Dating Advice #248 - Happily Single
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Dating Advice #248 - Happily Single
Dating Advice 248

Dating Advice #248 - Happily Single

All her friends are getting married, but she likes her life just the way it is.

by

Dear Rosie and Sherry,

 

I'm single, 29, and an academic. I know that most people who write to you are unhappy being single, and want to date seriously toward marriage. I'm not. I have very little interest in dating, and I haven't for quite some time (four or five years). I'm reasonably attractive and gregarious, and I don't think I'd have trouble dating if I wanted to. It's not that I never get lonely, or that I'm completely averse to the idea of "finding a husband and settling down." It's just low on my list of priorities.

My life seems full with so many other things: study, friends, family, charity, etc. I honestly love the way my life is, and I adore being me. The thing is, I know that I'm breaking my parents' hearts. I'm sure that they only want me to be as happy as they are together, but I just don't think I'm suited to married life. I'm not a loner; I have great friends, and I enjoy spending time with people. But I don't seem to have the innate yearning for a partner that other people do. I actively like coming home to a quiet empty home of my own at the end of the day. Is there something wrong with me?

Leah

Dear Leah,

You raise an excellent question: Why is a normal, healthy, socially-involved young woman not that interested in finding a life partner and getting married? In Western society this is fairly common. Some people live fulfilled lives, don't feel that they are missing something by not having a life partner, don't feel a priority to become a parent and raise a family, and are content with the way their lives are.

Some of the people date anyway because it is socially enjoyable, while others feel that their social lives are complete without their dating. Many of these people will consider getting married if the right circumstances happen, but they are not actively searching for that person and wouldn't be overly concerned if someone like that never came along.

In contemporary society, this is considered normal because it reflects the values of our culture. Society tells us that a functional person can find friendship, emotional support, personal fulfillment and contentment in any number of lifestyle choices -- marriage being just one of them.

Judaism encourages marriage as an important life goal.

However, Judaism encourages marriage as an important life goal. That encouragement begins when a child is born and named, where the parents are given a blessing to raise their son or daughter "to a life of Torah, marriage and good deeds." Jewish parents traditionally raised their children with the expectation that they would marry and have a family of their own. Until a few decades ago, this was also the expectation that the rest of society was raised with. But Jewish society doesn't exist in a vacuum. We're profoundly influenced by our surrounding culture, and its values infiltrate and compete with our own. That's one reason why today so many Jewish adults are not strongly motivated to get married.

Here's another reason why many adults are not motivated to date for marriage: They are simply late bloomers. They're very absorbed in their own lives, but at some point realize, "Hey, I also want to get married someday. Maybe it's time to work on that." Whether or not someone is a late bloomer is a relative concept. The traditional Jewish perspective might consider 29 a late age to begin thinking about marriage, while contemporary society views someone who starts dating for marriage at 33 or 35 to be right on target.

Some individuals are disinterested in marriage because they're not strongly attracted to the opposite gender. There are also a significant number of people who either avoid dating, or date in a very unproductive manner, because they have a significant underlying fear. Some of the more common fears include leaving the cocoon of their nuclear family, having a marriage that's as unhappy as their parents' relationship, fear of knowing how to be a loving spouse, fear of being betrayed by someone they should love and trust, fear of opening up to another person, fear of changing their life from being single to being in a partnership, fear of becoming a parent, fear of marriage being a trap, fear that their marriage might fail, fear of being emotionally or financially hurt by a divorce, fear of emotional intimacy, or fear of physical intimacy.

Someone who is terrified of parenthood may consciously or unconsciously push off the idea of getting married until they are too old to have children. Other fears can be so strong that they cause an individual to suppress a competing desire to have a close relationship with a husband or wife and/or to raise children. Some people avoid dealing with this conflict by making their lives busy and purposeful. They may feel that their lives are rich and rewarding, but still sense that something is missing. Other times, a person will become frustrated enough with the inner struggle between his fears and desire for marriage that he decides to get therapy to enable him to deal with the two.

Of course, we would like you to want to get married and to make this a goal in your life. That's because we're motivated to facilitate Jewish marriages and to help couples have healthy, satisfying marital relationships. But the motivation to want to get married has to come from you.

Right now, you don't have a strong desire to get married, but you also don't appear to have any negative feelings about the subject; in fact, you've observed a relatively happy marriage between your own parents. That ambivalence may change in the not-too-distant future. We often see people become more receptive to the idea of marriage after they become more established in their careers and decide that they want to be fulfilled in another way as well, by building a marriage and a family.

But here's the rub: By then, you may find it harder to develop a relationship that will lead to marriage because you've become more set in your ways and more resistant to change. In addition, the ticking biological clock can make the search for a spouse more stressful. And the reality is that many women who start dating later, get left behind, and wind up feeling bitter about life.

We'd rather that Jewish men and women who eventually want to get married become oriented toward this important life goal at an earlier point in their lives. They can do this by consciously making an effort to change their mind-set through some of the following suggestions:

  • Cultivate friendships with married women and married couples who appear to be happy in their relationships. We also suggest that you spend time with young children, either at your friends' homes, or by volunteering to help at synagogue or community programs for pre-schoolers and young children. Changing your environment to include married women, couples, and children allows you to see life from an additional perspective.
  • Imagine yourself as a married woman, in a fulfilling relationship with your husband, over a time continuum. Think of being newlyweds, and envision your friendship and relationship developing over time. Imagine yourselves as new parents, raising a growing family, and enjoying your lives together as you launch your children into adulthood. Think of the ways you can incorporate your career and outside interests with these new roles. (Yes, it can be done well and enjoyably -- albeit with some challenges.)
  • Imagine your life 20 years from now if you continue the course your life is currently taking. Will you be satisfied with the choices you made?
Consider a good man who may just need some social polish.

