of months. Gila became more and more
assertive and adamant. She was expecting Menasheh to marry her. He was comfortable to have
the relationship but he was not finding any sympathy for her aspiration nor interest in a
marital development. Her response was to get progressively more assertive, his was to
evade the subject as aggressively as she pushed it. This transformed the pristine and
sweet rapport into a tense relationship. They were used to each other and neither wanted
to break the relationship off. But, it was at an untenable and irreconcilable impasse.
One time they had a date and Menasheh just
didn't show up. She waited loyally at the meeting place till four in the morning. He
didn't even phone her family or the place where she was waiting.
The next morning she called him, assuming a
benefit of doubt, and asked what happened. He said he was delayed somewhere and didn't
expect that she would wait too long for him. She good-naturedly accepted the excuse and
trusted it to be true. They made their next date for the next week at their regular time.
He didn't show up again. She had a harder time finding a "benefit of doubt
attitude." It was now twice in a row. She struggled to keep her composure when asking
what happened. Torn within, hurt and nearing the limits of her patience, she decided to
accept his excuse but she said, when making their next date, "You're not going to
fail to show up again are you?" He said, "No, I'll show up." They made
Menasheh failed to show up the third time.
They didn't speak to each other again. He had never learned to communicate about feelings,
to empathize with someone else's feelings or to adapt his behavior to accommodate someone
else's feelings. He could be happy so long as things were on his terms. He didn't know how
to handle terms, needs or demands which didn't suit him. He wasn't prepared for a
relationship to require that he give of himself.
A family member heard about me around the
time Menasheh ended his relationship with Gila. Concerned that he was not getting married,
the relative encouraged Menasheh to call me for counseling.
Nechama had just about everything going for
her that you could name. She came from a good family that stemmed from a Chasidic rebbi.
More important, she was a wonderful and sweet person. She was very frum, very human, very
normal and worked on herself very sincerely. She was a baalas midos (superb character
qualities) and a baalas chesed (actively and constantly kind and good-natured). She was a
true "catch" for the right boy.
When she went away to seminary, she boarded
with a family. This family, as it turned out, was also of special quality - kind, frum,
"Torah-dik," "midos-dik," refined. She and the family took to each
other and she became unusually close with this family.
When Nechama came to the age of shidduchim,
the father in this family took over as her "shidduch manager." He occupied the
role that any girl's father would occupy if he weren't as far away as Nechama's father
was. He was as caring and diligent as any father would be, he was on the lookout for a
superb boy, he screened the boys no less than he did for his own marriageable daughters.
Yechiel passed muster. He appeared to be
nice and doing well in his Torah studies. A date was set up.
Upon meeting Nechama, Yechiel made a
presentable first impression. He picked her up in a taxi and instructed the driver to take
them to a fancy restaurant. Although Yechiel seemed quite the gentlemen with her, he
seemed condescending in the way he spoke to the driver. Being the master of good midos,
she figured it was her misinterpretation and forgot about it.
During the ride, Yechiel was pleasant
company, polite and an interesting conversationalist. She was starting to figure that,
after all, this was a real nice fellow. When they got to the restaurant, he got the car
door for her. He really was proving to be a gentleman. Then, when he settled the fare with
the cabby, he was rude again. She decided to give him the benefit of the doubt.
When they went into the restaurant, he held
the door and seemed quite nice again. When the waiter came, Yechiel was arrogant to him.
During the entire meal, Yechiel kept going back and forth between being lovely with her
and nasty to the waiter. Now the documentation was inescapable. It was too many times.
Yechiel was able to show niceness selectively. But, as she put it so well after the date
when she got home, "If he's not nice to everybody, then he really isn't nice."
Shortly thereafter, Nechama ended up
marrying a grandson of one of the previous generation's greatest gedolim (Torah leaders).
Her husband is nice to everybody - and a Torah-great in the making. They are two beautiful
people who have a beautiful marriage.
In one of my presentations, I addressed the
subject of what goes into a happy marriage. I was speaking about such topics as giving to
a partner, respect, true love, trust, etc.
One man abruptly, tensely and angrily
started interrupting. "That's all on paper. That's not reality. I've been married and
divorced. I know the truth. Women are all gold-diggers. All they want is to take a man's
money and kill him. You know the snake killed Adam. Women are the snake. All they're good
for is killing a husband. That's all they want. This business about love and happiness is
all nice for talk. But in real life, baby, it's nothing but junk. Women don't want love.
They want to take a man's blood out. Just take 'em for all they're worth - that's all a
woman wants. You have no right to go around telling people that it's possible to have love
and happiness. That's not true. Women make me so angry. They just want a man's money and
then his death. That's all. This stuff is not reality."
I started to cite sources which show how a
Torah marriage yields bondedness and happiness. Then, incapable of hearing anything that
he didn't want to hear, he angrily marched out.
After a presentation at the Sephardic
Education Center on Manhattan's East Side, a woman came to me to ask if I could speak to a
relative who was having a difficult time finding a husband. This relative, let's call her
an Aunt, is married, somewhat older, considerably mature and concerned. She sat in quietly
during the meeting.
The young lady, let's call her Marsha, was
in her late twenties. To be unmarried at this age in religious society, is a matter of
concern. She spoke to me for a good while to tell me what she is looking for. She told me
that her family is not well connected and to get a match you have to be well connected in
your community. It didn't sit well with me that this should be the whole story. There had
to have been more.
I asked Marsha what she was looking for,
what would it take for a relationship to work, the kind of things I would need to know in
order to make a responsible set-up for her. I asked her a number of questions, some of the
answers to which were worrisome to me. One question I ask people in order to get a sense
of the person and how the person handles such a question is, "What are your
shortcoming that have contributed so far to your not being married?" I tell them that
I am asking for a constructive purpose. For someone to be able to realistically live with
you, they have to be able to work with your problems, live with your shortcomings, have
strengths that can help you work on your shortcomings or be able to tolerate your
shortcomings. I also have to discern if any shortcomings can hurt another person. Angels
can get along with angels and human beings have to get along with human beings,
realistically, practically and effectively. I want some insight. If a person hedges or
plays games, that turns me off to them and makes me less interested in helping them. I
don't set up angels. If someone claims to be an angel, I only know human beings and can
set up only human beings. If I find out shortcomings, I can find out what makes the person
ineligible for whom, or what they have to work on realistically and honestly, or I have a
sense of what strengths in another could compensate and constitute an eligible match.
Some people are very honest. Marsha said
that she doesn't have any shortcomings other than that she's sensitive so that if she's
not accommodated with what her feelings are, she might feel very badly. That, to me, was
an avoidance of the question because she is trying to make it sound like she has a good
attribute (sensitivity) that is her one negative fault. She was doing this because she
doesn't want to say that there is anything wrong with her. If she says that she has any
imperfections, she supposes that I probably would not set her up. What she didn't realize
is that I probably wouldn't set her up if she has NO imperfections. I only set-up human
beings. True, if I discern that any single would be ill-equipped for, or destructive in, a
serious relationship I would not help them marry. All people have shortcomings. A real
marriage requires that two people can tolerate or complete each other's shortcomings. A
real match, therefore, requires diligent investigation of what shortcomings in A can B
live with, and vice-versa.
