Menasheh hadn't been seeing anyone at the time and had grown bored with his social doldrum. He and two of his friends decided to go out together for dinner one evening in order to have company. Before the end of the meal, Gila walked into the restaurant. One of Menasheh's friends had dated Gila. On the date they decided that they were not for eachother but they had a friendly time, so, when his friend saw her walk into the restaurant, he called Gila over to say hello. She caught Menasheh's fancy and he made a point to talk with her. They seemed to get along quite well. Menasheh asked her if she would be interested in going out together. He hadn't finished his meal and she hadn't eaten. He offered to take her to another eatery where they could both have "a something," more as an excuse to make a date than to make culinary sense. She agreed. They excused themselves from the two other guys.
At the other eatery, Menasheh asked Gila if she'd like to go bowling. He really wanted to spend time with her. She was open minded and said it would be OK. When they got to the bowling alley, the place was very filled up. Menasheh said he didn't want to wait around so long. It was getting late and he had work the next morning. She was agreeable again. He was really impressed with how nice she was about everything. He took her number and said he would call her.
A few days later, he phoned her and asked her out. On their date, Gila was entirely pleasant and easy to get along with. Menasheh felt that he should be feeling happy, because this was someone who he could find no fault with. But, instead of feeling happy at having a lovely date, he felt scared and nervous inside. They agreed to see eachother again. Owing to their respective schedules, they basically fell into a pattern of meeting regularly once a week, when they both had available time, like clockwork.
After about two months, Gila started throwing out clear signals that she was expecting Menasheh to be serious with her. Menasheh was in a dilemma. He couldn't put his finger on why he felt ill-at-ease and he couldn't find words with which to articulate to Gila that he was not sharing her marital inclinations.
The relationship came to a stagnation and coasted at the same level for another couple of months. Gila became more and more assertive and adamant. She was expecting Menasheh to marry her. He was comfortable to have the relationship but he was not finding any sympathy for her aspiration nor interest in a marital development. Her response was to get progressively more assertive, his was to evade the subject as aggressively as she pushed it. This transformed the pristine and sweet rapport into a tense relationship. They were used to eachother and neither wanted to break the relationship off. But, it was at an untenable and irreconcilable impasse.
One time they had a date and Menasheh just didn't show up. She waited loyally at the meeting place till four in the morning. He didn't even phone her family or the place where she was waiting.
The next morning she called him, assuming a benefit of doubt, and asked what happened. He said he was delayed somewhere and didn't expect that she would wait too long for him. She good-naturedly accepted the excuse and trusted it to be true. They made their next date for the next week at their regular time. He didn't show up again. She had a harder time finding a "benefit of doubt attitude." It was now twice in a row. She struggled to keep her composure when asking what happened. Torn within, hurt and nearing the limits of her patience, she decided to accept his excuse but she said, when making their next date, "You're not going to fail to show up again are you?" He said, "No, I'll show up." They made their date.
Menasheh failed to show up the third time. They didn't speak to eachother again. He had never learned to communicate about feelings, to empathize with someone else's feelings or to adapt his behavior to accommodate someone else's feelings. He could be happy so long as things were on his terms. He didn't know how to handle terms, needs or demands which didn't suit him. He wasn't prepared for a relationship to require that he give of himself.
A family member heard about me around the time Menasheh ended his relationship with Gila. Concerned that he was not getting married, the relative encouraged Menasheh to call me for counseling.
Nechama had just about everything going for her that you could name. She came from a good family that stemmed from a Chasidic rebbi. More important, she was a wonderful and sweet person. She was very frum, very human, very normal and worked on herself very sincerely. She was a baalas midos (superb character qualities) and a baalas chesed (actively and constantly kind and good-natured). She was a true "catch" for the right boy.
When she went away to seminary, she boarded with a family. This family, as it turned out, was also of special quality - kind, frum, "Torah-dik," "midos-dik," refined. She and the family took to eachother and she became unusually close with this family.
When Nechama came to the age of shidduchim, the father in this family took over as her "shidduch manager." He occupied the role that any girl's father would occupy if he weren't as far away as Nechama's father was. He was as caring and diligent as any father would be, he was on the lookout for a superb boy, he screened the boys no less than he did for his own marriageable daughters.
Yechiel passed muster. He appeared to be nice and doing well in his Torah studies. A date was set up.
Upon meeting Nechama, Yechiel made a presentable first impression. He picked her up in a taxi and instructed the driver to take them to a fancy restaurant. Although Yechiel seemed quite the gentlemen with her, he seemed condescending in the way he spoke to the driver. Being the master of good midos, she figured it was her misinterpretation and forgot about it.
During the ride, Yechiel was pleasant company, polite and an interesting conversationalist. She was starting to figure that, after all, this was a real nice fellow. When they got to the restaurant, he got the car door for her. He really was proving to be a gentleman. Then, when he settled the fare with the cabby, he was rude again. She decided to give him the benefit of the doubt.
When they went into the restaurant, he held the door and seemed quite nice again. When the waiter came, Yechiel was arrogant to him. During the entire meal, Yechiel kept going back and forth between being lovely with her and nasty to the waiter. Now the documentation was inescapable. It was too many times. Yechiel was able to show niceness selectively. But, as she put it so well after the date when she got home, "If he's not nice to everybody, then he really isn't nice."
Shortly thereafter, Nechama ended up marrying a grandson of one of the previous generation's greatest gedolim (Torah leaders). Her husband is nice to everybody - and a Torah-great in the making. They are two beautiful people who have a beautiful marriage.
