When I was 21, I was desperate to get married. I saw marriage to a “good catch” as the ultimate accomplishment of a woman, a sign that I had “made it” (much like a man who has attained a six-figure salary) and proof that I was desirable, stable and feminine. I saw all other achievements besides marriage as secondary and firmly believed that without a husband and children I would never be truly alive. I saw all married couples as uplifted beings that inhabited this glowing, brilliant, exciting and tempting reality, who were “really living.” After all, I reasoned, why else would they bother to get married?
And so I met the man whom I believed to be my “perfect catch.” Chaim was handsome and dashing, professionally successful, sweet and charming, learned in Torah and seemed to be a genuinely nice guy. I was blown away. Convinced that I had found the best deal out there – after an entire two years of dating, I was willing to overlook anything I could possibly make excuses for. Of what significance were his playboy past and constant demands – “Send me emails! Send me pictures! Wear this/that!” – when weighed against this fragile chance at eternal bliss?
Time went by and Chaim strung me along, making up all sorts of excuses to avoid dates with me while continuing to make his demands. He even insisted once that I spend 30 dollars on a device that would allow us to go on “virtual dates!”
I pretended not to hear this last request, and kept up the hope that one day he would take an interest in dating me seriously. After all, his excuses seemed pretty valid – his parents were in the hospital; he had arranged to visit Israel for a month before he even knew me and had just returned and had a mountain of work to catch up on; and so on, and so forth.
I later found out that he was seeing other women behind my back, but hey, he had made it clear that we were only dating and had no formal relationship, so he wasn’t being dishonest, was he?
I eventually realized that this was not good for me and tried to end it several times – and failed. Because when you are that invested in getting married, common sense does little to counteract the overwhelming need to have “made it.” It does little in the face of the intoxicating fantasies of how wonderful things will be once you FINALLY tie the knot, and the mantra of “no pain, no gain.” But as fate would have it, he broke up with me.
I was devastated. I finished the sefer tehillim no less than ten times, praying primarily to stop feeling pain. For a good year after that, I kept hoping and hoping that one day he would return to “settle” for me. And lo and behold, he did. And you know what? I DUMPED HIM! The time we had spent apart had awakened me to the realization that perhaps it was unwise to spend my life focused on the one thing I didn’t have – a husband. Instead, I embraced the idea that singlehood could be fulfilling and that career, hobbies, chessed, social life and time to oneself can fill one’s time quite pleasurably. From this healthy new standpoint, I was finally able to see Chaim for who he was: a complete taker. Better to be single than to put up with that.
I still see women making the same mistake I did, and in enormous numbers. Society constantly derides women who are too comfortable in their singlehood, postulating that if only they were more “serious” about getting married, perhaps they would have been married by now. The burgeoning incidence of singlehood past the age of 25 is even described as a “crisis.”
All this does is encourage situations like the one I was in, where people find themselves willing to pay any price to make it past that coveted finish line, convinced that something so stressed by society must truly be that essential. I even spoke with a 24-year-old girl who told me that she dates everyone who will go out with her. “Better to date anyone than to sit by and do nothing while the clock ticks,” she said.
Happy and Single
Good thing that Chaim was not marriage minded and that you had a chance to sober up before he came knocking on your door the second time. Being a “complete taker” was not Chaim’s only vice. And it seems that at the tender age of 21, you wanted desperately to get married for all the wrong reasons. To you, marriage meant attaining a status symbol. Instead of focusing on building a life together with the one whom you would share common values and goals with, you entertained “intoxicating fantasies” of things to follow once that knot was tied.
Most young people harbor dreams (achievable) and some have fantasies (unrealizable), yet they get lucky. They meet the right person whom they were meant to spend their life with and things more or less work out.
You don’t say how many years have elapsed since your unpalatable escapade, but by this time age and experience should have matured you enough to recognize the difference between a bum and a responsible, serious-minded fellow.
While one should certainly make the best of his/her single years, by no means should that mean giving up hope of meeting Mr. Right. Being single and 25 is not a “crisis” – it is an ideal time to be on the lookout for one’s meant-to-be. Be discerning (within reason), but don’t give up on your dream of finding your zivug. And keep on saying that tehillim – it will benefit you in many ways.
Thanks for sounding that “Stop The Panic” button; many, as you point out, need to hear it.
Wishing you much hatzlacha in encountering the real thing!