divorce

Overcoming Oppressive Guilt

Guilt

The last couple of decades have not always been easy. I’ve got more than my fair share of trauma to speak of. And just when I thought I was starting to get a handle on things, physical pain started to become an all-consuming reality in my life.

But one of the biggest plagues that has harmed me over the years is guilt. The ever-pressing feeling that I’ve done things and made irreversible decisions that have and continue to cause myself and others harm.

Oppressive Guilt

And it isn’t easy to live with yourself when each and every day these oppressive feelings swarm into your mind. It isn’t easy when you cannot let yourself have a moment to breath without negativity creeping its way back to find whatever little crevice it could crawl its way into.

And when moments of happiness are marred by guilty feelings, you know it’s time to make some changes. You know it’s time to look deep into yourself and figure out if there’s anything that can be done to either fix the past, or at the very least move on from it.

Collateral Damage

And it would be so much easier if the past only hurt me.

My decisions along the way were mine. Only mine. If they harmed me or continue to cause me pain, so be it. But when the aftermath spills out and burns others in my life, especially those closest to me, sometimes the guilt is just unbearable.

Forgiving Myself

So I’m setting out with one of the more difficult tasks I’ve ever had to perform: Forgiving myself.

I don’t expect this to be a short and easy road, but it all begins with me putting one foot in front of the other.

The Past Lingers

One roadblock will inevitably be that the elements that caused me grief in the past are still around.

There is a Jewish teaching about someone who goes to a ritual bath to get purified while holding something that inherently causes impurity. They can immerse in the waters all day long, but every time they emerge, they are becoming impure once again.

Their Sisyphean task will never be complete.

And that is how I feel right now. I need to not only work hard to forgive myself for the errors I’ve made, but I need to work tirelessly to not allow things to enter my heart that will set me back. All that accomplishes is increasing the hurt exponentially, and the guilt comes pouring forward once again.

The Challenge of Self-Forgiveness

Why is it so hard for me to just look in the mirror and say, “You got this, Yitzchak. The past is the past. Let’s kick ass from here on out!” Why can’t I just let go and realize the blessings in my life far outweigh the challenges that have beaten me down along the way?

Why?

Because life is complicated. And the human spirit can only take so much before it is weakened to the point of submission.

No Excuses

I make no excuses. My failings are mine and mine alone. And I have by no means given up hope.

But I need to recognize the reality of the situation. No matter what I accomplish, no matter how good things can get, and no matter how much time has passed, there is one thing that still keeps kicking me down every single day of my life. And that is guilt.

Guilt marred my ability to be truly happy in the year before I moved back to Israel. How can I smile knowing full well that my children are an ocean away from me? How can I let myself even have even small moments of joy when I’ve made decisions that continue to cause grief to me and those closest to me?

Guilt Snaps Me Back

I sometimes see folk do a workout at the gym where they tie a resistance band around their waist and anchor it to a pillar or the like. Then they run forward. No matter how hard they push, ultimately the band will snap them back into place.

It looks like a fantastic exercise, but it’s a sad and unfortunate metaphor for the impact I believe guilt has on my life.

There is so much I wish to accomplish. And for certain I am not walking around without which to be proud. However, I don’t think I’ve accomplished a fraction of what I’m capable of. And I believe it’s guilt that’s holding me back.

Do I Deserve It?

Every time I move forward, every time I’m sure I’m going to get to some next stage in life, that exercise band just snaps me back into place. The feeling swarms me again that I’m not supposed to have great things. That somehow or other since people have had rough times because of the decisions I’ve made, there is an inherent limit on how much success and happiness I deserve.

Is any of this true? Is there a basis in reality for anything I’m feeling or experiencing?

Guilt is Poison

You might look at me with pity and tell me thoughts and feelings are silly or baseless. But they’re still there. They’re like a poison that seeps into my blood and crawls throughout my system whenever I feel like progress has been made.

And despite the philosophical knowledge that I can take all my guilt and let it go, when was the last time life were that simple? When was the last time anyone was able to take pervasive emotions and just cast them aside because on paper they don’t make sense.

And the guilt only makes the problems worse. The people who’ve suffered along the way, suffer more because of my guilt.

Fighting the Uphill Battle

I have an uphill battle ahead of me. I have so many years of being pulled in the wrong direction, that moving forward feels simply impossible.

However, the guilt can’t win. It doesn’t deserve to win.

I have all the tools in place to start fighting back. The next step is just to dive in and start learning how to forgive myself.

Today’s the first day of forever. And it’s going to be a good one.

It just has to be.

***

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Posted by jaffeworld in divorce, judaism, opinion, personal story, 0 comments

Two Questions Divorcees Never Ask One Another

Divorcee

Divorcees have their own subculture, their own little understanding and kinship with others like them. It’s sometimes fun and interesting, you’re standing there in front of someone and it becomes clear that your family structure isn’t exactly traditional. Then they reveal that their world is your world, and the smiling and camaraderie begins.

The Two Questions

I’ve noticed over the last few years that there are two questions I receive all the time. But I never receive them from other divorced people. They are the result of extreme (and understandable) curiosity. And they are by no means hurtful. However, they are never asked by other divorced people.

The first question sounds something like this:

When did you know? I mean, how early did you have some inkling of a clue that something wasn’t right there?

The second question:

If it was so bad, why did you stick around? How did you last as long as you did? Why didn’t you get out sooner?

The main reason, I believe, divorcees don’t ask each other these questions is because they already know the answers. It’s almost always the same for all of us.

Divorcee Question #1

When did we know?

Disturbingly early.

