Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

24 Elul 5765 - September 28, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Home and Family

Considering a Divorced Person or Widower

By Rebbetzin Nomi Travis

Part I


"Dear Shadchante,

I am a single girl who has been in shidduchim for more years than I want to mention. I've reached the point where I feel that I should consider previously married men, i.e. widowers and divorced men, but I do not know how to go about this research. By now, my family does not get so involved in my social life and I feel like I need tools for researching dates, for processing the dates and sorting out what I feel/think after a date...

Another point I wanted to air concerns: my family and friends. I sense that a lot of people who are close to me feel burned out and keep their distance about discussing/ suggesting shidduchim for me. It IS a sensitive topic for me but I feel like I need someone to speak to in a non- pressured, free and, easy way. Can you advise all the "well intentioned eitza-givers" to play it cool. Not to pressure the mature girls/fellows in shidduchim, yet to stay connected to us??

Thank you in advance,

I hope you can help the situation . . .

P.S. I follow your column religiously....

Single and Trying to Stay Sane"


A Prerequisite: Are You Ready?

The first aspect that comes to mind, reading your question, is about the basic decision to consider widowers and divorced men. Are you aware of what it entails? You have to make sure that not just on paper, but practically speaking, you are ready to face the challenges. To feel like you are compromising and will then get more offers does not help unless you will give them a fair chance.

I personally know of older girls who asked shailas, made concessions, and were then willing to look into suggestions that in the past they regarded as far from perfect. They went through the whole process of scrutinizing the other person. But at the end of the day, they could not come to terms with the reality. I know an outstanding baal tshuva who often gets suggestions of frum- from- birth girls. He is quite wary, for in his personal experience, such offers eventually back out because of his background. Once the Bais Yakov girl said "no" soon before he proposed, admitting that she couldn't come to terms with marrying a baal tshuva. It would have been preferable if she could have worked through her feelings beforehand, not letting it go so far, avoiding the emotional pain both sides had to endure.

Basic Difficulties

Someone who had a previous experience comes to the chupah with pre-conceived notions, while you are a novice. Therefore, your attitudes towards marriage are coming from different places.

A widower has the advantage over a divorced man, that the relationship was not willingly interrupted. There was no forced separation. On the other hand, often the image of a wife who passed away can be vivid a long time afterwards. Such reminiscences of a wonderful departed person can be powerful. As if the superior attributes are for posterity, almost like an angelic holy aura of an everlasting longing memory.

It is not simple to get over a close relationship, which by the way, is also true for the divorced person. Although severing ties carry deep resentment and anger, usually there are mixed emotions as well. Even short-term interactions, at least on a subconscious level, include recollections of positive times.

When there is a child involved, those bonds might be even stronger, for even if their contact has stopped, there is an unavoidable indirect association. A child is the holiest creation a couple can have, and will remain as a vivid link.

In addition to visiting times, shared responsibilities and financial pledges have to be honored. The nature of the relationship with the child is also a factor that can't be ignored. While some children are more open and accepting of a remarriage of a parent, others can be extremely disruptive. I know of second marriages that ended because the children succeed in creating serious distress, even though the couple did try to work through the issues. It can be quite complex and bring unpredictable stress to the new marriage.

Reasons for the Divorce

Even in religious communities, divorces are more common then they used to be. Somehow we have been influenced by the secular world, where marriage is not as solid or strong a commitment as it used to be. The reasons for a divorce can vary. Each case is different and should be thoroughly examined.

One of the main causes for a second split-up is that there was no reasonable chance given to the new marriage because s/he was still somehow healing from the separation. Therefore it is basic to be assured that the person suggested is ready to build a new life together with someone else. A new chapter and willingness to begin another relationship demand the necessary freshness and mindset to put in effort to succeed.

We can't always put the blame on one of the spouses. Marriages break up for many reasons, and often it isn't due to the "fault" of any partner. Many divorces could have been averted if a couple had learned early on to continually nurture their relationship and develop skills in areas such as communication and conflict resolution. Many men and women learn from the mistakes of their first marriage and are able to have a much more successful relationship the second time around.

However, certain upright and respected individuals fall short to fulfill the basic rudiments for a healthy family life. There was a famous public figure who was busy 'round the clock with communal needs, known as a tzadik to all. But his wife, after much untold suffering, expressed her pain that although he was busy helping everyone else, he failed to make time for the family. He never helped her, not even to take the garbage out! And his children also felt neglected!

Someone who was a reckless partner in a first marriage might be the same even with a different spouse. Abusive traits like violence tend to reoccur in varied scenarios. History repeats itself; someone can only change if s/he works on it. Mere resolution and promises are not enough. Chazal said that you could only know someone has truly repented if, when faced with a similar challenge, this time around the early mistake is not repeated.

I wouldn't rule out though, that there are individuals who manage to overcome their natural tendencies, making a radical change in their conduct. Someone who is honest and is willing to receive guidance has better chances to be believed. Do not underestimate the high statistics of how definite diagnosis and eventual medication changed lives. Often, counseling is needed.

[Final part next week: Inquiries and Well-Meaning Eitza Givers]

Rebbetzin Travis has many years of experience and success in helping people through shiduchim. Please note that all names have been changed unless specified, with the exception of well-known public figures like Gedolim and educators. Any comments, questions and stories can be sent to: or at (02) 656-3111


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