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Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities – 5/18/07

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Dear Rachel,

I am alarmed by a new trend in divorce − the recent increase of ex-husbands/dads who obtain sole custody of their kids by way of accusing their ex-wives of going off the derech.

These men have won sole custody by saying that their exes have shunned Yiddishkeit.

And there is no way to prove if indeed these women have truly abandoned an Orthodox way of life and/or shunned Judaism. Is this possibly being perpetrated by men who want to hurt their ex-wives by taking their children away from them?

How, you may ask, would I know about this? I have recently been introduced on shidduch dates to at least two men who have been involved in such mean divorces. And the men have not been candid with me as to what type of behavior their ex wives were into that would have warranted losing their kids to having only their dads raise them − limiting their contact with the moms in their lives.

I am left wondering if this is truly so, that there are mothers who exhibit this type of rebellion, or whether this is a ruse of mean spirited ex-husbands to hurt their wives in the divorce process.

If such is indeed the case, our Klal is in real trouble! And the ones who are destroyed by this are the kids. Also, if we divorced single moms get involved with these men and get married to them, what happens chas v’shalom to us if we have children with them and end up divorced? Will we be victimized as well?

This is why I have not even considered shidduchim where men have sole custody of their children − because I can’t get to the truth and fear a worse fate awaiting me than my former marriage, divorce, and post divorce life.

I would rather have my issues than bring new problems into my life. But whom can we trust to get the truth from? How can we trust enough to remarry? This is so scary, and I hope that you will address this issue. I know that I am not alone with this concern − many women like myself want to remarry but are apprehensive of a shidduch prospect.

A Confused Single/Divorced Mom

Dear Confused,

Sadly, the circumstances you address (and are mistrustful of) are not unheard of. When one’s spouse opts out of a religious way of life, the ensuing tug of war leaves heartbreak in its wake all around. Children are especially affected in this terrible struggle by their parents who are desperate to gain custody in a fierce determination to raise their offspring in his/her lifestyle.

As for the integrity of the individuals you have met up with, it is your duty to check out a potential suitor before personally getting to know him. This is a crucial step to take in order to avoid disappointment again in your life. You owe it to yourself to be conscientious and responsible.

Unless the man in question has dropped in from outer space, you are not likely to encounter much hardship in making contact with someone in the know. If you are then still not comfortable with what you are being fed by your date, you have the option of discontinuing the courtship.

You write that, “the men have not been candid with me as to what type of behavior their ex wives were into.” Setting aside your own perception for a moment, contemplate the situation from another angle. How realistic is it really to expect a date (especially in the early stages of a relationship) to divulge intimate details of the goings-on that led to his divorce?

For one, such talk will predictably lead to transgressing the laws of lashon hara. Secondly, there are always at least two sides to every conflict. You would be better informed by obtaining an unbiased perspective of a neutral party (preferably an authoritative figure with first-hand knowledge). Most people are more than happy to help advance a potential match.

Generally speaking, the best indicator for a favorable outcome where a shidduch is concerned is your own comfort level. If something irks you − even if you can’t quite put your finger on exactly what or why − go with your instincts. Forget about him and get on with your life.

“This is so scary,” you say. Not if you keep your eyes wide open, your ears attune, and withhold emotional investment until you’ve “read the fine print.” Easier said than done, but good things don’t always come easy.

Hatzlachah!

About the Author: We encourage women and men of all ages to send in their personal stories via email to rachel@jewishpress.com or by mail to Rachel/Chronicles, c/o The Jewish Press, 4915 16th Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11204. If you wish to make a contribution and help agunot, your tax-deductible donation should be sent to The Jewish Press Foundation. Please make sure to specify that it is to help agunot, as the foundation supports many worthwhile causes.


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