Most people could look back and say something chilling like, “I had an understanding that something might be off during our first date, but I kept on pressing because there was something about the experience I was enjoying.”

Others knew during engagement, or while walking down to the marriage canopy. And there are countless reasons they followed through anyway. The range is baffling. Some seem silly in retrospect, such as those who had already paid a hefty deposit for the wedding or sent out the invitations and didn’t want to deal with the shame and embarrassment of calling everything off.

It might sound silly. And few would admit it. But even if these aren’t the only reason people go through with a marriage they aren’t sure about, they are contributing factors for many.

A Feeling in the Pit of their Stomach

But there are bigger reasons. Some truly believe the red flags that are popping up are nothing in comparison to the happy moments and feelings. Others are so committed to the idea of marriage that they are willing to endure almost anything to follow through with the original plans. And others are blinded by what they can only assume is love.

Whatever reasons, most divorcees had a feeling in the pit of their stomach that they were making a terrible mistake. And that feeling didn’t start ten years into the marriage.

Are Doubts OK?

Now, I need to differentiate for a moment between this feeling I’m speaking about and doubts. Doubts, on the one hand, are natural. They are to be expected of both members of all couples. Doubt in the face of an enormous decision like this is as natural as fear while walking down a dark, quiet alley at nighttime.

If you don’t have doubts, I’m actually a bit worried about you. You are about to spend the rest of your life with another person. No doubts likely means you’re following your emotions exclusively and have left your intellect behind. This is rarely a recipe for success in life.

Normal people have doubts. However, if you have a powerful feeling in the pit of your stomach like you are making the biggest mistake of your life, this should not be ignored. There is no greater red flag. Follow your gut, and if necessary, walk away. Turning around and leaving only gets harder as time goes by.

Divorcee Question #2

So what about the second question? Why didn’t you leave? Why didn’t you run as soon as you were sure there were problems, problems that were very unlikely to ever be solved?

The answer is complex. Perhaps unsatisfying. And the question is also extremely unfair.

You see, we’re now looking back. Someone can easily look back at a decade’s worth of complications and pain and say, “Gee, that was loaded with unsolvable issues. I can pinpoint at least 20 times where I could have and probably should have just walked out the front door.”

But life is never that simple. Every day is its own day. Each and every day of your life you need to look at the entirety of the situation standing right in front of you. You need to evaluate, and there are countless considerations you must pore over.

Can I handle the financial turmoil that’s about to come my way? Am I ready to not see my children every single day? Am I making a decision based on current anger and resentment, rather than a careful, well thought-out one? Can I face up to the challenges that are about to be thrown my way, more challenges than I could ever imagine?

Fears and Second Guessing

And most days of the week, the fears and second guessing will be so powerful that you will head to bed that night still a married person.

So the questions isn’t really a one time, “Why did you stay knowing full well that it was so tough for you all of those years?” The question would need to be asked once a day, every day, for the duration of the period of suffering. And every single time the question is asked, there would be a host of different details that went into that day’s decision.

We could never have known that we would look back with absolute clarity and see that there really was only one choice all along. Sadly, that’s just not how the world works.

So What About You?

So, next time you’re thinking of asking a divorcee friend one of these two questions, you should have in mind a) they’ve most certainly been asked the questions before and b) the answers will be challenging, and likely some variation of what I just said. If they’re like me, they won’t have any issue answering your question. They’re open and honest and comfortable with how they feel.

But try not to pass judgment. And don’t second guess the decisions we made. You might have trouble with both these answers. But you don’t understand. It wasn’t you. You should thank God for that. And don’t assume you would do anything differently.

***

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Posted by jaffeworld in divorce, 0 comments

New Book Announcement: You’re Doing Everything Wrong

You're Doing Everything Wrong

I’m extremely excited to announce the publication of my second eBook, You’re Doing Everything Wrong. If you haven’t snatched up a copy of my first book, Teach Like a Ninja, please grab a copy at your nearest convenience (and don’t forget to write an Amazon review).

My new book, You’re Doing Everything Wrong, is a compilation of lessons I learned in the past several decades about dating, marriage, and divorce. The book has three sections with ten chapters dedicated to each of these important topics. It’s jam-packed with advice, stories, and just enough humor to make light of extremely complex and difficult topics. The basic premise: Learn from my mistakes rather than make them yourselves.

Here I’ll share some quotes from You’re Doing Everything Wrong with a bit of commentary. A little feel… before you pick up your own copy:

You’re Doing Everything Wrong: Dating

“Long-term dating and marriage are not solutions to loneliness… feeling lonely when you are married is infinitely more challenging than feeling lonely when single.” (Chapter 4)

It’s very easy to assume that when you’re single and lonely there is a magic panacea waiting for you out there. Just get married, and everything will be OK. No more loneliness. Your dreams have finally been achieved.

But this is so very wrong an approach.

Getting involved in a less-than-great marriage is a recipe for far worse pain than any loneliness you felt when single. Best to avoid learning this the hard way.

You’re Doing Everything Wrong: Marriage

“A marriage is only as good as the member of the unit who is putting in the least amount of effort.” (Chapter 13)

Never assume that any amount of effort you put into your relationship can save things if your partner is not willing to do the same. A relationship is a team effort. And the team member who shirks his duty, brings everything downward. They’re the team leader. And everything goes according to the inactive or less active partner. A good spouse and a bad spouse equals a bad marriage. Always.

“Never enter a marriage thinking you can change the other person, nor relying on the notion that they will naturally change as time goes by.” (Chapter 13)

Either assumption will leave you wide open for a very uncomfortable rude awakening. Assume that what you see is what you get. They might change, but don’t rely on it. Love the person you marry, not an idea of what you think they should be.

