April 16, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Should Daters ‘Widen the Net’?

Editor’s note: This week we are pleased to welcome The Navidaters, a.k.a. Esther and Jennifer Mann, a mother/daughter-in-law team of social workers who work as dating strategists for those who seek help navigating the world of shidduchim. The Navidaters have most recently been featured on the web series “Soon By You” and have been longtime columnists in various Jewish community newspapers, primarily in the Five Towns where they are based. We have long sought a dating column for our paper, and are thrilled to partner with The Navidaters and look forward to sharing their excellent advice with our community.

Question:

Our daughter Tova is 26 years old. She’s been dating for quite a while and is still single. She’s a wonderful young lady and, frankly, I think part of the reason she is still single is because we may have been overly particular about who she went out with. And when I say “we” I mean my husband. Tova has always been the apple of my husband’s eye, and he always felt no one could compare to her. Yes, Tova is wonderful, but I think my husband goes overboard in his thoughts about her.

At this point, I think it’s important for us to widen the net and allow Tova to date men who may even have a little baggage attached to them. Recently, Tova’s best friend got married to a man who was divorced. They seem so compatible and happy together. My husband was horrified to hear that her parents allowed this shidduch to go through. Frankly, I thought her parents were very wise to allow their daughter to expand her opportunities. They are a great couple and seem to be a match made in heaven.

A cousin’s son married a great girl a couple of years ago who happened to be adopted. Who cares? She is wonderful! And the entire family adores her. They are happy and the proud parents of two adorable babies. I look at the joy that comes from these marriages, rather than the details. My husband thinks I’m crazy and selling Tova short when I suggest she go out with men who have imperfect resumes. Frankly, I’ve always looked at the person and not the trappings. It’s just the type of person I am. If someone is good and kind—what difference does it make what school he went to? And even if he happened to have gone through a rough patch during his life and maybe got into some trouble. Again, I look at the person the way they are today and not the baggage.

Am I as unrealistic as my husband thinks I am? Am I naïve and shallow to believe that there’s nothing wrong with dating men who are divorced, converts, ba’alei teshuvah, people who reinvented themselves? Is the time already past due that we should be overlooking the details and just consider the present-day human being?

The Navidaters Respond:

Your husband is doing your daughter an incredible disservice. His beliefs and ideas seem almost Darwinian in nature. Survival of the fittest. The best woman will mate with the best man and produce the best offspring. I would have a hard time believing this is your first encounter with your husband’s somewhat tenacious nature. I will provide you (right now) with oodles of validation, but I hope you know in your heart of hearts that your ideas about love and looking into the depth of one’s character, beyond the superficial mumbo jumbo rampant in the world of shidduchim, has been spot on all along.

While Tova may very well meet a man one day who meets your husband’s criteria, the reality is that a good percentage of men Tova’s age and older have a little, shall we say… life experience. They’ve moved out of Mommy and Daddy’s basement, and life has knocked them around a bit. What was your life circumstance at 26? Or your husband’s? Many of us have taken a hit or two by then—whether that looks like a divorce, a divorce with a child or a reinvention of self; whether it looks like someone who found frumkeit on his own or a convert… it shouldn’t matter. You know this is true. But your husband is a force to be reckoned with. You can’t get your own voice heard, let alone make room for Tova’s voice to be heard. (By the way, it is noteworthy that you didn’t once mention what Tova wants. What’s that about?)

What to do? Well, for starters, you can show this to your husband. Husband, if you are reading… hello. Welcome. Sorry we got started without you. I would love to have learned more about your feelings in all of this. All I have is conjecture, so please bear with me. I’m wondering if you’re at all anxious about allowing Tova the opportunity to meet these kind of “imperfect” guys. What happens if one of these guys hurts Tova? What happens if the guy really is a loser? How will I live with myself? Or, Tova deserves to be with the best! She’s the best! I can’t possibly know what you are feeling, but I do believe you have good intentions (if I am wrong about that, that would be an entirely different response). I do believe you are a concerned parent who wants to see his daughter happy. But this strict selection process is making Tova very, very unhappy. And your wife is very unhappy. I can’t imagine you’re very happy right now either. If you can hear me and you are ready to compromise with your wife and bring Tova on board, then wonderful! Get to it. If you think I’m off my rocker, are upset or angry with your wife for writing in, think your way is best and are unwilling to make any changes, then I would advise you to see a professional together with your wife, or speak to a trusted rav.

Here’s what I know: No one is perfect. No one. I don’t care what something looks like on the outside… it’s a wishful fairytale to believe in perfection, or that if someone seems perfect at 20 or 26 he will remain that same perfect person until 120. Based on this universal truth, I’m going to go out on a limb and say neither of you is perfect and there are some issues in your own marriage (just like the rest of us).

I believe you may be trying to protect your daughter from disappointment, hurt feelings or a bad experience or from making a huge mistake. Any of these things may happen. By putting the kibosh on every “imperfect” resume and not including her in the process you are stripping her of her transition into adulthood, and I am concerned about Tova’s well-being in all of this. How is this helping her development?

Remember when Tova was little, and you would take her to the park? One day, she said, “Mommy, Daddy… I want to climb the monkey bars or go down that huge slide.” Your impulse may have been Nooooooooooooo! That is dangerous. I won’t let her do it. But you had to. You had to let her go. And when she fell down you ran to give her a big hug and kiss and comforted her. And next time, she may have fallen again. But a few more times, and Tova was a pro. Tova’s 26, and we’re not dealing with monkey bars anymore. This is the big time. But the message is still the same. You have to let her have life experiences and trust that she will make a wise decision for herself. Since she has not been treated as an adult, Tova may need some counseling or coaching to learn how to make decisions and take a more active role in her life.

Sincerely,

Jennifer

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, rather 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 Esther Mann and 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 to the panel 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 Facebook and Instagram. Check out the hit web series “Soon By You,” and be sure to tune into The Navidaters After Show!

 

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