This email had such an effect on me, when I read it, that I just sat back for a moment. I won’t introduce it. I will let the email speak for itself.
I don’t want to say how my marriage of eight years ended: Was it divorce or death of my spouse? Just know that I was and still am heartbroken about it, almost 18 months later. During the eight years of marriage, my husband and I shared good and bad times, laughter and tears (both happy and sad), and we yelled and screamed, at times. There were times when I wished we were yelling or screaming because there was nothing but silence. He was my shoulder to lean on and an ear to vent to. I was the same for him. I now look at our son and can’t help but cry for the life he won’t have. He won’t grow up with Mommy and Daddy around the Shabbos table listening to the divrei Torah he learned in school or singing z’miros together. There will be no family vacations. Yes, my son will be loved by family and friends, but it’s basically me and him for the most part, and I would give anything to change it.
I’m not writing to share my story (you would need a few pages in the QJL for that), but I am writing this so that you can publish it so readers and people in general know what to do or not to do for someone like me. Read these words very clearly: Do not try to convince me that I am ready to date. Do not tell me that I have been alone long enough. Don’t you dare try to use my son against me to say he needs a father figure. I and I alone will know when I am ready to date; and even then, I don’t have to call you asking if you have a son, nephew, neighbor, or friend for me.
I know that it sounds harsh, but I am so tired of getting the phone calls from friends/family and even acquaintances that are filled with awkward silences when I know the person on the other end is building up the courage or trying to find the right words to tell me that they know someone whom I should date. I always tell them that I am not dating at the moment, but I thank them for thinking of me and I hang up before I have to hear them say, “But why not?” or something like that.
I thank all of you. But I am not ready. I have a lot on my plate right now. I’m a single mom who works full time, and I still work when I arrive home in the evening. I work at filling the apartment with love and fun and music and everything else you can think of, so my son doesn’t feel as though he is missing out because his father isn’t home with us. I can’t control what happens in the world or in school. Yes, it’s normal for a child to have ups and downs. As painful as it is to think about, I know that all children get teased or bothered by others to a certain extent; it’s a painful rite of childhood. But when I’m home and if I have anything to say about it, my son will only have happy memories to reflect on.
My son isn’t the only reason why I’m not dating. I’m not ready to try to start a life with someone else yet. My son’s father (I don’t want to say ex-husband or late husband) and I dated for a year and a half before we got engaged. For a year and a half and well into our marriage, all I was able to envision was a life with my husband, son, and any other children we would have. Now I have a new reality that I am still getting used to. Yes, still getting used to it after more than a year. I am still experiencing “firsts” that I am doing alone without my husband and my son without his father. I can’t just flick a switch: “Okay, that part of my life is over, let’s move on. I’ll start dating so I can find someone else to love and live my life with.” It’s not like that. I have accepted that the life I dreamed of and had a chance to live for a while is over and will never come back. I am seeing a therapist and I do accept that this is my life now, but to make another major change before I feel 100 percent ready for it, it isn’t the right thing for me to do for myself or to someone else. And yes, my son is in counseling, as well. I think he is adjusting, but I can’t be sure. I am letting a trained professional help me with my son. But right now, I’m not dating because I don’t want to.
Why is that so hard for some people to understand? My parents and siblings get it, and so do some of my close friends. But often I hear from those not in my inner circle, “What? It’s been so long. Why aren’t you ready yet?” or, “You’re not getting any younger...” And I just love this one: “I” spoke with him and he really doesn’t mind or care that you have a child.” Great. I’m thrilled that “he doesn’t care” that I have a son. I tell people that I’m not dating now and hang up quickly before they try to “convince” me to date whomever they have in mind. I know this because there was a time when I didn’t hang up quickly enough and the convincing always began.