Marsha gave me the feeling that the
sensitivity that she reported was probably more self-directed for her own benefit, and
less available for the benefit of others. She gave me the sense that she is probably being
too picky and sensitive and looking out for getting too big and unrealistic a list of
things that she wants and wants and wants. If a guy wouldn't have the whole list, she
wouldn't take him seriously or give him a fair chance.
The second thing that concerned me was that
within her list of things that she wants in a husband was a contradiction that is next to
impossible to find in one person. I would be surprised if she would find someone who could
manage it and I told her so.
She said she wants a guy who, on the one
hand, is a go-getter who is driven, ambitious, hard-working, who will earn a good living,
have a career, be strong out there in the world. Marsha also said that he should be a
family man, home-body, caring, sensitive and warm. I said to myself, "This is silly.
This is so unrealistic." I told her, "You want two contradictory things. You
want a guy who is out there in the world and striving hard. You want a guy who is a
home-body, sensitive and a family man. I always see these as being mutually exclusive.
It's always one way or the other. These are two separate types. Make up your mind. If you
had to get off the fence and decide between the guy who's strongly ambitious out in the
world versus a sensitive home and family value guy, which would you force yourself to
choose if you had to choose one over the other? The two in one person is basically a
contradiction. It's not realistic." Her aunt silently but emphatically shook her
Marsha wisely said that if she had to, she
"Would choose the guy who would be home and sensitive and is for family-values, who
would be warm and devoted to his wife and kids."
She basically had an unrealistic
expectation and was more concerned about receiving a check-list that was fairly extensive
and elaborate, and contained so many things that some of them were literal contradictions
to other items that she demanded from a guy. Marsha is a religious-from-birth woman in a
religious community, getting older and older. Her idea of what she wants, needs, deserves
or expects is not capable of working.
It's more realistic to work on not wanting
the impossible than to keep striving after the impossible. Striving after any
unattainable, for whatever the reason, is one of the best ways to keep from getting
married. Pursuing the unattainable allows the person to keep thinking, "I'm making
effort, I'm doing my part, there's nothing wrong with me." The person does not find
someone who is attainable. This "system" for being unmarried works exquisitely.
[Some of the case histories reported in
this "Frus-Dating" series represent scenarios which, in my counseling and
workshop experience, occur repeatedly. They are as much patterns as case histories in that
I see essentially the same story played out more than once. I am starting these case
histories with one such scenario that I see time after time repeatedly, especially in my
workshops or pubic presentations which allow for audience involvement. This is probably
the scenario which, in my workshop experience, has repeated itself the most times.
The general theme starts with the subject
of: the crucial and fundamental role of giving, so as to please a spouse. I speak, in the
lecture, from Talmudic and Torah sources, how giving builds love for another within a
person. I describe the widespread mistake of expecting love to come first, followed by
giving, and how unless giving comes first, lasting love cannot be developed. I describe
how the more that love is NOT built from giving AND NOT accompanied by respect, the more
the love will degenerate and end.
Someone in the audience (sometimes more
than one person) invariably raises a hand. Almost always, the person is a female in her
late thirties or in her forties. On rare occasion it is a male or another age group. The
person is either divorced or, if not, has had some one-sided and strongly emotional
relationships which, in the end, were very unhappy.
Let's say I'm doing a presentation or
workshop for singles. A woman in her early forties raises her hand. Let's say her name is
Devorah. The following script, more or less, recurs time after time after time.]
"Yes, Devorah." The subject
matter already has her face a little emotional, perhaps longing or bewildered. I can see
it in the eyes.
"Rabbi, you said that giving builds
love. I was in a very close relationship. More than once. I gave all the time. I'm a very
sensitive person. I feel for a guy and I want to have a happy relationship so much. And
when I give, all the guys do is take advantage. They take what they want, but they don't
give back. They're ingrates. Sometimes they are downright nasty [or angry or selfish]. How
does that go with what you're saying about love and giving?"
"Devorah, never lose sight of the fact
that giving is always a two-way street. Failing that, you have the contemporary high
divorce rate and so many singles not finding a happy relationship. People wind up
disillusioned, lonely and sad. A stable, loving relationship entails reciprocal giving.
Your ATTITUDE has to be one of 'I want to give and not ask to take from the other.' But,
the other person has the same exact responsibility. The other has to give the same
ATTITUDE back also. The other person has to give also."
"But, rabbi, they never do," she
said with hurting emotion in her voice.
"Devorah, I'm going to tell you
something very deep. I want you to think about it very seriously, because it will be the
foundation for answering this.
"The way a person views and relates to
and chooses a relating partner is an extension of your deepest inner-personality. It is
not true that people never give back. However, we live, today, in a very selfish,
materialistic and psychologically deficient society. Takers are common.
"What I have to ask you to explore is:
what is it within you that causes you to choose the relating partners that you select?
What causes you to choose relating partners who don't give, who are mean and
self-oriented? What attracts you to them, especially if repeatedly?
"There's some thing in you that
settles for, or may be driven after, relationships that cause you pain and
dissatisfaction. We choose relationships that are extensions of our inner psychological
reality and our self-concept. There is something in the type of men you select that
stimulates you emotionally. You associate something about them with something under the
surface in your emotions. That determines what you see as normal or axiomatic. If these
underlying 'realities,' that you've been conditioned to operate by, cause you to expect
hurt or rejection; or cause you to feel that you have to give of yourself in order to
'buy' love, approval or emotional security, then you will go after relating partners who
match your internal psychological axioms, expectations, needs or 'reality.'
"Ask yourself if you notice any
pattern or similarity, in regards to this, between the men you've chosen as relating
partners, or in your relationships. If you can't get to the bottom of this on your own,
perhaps a professional will help.
"The way a person chooses a
relationship or partner is an extension of the inner self. If you elevate your standards,
axioms, emotions and practices, you will gradually grow more sensitive to giving,
reciprocity and compatibility as the 'reality' in choosing, cultivating and conducting
relationships. Getting along, love, respect and giving will be 'normal.' Anyone who
doesn't operate this way, anyone who can't reciprocate, becomes irrelevant. They won't
measure up. You won't relate to, be attracted to or value a person unless he shares the
same axioms and behaviors.
"When you get to that point, it will
be normal to only choose and cultivate a relationship with a partner who can give back.
Much of this will take care of itself. You may then need some skill development,
fine-tuning or behavior modification. But if you can re-orient yourself to see BOTH
RELATING PARTNERS AS WORTHY OF, AS WELL AS PROVIDERS OF, GIVING, and practice this and
develop consistency in this, and get a bit of coaching, things will gradually get better.
If you make a mistake along the way, that can be expected, so don't let it get to you.
Correct it and just keep on going.