Wholeness and Floor Mats

“A marriage is ideally a union of two whole individuals coming together to create something far greater than the two of them separately.” (Chapter 14)

A marriage isn’t two halves creating a whole. That’s childish nonsense. A half person isn’t fit to be married. Only a person who knows himself and is happy with himself is ready to bring someone else into his life.

“You cannot be turned into a floor mat unless you let yourself be a floor mat.” (Chapter 16)

In any relationship in which someone is dominated by another, there exists fault in the one who is dominated. It is true that it is wrong and inappropriate to behave dominantly over another human being (who does not want it); however, it can only happen if the one being dominated allows it to happen.

Stand up for yourself, since you and your thoughts and opinions matter also. If you back down constantly, always trying to please the other, the end result will be your perpetual unhappiness. And that’s why this books exists! You deserve to be happy. Everyone deserves to be happy! Sometimes we just need some extra tools to help us get there.

Everyone Matters

“Everyone needs to feel like they’re important, their opinions matter, and they are a central piece of the household.” (Chapter 16)

If someone in a marriage feels secondary or neglected, the unit is broken. If someone “wins” an argument, ultimately no one does. One member gets a temporary feeling of control and victory, while one silently suffers in the background.

This feeling doesn’t go away. It just accumulates and ferments in its own juices, and over time it will destroy the unit. There’s a limit to how long anyone can let themselves be ignored before they break inside. When that happens, the marriage is essentially done. And both parties lose.

The only option is win-win solutions. All the time. Anything less is unacceptable.

You’re Doing Everything Wrong: Divorce

“All the greatness that’s yet to come in your life is built upon the shoulders of all the suffering that preceded it.” (Chapter 23)

How did you get to where you are now? And what lessons did you pick up along the way? Everything you’ve done up until this point, every shred of pain you have endured, exists for a reason. You may not know the reason yet. And you may not appreciate the benefit of what you have experienced. But it all needed to be there.

You are the person you are because of everything that happened before today. So don’t mourn over the past. Rather, embrace it, build upon it, and make your life what you want it to be.

“Deep within all of us is a kickass parent… And you finally have the opportunity to [be this] without the weight of a bad marriage holding you back.” (Chapter 27)

Co-parenting is really challenging. It’s rare that two people agree 100% on how to raise a child. And it’s even rarer that someone who is upset or depressed can parent to the best of their abilities.

Divorce provides a unique opportunity for many. You get the chance to be with your children entirely on your own terms. If you’re using this period in your life well, you should be able to escape the pain you felt earlier and be free to be the parent you want to be.

And every parent has the ability to be amazing, given the right circumstances. Embrace the kickass parent within you!

In Conclusion…

My past 20+ years have been very interesting and eventful. I made many mistakes along the way. But I’ve learned from all of them. You’re Doing Everything Wrong is a compilation of lessons I learned along the way. I learned them the hard way. Pick up my book and learn them the easiest way possible!

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Posted by jaffeworld in divorce, Health, opinion, parenting, 1 comment

Forgiving Myself (Guest Post)

This is quite a heartfelt guest post from my buddy Isaac Green.

If you also have something you’d like to say, something burning in your heart that you need to get off your chest, let me know. I’d love for you to make a guest post as well! Shoot me an email and we’ll talk: jaffeworld@gmail.com.

forgiving myself

A few weeks ago, I was serving dinner to my kids and I completely broke down. I started crying heavily. It was unstoppable. My whole body felt shattered, my mind was lost and I couldn’t stop weeping.

I Signed Up for It

Rewind. Last November, my kids’ mom and I decided to get divorced after being married for 12 years. Even after the initial conversation about possibly getting divorced, I still felt like I was wrong for not working harder to make it better, for not doing something different, or for being less selfish. For 12 years I had lived under a mantra: I signed up for it. When we lived apart while I was in grad school for two summers, I signed up for it. When her father died suddenly, I signed up for it. Also when we had trouble getting pregnant, I signed up for it. And when her mother lived with us for a whole year to take care of our first child, I signed up for it.

But, after a while, more and more things began to occur in our relationship where I started to ask: Did I sign up for this? Did I sign up for us not sleeping in the same room for six years because of a supposed sleep disorder? Well, that’s what I did for six years. Did I sign up for never spending any time together as adults after our children were born? I did for six years. Did I sign up for not having an equal say in our finances or our kids’ education or their diet? At a certain point, the answer started to be no. I didn’t sign up for that.

A Glimmer of Hope

And yet, I still clung to the glimmer of hope that something would change.

I am an emotional person in the sense that I have a lot of passion about things and I get heated about some things. But I also bottle up my emotions and try to be “strong” – not for others, but for myself. I cannot allow myself to feel what’s going on. I just internalize it. It’s a coping mechanism I’ve developed to get through traumatic aspects of my life.

That night when I served my kids dinner, one word of criticism from my eight-year-old son about how he didn’t like something I had made sent me spiraling. All of the feelings of loneliness, of being unworthy, a bad father, a bad husband, of not trying hard enough, of feeling defeated, they gushed out of me all at the same time.

On the positive side, my kids saw their father as a human. Frail at times, capable of feeling emotions, caring about them, apologizing to them for his flaws. We cried together, we hugged and held each other as our new family. After the incident, I felt better. Like I had allowed myself to be vulnerable. But in all of that, the most positive was a first step. Something I never really did in all of the years of having signed up for something that I ended up being cut out of. That day, I started to forgive myself.

