Monday, July 11, 2011

Thoughts on singleness

As I return once more to talk about matters of singleness, in particular the very real and pressing problem of delayed marriage and childbearing, I would like first of all to state that I am no expert on marriage or on how to avoid remaining single until later in life. It is only by G-d’s help that I got married at 22 and was a mother at 23, and for that I am infinitely grateful.

However, it seems to me that sometimes we hide behind saying things which are undoubtedly true, such as “G-d has a special plan for every person” and “you never know when you will meet your intended husband”. On an individual level this is of course true, but statistically, the age of marriage and childbearing has climbed up to alarming numbers, with an ever-increasing pool of older singles.

I have heard people (yes, even within the spectrum of Orthodox Judaism) offer all sorts of scandalous solutions, from sperm donation to polygamous marriages. Some claim there aren’t enough single Jewish men to go around, some say there are actually more men than women, and each side is ready to support its arguments with statistics. Well, I’m not an expert on numbers, but sound logic and first-hand observation tell me there are many single men and women, who all pay the price of loneliness, heartache, and on a larger scale, emotional and economical instability.

So what is to be done? In the first place, I believe that both men and women should put more thought into marriage, much, much earlier than is common these days. Planning and preparing for a future marriage must begin long before the actual search for a potential spouse. It has a lot to do with the choices we make early in life, in particular for young women. If a woman remains career-focused throughout her twenties, without a thought to spare for her personal life, she will in all likelihood see a most disappointing outcome of this in her thirties. By picturing marriage sometime in the distant future, she might miss many opportunities to meet good stable men who are willing to settle down, and waste her time on unworthy connections.

Second, young people should not be ashamed of letting others know they are seeking marriage. I’d like to know how many grieving and lonely hearts are hiding behind statements such as “sure, I would love to get married one day, but in the meantime I’m doing great as I am.” Of course we should always be content, single or married, but there is no shame in acknowledging something great is missing from our lives. Together with this, the relatives and friends of singles should always keep them in mind when it comes to prayer, support, and especially a potential introduction. The meddling Jewish mama might be a subject to countless jokes, but many marriages took place thanks to her.

Third, conscious effort must be made by singles to make time and opportunity for meeting someone suitable, just as time is made to pursue school, work, hobbies and other things which are ultimately not as important as starting a family. Suitable is the key word – no precious time should be wasted on those who are dawdling, aren’t sure whether they want to settle down yet, or are clearly incompatible.

Perhaps if such logical and simple steps are taken, we will be spared the frantic discussions on whether egg freezing is a good solution for single Jewish women in their late thirties. Of course our hearts should open up in grief and prayer for every such sad situation, but the fact that this matter comes up to public light hints that it’s becoming more and more prevalent, which is worrying. 


Stephanie said...

I can't tell you how many times I have heard the phrases you mention above. I think people mean well. I have to admit that I am single at 21 and I still feel like I am too young to get married. People aren't as mature as they used to be, I guess. I would love it if my parents would arrange something for me, but they are absolutely against it. I am on my own in that regard. Anyways, have a nice week, Anna. Praying for you and your family.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm, but see, at age 20-23 I was totally convinced nobody would want me EVER, and so I would have settled for the first loser who would vaguely like me, eventhough I didn't really like him. Would this have made for a successful marriage?

Lady Anne said...

I have to agree with Anonymous. My mom was so intent on keeping my sister and me from becoming vain that we both grew up thinking we were as plain as a mud fence and barely two steps above the village idiot. Both of us married young, and unsuitably. I, in particuar, was convinced that no one would ever have me. If we seek to marry someone who is our equal, then my fist marriage was "right" simply because it was so totally wrong.

Take your time, consider wisely, and for Heaven's sake, *listen* when somebody (other than your mother!) tells you "This is not a good idea."

Jana said...

I agree with your post, but I think parents have a lot to do with preparing their children for marriage. If the parents don't encourage or support marriage then the child is likely to find other avenues. My dad was all for getting a good stable job, becoming financially independent, and getting out and living on my own. He doesn't see family as the first priority but the one after establishing one's independence.

I think the reason so many people are so immature in their 20s is because they don't have the responsibilities of being married or having children. It would be better if society encouraged marriage and monogamy rather than promiscuity and pursuing their every whim.

One thing that would have been good to mention was to look for your spouse where you wish to find him. For instance, I put myself on a Catholic dating website so I could meet Catholic men. When going on a date we would meet at Mass first before going to dinner. All of our dates revolved around our faith life because that was what our marriage would be based on.

Thank-you for your wonderful posts.

Analytical Adam said...

All I have to say you should also thank "Man" Mrs. Anna as well as they deserve some credit. The Male Rabbis and the community deserve credit as well which many men and women aren't so fortunate to have their help which you clearly had for political reasons.

You should be consistent on both sides. When things go well you should give credit to God and man if that was the case which was the case here. And when things don't go well you should maybe think that maybe God is trying to tell you something as well and not just blame man although they do deserve part of the blame. If man is only to blame when things go wrong but don't deserve part of the credit when things go right that doesn't give them much of an incentive to do the right thing since they get no credit for it. At least not towards you Mrs. Anna.

In addition you won't change your own ways if all bad things that happen to you God had no hand in as well and it is only the fault of man. A radio show I listen to ends with God's will and your listener-ship that it isn't all up to God and man deserves credit as well when they do the right thing which God "DOES NOT" control. Shalom.


Carrie and Kurt said...

I agree, completely. You are so very wise and I fully enjoy reading your thoughts on this matter! I do wish more of my friends would embrace their desire for companionship and marriage rather than be embarrassed by it. Self-reliance is held in such high esteem in today's society that the thought of a woman admitting she wants a man is shameful. it's sad, really, as marriage provides such amazing opportunities to grow in every way as an individual, only you're involved in the betterment of another person as well.

Anonymous said...

I've come a bit late to this, but I have to ask (and I'm not being sarcastic or rhetorical): Why is this a problem? Why should a 21-year-old think he or she, barely out of his or her teens, must be married? What's wrong with marrying at 30? Why are singles assumed to be lonely, heartbroken and economically unstable? I just don't get this. One can be single one's entire life and be both content and secure--this isn't the 19th century, with women unable to access education and careers. Some people actually _enjoy_ those things, you know.