"You obviously are a person with a lot
to offer. I see that you are a sensitive and substantive person. Don't stop giving. Don't
be discouraged. Don't drop your standards. BRING YOUR SELECTION CRITERIA UP TO YOUR OWN
STANDARDS! Don't settle for a guy who abuses your standards. Establish your standards as a
basis for constructive and mutual exchange. Then when you give, it will cultivate the deep
and fulfilling love that you are looking for. It's not that giving doesn't build love. You
need two 'players' who 'play' by the same 'giving rules.' When a man or a woman gives, and
chooses a relating partner who also gives, together you can build a happy and serious
relationship. If you can build this into your foundation, all the pieces will then fit
together. No one gets shortchanged. Both are fulfilled. You will both give and you will
both share love."
Devorah smiled with warmth and reassurance.
[The following case depicts how an
individual may think he or she knows what he or she is looking for in a mate and is in
control of relating patterns, even though the patterns repeatedly do not work. This case
depicts a young woman who was protecting herself from hurt by creating an obstacle to a
serious relationship. Part of her defense was
* "coming on strong,"
* acting self-assuredly,
* projecting one's own fault onto a
* fear of and separation from true
* acting in opposition to one's true nature
* holding onto and justifying behavior that
In essence, many of these case histories
depict how singles create obstacles to getting serious or married. Also, this is a case in
which the beneath-the-surface-reality of a single is where the relating patterns are
determined, beneath conscious awareness, and would go over the head of your typical
This case is unusual in that it
accomplished in one session what normally takes a much longer therapeutic process. Since
the person involved is a trained psychotherapist by profession and had the integrity and
courage to "take the bull by the horns" with unusual directness and rapidity,
the case as it actually happened is condensed and to the point. Therefore, it serves
unusually well to present a type of defensive pattern that I have seen in some form or
other in people who came from cold and emotionally negligent parents, or who had been
married to and divorced from a cold and emotionally negligent partner. The people are
carrying deep emotional pain, which is typically buried beneath conscious awareness, and
which powerfully manipulates and drives their lives, particularly when seeking a serious
I received a phone call from a woman with a
strong but sweet voice. Let's call her Tamar. She heard that I do matchmaking and that I
believe in an in-depth approach, which appealed to her. Right away, her description of
herself suggested that she is a substantial person.
I asked her to give me a preliminary
description of herself and what she was looking for in a mate. I do this when I get a
phone call from a single who I don't know, because if I don't know a prospective match who
is in the caller's "ballpark," it's not fair to me or to the caller to spend
time in a futile full-length in-person interview, especially if the person is travelling a
distance to get to me, as Tamar would have. I'll tell the person to call again in a few
months to see if I've met anyone who could be a "candidate." If there might be
something practical, I'll set up a more in-depth meeting with the single then.
She said she is a therapist in her early
thirties and wants very much to find a serious relationship.
Right away, I could tell from her voice
that there was some kind of conflict within Tamar. It was something subtle and I could not
put my finger on it, but if I could get to the bottom of it, something that was holding
her marriageability up could be eliminated. She sounded very human, very substantial. She
seemed to have a basically healthy and self-aware personality, yet she spoke in an ever so
slightly choppy fashion, just enough to signal, given my psychological training, some kind
of separation from her emotional self. Instead of each syllable flowing from one to the
next, it seemed like there was a very quick stop between each syllable and the next. It
was a bit as if she were on the other side of a door and after each syllable, the door
would close then open again. She sounded like she could be emotional but was clearly
operating from her intellect. She was intellectualizing her feelings, which I know from my
psychological training is a defense mechanism, an unconscious internal psychological
maneuver to protect the individual from an anxiety-producing situation.
She started by saying, in a very strong
voice, "I have a very strong personality. I intimidate some men. I'm not a demure
female. I need a guy who isn't intimidated. I'm very giving and I find it hard to find
guys who are able to give back."
Right away, I sensed that this was relevant
to the inner conflict that her voice indicated. But, I did not yet have enough data to
draw any conclusions. I sensed from a pleasant element in her voice that Tamar was an
honest and open person, so I explored further. I was very impressed. She handled herself
with integrity, courage and sweetness that is rare in such a potentially psychologically
threatening interchange. Since we both are trained in psychology, since she is basically a
good neshama and since she sincerely wants to get married, she handled herself like a
trooper. What follows evolved spontaneously on the phone. The actual conversation
continued for about 75 minutes. Even though the rapid flow of such a conversation is not
representative (what was accomplished here could take weeks, if not months or years in
conventional counseling), the process of getting to realization of a marriage-blockage
will be valuable for the reader.
"So, you're saying that you need a guy
who is both very strong and very giving, is that what I'm hearing, Tamar?"
"Yes. Very strong and very
"Tamar, I wonder about this business
about wanting a strong guy and a giving guy. I need to know more and I need to know why
and how what you're looking for hasn't worked to date. Tell me about your personality,
religiosity and life direction and goals, Tamar."
"You're right. Something isn't
working. Hmm. Good questions. My personality, eh? Okay. I'm self-assured. I'm in the
world. I'm a psychotherapist and I work in a clinic. I see it all. Violent crime victims.
Abuse victims. I know what's going on in the world. When people in dating or social
situations ask me about my work, and I tell them, they can't take it. For example, several
shaboses ago I was at a family I know for one of the shabos meals. They had several guests
at the table. Someone suggested we go around the table and say what we each do. When I
said what I do, the person who said to go around the table cut me off in the middle and
told the next person to start speaking. I've recently learned to simply say that I'm a
therapist. If they want to know more, they can ask. I answer any questions briefly and to
the point. If they want to know more they can keep asking and I'll answer to the extent
that they keep asking. But I don't like when people ask and can't handle when I answer. I
want a guy who can let me talk about my work or about my day. I need to be able to talk
about what's on my heart and what has happened during my day.
"I recently went out with a guy. It
was a blind date. He was big like a football player. You could see that he was a strong
personality. As soon as I opened the door, he picked up on my strong personality and he
said to me first thing, 'I don't intimidate easily but I get alienated by a girl who makes
me feel like I should be intimidated'."
I replied to her, "You talk about a
giving and a tough relationship. Can you tell me how that works? I don't hear giving and
toughness coming too readily together. How is it - tough and giving at once?"
"Well, when I'm in a relationship, the
tough and the giving are not at once."
"Oh? Not at once?"
"What I mean is, I start out tough. If
I a guy proves himself..."
"What do you mean 'proves
"If he's not intimidated by my being
strong, my saying what I have to say and his being there for me as I need, I warm up, and
become very giving."
"Then that's not toughness. That's
insecurity. A giver wants to give from the start. I can tell that you're not a taker. Your
intrinsic nature wants to give. You want a giving exchange all along but you can't trust
that your real inner needs will be given to. You see giving right away as threatening.
You'd be vulnerable. A giving guy would relate givingly. How giving do you find the tough
type of guy to be?"
