I have touched upon this topic a few times over the years, but this email broke my heart. This man has finally met the woman of his dreams, but she has just told him that she does not want any more children. Unfortunately, Aharon (the fellow who contacted me) was under a different impression from the start of their relationship. So, the conversation that he usually has with a woman on the first or second date regarding children never took place. But here he is, and he now must make a decision that will affect the rest of his life – no matter what he decides. In some cases, there are no “correct” decisions, because someone or something will be lost.
I met you years ago when you were a guest speaker at the Hudson Valley Resort, (or still referred to by some of us as The Granit). I arrived minutes late and because of that I was forced to stand with the people in the back, because it was a standing-room-only crowd. All I can say is that you wowed me. You captured the audience’s attention, told jokes that may have appeared to be made at your expense (but weren’t). You made everything relatable because, as you say, “We’ve all had a bad date.” You also taught a lesson – you slipped it in between anecdotes. You reminded us that dating is hard and we can make it harder for ourselves if we can’t look back at our “bad dates” and laugh about them instead of cry about them. You told us that we should pick ourselves up by the bootstraps and get back on the horse, because we will never reach the finish line if we take a pity party break. During Chol HaMoed, I bought your book and have since read it and passed it on to my many nieces and nephews who have gone through the shidduch parshah. We met in Spring Valley last year at an event. My name is Aharon, I’m 47, and I thanked you for giving me the koach to continue dating.
Anyway, the point of this letter is to ask advice. I have been on too many dates to count. There was a time when I was a chasan, but it was short-lived, and I never made it to the chupah. But that was many years ago and “neither here nor there.” I have dated what seems like every woman out there, nationally as well as internationally. It was all becoming too much, and a person can only have one bad date after another (times 30) until they have to say “Enough! I need a break before I lose my mind.” Just when I was ready to “take a break,” I met a woman in the pizza shop! We were standing on line and there was a mix up in our orders. One thing led to another, and we have been dating for close to six months.
I feel like I have waited all my life for her. I will call her Sharon. Sharon makes every bad date that I went on worth it because it has all led to her. She is 39, divorced with three children (a ten-year-old and seven-year-old twins). I recently met her children. They have their own personalities, but are nice and we get along, at least so far. We’ve spent some time together, going places or staying home to watch TV or movies. I’m told that the kids went to therapy to help them get adjusted to their new life after Sharon divorced their father, about four years ago. One still sees his therapist. Sharon didn’t want me to meet her kids until she was sure that I would be someone who would be in her life for a long time – forever hopefully. But I knew from the very start that I would be meeting her children, because I felt something special with Sharon right from the start. She said that she has dated men in the last few years and only had one of the men she had dated meet the children. I don’t know what happened with that relationship, but I don’t ask because I don’t care. I am here now. I’ve spent time with Sharon and her children, like I said, and it all seems to be great. I can honestly imagine Sharon and her kids being an important part of my life in the future. It’s something that I want. But the other day, Sharon said something that I was not prepared to hear. She said that she does not want to have any more children. She made that point very clear. She said that her pregnancies were very difficult and does not want to go through it again.
I didn’t know what to say. I was speechless. I wasn’t expecting her to say that. She said she wanted me to know where she stood on the subject. She added that she loves me but can’t see herself getting pregnant again and knows that having a child of my own is what I have dreamed about. She said that she was dreading this conversation, but it never came up, so she decided to bring it up now. In the past, I stopped dating women because of the same reason. I don’t know why I didn’t ask her this early on, as I usually do. I thought that because Sharon was still in her 30s that this wasn’t even an issue to speak about. I’ve spoken about it with women who were in their early 40s. But 30s? I never thought to bring it up. I understand that this is my fault. But as I said before, “Here I am.” I love Sharon and I can see myself loving her children once I get to know them better and become part of the family. I want to marry her. But I was always told by my rebbe that it is very important for me to have my own children.
