A couple of weeks ago I published an email from a woman who was asking the frum community in general to give her some space, not to push her back into dating after her marriage of eight years came to an end. I’m not exactly sure if she had gone through a divorce or if her husband passed away, because she wanted to keep that part private and it didn’t have anything to add to her narrative. In a nutshell, the life she dreamed of and actually lived for eight years was no more, and she needed more time to adjust to this new life and being a single parent to her son without being guilted into dating or having a nosy neighbor ask why she wasn’t dating yet.
Personally, I was blown away by the letter. All that this woman wanted was time. But it seemed that others were pushing, nudging, wondering, asking… about her dating. The letter writer who did not sign her name, and I will refer to as Annie (for Anonymous), wanted to focus on her son and still needed time to adjust, even after 18 months of living this new life. I felt like Annie was saying, “I know what my son and I need, and only when I am ready will I even attempt to date again. All anyone wants from me is to date; they don’t care how I’m feeling or what I really need. To them I am a prize and they are all trying to win by sending all their eligible bachelors. I am not a project, a nebach case or anything other than a mother trying to make her way in life, and until I ever decide to give the nudging yentas the green light – and that may not even happen, because I am not a piece of merchandise that will be going “on sale” – stay out of my business.
Apparently, I wasn’t the only one who was deeply affected by Annie’s words. I received a lot of feedback, and I want to publish a couple of excerpts from the emails (with permission from the emailers).
“It’s almost as if I was this woman. My husband and I dated for a few years and were married for almost five years and then we divorced. What had been my fairytale was now over, and it had turned black and angry. The man I loved seemed to have disappeared, and now I was faced with dealing with lawyers and courts; it got ugly. But I had two children who needed some sort of stability, routine, and lots of love in order to feel secure and safe. My focus was solely on my children. I enrolled all of us in therapy. Let me just say it was a very long process, and it took even longer for me to want to date again. Besides the fact that my marriage ended badly and I was scared to try again, now I had my children to think about and I couldn’t help but remember when things had been really good with my ex. It took about two years for me to feel comfortable going out again. I didn’t post my profile on websites. My friends are great and so are my siblings. They vetted everyone for me. In the beginning it felt odd to go out again. But slowly I did. Finally I met someone, and after a few months of dating, I introduced him to my children and he introduced me to his. We are married now with a blended family – married for three years with a baby on the way. I know exactly what the woman was saying and feeling. People meant well, but they weren’t living my life and didn’t have my feelings or memories to deal with. I had no qualms about saying “no, thank you” when someone would redt a “great guy.” I’m glad I waited until my children and I were ready. I don’t know the woman, but I am so proud that she is advocating for herself and that her family and therapist are supporting her.”
Another excerpt: “…I just sat with the paper in my hands. This was my story, except from a female point of view. My wife had passed away and I was on my own with a child. My marriage didn’t end badly; it ended with heartbreak. But to many I was a good-looking relatively young man with a son. Some people even had the chutzpah to begin redting shidduchim right after shloshim ended. They kept saying my son needed a mother. Yes, he needed a mother: his mother! We just went through a traumatic experience and it was as if people wanted me to replace my wife and mother of my child with someone new just so my son can have a mother figure. They didn’t understand and I really don’t even think they meant well. They weren’t thinking. Give a man and his child time to grieve! I told them all to leave me alone, and my son was loved by me and our family and I was in no rush to get a stand-in for his mother. It took time and therapy, but I was on no schedule. I went at the pace my son and I needed…”
Annie, thank you for your letter. It resonated with many, and you are the voice that needed to be heard. Many have felt as you do and have been there. Many, unfortunately, will be there in the future. They can just refer all well-meaning people to your letter.
I sincerely wish you all, in your situation, and everyone, the best – and time to heal.
Hatzlachah to you all!