"Not really giving. Rabbi Forsythe, I
thought that I knew what I needed in a guy. But in your getting me to talk about it, I see
that the date with the guy who wasn't intimidated at my door didn't work. It was a pretty
bad date and I thought he just wasn't for me. But in thinking about it, I don't think it
was capable of working."
"Tamar, it sounds like there was a
wall between the two of you. It also sounds like you're in conflict. There's something
conveyed by your voice like the proverbial person who is tied to two horses who are
whipped and run in opposite directions. You sound like you're being pulled in opposite
directions. Your voice sounds very intellectual. You're talking about something that
should bring a person to considerable emotion, yet there's a noticeable absence of
feeling. You're obviously a sensitive person but where is the mass of emotion that goes
with a sensitive person in your situation?"
"Rabbi Forsythe, you're on to the
right things. When my supervisor at the clinic does reviews with me of my work, he also
says that I talk about things that happen - which should make one have emotions, like
seeing a crime or trauma victim - intellectually. He asks me, 'I heard what you THINK
about it, now what do you FEEL about it? Where are your feelings?' I try to work on
myself. I'm working on feeling. I have feelings."
"You're not accessing your feelings.
You have deep feelings. How has this conflict impacted relationships with men? It would
seem that if you're as giving as you say you are, if I may be frank..."
"...it would seem that you select men
who are strong, macho types. True?"
"How are strong macho-type men when it
comes to giving to you?"
"You come on tough. You set up
toughness as an axiom of relationship. You make it of paramount importance. It doesn't
work. You say you are a giver. You're a giver and a toughie, right?"
"How can YOU be a giver AND a tough
cookie at the same time? You say you are toughness and giving together. I hear more of
that subtle conflict in your voice and, besides, I don't believe you."
"I'd like to know why you don't
believe me, Rabbi."
"You're sensitive. I believe you when
you say you have a giving nature. You're handling yourself very generously in speaking to
me. I'm being blunt with you because I discern you really want to overcome your conflict
and you sincerely want to get married."
"I sure do."
"And, I discern that you can work
constructively with the truth and that you know to take my straightforwardness positively
and you are working with it commendably."
"Well, I am a therapist."
"Tamar, I've seen therapists get
explosive, when it comes to them. You're impressive, believe me.
"You said that you'd like to know why
I don't believe that you are BOTH tough and a giver. The answer is in the Talmud. In one
place the Talmud says to be soft and bendable, in another place the Talmud says to be
gentle. The giving part of you clearly shows that you have a soft, very human inner
essence. This happens to be the natural state of a Jew, especially once a mature adult.
You can't be soft and tough together. It's a contradiction. You are defensive, not
"You have to be tough in life."
"Tamar, a soft person who is healthy
knows how to be tough on those rare life occasions when toughness is called for. Part of
being healthy is balance. The Hebrew word for personality trait is 'mida.' Mida,
translated literally, means 'measure.' Every trait has to be possessed in appropriate
measure so that you have it in 'inventory' for the appropriate time and place. But the
healthy person's general demeanor through the majority of life is humble and gentle.
"There is something in you that, deep
inside, hurts. You've put up a protective wall around that inner hurt. In a relationship
with a man, you have some psychological association with the cause of that hurt. And, you
will put on the tough front to keep potential attackers away, and keep that hurt place in
your heart safe. You want to approach a man as tough so that he'll be signalled to not
hurt you. You're being 'strong' is broadcasting that you are not one to mess with. If
anyone's going to do the hurting, it's you. You want a giving relationship because the
intrinsic you, beneath the hurt, wants a warm, human, close and secure relationship. But
you choose men who should tolerate your toughness, because you consider yourself 'safe'
when they accept your toughness. They won't hurt someone tough. But, they are shoved away
by the tough way you present yourself, so it can't ever escalate to a serious, giving
relationship. Is there anything in your past or family that could have caused you such
deep hurt that can cover you heart with a protective wall?"
"Well, both of my parents."
"What do you mean, Tamar?"
"They are both very stoic,
unemotional. The most striking sign of this is that I never once saw them fight."
"Even behind closed doors? Late at
"Never. No emotion in my house. Not
even anger. I remember, too, that my grandparents were not emotional. Everything was on
the surface. The whole family. I remember that if I ever wanted approval, I had to show
how smart I was or how excellently I could achieve. That was the only way I got lo..., I
can't even say 'love.' Approval." She paused. "You're right. I have never been
loved. I can't feel loved."
"How does that make you feel?"
She paused. "Your right. It
"Are you afraid to hurt?"
"You really want a loving and giving
relationship, don't you?"
"Do you think you're going to get it
from a tough guy or a soft and giving guy."
"Soft and giving."
"You called me up in my capacity as a
shadchan. You said you knew what kind of a guy you wanted. You were sure. You said you
were self-aware. Does the typical shadchan set you up on the basis of the face-value of
what you say?"
"What impact has that had on your
"If your life would be analogous to a
book, you call a shadchan and say, 'I'm on page 196,' when you're 'on page 2.' If you want
your life to be 'readable,' what do you suppose you have to do?"
"Work on myself more."
"I don't know, Rabbi."
"Would you consider therapy."
"Do you think it would help?"
"Tamar, as a therapist, you know it
would. Do you know why you asked if it would help?"
"Are you afraid to hurt?"
"Might not therapy bring up
"Facing hurt is a part of
"Imagine if you were diligent and
courageous in facing your inner pain? Your situation is subtle. If someone were actively
abused, there would be much more clear-cut hurt. Your hurt comes from your sensitive
emotions never having been nurtured and loved."
"That's very true."
"That makes it harder to see clearly,
especially by yourself. Don't you expect you will gain with professional help? I may be
too far away from your location to do it for you. What effect would you expect if you
mustered up the courage to address this diligently?"
"I could get in touch with my
feelings, learn what my motivations are and what doesn't work in looking for my
"Are those goals that you would like
"Well, Tamar, for it to work, you have
to really do it, really be diligent and stick with it, really be brave and honest in
facing your inner self. But, you know what?"
"Your true inner essence would make
the right guy very happy, and make him very happy TO MAKE YOU VERY HAPPY. You'll have to
get access to your inner essence before a man can access it. That inner essence that
you've been covering and protecting is just what the right guy is waiting for, is yearning
to meet and exchange with. That's the inner you that he wants to relate to, to be
impressed with, to give to and to love. But, he'll need you to let him."
"Rabbi, thank you for your time."
Nachum dated Leeba for about four months.
When they started seeing each other, Nachum told me that he had some doubts, but his
rapport with Leeba was pretty good and she really was interested in him. She tried very
hard to be nice. He wanted to give it a fair try. Yet, something was bothering him and
Nachum couldn't quite put his finger on it.
He was on the "religious track" -
enjoyed going to Torah classes and working on his spirituality. Although Leeba said that
she also was interested in spirituality, he noticed after a month or two that she would
talk about it, but did next to nothing. She didn't report that she was going to classes
except very rarely. He started discerning that she wasn't showing signs of spiritual
growth or sensitivity in real-life situations.