Forgiving Myself

Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are quickly looming ahead of me and of all of us. We are meant to create visions of who we will be and to find those we harmed and wronged and ask for forgiveness. This year is particularly difficult as I am not sure how to ask forgiveness from my soon-to-be-ex-wife. There’s a lot of bitterness and hard feelings there. But, I do know one person that needs my forgiveness: me. Accepting my lack of perfection, my frailty, my mistakes doesn’t make me less of a father and person, it makes me capable of greater growth. Losing myself in front of my kids was a step in a teshuva (repentance) process where the person I need to apologize to is myself.

I need to apologize to myself for not being more proactive sooner, for allowing negativity in my marriage to grow and fester, for not standing up to a bad relationship sooner, for not being strong enough to fix it all by myself, for still feeling slightly worried when I do things with my kids that their mother would never have allowed when we lived together. I am not sure where this all takes me, but I bless anyone who might read this that when we sit down to do our chesbon hanefesh (personal inventory, to borrow an AA term), we remember that we must forgive ourselves before we can begin to forgive and ask forgiveness of others.

Shana Tova

***

Isaac, thank you once again for your beautiful contribution. I’d love to hear from all of you!

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Posted by jaffeworld in divorce, guest post, opinion, 0 comments

Never Settle

Never Settle

If you’ve been watching for any amount of time, you’ve heard me highly critical of several aspects of the dating scene in Israel (especially in Jerusalem). I think single people are looked down upon, and are in many ways treated like second-class citizens. And I think that the pressure is far too intense, and it pushes people to make decisions they do not want to make.

I wanted to address another topic that feels like it comes up a lot. And the topic makes me livid.

It’s Time to Settle Down

In the Jewish world (perhaps to some extent outside), when you hit a certain age without settling down and having kids, people begin to look at you funny. This is true for men, but the amount of inappropriately aggressive pressure placed upon women is downright reprehensible.

And just to be clear, we’re talking about people in their early 30’s or even late 20’s.

And what happens when a person (gasp) is looking long and hard for someone they truly love and admire, someone with whom they can picture building a caring family with for the rest of their life? What happens when they choose to continue that search past these ancient years?

They are told things like they shouldn’t be so picky, or they should lower their standards or expectations, or they should learn how to settle with someone with whom love could develop later on.

If I accomplish nothing else this entire year, I’ll be happy if I found out just one person heeded these words:

Be picky. Do not lower your standards. Your expectations can and should be met. And never settle. Never, ever settle.

I know at times it can seem impractical. But not everyone meets the right person at age 20, not everyone meets and marries the right person at all, and more so than anything else, it’s best to do everything in your power to meet someone you truly want to be with. It’s best to find someone with whom you’re compatible, with whom you can picture spending the rest of your life. And even if you start late or very late in life, it’s best to spend the rest of your life with the right person, than a minute with the wrong one.

Why Should You Settle?

I’m trying really hard to understand the mindset of those who push toward lowering standards in order to ensure a quicker match. These are what I believe are three reasons behind their thinking, and my responses:

Love Comes Later

“Don’t look for perfect. Look for really good. Love can and will develop.”

Right… And next you’re going to tell me divorce rates are getting lower, and couples across the world are happier than they’ve ever been.

Fact is, not every couple is compatible. Some relationships are volatile, cancerous messes whose ends are inevitable. The question isn’t if the relationship will survive. The question is when they will finally pull the trigger and put it out of its misery.

The notion that any two people can put together a happy, healthy household is patently absurd. There isn’t a shred of evidence to support the idea, and continuing to perpetuate it will just keeping pushing people to make more and more bad decisions.

The base of a sustainable couple is shared values. They should NEVER settle for less. But after that, there are still plenty of things that should not be considered unnecessary. They should could be considered integral parts of a healthy relationship.

You could and should have lots of fun together. Lots of fun!

If you don’t, the assumption that you might one day have that is asinine at best.

Single is the Devil

“You’re doing yourself a disservice by remaining single. The only proper way to truly accomplish and enjoy life is through marriage.”

I’ve already written extensively about my feelings when someone insults single people or our supposed lack of abilities or potential for true happiness.

I think the concept is abhorrent.

And utterly and completely wrong.

Furthermore, it ignores the statistics. It ignores the reality of the world out there. There are many happy, accomplished single folk out there in the world. And there are many people suffering through countless terrible, debilitating marriages.

I believe there’s an agenda. Usually a religious one. The agenda is attempting to prevent behaviors others deem inappropriate or sinful prior to marriage. It’s fine if that’s your belief system. It’s not fine if you’re willing to let others make ill-fated, hasty, uninformed decisions just because of your own stubborn and dare I say somewhat outdated beliefs.

And even further, by pushing people to leave being single prematurely, you’re also preventing them from doing the single greatest thing they can to attract another great human being into their life:

Working on being amazing at being single.

That doesn’t mean sneering at the concept of dating or serious relationships. That means spending your days not hyper-focused on marriage, but rather focusing your full attention to becoming a great individual.

You are worlds more likely to never even consider settling and to attract an amazing person if you have spent many a waking hour bettering yourself and pushing your confidence through the roof.

Loneliness Prevention

“I just don’t want you to be lonely. There is nothing worse.”

There is something worse. Something so much worse. Please understand that being lonely while married is infinitely worse than being lonely while single. I’ve been both. There is no comparison.

There’s a lot I can say about the topic, but I’l leave you with this: When you’re single and lonely, there’s a way out somewhere. There’s hope. When you’re married and lonely, it feels like there’s no escape. This is your reality. Loneliness forever.

Having another person in your life does not equal an end to loneliness. But being in a bad relationship creates endless problems and solves none.

So What Should You Do?

What do I propose?

