Last time I wrote about the misguided attitude toward sports and exercise that seemingly permeates many frum circles. Some askanim view physical activity as unnecessary, needlessly diverting precious time from Torah study.
I described my own experience with this outlook via a “catch” I was set up with. He asserted after a few dates that should we marry, my kids could no longer indulge in their beloved sports activities “because it would take away time from learning.”
While at first glance this statement was motivated by his “frumkeit,” I quickly came to realize that this matter-of-fact utterance was fueled by a man with a seriously dysfunctional personality that manifested itself in the need to control and dictate.
I mention this because I know that there are many singles in the shidduch parshah – some young, some old, some never married and some spouseless because of death or divorce– whoarealoneandlonely, and riddled with feelings of inadequacy.
Lonely people, especially women or the elderly, can make very foolish choices in a desperate attempt to alleviate their loneliness. They can fall prey to human predators who will only bring emotional – and often financial – misery into their lives.
These predators do so by slowly and insidiously whittling away your self-belief and that of your capabilities, making you feel so inadequate and unsure of yourself that you yield your right to make personal decisions over to them – allowing them total control over your life.
Predators begin by breaking down your spirit: they achieve this by constantly being critical and insulting – both components of verbal abuse. They tell you over and over that you are dumb, stupid, ugly or inept. He (or she) will find fault with everything you do – even something as simple as washing a glass. There will always be something wrong with what you do, to the point that you start believing that you are incompetent and useless.
Often the seeds of self-doubt and the crippling belief that they don’t “measure up” afflicting many adults were sown in their childhood by overly critical parents who wore away any innate self-confidence they might have had. Predators instinctively know how to make these seeds blossom into full-blown dependency and surrender, due to an acute lack of self-belief.
Single adults are often treated – inadvertently or not – in the married world as “outsiders” or “B” list entities. This reality only adds to their sense of inadequacy, and leads them to further question their worth. “Am I not married because there is something wrong with me?” “Did my spouse die because I am a bad person and God punished me?” “Did I get divorced because I am not likeable?”
This, combined with being single, makes them easy prey to master manipulators who have their own dysfunctional need to feel superior. Hence the need to control: “You’re clueless; only I know what’s best for you [and yours].”
When this man with his peyot blowing in the wind declared that my children would have to live according to his dictates, I immediately understood that he was a dictator who would demand absolute obedience from his “subjects.”
My children’s opinions and feelings, along with mine, would have no weight in his kingdom. Unfortunately for him, whatever self-doubt I might have accumulated through my life experiences, whatever loneliness or sense of being left out I might have felt, had not led to the level of desperation that would allow me – and by default, my children – to fall into his conniving clutches. Better to be alone, and free to breathe and live life on my terms, than to be suffocated in a toxic marriage.
Unfortunately many people, single moms in particular, are so anxious to be connected to someone (and thus not be alone) and fit in with the mainstream community – and/or they feel so worthless and inadequate – that they blind themselves to “in your face” warnings as to the evil knocking on their door.
For the sake of your children, proceed with caution.