Our daughter Rena is 22 years old. She has not expressed to us the least bit of interest in dating. In fact, she has explicitly told us that she does not want to start dating yet. We are all modern Orthodox and though maybe we don’t feel as nervous about her being married already as others might feel, we do think that it would be a good idea for her to get her feet wet and start exploring the whole dating scene.
She seems to be perfectly happy right now. She has a couple of other single friends who also don’t appear to be anxious to date and they have a grand old time together. They take trips together. Often go out to dinner together. Catch a movie. They are all pursuing higher degrees, live at home and feel no pressure to change their lives at all.
On one hand, we are happy that she is not feeling pressure or desperate to get married and that unlike so many other girls her age, she’s not worried or depressed about her future. She is enjoying the moment without a care in the world. On the other hand, my husband and I worry that if and when she wakes up and decides it’s time to start dating, there may be few if any eligible men left for her to go out with and marry.
It really is a shame, because I do love her spirit and sense of independence. But I can’t help myself from getting caught up in the “shidduch crisis” frenzy, once in awhile. So, though in many ways I agree with her values, I know that I have to encourage Rena to make some changes. How would you all suggest I go about this conversation with her? I don’t want her to think I disapprove and I don’t want to make her neurotic about finding Mr. Right, but I don’t want us all to wake up in five years and discover we have a real problem on our hands!
The Navidaters respond:
Seems to me that you have an intelligent, driven, level-headed, social, fun-loving daughter. Rena is pursuing her degree and living a wonderful, fulfilling life. As you watch her live her life and actively choose to remain single, a part of you admires Rena’s choices, but another part of you is afraid that Rena will not get married if she doesn’t start dating now or in the near future. Your fear isn’t unfounded. There is a secondary crisis to the shidduch crisis… an emotional crisis. There are people who feel a certain amount of anxiety, worried sick that they will never get married; and parents are not impervious to these worries.
I have to wonder if you live with a certain amount of anxiety in general. Whether you have pre-existing anxiety or this is brand new, your work is to separate your fears and worries from your daughter’s life. The shidduch crisis can make a calm person nervous, and exacerbate an already anxious person’s anxiety. These fears and concerns should not become your daughter’s.
Let’s tease out fact from fiction.
Fiction: Everyone who marries at a young age made the right decision.
Fact: Many people feel they married too young and did not know themselves. Some wanted to marry young, and others felt pressured by friends, family and society at large. They wish they had had a few carefree years in their 20s to explore their interests and focus on themselves.
Fiction: If Rena doesn’t get married in the near future, she may miss out on Mr. Right.
Fact: If Rena is not ready to get married, she will not have an appreciation for Mr. Right. She may meet him, but she wouldn’t even know it.
Fiction: There won’t be any guys left when Rena starts to date.
Fact: The guys Rena wasn’t ready to date or marry will probably be “off the market.” The guys who were equally busy pursuing degrees or careers and focusing on their personal growth without dating will be on the market.
Fiction: In order for me to feel better about Rena’s situation, I have to tell her it’s time to start dating.
Fact: In order for me to feel better about Rena’s situation, I will manage my own concerns privately (either with support from friends, family or a therapist) and I will be a supportive, loving and engaged mother to Rena. When I express my anxiety to my daughter, it will do one of two things: spike Rena’s anxiety and she will date for the wrong reasons or create a wedge between us.
I advocate ongoing communication with Rena. Start talking about school or friends, the latest movie she saw or her travels. Ask her about her plans for the future, in a curious and excited way. “Where do you see yourself in five years?” If she doesn’t bring up marriage, I think it is safe to ask, “Do you see yourself getting married?” If she does bring up marriage, you can ask her what some of her ideas are about marriage. We have no way of knowing what she will say or what she is thinking, so you will have to play it by ear. If you hear any anxiety, concerns, fears or some erroneous beliefs about marriage and commitment, you can talk about them with her and even suggest that she see a therapist so that she can allay some of her own insecurities or fears. This way, when the time is right for Rena, she will feel more confident about dating.
Rena is a wonderful young girl, enjoying her life and doing nothing wrong. If she were a bit older, I would more readily validate your concerns. But at 22, assuming nothing more serious is looming (which it probably is not), I applaud her decision. I am more concerned about you and your worries than I am about Rena’s dating pool. If you find that you are having a hard time managing your worries, then you may want to consider speaking to a professional. For now, shelve your concerns for at least one or two years and enjoy your fantastic daughter! Be proud of the young woman you raised.
Disclaimer: This column is not intended to diagnose or otherwise conclude resolutions to any questions. Our intention is not to offer any definitive conclusions to any particular question, but rather to offer areas of exploration for the author and reader. Due to the nature of the column receiving only a short snapshot of an issue, without the benefit of an actual discussion, the panel’s role is to offer a range of possibilities. We hope to open up meaningful dialogue and individual exploration.
By Jennifer Mann
Esther Mann, LCSW. and Jennifer Mann, LCSW. work with individuals, couples and families in Hewlett, New York. As The Navidaters, they specialize in dating and relationship coaching. To set up an appointment, please call 516-224-7779. Sessions are held in the office or via Skype. If you would like to submit a dating or relationship question anonymously, please email [email protected] Visit their website, thenavidaters.com, for dating and relationship advice and to learn more about their services. Follow The Navidaters on FB and Instagram. Check out the hit web series Soon By You, and be sure to tune into the Navidaters After Show!