Dear Rosie & Sherry,
I have been divorced for over five years. At first I wasn't ready to remarry, but now I am feeling older and more single than I ever have been. I am looking at myself now and see a grown woman who is raising her children, working, and very, very lonely.
Everyone around me asks the same question: "How is it possible you are still not married? Such a beautiful, lovely, smart and sweet woman! Why haven't found someone yet?
Their questions strengthen my feelings of despair and hopelessness. I do not know if I will ever find my life partner. I have dated many men, but no one seems close to what I want. People say that I'm being too picky. What is "too picky"? Wanting to find the one I feel I connect with, am attracted to and will love me and my children? Is that too much to ask for?!
I will not marry anyone out of desperation. But truth be told, lately I am starting to feel pretty desperate. I sit alone on Saturday evening thinking, feeling tired of single life, tired of being alone, and tired of being depressed about it. I don't know what else I can do. Any suggestions? Please don't tell me to stop being picky!
It's not considered "picky" to want to marry someone who is right for you. After having already been in one marriage that didn't work out, you are even more conscious about choosing the right mate. So we're certainly not going to tell you that you're being too picky. Nevertheless, whenever someone who is dating has a hard time finding dating partners who are in the ballpark, it's a good idea to take a closer look at their expectations, as well as at the way they are presenting themselves and what they are looking for.
Let's start by examining your expectations. We'd like you to ask yourself some questions and write down the answers. Come back to them a day or two later to review them, put them in some sort of order, and gain clarity. The questions to ask yourself include:
• FLEXIBILITY: What kind of lifestyle do you have now, and how flexible can you be about dating someone whose lifestyle, geographic location, and worldview are different than yours? (Be honest about the amount of wiggle room you can comfortably make.) If your ex-husband is involved in your children's lives, how much flexibility do you have in terms of where you can live and the lifestyle changes you are able to make?
• FINANCES: What is your economic situation (sources of income, savings)? Do you have debt, and if so are you able to deal with it or are you looking for another solution? Are you working, training for a career, or concentrating on raising your children? How do you see these aspects of your life fitting into the picture when you remarry? What kind of financial contribution do you see your future husband making to your marriage? Does he have to have a very good income? Can you see a viable financial situation with a future husband who also has a child-support obligation?
• QUALITIES: What kind of personal qualities are you looking for in a partner? If you've read some of our prior writings, you'll be familiar with the concept of narrowing down your list of these criteria to the four that are most important to you. When you are finished selecting those four, make sure that they are all compatible with the other criteria you are using (e.g., financial situation, worldview).
• FAMILY: Does your family situation create any unique challenges? Do any of your children have special needs? Are you expecting a newcomer to embrace these challenges? When you present information about yourself, when and how do you mention this situation?
• MISC.: Are there any other important factors you take into consideration when you think about remarrying? Other than finances, what can you envision yourself contributing to a new marriage? How involved would you want to be with your future husband's children and family?
Now, look at the overall picture you've painted. Ask yourself if it is realistic to find someone who fits all these criteria. If not, go back over the list and revise it to be more realistic, while being careful not to compromise your core values. Discuss your list with a trusted friend, to get some perspective on how you can best hone this list.
THE NECESSITY OF NETWORKING
Once you've clarified the qualities you'd like your future husband to have, it's a good idea to look at how you network for dating partners. First look at how you describe yourself and would like the people who network on your behalf to describe you. We like the idea of developing an "elevator pitch" -- a few concise sentences that encapsulate who you are and the type of man you're looking for. One example is, "I'm a 34-year-old physical therapist who is divorced, raising two elementary school children, and living in a New York suburb. I'm financially stable, am close to my family, have a lot of friends, and enjoy life. I have a good heart and am looking for someone who also enjoys life, is good-hearted, has a stable career, and (if he has children) is a devoted father. I see myself at X place religiously, and am looking for someone in an age range of X."
The next step to finding suitable men to date is to develop and nurture a network -- men and women -- of friends, relatives, co-workers, neighbors, people from your synagogue, old seminary or college friends, acquaintances. The broader the network, the better for you. You can approach each person by saying, "I would like to get married again and I wonder if you may know someone good for me to meet. Can I take a minute to tell you the type of person I'm looking for?" Then, use the "elevator pitch" to describe yourself.
When it comes to accepting suggestions, you're absolutely right that they should be in the ballpark. If someone suggests an idea that seems to come from left field, ask why they think it might be a good idea. If you decide to say, "No, it doesn't seem to be what I am looking for," sincerely thank the person for thinking about you, and ask them to keep you in mind about other men they may know.
We know that single parenthood can be very challenging, and that networking will take up a lot of time. It may help to incorporate networking into your social life. A working mom with many responsibilities can get together with friends for a lunch or night out, find a community volunteer project to devote an hour each week, have guests for Shabbat meals, and go to exercise classes. All of these are both personally fulfilling and great networking opportunities. Our final word of advice is not to get discouraged about needing time after your divorce to re-enter the dating world. That's often the best decision a newly divorced person can make, especially a parent whose children need to acclimate to their new way of life. It takes time for everyone to heal from the end of a marriage and decide they are ready to move forward. So instead of having misgivings about taking the time you needed, why not embrace the idea that you have healed from your divorce, and that you are now ready to build a life with someone new?
We hope that our suggestions have been helpful to you and wish you the best of luck.
Rosie & Sherry