One time, they went for a day trip to the
country. Leeba was in need of leaving the date at three o'clock in order to get to a
special evening shift at work that needed her participation. While in the country, Nachum
ran into an old friend, who he hadn't seen in several years. She agreed to let him speak
to the friend alone, since she had to take a little time to get her stuff ready for the
return trip, anyway. The plan had called for her meeting Nachum at the parking lot in
several minutes, after he finished speaking a bit to the old friend.
When Nachum got back to the parking lot he
found a brief, scribbled note in Leeba's handwriting which said that she met an
acquaintance while waiting in the parking lot. The acquaintance was headed to the area
where she worked so she grabbed a ride with the other person.
Nachum had done his best to cut short his
conversation with his old friend and hurried to the parking lot to take Leeba to work. He
arrived punctually at the agreed-upon time. He was very hurt and aggravated by Leeba's
having left with another person. He considered it to be selfish and very rude.
It occurred to him that what he was
bothered by in Leeba was a theme of "looking out for number one," an overall
spiritual insensitivity, with a pattern of doing what it takes to take care of herself.
She was nice to him and gave lip service about spirituality because that's what it would
take to get Nachum. But in real-life, on-the-spot situations, she wasn't
Nachum said to me, around the time he was
working up the strength to break off with Leeba, "I'm moving spiritually 100 miles
per hour, she's going 5 miles per hour. When we first started going out, it was harder to
see the spiritual differences between us. In the few months I've known her, the gap has
widened so what I couldn't notice several months ago, I see now."
Parenthetically, another fellow spoke to me
(the same day I wrote the above) about a relationship that he was in. He also couldn't put
his finger on it but the relationship that he was in also had an unclear disparity. He
also was in "spiritual motion." The girl he described was more religious,
personable and considerate than Leeba, but her religiosity was lackluster. There were no
drive nor feeling in her spirituality. It was a variation on the above anecdote, except
that this girl was on a higher spiritual plane to start with but she was stagnant. This
second fellow had trouble seeing what didn't add up about their relationship. I told him
that he was in motion, she was standing still. Over time, the difference had grown more
pronounced. When I put it into perspective for him, he saw it clearly and saw why this
girl offered him no shidduch. She was at zero miles per hour. He not only was in motion,
he had clear-cut spiritual "destinations." He needs a wife who can move with him
and share his goals.
[Like the item about the workshops in which
I speak about giving, this is an amalgam of several similar cases. I have heard many
similar scenarios from several women, from matchmakers and from an organizer of singles
get-togethers, who have all reported cases of men who are not going anywhere with their
life and who are not equipped to be providers, yet who come to shadchanim or singles
events ordering up a wife like something to be had from a menu.]
Berel came to a shadchan and asked for help
in finding a shidduch. He is in his mid 30s. The matchmaker asked him about what he does.
Berel said that he was out of work. Times are hard. The matchmaker gave benefit of the
doubt. The matchmaker asked Berel what his profession is.
"A few things."
"What does that mean? Do you have
several degrees? Did you change professions because of technological changes? What does 'a
few things' mean?"
"Well. Um. I was a clerk for a while.
The boss didn't like me so we didn't get along too good."
"What are you telling me? You
"Well, he fired me."
"What was his reason? He must have had
"No. He just didn't like me."
"You mean you did your job OK and he
arbitrarily fired you?"
"Well, he said I didn't do my work
fast enough and I wasn't always accurate, so he let me go."
"Did you work more slowly and less
accurately than what the job required."
"I don't see why he should think so. I
"Hmmmmmm. What about the 'few things.'
You said you did other things."
"I worked doing stock in a warehouse.
That was OK but the economy, ya know."
"You mean because of a drop in
business they cut back?"
"Why were you let go? Were there no
others who could have been dismissed? How come you?"
"Last hired. No seniority."
"Does that mean you weren't there for
"How long since you've been out of
"Have you held a steady job in those
"Lot's of 'em!"
"Eight, nine, maybe ten."
"How long were you on any given job at
"I was on one job for a year and a
"One job for a year and a
"How long were you on the
"Jobs, Berel. Jobs."
"I don't remember exactly."
"On, average, Berel."
"What do you mean 'mostly?'"
"Some were shorter."
"You've had about eight or ten
different jobs for a few months or weeks each, over fifteen years. Is that right?"
"This reminds me of the guy who said
it's easy to quit smoking, he must have done it a thousand times."
"Never mind. Do you have any goals?
Maybe I just haven't caught on yet. What do you do in your spare time?"
"I relax. I hang out."
"Berel, do you learn Torah, go to
classes, are you working on any kind of projects, are you building anything with your
life? Where are you headed? Are you working towards anything in particular, anything for
the long run?"
"Well, I'm tryin' to get a job."
"Berel, let me ask you, how do you
plan to support a wife a family? What do you expect a girl to respect you for? I would
understand if you were working towards something: a career, a profession, a skill, kollel,
a degree, an apprenticeship, a meaningful project, something. But how is a girl going to
feel if I tell her that in fifteen years you've floated and drifted?"
"But I'm a real nice guy."
"I can see that. But a woman needs
stability and security. She has to look up to a man. One of the things that helps a woman
look up to her man is achievement, or at least steadiness, in his work. One of the things
that helps a woman feel secure is a steady income. How is a girl going to feel if I tell
her that you haven't shown that you can produce things that she would depend upon you
"Um. From what you're saying, sounds
pretty shaky, huh?"
"Well, does it make sense to you? I
don't want to sound harsh, but I think this is something that's in your way, especially
since you really want to get married."
"Berel, why don't you take some time
and think about it."
[A "flip side" of the above
scenario is the growing trend among women, as reported by people who do matchmaking. More
and more women want accomplished professionals who are making a good parnossa
"livelihood," basically demanding men who can take care of them "in
style." Their focus is on taking, materialism and on externals. In Jewish values,
this is sad. This goes against both the practical potential for a real or good
relationship and the central Torah principle of emuna - faith that G-d runs the world and
apportions materialism to each individual as He sees fit. The essence should be sharing a
life of Torah and mitzvos, and the quality of the marriage bond in conjunction with a
husband's reasonable and responsible hishtadluss (practical effort). The outcome produced
by that effort is from G-d and the Jew believes that all that G-d does is for the best
(Brachos 60b-61a) and that true wealth is being happy with what G-d gives (Pirkei Avos
chapter four). One matchmaker, fed up with this repeated demand by women for guys with
money, gave one woman who came for an interview more than she bargained for. Let's call
him Rabbi Ganzfried and let's call the young woman Ruchama. She has just told Rabbi
Ganzfried that she wants a professional who is making a very good living.]
"Ruchama, why is it that you say you
want only a man who is making big money?"
"It costs a lot of money to live
today. Yeshiva for the kids costs a fortune. I want to live in a nice house with nice
furniture. If the house needs a new carpet, I want to be able to have it. I want a car of
my own. When I need new clothes, I don't want to have to think twice. I want to be able to
go away for Pesach. If I need help around the house, I want to be able to get it."
