Are men serious when they say this?

April 17th, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 22 comments

I am a 56 year-old woman who has never been married. I have recently decided that I would like to find a man and get married even in this later time of life. This surprises me because it was never really one of my goals to get married, but I have realized that I do not want to be alone for the rest of my life.

My question is this: I have signed up for a couple of dating websites. I also go on dates with people that I am introduced to from other people but I find this same issue that I am emailing you about.

What I have noticed with a lot of men around my age is they say they are looking for and still have not found “the one.”  I am surprised that I am running into this as these are men that should know by now that there is really no “one person” for another. I will acknowledge there are instances where someone finds their so-called “soulmate,” but I believe these instances are few and far between. But these men seem to think that they will find the one even this late in life and expect fireworks, etc. when they meet someone and life will be just all hunky-dory when they meet this special person.

In my opinion, they are acting like teenage girls.  What are your thoughts on this whole finding “the one” to marry? And how do I reconcile this in my head?  Do I just not even consider getting to know men who have this notion because truthfully I doubt if I would be “the one?”

Sincerely,

Julie G.

P.S. I realize now that I should not have waited so long to find a mate.

Dear Julie,

Your sentence, “In my opinion, they are acting like teenage girls,” gave us a chuckle though we realize that this isn’t a laughing matter. You are, of course, correct in recognizing that waiting for “the one” is a good recipe for staying single.

However, we would take a man’s statement about “the one” to be an opening comment rather than considering it a closing argument.  For instance, instead of dismissing the man who claims to be ‘waiting for the One’ perhaps instead keep the conversation going by saying, “I also used to think marriages are made by waiting for the one, but I have since learned that time is better spent trying to become the One.” 

If this waiting for the One is not coming up in conversation, but instead it crops up on an online questionnaire or in the first few minutes of meeting someone, we think it just might be an easy quip that could precede a deeper conversation.  (If it’s online, it could also be the easiest and best box to check even if it doesn’t actually describe someone’s thoughts.) We agree that spending a lot of time with a man who is waiting for fireworks and a symphony orchestra is a waste of time, but we would at least give time for a cup of coffee before deciding that this truly describes that particular individual’s  worldview.

In your lovely letter, you disclosed why you are now contemplating marriage; you don’t want to be alone for the rest of your life.  And presumably, you seek a man who also doesn’t want to be alone.  While the desire to avoid loneliness is a necessary precondition for marriage—even God said, “Not good for man to be alone”—it is not sufficient. 

Not being alone because you have a husband solves your need but in a very passive way.  Similarly, you solve his need but just by being.  Our question to you is what are you eager to do actively for someone else other than just being there.  In other words, we think your goal of changing your marital status could be more quickly achieved by contemplating what else would you be committed to adding to a man’s life.  Focusing on what you would give rather than on what you would take often propels the courting process into overdrive.  Another way of looking at it is asking yourself why a great man would be incredibly fortunate to be married to you.

We would also like you to ask yourself whether you are a very results-oriented and driven individual which may be causing you to come across as using too much of a businesslike approach to dating. We are all in favor of dating seriously (we prefer the term courting) however meeting someone with whom to share a life should not be confused with a job interview. 

We would encourage you to have a balance between wariness that keeps you emotionally safe and being too quick to close yourself to options. By the time anyone is in his or her late 50s there is a great deal of history that has led to formation of character. It takes time to begin to reveal oneself.

We hope you would consider becoming a resource for younger women in helping them understand the value of marriage earlier than you did.  Perhaps offer some lectures or classes on the topic at your church or community center.  Quite possibly one of those younger women you help might introduce you to your future husband.  Our guidance here is based on the ancient Jewish principle that again and again we see that people who help others solve a certain problem find their own problems being resolved.

We are actually a bit surprised that only in your 50s are you thinking that marriage has something to recommend it and wonder what led to that way of thinking. We are sure we are not the only ones who would be fascinated to hear you speak on this topic while you reveal yourself and your thought processes in a personal and practical way.

We look forward to your sharing good news with us,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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22 comments

NS says:

This was good advice. I also think the book I Only Want To Get Married Once would be a good read.

Susan Lapin says:

Thank you. We agree that I Only Want to Get Married Once https://rabbidaniellapin.com/product/i-only-want-to-get-married-once-by-chana-levitan-softcover-book/ is very worth reading.