I will date when I’m ready to date. Will that be in a month or another year? I don’t know. I can’t put a timetable on this. I don’t want to grow old alone. G-d-willing, my son will be married with a family of his own, and I don’t want to start talking to the walls. If I start to date before I’m ready, how will I know if I am making the right decisions? I’m now involving and affecting someone else’s life, and I don’t want to do that if I am not ready. It wouldn’t be fair to the man, but more so, it isn’t fair to push me into a situation when I’m saying I don’t want it now. I’m here to tell everyone listening not to push anyone into dating before he or she is ready to do so. If you have to convince someone or talk someone into dating, he or she is not ready. It doesn’t matter that your cousin, neighbor, niece, nephew, or best friend’s child is available “now.” I’m not ready – and neither are they.
Please respect me and my wishes. You don’t know what my life is or what I am going through, so why push me to date someone? Soon your well-meaning thought will only be thought of how much you nudged and annoyed me. Neither of us wants that.
This is for me and anyone who is going through a divorce or a death of a loved one: We need to get used to our new life. We need to switch our mindset from how we always thought it was going to be and remembering the times when it was (exactly what we wanted) and now just trying to get through every day without a partner and without the added pressure of dating in the equation. I do hope to meet someone and to marry again one day. But I can’t do that now just because you have someone who is available. I realize that my old life is over, but I can’t help but miss it and at times think of what could have been. Just give us the time that we need. Some in my situation may need a couple of months and, yes, some may need a couple of years. We are on this journey and we will be the ones to know when we want to date again. We’re not on your table. You do not hold my stopwatch or calendar. Thank you for your efforts, but if I refuse you once or twice, why are you calling a third time? I’m sure you will find out when I (and others) am ready, and if the person you have in mind is still available, great. If not, then it was never meant to be. Pushing someone into dating isn’t for you or anyone else to do.
No name (no real or fake one)
Dear No Name:
Wow, your email was a powerful, thought-provoking one. I sat back from my laptop after I finished reading it and took in a few deep breaths. On behalf of the many who are in the same sort of situation as you (divorce or widow/widower), thank you for your thoughts and the courage to send me the email.
Not that it matters if you are divorced or a widow, but it just seems like a big chunk of the story is missing. I’m sorry, but I just feel that way. I do understand that whatever happened is in the past, and right now you and you alone are the sole provider for your son and are without a spouse. It just sounds so final the way you wrote about it. I can understand that if it was a divorce, the father of your son, your ex-husband, may have chosen to have nothing to do with your son and may have disappeared. Either way, your pain is very clear through your words.
Your email brings back memories of a fellow I dated only one time. I looked back in my notes and read that he spent the evening close to tears because he recently had a broken engagement and was basically pushed into dating again. He was nowhere near ready to try to think of starting a life with someone new, but he allowed himself to be talked into dating. I think it was wrong of those people and the shadchan who set us up to do so soon after the engagement came to an end, not by his choice. Unlike him, you are strong enough to stand up and advocate for yourself (as well as others) and not care what people may or may not think.
I know I speak for many of my readers who hope you find the peace that you are looking for, and when the time has come that you feel ready to try dating again, to go at your own pace. No man is an island. You are being strong for your child, but everyone needs love and connection to someone. Whether that is in three months or in three years, it doesn’t matter. Do it when you are ready. I hope you find the healing that you are looking for, as well. Yours is an email that I will carry in my heart and mind for a long time, always wondering how you are. Only after you have made peace with what was, can you move towards the future with a healthy outlook. Do what you need to do now for yourself and your precious son. Let your family help, as they seem like a wonderful source of support and love for you.
I wish you and others who feel as you do because of their situation, but aren’t brave enough to say it, the time that you need in order to adjust and accept this new life that you never imagined living. But please don’t give up on ever being happy again with someone in life. It won’t be the person you originally loved and started your married life with, but that someone out there can make you happy, and it is okay to allow them into your world. It’ll take time. I won’t put on my therapist hat here, because I am sure you know what I would say, but just don’t rule out happiness in the future. I would hate that for you and your son.
Hatzlachah and a hug to all!