"Ruchama, I know a woman who spoke
just like you before she was married. And you know what? She got a wealthy guy. She
thought she was set for life. He gave her all the luxuries she wanted from the first day.
You'd suppose it was a 'custom made life,' wouldn't you? She had it made! A year and a
half or two years into the marriage she had a baby. The baby had Downs Syndrome. All of a
sudden, the life of ease and fun was all over. You see, she left out of her thinking the
Ribono Shel Oilam. She forgot all about Him. Look what He did to remind her that He
figures in the picture and that He calls the shots. Look what it took to wake her up. It
was a very humbling experience, and her life was never the same."
Rabbi Ganzfried's face and tone
progressively grew more dramatic as he continued. "Another woman also came to me
saying that she wants a guy who's going make a guaranteed good living. You hear this? She
wants a guarantee! I set her up for a date with a doctor. She told the guy that she wants
this guarantee! Thank G-d he had a backbone. Do you know what he told her? 'You want from
me a guarantee!? Then you're going to have to give me a guarantee also! You guarantee me
that you have inside connections with G-d that I always keep making a fortune. There are,
believe it or not, doctors who don't make money. It's not in the mazel. They're good
doctors. People are satisfied when they go to them. But there's no guarantee that a stream
of people flow to them. You guarantee there'll never be a stock market crash. You
guarantee that there will never be too many other doctors flooding the market so there's
less business for me. You guarantee that there is never any change in technology that
makes my practice obsolete. You guarantee me that you never wrinkle. You guarantee that
you never get fat. You guarantee that you never lose any teeth. You guarantee that my
first child is a son, that my second child is a daughter and that after that you guarantee
to give me a son every eighteen months for the rest of your childbearing years. Guarantee
me that you'll never get sick. What are you guaranteeing me? If you get one wrinkle, you
broke your guarantee and you get out. Is it a deal? Guarantees work two ways. Let me hear
your guarantee to me! I want to marry a girl because I like her, not because of what she
can do for me, and I'd like her to marry me because she likes me, not because of what I
can do for her. If I decide to learn half a day, would you leave me? Will you guarantee to
like me unconditionally?'"
Ruchama was stunned. She had no answer.
Mr. Bernstein, a fabulously wealthy man,
went into a yeshiva and asked to speak to the Rosh HaYeshiva (head dean). He said that he
had a daughter of marriageable age and wanted the best-learning guy in the yeshiva for his
daughter, Chaya. He would give the couple a fortune of money so that the fellow could
continue to learn Torah. The Rosh HaYeshiva said he had just the boy, who was excellent in
learning. The boy, Shmerel, was called in and given the proposition and he agreed.
At the wedding, the rich father-in-law,
true to his word, presented to the couple an enormous sum of money. Just when Chaya gave
birth to their SEVENTH CHILD, the money ran out. Shmerel said to his wife, "If I have
to go work for someone, let me work for someone I love, not you," and he divorced
Chaya promptly. He had gone after the externals. Mr. Bernstein went after the fashion of
judging a boy by his intellect, without regard for the important qualities. Chaya was
caught in the middle; together with seven perplexed, broken and abandoned children. And
there never had been any heart. There was nothing of any substance there. We see from
Shmerel that even if one is brilliant in the mind, if one isn't also brilliant in the
heart, one can be very stupid in how one uses one's brilliance.
[This case describes a woman who is certain
that she is devoted to working on herself, is fine - if not superlative - and she
"just needs a special guy who is good enough for her." I have heard this theme,
especially from women, many times. True, there are a lot of men with, let's call it,
"room for improvement." Some complaints by well-adjusted women about men who are
"out there" are valid. But I have often heard women with "room for
improvement" say that "there are no good men." They claim to be flawless
and wonderful, and every last man is a loser or bum. Such universal complaints by members
of either gender against the other gender typically indicate need for more self-scrutiny.
The following "blemishless" and defensive woman grew downright abusive.]
I spoke with a certain woman in her
mid-thirties several times. Much of the subject matter surrounded her experience in
seeking a compatible man. She told me that a major part of the difficulty of finding a
match is that people don't take to working on themselves enough. She told me that she
introspects frequently and seriously. She works hard on her midos (character). She is a
"deep" and refined person. Shallowness and boorishness are far too common. It is
hard for her to find a man who similarly works on himself. She needs a "very
special" guy. She has developed the ability to communicate and express feelings and
she wants a man with whom she would be able to communicate and who can express feelings.
She stressed how important it is to be a fine human being.
After about seven cumulative hours of
talking, over several sessions, she evidently became comfortable with me, and her guard
was not on alert.
She told me about a relationship she had.
The fellow was quite chivalrous and loyal. He brought her presents and flowers with
regularity. He was supportive and communicative and patient with her. These were all
valuable qualities to her. One time when her car had broken down, he came out in a
rainstorm to save her an hour away from his home. But, he didn't have financial prospects
or motivation that suited her. She claimed that he was not able to hold a steady job, so
she told him that she was through with him, after a year and a half. She said that he
pleaded with her and professed sincere and serious love for her. I was struck by her
description of her abrupt conclusion of their relationship. She said with no emotion that
she ended by saying to the man, "That's it." There was a callous, blindly
unempathetic rigidity, which is, in my professional judgement, an indicator of emotional
problem in her that she runs from facing.
I can understand her not feeling secure
with a guy who had not held steady work for a year and a half. But her way of dumping him
was extremely abrupt and callous, especially after a year and a half of giving her
generous and devoted treatment. She was only working part-time and I believe she had
anxiety about money that she was taking out on him somewhat. I have some reason to believe
that she grew up in a non-affluent home. She told me that her family was not able to
engender security about money and that presently they were not supportive, either
emotionally or financially.
She was too defensively preoccupied with
not having gotten from the relationship what she wants from one. I think that she was not
nearly as "worked out" as she would like to have one believe. She doesn't need a
guy who, as she said, is so special. She needs to be less needy.
She told me about some of her work. She
felt very emotionally involved in her work. She casually mentioned that she had been
criticized by other religious people for a certain aspect of her work. I mentioned that
facet of her work seriously violates Jewish law. She called me, "Stupid," and
told me that she was too tense to continue talking with me.
[This shows how a person can get caught in
a web of conflicting values and in immature self-interest that can wreak havoc on a
relationship THAT THE PERSON WISHES TO BE A SERIOUS RELATIONSHIP.]
One of the series that I did at Lincoln
Square Synagogue on Manhattan's Upper West Side was a six-week version of my man-woman
relationship course. At one of the presentations I spoke about dealing with fights and
anger. At the end of the session, about a half dozen people came up to the podium and
surrounded me to ask personal questions.
One woman, I'd estimate in her
mid-thirties, had a dilemma. She and a medical student were seeing each other fairly
seriously for almost two years. She had grown up in fairly affluent style in a wealthy
suburban environment. Her beaux was living in poverty and was interested going into
medicine to help people. He had a number of years to go till he could be employable and
was not, anyway, motivated to exploit medicine for material gain.