I don’t know what to say. I am full of happiness, joy, and love for the first real time in my life. I can see the life I have dreamed of since I started dating decades ago within reach. I can have that life with Sharon, but I feel like I am in mourning for the child I will never have. I am seeing a therapist and he said it’s normal to feel like this. I asked Sharon how she felt about adopting a baby. I would consider the baby or child my own if we adopted him or her very young. I was able to tell that Sharon wasn’t prepared for that question. She said that her priority would be to make sure that her children are okay with the change and adjusted to our new family before she even thinks about adoption, and she is aware that the adoption road is a long one. She said that she didn’t want to be up for 3 a.m. feedings when she’s in her 40s and thought that this part of her life was over. I was unable to speak for a few seconds. I mean, what could I say? I understand her point, or at least I think I do. Sharon has already gone through all that I want to experience and doesn’t want to do it again, even if it is with me. It’s not as if I’m asking her to sit through a three-hour movie she has already seen. This is something life-changing and, let’s face it, no matter how much I am involved, she will most probably be the main parent – she’d be the mother! But “Here I am”; I have finally met my bashert. But if we marry, I won’t have the child of my own that my rebbe always told me was so important to have, to fulfill that mitzvah.
That night, I called my rebbe on the way home and explained this to him. He told me that the mitzvah of having children of my own can’t be dismissed quickly. It is a serious matter. If marrying Sharon would make me happy, he would support me, but would grieve for the child or children that I wouldn’t have, and that I wouldn’t fulfill this mitzvah. Basically, my rebbe said it was “okay” to marry Sharon, but he would “grieve” for what wouldn’t be. I told him that he is putting me in a very difficult position. It’s not a matter of “if I meet a woman and we want to get married.” I have met the woman who wants to marry me. I can’t just give that up; but how do you give up a child? My rebbe said that it was my choice to make, but he wanted to be honest about what he felt if I choose to marry Sharon.
My siblings have met Sharon; it happened by accident, but it happened. They are thrilled that I have met someone who has made me this happy. My mother is beyond happy. All she wants is for her children to be settled with a life of their own. When I told my mother of my conversation with Sharon, and then with my rebbe, she agreed that it was a difficult decision. I would have a family (step-children), but not one of my own blood. She reminded me of all the pain I have been through over the years. Being the practical mother that she is, she asked me if I realistically thought a woman of 35 or of any child-bearing age, would want to date and marry a 47-(almost 48)-year-old when there are many men out there closer to her own age. All these women care to hear from shadchanim are the age and occupation of the man when they decide if they will date him; they won’t take the time to get to know me or to talk to me for five minutes before deciding if they want to date me. They may not even want to date me based on age alone. Yes, I know all that is true.
My mother said that my rebbe is very smart, and he wants me to fulfill an important mitzvah, but he is not living my life. She said that my rebbe should know what dating is like in 2020; and for him to keep pushing the “baby issue” on me, only to have me walk away from what has made me so happy, isn’t very smart of him. She said that my rebbe was looking at this situation in a very black-and-white way, when he should be able to see gray and have compassion for someone like me. She went so far as to say that my rebbe goes home to his wife and the children still at home and talks to his grandchildren on the phone – that he is doing me a disservice by “hocking” the baby issue into my head. “Have you told him of your actual pain or just that you really want to be married and be a father?” As a mother, she lives the life of her children and feels their pain and joy. She doesn’t want me to be alone and in pain forever. My mother laid it on thick, and really had me lying awake at night, agonizing over this. My mother chose her side, but my rebbe has been such an important part of my life. Maybe he even has too strong of a hold on me, as my mother said. I know that my rebbe does care about me, but my mother is right: I am the only one living my life, alone.
I’ve heard what my mother said and what my therapist has to say, which I won’t write here because I want to hear what you have to say without being influenced by my therapist’s words. I know that you won’t tell me what to do. But I would like to hear your thoughts on the matter. You have my permission to print this email, should you choose to do so, because I’d like to help anyone else in such a situation.
My answer to Aharon is a lengthy one, and there wouldn’t be enough room to fit it all in this issue. Im yirtzeh Hashem, the next issue will have my answer. I’m wondering if any of you longtime readers can figure out what I replied to Aharon. Feel free to email me what you think I answered. Check next week to see if you are right!
Hatzlachah to you all!