We all know the feeling of being involved in an argument and having the greatest one liner, a real zinger. But instead of having your mic-drop moment where you can leave knowing you had indeed won the argument or proven your point, you say nothing. The comment would be 100% truthful, but would hit below the belt. You would be the victor - but at what price? Making someone feel bad or by embarrassing them? Is it worth the pain that the other person may feel so you can have your mic-drop moment? Think about it. Life goes on and this moment will be a blip or less than a blip on your radar in a year or two. But the other party may feel the aftershocks of what is now a distant memory for you in the years to come. The comment may be embarrassing, something they wanted no one to know. Maybe they told you in confidence, maybe you found it out through unnamed but very reliable sources (aka loshon hora), but your rational side, the side not involved in this argument, knows that this statement is better left unsaid for so many reasons.
What to do?
The writer of the email has a similar problem. He knows exactly what to say, and 100% of it is the truth. But should he say it? It may end up hurting someone else later on, but yet, he’d be helped by it now. Like Ursula the Sea Witch in The Little Mermaid said, “Life full of tough decisions, isn’t it?”
I broke my engagement a few weeks ago. All I’ll say (and that’s the issue) is that I realized she wasn’t the girl for me. And I truly believe it wasn’t bashert. It was such a relief once I broke things off. Before that I was smiling and saying all the right things because that was what was expected of me. But I feel so much better now.
Since I am not giving any details of who I am or my former kallah is and who are families are, I will provide just a small bit of detail here. Once we were engaged, I saw the girl’s true nature. I know you will correct me and tell me to call her a “young woman” or “lady,” but in this case I will argue that she is a girl. I saw a quick temper, along with tantrums that followed when she didn’t get her way. I didn’t like the way she communicated and acted around her family – from what I was able to see. But she was the “perfect kallah-to-be” when she was in public and around my family. I didn’t fully understand at the l’chaim when the girl’s brother said something to me to the effect of, you don’t know what you’re getting, or, be prepared for what you’re getting. I forgot the exact words but it wasn’t said in a joking, loving way like a brother would normally say.
Long story short: Once I saw that this was typical behavior of the girl, I knew what had to be done. I spoke with my parents and rav. The engagement was broken a couple of days later. Yes, there were tears - hers, not mine. But I did it in a very respectful way. I knew I could not be persuaded to change my mind, although she tried. I did not want to be saddled with a spoiled brat who would get angry and throw a tantrum every time she didn’t get what she wanted or when faced with an obstacle in life. I’m prepared for children to act like that, but if I don’t have a partner who is a mature adult and able to reason things out and resorts to this behavior every time, then I will feel alone and that we do not have a united front on any issue. I can’t and won’t do that to myself. I deserve more; anyone deserves more than that.
Here I am, getting back into the shidduch scene slowly, and of course broken engagement comes up very often with shadchanim - and even with nosy people in shul and in my neighborhood. I’m forthcoming with everyone about the engagement, but people are pushing me to give them details as to why things didn’t work out. One shadchan even went so far as to say, “It’ll help me redt you better if I knew and was able to tell girls and their mothers that the broken engagement was 100% not any fault of yours.” I don’t even know what that means - to say that “I was madly in love and she broke the engagement and have no idea why” would make me look like an idiot and that’s not the truth. All I say is what I wrote at the beginning of my letter: “We weren’t bashert and it’s better this way. Iy”h we will both find our basherts.” I am taking the high road. But people still try to find out the real reason; they speak with my parents, siblings…but we are not saying the real reason because eventually I do want the girl to date someone that will love her as is (if she doesn’t mature) and to marry her.
I recently heard from a friend that the girl is telling anyone who will listen that I wanted her to change her behavior and wanted to “mold her” into the perfect wife and I told her that I couldn’t accept someone who behaved in a way that I didn’t approve of. I could not believe this. When I broke things off, I thought she deserved to know why and told her that I could not put up with her tantrums and childish behavior; although she did not act like that with me yet, I was sure it was going to come after the wedding. I added that I could not marry someone who didn’t seem to respect her family. She knew what I was referring to. I never told her to change. I just said I couldn’t marry her the way she is now. I didn’t try to mold her or anything. I wanted to cut ties with her and I did. I would love to provide people with the real reason I called off the engagement and even give an example or two, but in the long run it can only hurt the girl, plus it won’t make me look good. People may think I’m lying to save my own reputation as the one who broke off the engagement. But I’d like everyone to keep their mouths shut. I know I am doing the right thing, but in the meantime, she is exaggerating the truth and making herself look good in the process of ruining my reputation. I want to hear what you have to say about this. I won’t start badmouthing her - but I want to say the truth!