They would fight like cat and dog about
materialism - her needs for it and his repulsion to it. They didn't want to fight and,
otherwise, their relationship was serious, loving and caring. She started crying while
talking to me, even though it was in front of the four or five remaining people who were
huddled around me to ask their questions.
They obviously had strong and conflicting
values, expectations and goals. I did not suspect that she was open to breaking the
relationship off even though they were stagnating and suffering for so long a time, so I
couldn't recommend a break-up. Marriage would be, as things stood, a disaster, so I
couldn't recommend that. I told her to get professional help to see if the couple could
work out a mutually agreeable compromise. Give it a reasonable but finite amount of time.
Do not think in terms of either breaking up or of getting married in the meantime. Note
whether there is progress and at what rate it comes. It has to get to where both can
define and accept a unified plan for life.
My personal opinion is that the girl, based
on what she told me, was too unable to give up being a pampered and spoiled little girl
and there would be no lasting or mutually agreeable resolution unless and until she would
give in on the immature and excessive need for materialism. Show was torn by her natural
feelings for a man and her strong tie to a life of creature comforts. If the human
elements of the relationship were that strong, then she is separated from her heart - her
human qualities - if materialism could block her from marrying a guy who she has loved and
who has loved her steadily for two straight years.
Be that as it may, the thing that struck me
most deeply about this is how classic an example this is of a single in "commitment
block." She is losing precious time and youth. You would think that at her age she
would prioritize marriage to a guy with human virtues enough to make it happen. I stress
that the human ingredients, the love, the bondedness and two years of serious involvement
were all in place. You could have a thousand reasons to marry someone. But it only takes
one "killer obstacle" to block it.
After having attended a couple of my public
workshops, Binyamin came to me for private counseling. He had been married and divorced
twice. Both divorces were very ugly. I asked him to describe his parents relationship. He
told me that they had a good relationship and he gave me an idealized profile that would
seem to constitute a role model and inspiration for him that would set the stage for
choosing and conducting a marriage successfully.
The story did not match. When Binyomin told
me about his marriages, there was extreme incompatibility between what he said was his
role model and the way he conducted the choosing and conducting a man-woman relationship.
I told Binyomin that his idealized role
models and his gut-twisting relationship-track-record was analogous to someone coming over
to me, bleeding, purple with bruises, hunched over from massive beating, moaning in pain
with wounds, ready to fall down, looking like a bunch of brutal muggers in a dark alley
had a field day on him.
Although his every-day facial expression
was heavy with emotional drain and detachment - indicating considerable emotional
disturbance and pain - he said he's fine, he feels great, he's healthy. But he's ready to
fall over. If the purple, bloody, swollen, shaky, wounded person (who was mugged and is
ready to topple over on the floor and faint) told me he felt fine and is in great shape,
it wouldn't fit. The "cause and effect" didn't add up. Two rocky divorces and a
beleaguered facial expression that advertized emotional brutality did not match his story.
He would not see how deeply he deceives himself.
Binyomin said to me that he is attracted to
women with bad midos (character traits); emotional problems; are selfish, materialistic,
rigid and non-communicative.
In my opinion, because of that which was
emotionally missing in the home during his upbringing, he is attracted to relationships
that cannot work.
I told him that he has got to work on these
emotional conditions and motivations within him. Only that will unify the story of the guy
who looks like he's been mugged with a recounting of having been severely beaten. Only
this way can he be reality-based about what is going on.
Binyomin said he wanted to make a list of
the faults in the woman he has been attracted to, then make a list with all the opposite
virtues. Instead of bad character - good character. Instead of rigid - adaptive. Instead
of self-absorbed - mature.
I said to him that what is going on is
deeper than what is on the surface. He can make his list if he wants, but it's an
abstraction. He will continue to be attracted to the kind of woman he'd been attracted to.
He can make this list all day long, but he is going to be uninterested - on an emotional
level - in every woman on his new list. It's on the emotional level where responses,
attraction and behaviors are motivated.
Until he works on the underlying internal
emotions that had been effected by the deprivations, shortcomings and hurt in his
upbringing, nothing will change. He can make a list that is perfect and ideal, but he
won't have any feeling or attraction to any woman on that list. He will still emotionally
pursue only woman who relate to the emotional condition that exists internally. Only then
will he unify the story, so as to unify what he is emotionally responding to and the
practical situation that he is actually in.
Binyomin is still looking for his list. Not
for his wife.
[This case history depicts how being
emotionally stuck in a finished relationship can take a person "off the
After a presentation for single and married
people about building a loving marriage, a young woman came up to me and asked if she
could speak with me privately. I gave her my phone number. What follows is a digest of
what actually was eight or ten conversations (which spanned about two months), each of
which was about an hour in duration. Let's call her Rivka.
A few months before she attended my
lecture, a young man broke off an eight month relationship with her. It was at a point of
development that suggested to Rivka that they were on the verge of getting engaged. She
loved this fellow deeply and considered him to be perfect for her. He respected her. She
was sensitive and he was very giving - both materially and emotionally. He was a
gentleman. He was serious about Torah learning. She admired him and his just-about-perfect
list of qualities.
It seemed as inexplicable as it was sudden.
He told her that they are not for each other. Since they are religious, they have no
business having contact since there is no further prospect of marriage. She is not to call
him or have contact with him ever again.
She went to pieces. It wasn't enough that
it hurt so much. It was so final, so abrupt and so incomprehensible. And about seven
months after his break up, she was no less shattered than when the sky fell on her with
the news of their break-up.
She said that she tried to call him, even
though he said not to. Didn't he owe some explanation? Maybe if they talked it out they
could resolve whatever it was. Maybe he could at least exhibit some consideration for her
deep and aching feelings.
If this would have been all that her calls
to this man represented (especially if she would have been strategic to make the approach
through an intermediary who the man respected), I would understand and sympathize. But
that was not all.
She kept on calling the man for an
explanation and resolution. He was hard, brief, consistently abrupt. It was over. There is
nothing to talk about. They have no business having contact. It's not appropriate to talk
to each other anymore.
Rivka would talk and cry for forty five
minutes at a time about how this man was so perfect for her, he had everything she needed,
she loved him. What struck me was how incessant her emotional involvement was. There was
no let up nor relief.
Since they lived in the same neighborhood,
she would see him occasionally in the street or on Shabos in synagogue. He would look
away. She would hear from common acquaintances that he was seen dating another woman or
socializing at someone's home or event. The fact that he was moving on - and therefore
emotionally separated - added salt to her wound.
I told her that if he was perfect for her,
and she perfect for him, he'd have proposed instead of disappeared. I don't know him. I
never spoke to him. I told her that FROM HER SIDE OF THE STORY he didn't sound so perfect.
I did understand his religious position that once the relationship is over they could not
have contact. But it did sound like he was abrupt and mean in the way he cut it off with
no explanation. If it would have been destined to be a marriage, it would have happened.
It obviously was not.