Wait. Wait as long as it takes. Work day in and day out to have a life filled with joy, growth, and accomplishment. Never settle for less with your single life. Never settle for less than amazing with your partner for life.

What if you knew that waiting another ten years would produce the results you are looking for? Choose the ten years. Choose it every time.

Never settle.

Never ever settle.

 

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Posted by jaffeworld in divorce, opinion, 0 comments

Tales of Jewish Dating, Part III: Dating Wrong

Jewish Dating Wrong

Dating Wrong

Wrapping up this little series on Jewish Dating, I’d like to discuss some major insights I’ve pieced together.

I don’t have all the answers. Not even close. But 20 years of dealing with dating, marriage, and divorce have taught me a few lessons about what to do. And more importantly, what not to do.

Here are five little gems. Feel free to argue (even if you’re wrong):

Don’t Ooze Desperation

Don’t say yes to every date proposed for you. And don’t hang around with someone you’re pretty sure isn’t at all right for you, hanging on the hopes that maybe things will turn around.

And please don’t run around telling the world you’re looking to get married.

There are two reasons for all of this. First, it creates a lot of pressure on yourself. Nothing good comes from walking around stressed or unhappy. And pushing yourself too hard can result in hasty and/or bad decision making.

But just as important, desperation is unattractive. Confidence pulls people toward you. Knowing what you like, being comfortable with yourself, and standing for what you believe in pulls people toward you. When you ooze desperation, it’s like a nasty aroma that nobody wants to come close to.

Go on dates. But don’t make it the heart of your existence. Dating is something a whole person does with the hopes of sharing their fantastic life with another person. If it’s everything to you, then when it doesn’t work out, you have nothing.

Which leads to my next point.

Being Single is Amazing

Before I got married, I hated being single. I didn’t know how to do it well. Now I have a new problem. I love being single so much, I may have lost the capacity to join someone else into my life. But that’s for another post.

I believe learning how to love being single is a prerequisite for marriage. It might sound peculiar, or even counterintuitive. However, there are three main reasons for this:

a. Those leading a quality single life are more interesting and more desirable. No one wants to date someone dull, nor does anyone want to live a life that’s just about dating. It’s unfulfilling now and most certainly in the long run. You shouldn’t look back and worry about the lost time in your life.

b. A healthy marriage involves the intelligent fusion of two whole individuals. They are wonderful separately, and even more wonderful as a pair. It shouldn’t be that your only contribution to the unit is having agreed to be a part of it.

c. Most importantly: Happiness comes from within, not from a spouse. Fact is, no spouse, no matter how amazing, can determine whether or not you are happy. That is a personal decision. And if you mask true happiness with joy that solely emanates from another person, when you remove that person, you remove the happiness. Your true joy needs to come from you. Learn to love being single. Then open your heart to share your incredible self with another person.

Dating Should Be Fun

Jewish dating isn’t fun. As I’ve mentioned earlier, it’s pragmatic. It’s stressful. There is a tremendous amount of pressure, both external and internal.

It really, truly does not need to be this way.

You want to get married. I get it. That doesn’t mean dating is a chore on the road to accomplishing your goal. Let yourself go. Be loose. Be yourself. Enjoy the moment. Enjoy the other person. It doesn’t have to lead to marriage to be enjoyable. You may just have found a new person in your life. Who knows? Maybe they’ll become a good friend or a business connection. Or maybe you’ll just have had a pleasant, memorable evening.

Obviously it takes two people to make that happen. But all communal shifts in attitude begin with one person.

Go at the Same Pace

It’s very important to gauge the temperature of the person you’re with. Some of us have the tendency to go from 0-60 extremely quickly, and we miss the fact that the person we’re with is taking their time.

What happens when this occurs? At first it’s OK. Or at least it feels fine. One party is constantly calling and complimenting and giving small gifts. The other is enjoying the attention, but is not really moving toward any meaningful feelings.

After a certain amount of months, the slower party is either interested in continuing the slow pace, or wants to move on from the relationship; and their pursuer is just a drip away from proposing! With feelings galore, he is in for a rude awakening and about to have his heart severely broken.

Relationships are complex. There are lots of moving parts. And sometimes it’s easy to forget that whereas each and every one of your feelings are entirely valid, so are all of those of the other party. If you ignore them, the end results will not be good. The best way to know what another person is feeling is through open and honest communication. If it’s not there, the relationship is doomed to fail anyway. Get out.

Just make sure you’re on the same page, looking for the same things, and going at a similar pace.

Know when to say yes… and when to call it quits

When do you ask a person to marry you? There’s only one correct answer. No one knows! How great it would be if life were that simple. It would be amazing if we could predict the viability of a relationship with any level of certainty!

But we can’t. We only have what we have.

What’s that? Our hearts, our minds, and our trusted companions.

Problem is, most of us have a tendency to ignore one or more of these three elements, and they’re all essential. More often than not, the heart gets all the attention. We’re left with a brain mindlessly following emotions, without any shred of logic. Without any checks and balances. We can all fall into this trap. And the easiest way to protect ourselves is to be surrounded by people we love and trust, who can help us make thoughtful, intelligent decisions, without fear of consequence.

We might not have all or even anywhere near close to all the answers. But we were born with keen minds and a need for meaningful companionship. We need to use them all when it counts the most.

 

What did you learn from your journey?

 

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Posted by jaffeworld in divorce, Israel, judaism, 0 comments

Tales of Jewish Dating, Part II: Lessons Learned

wejewish dating

In my last post, I told many stories about the less-than-perfect experience I had with shadchanim and Jewish dating. I’d like to speak about some things I learned from these experiences.