Don says:

56 yr old – I think you are taking this all too seriously. Did you expect a marriage proposal on your first cup-of-coffee date? It sounds to me like many of those men were simply attempting to use language that women seem to be drawn to. I cannot tell you the number of women I have dated who quickly bring up that they are “looking for the one”. So first of all you need to step back and not take this all so seriously.
In today’s world almost anything a man says to a women, especially one he does not know very well, is a very dangerous proposition. Since you are a woman you do not appreciate this. All it takes is one wrong word and the man is suddenly at risk of arrest. And I mean that literally. Today’s environment has destroyed the opportunity for men and women to get to know each other without fear of undue retribution. I have personally experienced this, and it is very serious business. I simply said “Did you like that?” when a woman told me she had experienced getting a tattoo. The next thing I knew I was in the back of a patrol car with a domestic violence charge. I know others who have experienced the same. This is an environment that feminists have slopped over our entire nation. Good women have done nearly nothing to temper this approach to relations.
It takes time to get to know somebody. People make mistakes in conversation and in action. Unless you are willing to not freak out because you did not hear what you wanted to hear things are not going to go anyplace.
Perhaps at some point early on you can discuss this topic, calmly and directly, with your dates. So they can know who they are dealing with, thereby opening the door for them to be more “real”. I must say at this point you sound like many women who demand what they want NOW, the first time, or they are going to pout and sulk. It is not the men’s fault that you waited until later in life, and are now overly anxious.
The worst thing you can do is go discuss this with your women friends. They will lead you to disaster. Talk to men who are not candidates for dating, but who have wisdom you respect. You may not agree with all they say, but you may learn more than you ever imagined.

David Altschuler says:

You are hovering over some interesting points, but you do have your own issues to work out. I suspect that a few crucial details were left out of your story of how you ended up in the back of a police car.

Don says:

You are welcome to fantasize all you like! My incident is not the focus of interest here. What is of interest is how people dig themselves a hole because they do not realize what they are doing.

Mark RehAYwoldt says:

Man bashing seems to have become the national pastime. I watch far too much tv, i’ll admit, but I see an interesting pattern where every other commercial has some all-knowing patient woman instructing some ignorant man. Not to mention the upward trend in woman dominated tv series and movies and the decline in traditional male areas. And I have personally felt the claws and teeth (figuratively) of women who don’t even know me. I haven’t experienced that kind of viciousness from men.

Jean says:

PC has definitely brainwashed at least two generations of women. I am in a counseling profession, and I have spoken to many millennial women who are baffled first, at their attraction to alpha males and second, at the lack of alphas in their peer group. I try to explain without delving into politics that the idea of men and women being different has been buried, and that to acknowledge and appreciate those differences will make creating and sustaining a relationship much easier. Many of my female clients react as though I were Moses coming down off the mountain with this information!

Karen Boswell says:

This question reminds me…what is more important – the wedding or the marriage?

Seems to me more focus is spent on the wedding.

I am most distressed when so many ‘weddings’ include ‘personally written vows’ (they don’t sound very much like vows to me)

“I promise to always make you laugh” Hardly rises to the COVENANT “For this reason, man shall leave his father and mother…become one flesh”

Mary says:

May I offer one more take? Years ago (20 plus), I asked God if there was one man for me, or if He intended me to live a single life. If there was a man for me, then I asked him to lead me to him at the right time. If not, I would accept that as well. I trusted that God would answer in His own time, not mine. Six months later, I was attending a social event with my son and…..so was the man I had prayed about. I just had faith that God would answer, one way or another and he did. Looking back over those six months there were things happening that led both of us to be there at the same place, same time. Small miracles I believe they’re called.

Sonia Nelson says:

Exactly. Prayer and belief. Trust the Lord, as well.

Mike R Harris says:

This May my wife and I celebrate our 20th anniversary. We have eight children and have buried two. I think David Bednar sums up best what I’ve learned. He said, “A fulfilling and happy marriage is not found; rather, it is created by a covenant-keeping man and woman. I fear some of you may be engaging in an endless search for something that does not exist. There is no perfect potential spouse who can safeguard you from emotional pain and spiritual anguish. But in the strength of the Lord, a faithful man and woman acting as agents can create the fulfilling marriage and the eternal family they hope and yearn to have.”

