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August 4, 2015 / 19 Av, 5775
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‘I Wasted My Life’ (Conclusion)


Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

In last week’s column, I published a letter from a divorced gentleman of 52 who took exception to an e-mail written by a single professional woman who wrote that she regretted wasting precious years building a career rather than focusing on a home and family. She complained that at this point in her life, the shidduch recommendations made to her are very often men who are incapable of earning a living. She stated that she couldn’t possibly consider such individuals for a husband and referred to them as “losers.” It is this term, “loser,” that prompted the gentleman’s letter and his vehement objection.

In describing his personal situation, the man wrote that shortly following his divorce (after more than 20 years of marriage and children), he was hit by the economic downturn in our society. After his separation he bought a little house to serve as both a residence and a business office. Today, the house is in foreclosure and the business itself is in a state of collapse. Consequently, he has difficulty meeting his child support obligations and paying his children’s yeshiva tuition. But, he wrote that he is deeply committed to them and is resolved to somehow meet his obligations. At the same time however, he is very resentful at having been labeled a “loser.” He feels that there is more to a man than what he earns, and since he is a kind, considerate, caring individual, he would make an ideal husband for any woman even though, at this point he would not be able to support her financially. Furthermore, he felt that since the lady in question is an Ob/Gyn and must have substantial savings and a good earning capacity, she could very comfortably consider a man in his position as a marriage partner. Rather than demean him and others in his position as “losers,” she would do well to reflect on the total picture and appreciate the positive qualities that he and others like him have to offer.

I forwarded his letter to the Ob/Gyn, who had written to me, and asked if she would care to comment. The following is her response.

Dear Rebbetzin:

When I received your invitation to respond to the gentleman who has “fallen on hard times,” my initial reaction was to ignore the entire matter – I felt that it was one of those nuisance situations in which I wouldn’t want to become embroiled. But upon second thought, I decided to respond, primarily because I respect you very much and I feel that I owe it to you, as well as to the gentleman with the hurt feelings, to explain what I really meant. Before addressing his issue however, allow me to express my personal gratitude to you for the support, strength and hope that you imparted in response to my letter. I am also greatly appreciative of the introduction that you made on my behalf. I am still seeing him. I do not know where it will go, but so far, so good. Thank you.

And now to the plaint of the letter writer:

My Dear Upset Gentleman,

Forgive me for referring to you in this manner, but the Rebbetzin did not give me your name. My description of a “loser” was not meant for you, or for any one person, and if you took it personally, I’m truly sorry. Trust me when I say that I did not have you or anyone specific in mind. I am certainly sorry for your unfortunate situation and for the hard times that have fallen upon you. Although I am single and, thank G-d, never had to go through the pain of divorce, I can only imagine how traumatic such an experience must have been for you, especially after so many years of family life and children who are surely suffering from the break-up of their parents. In addition, having to cope with the financial crisis is a lot to have on your plate.

Again, it certainly was not my intention to hurt you in any way or to describe you as a “loser.” I am confident that you are a good, hard-working man and suffering a great deal from this turn of events, so I apologize if you felt demeaned or in any way slighted by my letter. In retrospect, the term “loser” may have been a poor choice – I should have been more careful with my words, but bottom line, I still couldn’t consider marrying someone who did not earn a living.

You write that as a professional I must have put aside quite a bit of money. First of all, you cannot make such assumptions… doctors have their own financial challenges to contend with. For one thing, malpractice insurance is very high, and the cost of living in Manhattan (where I reside) is prohibitive. But, as I said, even if I was fabulously wealthy, I would not wish to marry a man whom I had to support. If I am not mistaken, the Jewish tradition itself dictates in the Kesubah that it is the man who must provide for the needs of his wife and family and not vice versa.

Of course it would be a different story, if during the course of a marriage a man falls upon hard times, then indeed a good woman would not abandon her husband, but would pitch in and do whatever she could to ease the situation and support him.

However, to marry someone who, at the outset, is financially bankrupt and has tremendous obligations to support his former wife and family would, in my opinion, be foolhardy. Why in the world would I want to undertake such a responsibility?

You write that you would be a good, loving, caring husband – but what, exactly, does that mean? You would be waiting at the door for me to come home? You would have a delicious dinner waiting? Bring me flowers and shower me with compliments? As nice as that may sound, to me, that’s not a reason for marriage. I would not marry someone to be catered to in that manner. That’s not what would evoke respect for a husband in my heart.

And what if I wished to retire or only work part-time? I would not be able to even consider that because I would have to grapple with all the obligations that marriage to a person who is not earning a living represents. I must share with you that not only would I expect my husband to earn a living, but I would also anticipate that he sign a prenup. Life is very complex nowadays. I have seen what initially appeared to be the best of marriages disintegrate. Yes, all marriages start out with high expectations, but then, something goes wrong and everything collapses, so I would certainly wish to protect my assets (whatever they may) from such an eventuality.

Yes, I can see situations in which a woman would wish to support her husband – and that is in the yeshiva world. I have a 27-year-old cousin who has five little ones. She takes care of them and works while her husband studies Torah, but she made that arrangement by choice. She specifically wanted to marry someone who would devote his life to Torah learning and she was and is committed to making every sacrifice to realize that goal. But, and I am sure that you will readily agree, those situations are different. To my cousin and to many other committed kollel wives, their husbands’ Torah learning represents more than any salary they could earn. So even if I could not see such a lifestyle for myself, I can certainly respect it for those who make that choice.

Having said all this, I do wish you luck. I am sure that there are some ladies out there who are lonely and would be grateful for the companionship of a loving husband and would be prepared to support him, but as for me and the other single women I know, we want a partner in marriage who will support us, not only emotionally, intellectually and spiritually, but financially as well.

Again, I’m sorry if you found my letter offensive, but I have to be candid – that’s how I feel. My reference to “loser” was in no way meant as a condemnation of you or anyone else who is unfortunately out of work. I respect all people, but that does not mean that I’m prepared to marry them.

My best wishes to you, and as the Rebbetzin would say, “May Hashem help that we all find our bashertes this New Year!

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