Trust Your (Young) Adults

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.


The Real Reason I’m Not Married

In seminary they tried to scare us into dating carefully by telling us stories about girls who dated Dr. Jekyll and woke up the morning after to Mr. Hyde. I believe men have their own versions of these timeless bedtime stories.

While I’m sure this does occasionally happen—for there must be utterly messed up and even psychopathic people out there (quite a lot of psychopaths, if one believes all the divorcees who have assured me they were married to one)—I think those unexpected body-snatching marriages end pretty quickly.  But when it comes to wonky marriages that last, I suspect something different is going on. After years of watching my friends pair off and be married, I am prepared to advance the following hypothesis: I think people pick people who allow them to perpetuate their neuroses.

This is how the friend with the habit of always making her life more complicated than it needed to be wound up with the OCD guy. The friend who was afraid of her own strength and ambition married the guy who nixed it. And the friend who was always pretty sure the world was out to get her married a guy who apparently is.

While my hypothesis is most obvious in poor to fair marriages, I believe, with further study, that it can be extended into the healthier range as well.  Just because they’re happy doesn’t mean they’re not neurotic.

But therein, methinks, lies my problem. If marriage is about choosing another nut-job who complements or aggravates your nuttiness, what do you do if you’re not nutty? Yes, I’m saying it out loud:

I’m just too well-adjusted.

Go ahead, guffaw. But even my therapist said so.

Seriously, though. Maybe I’m not quite normal, but who is? And maybe my neuroses can’t be complemented by a partner. Indeed—perhaps they require being single. In that case, I’m as happily married as any of you out there. My neuroses are happy, healthy, and fostered by my lack of partnership.

At least I didn’t need a wig and three kids to accomplish that.

Missing Part of the Equation

Three single people in a shared apartment living room. They are discussing how comfortable they are in their current living situation, and how perhaps a Boston marriage is in order, and who needs to get married anyway?

“Everyone I know who is married has issues. Either it’s the spouse or it’s the kids or it’s the trying to have kids. But they’ve nearly all been messy – sometimes permanently – in some way,” says First Single.

Second Single nods in agreement. One of her good friends recently filed for a divorce after five years with a deadbeat.

Third Single looked at the first two incredulously. “Are you saying you think being married is worse than being single?”

First and Second Single look at each other. “Well, it does look that way, from the outside.”

“Look,” Third Single began. “Granted, all the married people I know have Married-People Issues of some type. But don’t we all have Single-People Issues?” Her voice trailed off as she realized the inevitable response.

“Um, aside from the fact that we’re not married?” First Single said. “Not really.”

“We’re missing something, I think…” Second Single said, perturbed.