Not All Shadchanim are Created Equal

First, not all shadchanim are made equal. Some really take the time to get to know you. It doesn’t feel like a matchmaking factory, where they’re sending you out constantly, hoping if you go out enough times you’ll hit pay dirt. They actually want to connect people for whom they perceive a logical connection. And their heart is in the right place. Your long-term tranquility and happiness is the center of their concern.

Others… not so much. It’s a numbers game. They toss people out, knowing full well that if you shoot enough times at the target, you’re bound to graze the bullseye a few times. The elephant in the room is that this type of dating is horrendous, with potentially disastrous long-term results. Dating can get very expensive, and it’s really difficult emotionally. Jewish dating in my crazy city is not fun. It’s often a highly pragmatic marriage interrogation. If it works out, great. If not, you have nothing to show for it. Just lost time and money. No new friend or connection. No amazing experience. Just another failed attempt to find “the one”.

And what happens when it does work? What happens when you toss people together enough times and at some point they do get married? Are you creating healthy, long-lasting relationships based on trust, shared values, and quality communication? Or are you just tossing people in the same room and letting the chips fall where they may? And then abandoning these young, ill-fated couples to figure it all out on their own?

I’m sure there are shadchanim out there who are skilled and thorough. And I’m sure there are those who just have a knack for what they do. The others should stop. They’re doing more harm than good, all positive intentions aside.

Interpretation

Another lesson I gained is about terminology. There are phrases I would use to describe myself that I would never use again in front of a shadchan. I consider myself to be extremely open-minded, especially relative to a lot of folk in my immediate vicinity. However, I quickly learned that whereas I mean that I am open to all sorts of different thoughts and ideas, and I’m willing to try many things in life even way outside my comfort zone, the term seem to get misconstrued by shadchanim as “has no standards”.

So, if you want a shadchan who goes through a list of those who as of yet no one wants to date, by all means tell them you’re open-minded. Please be aware: The damage to your self esteem upon seeing the type of people you get set up with could crush your soul.

Jewish Dating, a Bit Too Serious

A final lesson I culled from the Jewish dating process is it saps your will. It could certainly be expensive. It is most definitely time consuming. But more than any of that, the emotional drain is severe. Keep in mind, this is a very serious form of dating. You’ve got two people interacting, both who wanted to be married yesterday. Hell, they want to have three kids by now! There’s no time for letting go and just enjoying the moment.

In fact, the best date I ever went on was, by Jewish dating standards, an absolute failure. We learned very quickly that we had certain values and lifestyle choices that didn’t mesh correctly. Marriage was out of the question, therefore so was continuing to date. However, we were already there and enjoying each other’s company. I recall very little about this young lady. I don’t even remember her name or what she looks like. But I will never forget the hour and a half we sat just chitchatting on a bench in Jerusalem, eating sunflower seeds and spitting shells all over the place (Israel’s simultaneously most revolting and most amazing custom). The conversation was fantastic. All pressure was 100% gone. And we sat there with the ability to enjoy ourselves, without a care in the world.

It’s actually funny. When going on a date in any capacity, the advice everyone always gives you is to be yourself. And yet with this style of dating, it’s so rigid and uncomfortable that being yourself ceases to be a viable option.

What’s next?

And when all the smoke clears, the date usually ends one of two ways: You either continue on the marriage trajectory, zooming your way to a new apartment filled with wall-to-wall children. Or you have nothing. Nothing at all. No friendship has been created, nor do you have a long-term, meaningful connection. No adventurous story has been added to your life. You just move on to the next uncomfortable moment, hoping that this one will be different. And you try to forget this lousy moment, and the time from your life you will never be able to get back.

Again, I’m sure there are those who try and set people up with the finest of intentions, and who are thoughtful and caring about really trying to put two people in the same room who actually should be. And thus quality dates and marriages might result.

That was not my experience.

Nope. I met my wife on a bus. And sure, it didn’t work out in the end. But we hacked 13 years together. Seems better than most this day and age.

And I’d still take a bus over a shadchan any day of the week.

In my next post I’ll talk about some more important lessons I culled from these last insane 20 years.

 

Anything you learned from your experiences?

 

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Posted by jaffeworld in divorce, Israel, judaism, personal story, 1 comment

Tales of Jewish Dating, Part I: Shadchanim and Beyond

shadchanim

In The Beginning…

Almost two decades ago, I started dating with a fury. I was visiting shadchanim and going on dates just about every week.

And I was miserable.

At the time I was living in Israel, watching all my friends getting married, and itching to find my own soulmate. Arguably pathetically desperate.

I went to many, many shadchanim. This word loosely translates to matchmakers (and very humorously is also the word in Hebrew for staplers). No, they’re not what you might picture from Fiddler on the Roof. It’s a fairly modern version of a similar idea. They’re simply people who maintain lists of guys and girls, and try to attempt to intelligently pair them up.

I don’t want to crap on the profession (or hobby). But I can definitely say it was a system that failed me terribly.

To start my tale, I want to tell a few stories from my pre-marriage attempts to meet people through the “system”.

Shadchanim and Common Character Traits

I recall sitting in a hotel lobby with an Israeli girl. We attempted polite conversation, but failed miserably. And to make matters all the more uncomfortable, she was very clearly a gold digger. I don’t really have a problem with that per se… however, at that point in my life I was working as a sofer (scribe), and living on scraps. How do you tell your gold digger date that you’re living in a caravan for $90 a month, and still sometimes struggle to make rent?

Afterwards I went to the shadchanit (female matchmaker) and politely asked her what she saw that made her think we would be a good match. And that’s when she said two words that will forever live in my mind in infamy:

“Mostly age.”

I still get angry even typing the words.