Steven Gossum says:

WOW. There can be no better comment.

Sonia Nelson says:

Amen

Mike says:

> Focusing on what you would give rather than on what you would take often propels the courting process into overdrive.

I would like to echo and reinforce this idea.

When I was single and studying a lot to figure out how to get married I came across a very eye opening question:

“Are you becoming the man (or woman) the woman (or man) you are praying for is praying for?”

This question stopped me in my tracks! From that point, rather than looking for someone who would meet my needs/requirements I began working on and learning how I could, even single, become a better husband.

Three years later I was married to a very wonderful woman (your results may vary).

The point is that once I stopped focusing on getting what I wanted and became focused on giving all I could, the desire to be married was fulfilled.

Steven Gossum says:

Families can be together forever. Marriage can be for time and all eternity.

Ann Switzer says:

As a 73 year old woman, living alone for the first time in my life — my last companion a totally wonderful cat, died recently and NOW I REALLY AM ALONE in the house — I’d advise getting a pet. I am getting another kitten soon.

James says:

Julie the writer seems to be freaking out when men declare that they have not found ‘the One.’ Why? Rather than delve like an obsessive Sigmund Freud into all the subliminal, psychosocial substrata that underlie this statement, it might more accurate and more prudent merely to accept the idiom as a well-worn cliché. This phrase ‘finding the One’ has been around at least as long as I have been alive, and likely long before me. This line may no longer qualify as a choice opener in finding a ‘running mate’ for life, but give the poor guy a break. Realize that he may not know exactly how to approach you, and indeed, not knowing you well, may have his guard up. Just a thought… Write men off for the right reasons, not for the wrong ones.

karen jones says:

I was single until age 35 but it felt like FOREVER. ! Society has trained men and women to think there is ONE special “soulmate” . My relative has been though several marriages because she has thought 4 of them were the soulmate God had picked , but then she realized she made a “mistake” …. ..This lady should not think this is just a problem of men , and many people think this is a very romantic thing to say. She sounds about as “romantic” as me ! Good luck to her ! I was so relieved when that horrid “giddy” feeling left and I could make a rational decision !! We have been married 21 years now and are happy , but there is a lot of COMPROMISE which is difficult to get used to once you have been alone for years . Plus life being real and all , the new husband can die or become very ill , so no promises of not being alone . She may decide to choose a pet instead for companionship , or just a good friend.

Judy says:

Thank you for the great responses. I’m in my 50s and never married. I’ve spent my life working to learn how to be the right one. I don’t regret I haven’t married, yet. I had opportunities, but I knew they’d be mistakes. I was too good at adapting in order to meet their needs to the point of squashing my own, exactly as I’d been taught. I was a mess. After years of counseling, I’m only now starting to feel mentally and emotionally healthy. I have been thinking about opening myself to the possibility of courting and wondered where to start. I have my answer, thanks to someone else asking a question. Thank you.

Susan Lapin says:

How wonderful that you were able to meet your challenges head on, Judy, and keep moving forward.

Julie says:

Hi everyone — this is Julie, the person who asked the question of Rabbi and Mrs. Lapin. Thank you to them both for giving such good advice! Also thank you to the commenters, there is some good advice there, too — well, except for Don. He totally mistook my question. But just so you know, I am eager but not desperate to find someone to marry, I have prayed about this and since God knows all, I have asked him that if it is to be, that I am in the right place at the right time. Also, I am not “freaking out” that men say they are looking for the one, I am just surprised by it this late in the game. I think they are limiting their responses when they use this wording because as I asked in my original question, should I even respond to these men because it seems fruitless. Also, I have talked with my male friends about male bashing nowadays so I did not intend to sound like I was engaging in such behavior. I know it is hard to be a single man (or just a man in general?) nowadays and I can empathize. As far as getting a pet, I have had pets that I loved dearly, but they do not take the place of a human relationship. And lastly, just a little update, I have been seeing a man that I met from one of the websites, and while it is too early to tell what will happen, he has been a perfect gentleman and guess what his dating profile DID NOT say — yes, you guessed it — it did not say that he was looking for “the one.”

Susan Lapin says:

Hi Julie, thanks for checking in. We are delighted that you are staying optimistic and seeing progress.

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