I graduated bais yaakov high school with a head full of ideas about marriage that I trusted but didn’t believe. That is: I trusted the teachers who’d taught them to me. They were older and wiser and presumably had my best interest in mind. But many of the things they said didn’t pass the critical thinking test, so I struggled to believe them.
One day I found myself on an eighth date. I liked the guy. Respected him. Enjoyed spending time with him. But I also knew that eight dates meant we were Serious and that freaked me out. I had no reason to break up with him, and no desire to marry him.
Luckily, the guy didn’t go to a bais yaakov. He pointed out that something big was missing in our relationship. We were, to put it mildly, stuck in the Friend Zone, and going nowhere fast. He broke us up. He was absolutely right and I was secretly relieved, but it took me a couple of years to come round to agreeing with him.
Trusting without believing gets us girls in trouble. We try to do what we’re told because it must be right, and yet, something inside is crying that it can’t be. But, ever trusting, we sometimes allow our elders and wisers to drive us into places we really shouldn’t be.
Back when I was 21, I had friends who were lucky enough to have breakdowns and wind up in therapy before they could be pushed into an inauspicious marriage. Now that I’m 27, I have friends who are divorced, because they didn’t manage it until after.
I’m sure by now everyone has read Gital’s story in the Post about how she let the people trusted nudge her into a marriage she didn’t believe in with a sociopath simply because he came from the Feinstein family.
I told the matchmaker I wanted to stop seeing him, that we weren’t a fit…
My parents asked me to think about it because his parents were so insistent I had the wrong impression of him.
In Orthodox dating, you rely a lot on what other people tell you — what their impression is. So I gave him another chance.
I don’t want to sing any Disney-style “follow your heart” tunes here. But at some point, the yeshivish community has to believe they’ve instilled their children with the right values and a pinch of common sense, and trust them to navigate the world themselves. Until they do, girls will struggle to trust themselves. Bad decisions ensue.
For a while I thought I was the only girl naive enough to treat feeling of reluctance for a guy with repetitions of the mantra “love comes after marriage” — something oft repeated in high school, but without the sort of elaboration necessary for girls who have been segregated from boys their entire lives. But now I know the unhappily married and the happily divorced — sometimes with children in tow — who weren’t as lucky as I was.
The parents and teachers advising these girls into their relationships mean well. They want the best for them. None of them dream of creating a future divorcee, let alone an agunah. But they still view them as children, girls, unable to trust the inner compass they’ve been cultivating through years of schooling and upbringing. And the “girls” share this view, because it’s held by the people they trust the most.
This makes me sad.
And long term, it makes a lot of other people sad too.