For God’s sake, if the only thing you can find in common between two people is something wildly trivial, and you completely ignore all other details that show the match is not a good one, get another hobby!

Common Philosophical Outlook

Another odd moment I had involved a young lady who sat across from me and stated without a shred of irony that she can’t believe how anyone can call themselves Lubavitch and not believe the Rebbe is the Messiah.

Now for anyone who has no idea what I’m talking about, the Rebbe is a reference to the leader of a Chassidic group (Lubavitch or Chabad) who died in 1994. A rapidly quieting faction decided that despite his death, the Rebbe was in fact the Messiah. There is a minuscule portion of the Jewish population who believes this. And then there are the rest of us, who find the idea to be anywhere from inane to repellent.

My thoughts upon hearing that my date held this position with extremely aclacrity:

“Well… I guess the rest of this date’s a formality… ”

Shadchanim and Looking for a Little Growth

Once I went to a shadchanit who sat with a little rolodex of eligible guys and girls. You would tell her a little about yourself and she would flip through her little card catalogue from an era gone by, trying to see who might be a fitting match.

I described myself, as one might in their early 20s, as being very spiritual. Constantly searching. Looking to grow and become a better person every day of my life.

At least twice during our little meeting, she said something along these lines:

“Oh, this is a very lovely girl. She’s a nursing student. Very pretty. Extremely nice attitude. And… oh wait, sorry. She’s not into growth.”

And then she would continue fiddling with the rolodex looking for the next candidate.

And I just stood there. Dumbfounded. Wondering what their conversation must have looked like.

“Hi, my name is Samantha. I would like to find a person with whom to stagnate and stay the same forever.”

Nearly two decades later, I still have no words.

And along with the no words, there is no segue that does this final story justice.

What’s a Little Hair Pulling?

Many moons ago I was hired to work as a security guard at a festival in Jerusalem. The workload was very light, but it is not within the capability of an Israeli boss to just to let you sit there and do nothing. When in doubt, they make up stuff to do.

And there I was. Appointed to stand next to the stage, and told my sole responsibility was to arbitrarily tell people they couldn’t walk past the area I was blocking.

And then, of course, everybody and their sister not only needed to walk through that area, but there was no other choice. And it was a matter of life and death.

One young lady stood in front of me. She gave me a sob story about how she had asked the people at the front entrance to use the bathroom, all so she could sneak into the concert. But alas, now she had a change of heart and wanted to leave. However, if she went out the way she came, they would know what she did. The ONLY way she could go to avoid trouble and embarrassment was the path that I was blocking.

Meanwhile…

Two other folk were screaming at me to let them by, as if my preventing their doing so was preventing them from curing cancer.

And the anger and emotions pouring from the three of them stood in stark contrast to my one and only responsibility.

This went on for what felt like a year, until while I was dealing with the screamers, the young lady decided to dart right past me.

I recall the next part in slow motion. I shouted, “Nooooo!” and reached in her direction… and before I knew what was happening, she was staring at me in pain. And I stood there with a fistful of her hair in my hand.

I awoke from my stupor, released my grip, and she ran off into the night. Never to be seen or heard from again.

At least that’s what I thought…

Two years later… I was walking along on a date… and I really thought the girl looked familiar…

Yes. That happened. It really did.

Suffice it to say, there was no second date.

 

So… it would appear that the road of shadchanim was not the right path for me. What’s next?

 

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Posted by jaffeworld in divorce, humor, judaism, personal story, 0 comments

The Inevitability of Infidelity

Infidelity

The Inevitability of Infidelity

If someone cheats on a spouse, are they an awful person?

When I was younger I would have thought of that as a ridiculous question. Infidelity is wrong. Done. No more talking.

I still believe there is some truth to that idea; however, I think it’s a discussion worth having. And probably the most clear thing in my life with each passing year is that nothing in this world is black and white.

Let’s get one thing out of the way real quick. (And for the sake of sanity, I’m going to ignore gender equality with pronouns and the like. Everything I’m saying applies equally for husbands and wives.)

When is infidelity most certainly not OK?

If a man’s wife is there for him in every way: Their life together is fun, exciting, and interesting. She supports him in his endeavors, pours words of encouragement his way, and pulls him through hard times. Their level of intimacy is wonderful and fulfilling, both qualitatively and quantitatively. Through and through, she makes all reasonable efforts to be a remarkable spouse. If all that is there, and he cheats regardless, he is a piece of garbage.

But life is rarely that simple. And sadly, spouses rarely fit a description like this one.

I’ll be the first to admit that I was far from a perfect spouse. I’m not even sure there is such a thing. But I think I learned enough along the way to break down the primary “responsibilities” of a spouse into three categories:

  1. Emotional support
  2. Motivation
  3. Intimacy fulfillment

Emotional Support

Spouses must be there for each other through all the hard times, big and small. They must provide a firm yet soft shoulder to cry on. When one is down, the other must be there to pick them up and help them through the challenges. They must stick together as a team, and no matter how many family members or close friends are in the picture, the spouse must take the lead. They must be the primary sources of emotional support for one another.

Motivation

Remember that song Cheerleader, all over the radio for months? It’s very easy to get lost in the catchiness of the tune, and miss these simple and great words: “When I need motivation, my one solution is my queen … She is always in my corner, right there when I want her … I think that I found myself a cheerleader, she is always right there when I need her.” This is one of those few songs that makes me say, “Yeah. That’s what I want!”

Whereas I don’t believe, God forbid, that spouses should just cheer each other on no matter what they say and do, when they need motivation, they should be one another’s primary source. They could and should be able to criticize each other. That’s part of helping each other grow as well, so long it’s done tactfully, respectfully, and in moderation. But they should certainly be able to seek inspiration and motivation from one another. And again, they should be each other’s first choice for this motivation.