She couldn't take hearing that he dated
some other woman, or could be so "perfect" for her and "not see it,"
or that she loved him so much and could not see that he had to want her, or that someone
who could be such a gentlemen could be so mean and detached.
She kept crying over and over again. She
needed emotional support and could barely receive it when given. Any time she heard he was
seen by an acquaintance, she cried uncontrollably. She kept repeating given things over
and over ("we were so perfect," "if only he would talk to me,"
"he was seen dating someone else," "I love him so much," etc.).
Rivka couldn't provide any substantive
reason why he wouldn't want her or why he cut off so sharply, after such "dream
developments" with her. I kept wondering what he would say if I could find him. It
was very incongruous. About a half year after the break up, she was holding on and pained
like it was only yesterday. Rivka was holding on tenaciously to what the man represented,
which corresponded to a deep need.
I believe that when a person is so
incapable of letting go of a finished or destructive relationship, the relationship
relates to some deep, unresolved psychological issue and need. Unless and until it is
addressed, e.g. with therapy, the underlying, buried emotion which is evoked by the other
person still is in there. The individual is desperate for that which the other person
hopefully stands to emotionally offer. Often, it is illusory or unattainable. And, all the
while that a person is "stuck" on someone with whom there is no relationship, it
takes the individual "off the market" to seek someone else for a real
relationship. Possibly, as long as the underlying inner difficulty is not resolved, the
single will not be able to have a viable relationship with anyone.
Along a similar line, another woman was in
a relationship with a man who she would not let go of. Her father had been very nasty and
emotionally abusive. To emotionally cope, her mother and she developed a very deeply
entwined co-dependent relationship. The mother passed away and she latched onto her
relationship with this man. She was very emotionally needy and loved him very much.
Although she sincerely tried to give him a loving relationship, she constantly pressured
him to supply intense emotional needs. After a few months with her, he felt drained and
depleted. Occasionally he blew up at her excessive demands for his time, energy,
reassurance and emotional support. He broke it off two times. She pursued and promised to
change. My advice was to work on herself and release and resolve the unhealthy and
desperate needs before expecting a lasting relationship that could satisfy normal needs.
Nature abhors a vacuum. I've seen similar
unhealthy, persevering tenacity in holding onto the finished or the destructive
relationship in many cases. To vary what I wrote at the end of the case above, you can
THINK or WISH you have a thousand reasons to marry someone. It only takes one "killer
reality" to block it.
I received a phone call from a woman who
heard that I do lectures, workshops and shabatones for singles and that I do matchmaking.
Referred by a friend, she called to describe herself and asked if I might have a man for
her. I asked her to give me a preliminary description. If I felt I had a possible
"candidate," she could continue with a more elaborate and extensive description.
As it turned out, I had no one "in her ballpark" so I simply told her to call
back and try in a few months. She called a second time and I still had no ideas, so I kept
it short because my research, writing, counseling, public presentations and workshops are
As it turned out, she called a third time
about a month or two later. She said she had called Rabbi Meir Fund (the same one in the
story above) who referred her to me. She took the liberty of calling again. I sensed that
there was something more here than a simple mate-quest. She was very diligent and driving.
Superficially I could have seen it as pushy and obnoxious, but it wasn't exactly that, so
I stayed on the line to explore. Something more was going on. We spoke for what turned out
to be about an hour. Let's call the woman Chavi.
Rabbi Fund told her that I do singles
programs and matchmaking. She is a divorcee in her forties with two children who both live
on their own. She is very lonely. She wants a man in his fifties, who is
"normal," who will be emotionally supportive, who likes classical music or good
art. She then said very strongly that he has to make a good living. She won't have one of
these guys who stays in bed till 11:00 expecting her to support him.
It struck me how her tone changed and she
said her stipulation about a good livelihood with a steamrolling, pushier tone. I have
heard gold diggers before. She wasn't expressing greed. It was defensive. Having
psychological training, I could pick up that it was something beneath the surface.
Plowing further, I asked her what
weaknesses she has that a man would need to be able to live with to get along with her.
She basically said "none." I asked her what attracts her about a man. She said
she wants someone artistic.
I said to her that it was no wonder that
she's not married. She has a pure taking-orientation and she is putting up an obstacle to
obtaining the man she wants. "You just want a man to be there for you and you want to
relate on the basis of superficials. Art has nothing to do with a man's goodness or
character. Everything that you've expressed demands that a man care for you and you are
flawless. Your emphasis on the man is too defensive. There's something more to it. No
religious man sleeps till 11:00. He's got to go to shul at 7 or so in the morning to pray.
You're grouping all men into a category that no religious man fits into. To want a
responsible provider who is a mentsh is an appropriate goal for a marriage, but your
attitude is too hard and what it means to you emotionally is too much. There's more to
this than you're saying on the surface."
She started crying. She said that her first
husband was an alcoholic. He never worked. He never did anything. She had to work, take
care of the house and kids. She had to do it all. She got nothing emotionally from him.
She doesn't want to let it happen again. She's painfully lonely. She doesn't want to be
alone. She doesn't have friends. She yearns to be married and cared for.
I told her that a relationship is two
people giving to each other. When two people have a giving orientation, choose each other,
and relate to each other so as please the other one, you can have a lasting marriage. Her
past hurt her and put up a protective wall around her. She is desperate to not have the
negatives of her drunkard "ex," and to grasp the positives for which she feels
the proverbial vacuum which nature abhors.
I told her that the way in which she would
get the responsible, compassionate, supportive provider that she wanted was to give up the
compulsive pre-occupation with defending, grabbing, demanding and pigeon-holing her needs.
She's too rigidly on the lookout to take her needs and to protect herself from her
scarring past mistake. She chose an artistic man who attracted her who turned out to be a
bum. She's running her life around protecting herself from "another him," rather
than being a vessel to receive a "non-him." Because she is so busy protecting
herself from the pains and disappointments of her past, she is not allowing herself to
have the joy and fulfillment that she longs for in the present. She was "looking at
the present through past-colored glasses." I told her to focus in-depth on the
painful emotions that this marriage put into her to face and resolve them, rather than
spending her life trying to evade them. Those emotions, and their grip on her behavior,
won't go away by hiding from them. I told her that only when she ceases to be on a
campaign to control acquisition of a non-him and ceases to construct her need list on a
taking basis, will she find a relationship that gives her what she wants.
I told her to keep herself busy by making
more girlfriends. I told her to try what I said for a month. Face her feelings and fill in
lonely times by seeking out girlfriends. Choose and value all relationships on the basis
of heart and character.
I made a point throughout to speak softly
and with emotional supportiveness. For the first half hour or so, she spent much energy
justifying and clutching onto her views, but gradually started seeing that what she was
going after hasn't been working and contained contradictions. After a difficult hour she
said she would try to widen her horizons. I told her that she could call me back in the
future to report how it was going.
These things can go either way. Some people make stunning
changes, others stagnate for years. It is hoped that readers will learn all that is
possible from these recountings. The fourth chapter of Pirkei Avos tell us, "Who is
wise? The one who learns from every person."