Got Out Before It Was Too Late
Thank you for your email, Got Out (I’ll refer to you as GO).
You asked for my honest opinion and I will give it. No good deed goes unpunished. Like you said, you took the high road and your statement is true enough, but here you are finding out that she is basically telling people that you tried to “mold her,” to force her to change her personality and behavior…Not cool at all.
If you did tell people the truth and provided an example or two like, “and then she threw a glass of soda at her mother,” or “held her breath until she literally turned blue,” what would you really be accomplishing? Yes, you’d be telling the truth, but now we are getting into a “she said, he said,” issue and no one comes out smelling like a rose in those.
For those who you feel are being nosy and really just want the gossip of what happened, ask them for a deep private embarrassing secret from their life that no one, not even their spouse, knows and once they tell you theirs, you’ll tell them yours. I can almost guarantee that no one will take you up on that offer. I don’t have any problem telling people, “It’s really none of your business and just pure loshon hora.” I find that a statement like that usually turns the inquiring minds off because you called them what they were to their face: gossipers.
Now, what to do with this “girl.” I’ll allow you to call her a girl, if you insist that is what she is and what she acted like. I once had a co-worker when I first began working. She too had a broken engagement. And I too asked “What happened?” But at least I added, “I just want to know because I’m nosy,” which she laughed at. I didn’t fake sympathy or anything else. I was just curious. My co-worker told me that she couldn’t even tell me if she wanted to because a document was drawn up by the chosson’s family that she is not to speak about her broken engagement or her former chosson at all. She can’t say anything good or bad about him or their time together or what caused the engagement to break. She said the document was drawn up so both of them can go forward and find their basherts, because the document included the same clause for him speaking about her. “That seems nice, but is it really legal?” I asked. I still wonder if such a document is legal. Did a lawyer or rav or a family friend draw it up? It could be an NDC, Non-Disclosure Clause, like we hear about many times in today’s news. But you know what? I think it wasn’t such a bad idea.
For whatever reason, relationships end, whether between chosson/kallah, husband/wife, or between roommates. Obviously, each side will try to be the one viewed as the one wronged one and lucky to have been the one to end things. And even though everyone knows that there is Side A and Side B in an argument and the truth lies somewhere in between, there is a definitive wronged one in the situation. Whether that person is the “dumper” or the “dumpee” isn’t always the same in each case, but there is a wronged party. For argument’s sake, I will say that if this girl pretended to be mature while dating and only showed her true personality after you were engaged, I’ll call you the wronged one, the victim. She may view herself as the wronged one because once she revealed her true personality, you couldn’t accept her (and I’ll just leave it at that). Maybe having such a document as my co-worker isn’t such a bad idea. As far as I know, she never said a word about her former chosson - neither good nor bad. I do think the broken engagement was somehow his fault - whether he acted a certain way that made her break it or if he actually broke it, because his parents had the document ready for her to sign (wink, wink - telltale sign they were on the ready if things went south). Maybe you should look into a document with such an agreement. But at this point, with the time that has passed, there is no reason for her to sign such a document. My co-worker was asked to sign on the day they broke up. And again, I don’t know if a deal was made: “You can keep the gifts as long as you keep quiet.” I don’t know.
GO, you can walk with your head held high knowing you are doing the right thing. People may not think that is something to be proud of, but I do. You have to look at yourself at the end of each day and ask yourself if you acted in a decent and kind way to all you encountered. As long as you can answer “yes,” you should know in your heart that is enough. But in the world we live in, people thrive on gossip, and the juicier the better. It’s unfortunate that I know someone who seems to live on a liquid diet of juicy details. No solids. No substance or fact-checking. Just juicy gossip. I can’t tell you that what she is saying won’t cost you a date or two - or worse - but knowing you are doing the right thing will help you in the long run. And when you do meet your bashert, and if she has heard of the rumor, she will see for herself how untrue it is.
Hope this helped and this is what you wanted to hear/see.
Hatzlachah to you all.