If the time comes that you decide to date for marriage, we recommend making dating one of your main priorities. That means setting aside time each week to network on your own behalf and to go out. It also means expanding your social life to meet like-minded people who are close to your age -- by taking classes just for the fun of it, volunteering in a synagogue group or community organization, or expanding a hobby. Think outside the box and consider bright men who have many of the qualities you are looking for, but may need a little bit of social polish. Many of them are wonderful men who are just the right ones to build a loving and enduring home.

If you decide to start dating for marriage, our final piece of advice is to enlist a happily married person with integrity and insight to be your dating mentor. Entering the dating scene in your late 20s or early 30s can be a challenge, but a coach/advisor who has already gone through the dating process and has the benefit of a married person's perspective can be an invaluable way to achieve success.

We hope this has given you some helpful food for thought.

Rosie & Sherry

Published: January 19, 2008

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Visitor Comments: 30

(30) Miriam, September 14, 2010 7:46 PM

Happy single is better

I really appreciate previous comments and Rosie & Sherry answer. What I would like to talk about - is how many jewish woman who actually want to marry and start dating for it in early 20 s end up still unmarried and bitter or divorced afterwards in their 40. They probably read all the necessary books and articles, register on online dating sites and go through all the thrills of dating but still not succeed. They continuously feel unhappy as they read again and again that they should be married but they are not able to fulfill that goal and suffer from it through their great youth years and later in life. (many of such stories you can find in aish) In my opinion those woman would be much happier like Leah who seems to be happy and relaxed about the whole marriage business. Let's face it - even though we would like to find a great jewish partner to every jewish woman –it does not happen today. So maybe it is more humane to put a bit less pressure on woman to marry and rather to encourage already existing happy family to have more children. Saying this, I am greatly support jewish family tradition and would love to have one on my own, just I am tired of beating myself up for the fact that I could not manage till now...

(29) Abby, September 3, 2010 2:34 PM

Don't try to be someone else

Yes the Western World has progressed, concerning women and education. Along with education, we are independent, self supporting and fulfilled within our single life. When our mothers and grandmothers had to get married, education has freed us to have a choice. An Africa proverb: "You educate a boy, and you're educating an individual; You educate a girl, and you're educating an entire village." Educated singles can have a meaningful and purposeful life. Women no longer have to "put up with a man" This is what us trailblazers worked so hard for, for equality. Tradition in Judaism has put emphasis on getting married was created because the Greeks emphasised the way to God was by being single. Leah is happy being single in this phase of her life. She shouldn't be told it is wrong to be happy and content with it. She is an educated woman that is bringing value to the world in her single state. Leah nothing is wrong with you. The time may come when who chose to marry, until then you are an example that women have a choice and you don't have to join a convent because you enjoy being single. Education has freed women of oppression. Marriage can be an oppression when forced to marry someone you don't want to, because you are told you have to be married. Or forced to because you can not support yourself because of no education. Very few are chosen to be single, no reason to worry, it will not become a trend. That happy single person gives hope to women that are oppressed and gives them courage to escape the mistreatment of oppression. Moreover, to strengthen those who are tempted to intermarry, just to be married.

(28) Anonymous, March 15, 2008 9:26 PM

Good for you!!

How lucky you are to have a lifestyle and career that make you happy. So many people married and single are unhappy. Maybe it's true that one day you will want to marry but maybe you won't. I have been married and single and wasn't happier one way or the other. I've been working on myself and trying to find happiness all my adult life. Marriage did not bring happiness. I am more at peace than I've ever been (single) and there is a nice man who has talked about marriage but I must be content within myself first. If you're in a good place, don't worry about what anyone else's opinion is. I wish you all the best!!

(27) Julie, February 13, 2008 5:13 PM

single Jewish woman

Based upon my personal situation, I find the response to Leah's comments discouraging. I am 35 and single, pretty, smart, funny, etc. and have been looking for a Jewish man with whom to settle since my 20s. It is very difficult to meet a compatable person particularly if one lives in the southeast as I do. You might suggest I move to an area with more Jews - I have. I lived in Jerusalem in my early 20s and the Northeast until about a year ago. And I refuse to move at this stage in my life just to find a jewish man. Additionally, I found out at age 33 that I was unable to bare children for medical reasons. You might say I waited too long but the medical condition was already effecting me in my mid-20s. So, I am now a 35 year-old infertile female who desperately longs for husband and family. Yet, where do I fit in the traditional Jewish dogma that pushes marriage and family? Since I can't have children, does G-d not want me to marry? Have I become the "other" within my own people because I don't have husband and children?

(26) Tom, February 12, 2008 3:28 PM

Like me...

There are probably a lot of people like me who don't want to get married, but do so because we want to contribute to the Jewish people.

I wish there were 1 billion Jews in the world, but because there aren't, I know that I'm really supposed to have children. Still, it doesn't feel like a 'choice.'

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