As a psychotherapist, and one who has facilitated numerous groups for women, both general groups in which some of the women were divorced or divorcing, as well as groups specifically for divorced and divorcing women, and who has also worked with couples and individuals in the same situation, there is one prevailing issue that I have found to be most salient and disturbing.
I’m assuming that it can be as prevalent among men as it is among women, but because my experience is mostly with women, I can only address it from that perspective, and that is hearing,“if I only knew what he was like, I never would have married him”.
Along with this, I have, unfortunately many times heard, “I felt it was going to be bad, but I would embarrass my parents (or, “I would be embarrassed,” or “the invitations had gone out,” or “the money that was already spent”) or, “I said to myself, I can’t believe I’m making this mistake as I walked to the chuppah.”
Can calling off an engagement cause embarrassment, a loss of money, perhaps anger and resentment within one’s family? Obviously, yes. However, the extent of all of these is multiplied dramatically when the severing is done after the wedding. Now add children into the equation, and exponential multiplication is what occurs.
I often think it is the ultimate chutzpah to believe that any two people can actually create and maintain a good marriage. After all, no matter how similar the backgrounds (and with many shidduchim, the matching of backgrounds is meticulous), no two families are exactly alike and
what is the “right way” in one family can be completely “against the grain” in another. Yet, as we all know, wonderful relationships, or, at least, oftentimes, workable relationships, are possible.
So, how does one know before the commitment is made? There is always information available, especially if more than just a few cursory meetings are part of the courtship, if one allows herself to be aware of and register it. For instance, how does the young man greet one’s family? Does he make eye contact? Is he patient? Is he willing to converse and answer questions. Does he not only treat the family with respect and courtesy, but how is he to wait staff in a restaurant, to a cab driver, etc. If, in general, he is rude, has no patience, puts his needs first, then that is who he is and who he will be in relationship to his wife and his children.
Many years ago, I learned of a dating couple who attended a sports event together. The young woman had learned her parents would also be at the arena. At intermission, she urged the young man to join her in going to her parents so he could meet them (the couple had met at college, so he had never met her parents). He refused. To me, that was a red flag! Why wouldn’t he want to meet her parents and did he consider how she felt in regard to his refusal?
If you are taken out to dinner, what kind of restaurant does he choose? Does he order freely so that you can also order freely? Does he remember what you like and make an effort to see that you can enjoy it again? Perhaps you are a young lady who is more comfortable being cautious with how much is spent, then a young man who spends in a way that feels frivolous to you, might not be the best fit.
What happens if a date has to be cancelled? Is he anxious to find out if you’re alright or is he angry and upset because his plans need to be changed. If he can’t deal with the small unexpected events of life now, how will he be if dinner isn’t ready on time or a child doesn’t live up to his expectations? These are all clues and evidence of the person who could be your husband. Is this a person you could or would want to live with?
We all “know” things about the people in our lives. Why do I put “know” in quotation marks? Because there are different ways of knowing. There are facts—assuming what we know are truths: age, height, weight, educational background, country of origin, religious observance, etc.
But then, there is other knowing. It is what we observe about behaviors, personality, interpersonal connections, and so on. Some of this is also on a conscious, very aware level. Some of it is not. Some of it is just a feeling, a visceral response, that alerts us to whether this is the right or wrong person with whom we can spend the rest of our lives, with whom we can share parenting, the ups and downs, the vicissitudes that every life experiences. Is this person going to support you through the hard times and be willing to share the good times? Is this a person who is even capable of including others in his life? These are the questions one needs to be willing to ask herself and be willing to listen to and be honest about the answers.
If a young woman (or older woman, for that matter) is unsure about these answers and is questioning whether this fellow garners positive responses to these kinds of questions and/or one has the feeling that somehow this match is not right, the time to end it is before one is walking away from the chuppah.
One other thing, if one becomes aware that there is an issue, and, if at anytime she hears herself either thinking or expressing, “That’ll change after we’re married, “STOP RIGHT THERE!!
Those are five of the most dangerous words, warning signs, that this match is NO GOOD! Can people change? Absolutely! But only if they believe they can change, they want to change, and are willing to make the efforts it takes to change. One can never change another person.
Change has to come from within and that person has to believe there is something about himself that needs to be changed. If the person in question experiences nothing wrong with the way he thinks, does things, treats other people, etc., YOU WILL NEVER CHANGE HIM and will only live with frustration and disappointment and, most likely and sorrowfully, regrets.
There is an old cliche, “buyer beware.” It is perhaps a good idea to also consider, “kallah beware.” I don’t mean to come across as negative or dissuading women from the goal of getting married or the hopes of having a wonderful marriage. Marriage and the potential joys that it brings is wonderful to anticipate and delight in. It is only a lessening of the “I wish I had known’s” and “I knew it was wrong’s,” that I hope to influence.
Nancy is a Certified School Psychologist, Motivational Speaker, and Psychotherapist with an office in Paramus, anticipating publication of her first children’s book. http://www.thepsychspeaks.com
By Nancy Silberman Zwiebach