In one of my presentations, I addressed the subject of what goes into a happy marriage. I was speaking about such topics as giving to a partner, respect, true love, trust, etc.
One man abruptly, tensely and angrily started interrupting. "That's all on paper. That's not reality. I've been married and divorced. I know the truth. Women are all gold-diggers. All they want is to take a man's money and kill him. You know the snake killed Adam. Women are the snake. All they're good for is killing a husband. That's all they want. This business about love and happiness is all nice for talk. But in real life, baby, it's nothing but junk. Women don't want love. They want to take a man's blood out. Just take 'em for all they're worth - that's all a woman wants. You have no right to go around telling people that it's possible to have love and happiness. That's not true. Women make me so angry. They just want a man's money and then his death. That's all. This stuff is not reality."
I started to cite sources which show how a Torah marriage yields bondedness and happiness. Then, incapable of hearing anything that he didn't want to hear, he angrily marched out.
After a presentation at the Sephardic Education Center on Manhattan's East Side, a woman came to me to ask if I could speak to a relative who was having a difficult time finding a husband. This relative, let's call her an Aunt, is married, somewhat older, considerably mature and concerned. She sat in quietly during the meeting.
The young lady, let's call her Marsha, was in her late twenties. To be unmarried at this age in religious society, is a matter of concern. She spoke to me for a good while to tell me what she is looking for. She told me that her family is not well connected and to get a match you have to be well connected in your community. It didn't sit well with me that this should be the whole story. There had to have been more.
I asked Marsha what she was looking for, what would it take for a relationship to work, the kind of things I would need to know in order to make a responsible set-up for her. I asked her a number of questions, some of the answers to which were worrisome to me. One question I ask people in order to get a sense of the person and how the person handles such a question is, "What are your shortcoming that have contributed so far to your not being married?" I tell them that I am asking for a constructive purpose. For someone to be able to realistically live with you, they have to be able to work with your problems, live with your shortcomings, have strengths that can help you work on your shortcomings or be able to tolerate your shortcomings. I also have to discern if any shortcomings can hurt another person. Angels can get along with angels and human beings have to get along with human beings, realistically, practically and effectively. I want some insight. If a person hedges or plays games, that turns me off to them and makes me less interested in helping them. I don't set up angels. If someone claims to be an angel, I only know human beings and can set up only human beings. If I find out shortcomings, I can find out what makes the person ineligible for whom, or what they have to work on realistically and honestly, or I have a sense of what strengths in another could compensate and constitute an eligible match.
Some people are very honest. Marsha said that she doesn't have any shortcomings other than that she's sensitive so that if she's not accommodated with what her feelings are, she might feel very badly. That, to me, was an avoidance of the question because she is trying to make it sound like she has a good attribute (sensitivity) that is her one negative fault. She was doing this because she doesn't want to say that there is anything wrong with her. If she says that she has any imperfections, she supposes that I probably would not set her up. What she didn't realize is that I probably wouldn't set her up if she has NO imperfections. I only set-up human beings. True, if I discern that any single would be ill-equipped for, or destructive in, a serious relationship I would not help them marry. All people have shortcomings. A real marriage requires that two people can tolerate or complete eachother's shortcomings. A real match, therefore, requires diligent investigation of what shortcomings in A can B live with, and vice-versa.
Marsha gave me the feeling that the sensitivity that she reported was probably more self-directed for her own benefit, and less available for the benefit of others. She gave me the sense that she is probably being too picky and sensitive and looking out for getting too big and unrealistic a list of things that she wants and wants and wants. If a guy wouldn't have the whole list, she wouldn't take him seriously or give him a fair chance.
The second thing that concerned me was that within her list of things that she wants in a husband was a contradiction that is next to impossible to find in one person. I would be surprised if she would find someone who could manage it and I told her so.
She said she wants a guy who, on the one hand, is a go-getter who is driven, ambitious, hard-working, who will earn a good living, have a career, be strong out there in the world. Marsha also said that he should be a family man, home-body, caring, sensitive and warm. I said to myself, "This is silly. This is so unrealistic." I told her, "You want two contradictory things. You want a guy who is out there in the world and striving hard. You want a guy who is a home-body, sensitive and a family man. I always see these as being mutually exclusive. It's always one way or the other. These are two separate types. Make up your mind. If you had to get off the fence and decide between the guy who's strongly ambitious out in the world versus a sensitive home and family value guy, which would you force yourself to choose if you had to choose one over the other? The two in one person is basically a contradiction. It's not realistic." Her aunt silently but emphatically shook her head, "yes."
Marsha wisely said that if she had to, she "Would choose the guy who would be home and sensitive and is for family-values, who would be warm and devoted to his wife and kids."
She basically had an unrealistic expectation and was more concerned about receiving a check-list that was fairly extensive and elaborate, and contained so many things that some of them were literal contradictions to other items that she demanded from a guy. Marsha is a religious-from-birth woman in a religious community, getting older and older. Her idea of what she wants, needs, deserves or expects is not capable of working.
It's more realistic to work on not wanting the impossible than to keep striving after the impossible. Striving after any unattainable, for whatever the reason, is one of the best ways to keep from getting married. Pursuing the unattainable allows the person to keep thinking, "I'm making effort, I'm doing my part, there's nothing wrong with me." The person does not find someone who is attainable. This "system" for being unmarried works exquisitely.