Intimacy Fulfillment

And finally, a relationship must be sexually fulfilling. That does not mean submitting to the will or bizarre fetishes of your partner, but it does mean seeking their enjoyment and satisfaction, and making adjustments if they aren’t there. There must be free and open communication, so that everyone’s opinions and feelings are on the table, and they could work together toward a mutually satisfying intimate life.

Again, with all three elements in place, infidelity should not occur. And if it does, the adulterer is a lousy human being. They should be abandoned, and the court should crush them financially. They threw away something special, something most people could only dream of.

But what if one of these elements is lacking in a marriage?

I’m not talking about a brief moment where one of these elements is slower than normal. If (when) their sex life gets interfered with by pregnancy or raising young children, both parties will need to work harder in order to make sure the changes are not permanent, but the man or woman who turns to infidelity to deal with the temporary setback has a lousy character, and should be ashamed at how they deal with their issues.

No, I’m talking about a perennial lack of one of these elements. No man or woman would knowingly sign up for a lifetime of minimal emotional connection, support, or intimacy. And even though just about anything is tolerable in the short term, these aren’t optional aspects of life. Without them, life feels empty. The pain grows, and just worsens with each passing day. Human beings are not designed to live without these, and if there is no divorce, at some point down the road of this incomplete marriage, infidelity will become borderline inevitable. The actual infidelity is highly likely; however, the urge toward it is entirely inevitable, and just sitting around awaiting the right moment.

Emotional Infidelity

One might argue that this adultery would only result from a lack of marital intimacy, and not from an emotionally unavailable or un-encouraging spouse.  I respectfully disagree. I think by nature we are drawn to the people from whom we seek these connections, and even though the connection might begin as a platonic one, each passing day is a step closer to the relationship evolving into an intimate one.

But it’s all preventable. None of this needs to happen. For certain we can make better choices about whom we marry, to lessen the possibility of a union with the wrong person. However, the average marriage need not go down this road. Most of us have hobbies we love to improve at. Why not put that same energy into being incredible husbands and wives? And why not do everything we can to better ourselves, to be there for our loved ones, to communicate with one other often and effectively, and to be a united team, two people so connected that the thought of infidelity is loathsome?

Why not? I wish I knew the answer. Unfortunately, we can only control our own actions and behaviors, and a marriage is only as good as the partner who puts in the least amount of effort. We can only hope everyone understands what’s at stake when we give less than our best to something this important.

May we all find willing and capable partners in our lives, and work together to form a truly united, loving, and caring team!

 

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Posted by jaffeworld in divorce, opinion, 0 comments

The Permitted Discrimination

discrimination
I recently heard a brief talk. During the talk the speaker said a few sentences that irked me, despite receiving no complaints from the crowd.

“Someone who is single is incomplete.”

“Someone who is unmarried can never really accomplish anything in life.”

“Life cannot be properly fulfilled without a spouse.”

Listeners nodded in agreement. And I stood there, nauseated at yet another example of the permitted discrimination.

Replace any of these statements with a race, religion, or sex, and you are vehemently shunned, and disgraced for your lack of values and your crude insensitivity.

Someone who hails from an Arab nation is incomplete. A woman can never accomplish anything in life. Life can never be fulfilled as a black person. Say any of these statements, and the world over is outraged. Replace them with “single” and no one really cares.

Singlists, the Permitted Discrimination

Many members of my community, and in particular in Jerusalem, are rampant singlists. Yes, the word is ridiculous. I din’t even know it was a real thing until I Googled it.  135,000 hits, by the way. (And WordPress, for the record, puts a red line under “singlist” but not under “Googled”) I was actually hoping to either coin the term, or come up with something more creative that sounds a lot nicer.

But I digress.

I want to address this phenomenon from multiple angles.

First of all, all of those earlier statements are absolute crap. And the only reason someone can publicly state them, is because this is a culture where people have been blindly accepting them as true for ages.

A person who is single can most certainly be complete. And a married person can be outrageously incomplete. I was married for 13 years and felt broken throughout those years. I feel more complete at the moment than I have ever felt before. We’ve arrived at a point in history where we cannot continue to perpetuate this lie that life can only be fulfilling if one is married. In the worst case scenario, you are pressuring  your listeners into rushing into this promised fulfillment, only to find out in the worst way possible that the promise was nothing more than a manipulative, gargantuan falsehood.

How long will we allow people to perpetuate this lie, to rush people into situations that will ultimately harm them, in order to substantiate a narrative that is continuously disproven?

Single By Choice

I am in an odd category in this city. Everyone here, it seems, is either married or working tirelessly to become so. And me, I’m SBC (Single By Choice). (I hoped to coin that one too. No such luck–see here). Yeah, I suppose there’s a small part of me that would like to get married again. Or at least that wants to want to get married again. But life is good, life is fulfilling. And it comes from within, not from trying to please another.

And this really is the heart of the matter.

When I was young, I was miserable as a single person. Then I got married… and I was miserable as a married person. Now I’m single and happy, which I believe to be a prerequisite to being able to be married and fulfilled. That is not to say one needs to be complete and entirely fulfilled in order to marry successfully. If so, no one would ever get married! This is an ideal we should strive for our entire lives, and we should never be fully satisfied, and always growing.

However, there is a certain level one must get to.

Independent Happiness

If you don’t know who you are, you end up identifying too much with who you believe your spouse wants you to be. If you are unfulfilled and believe marriage is the answer, you leave yourself vulnerable to rushing into situations that are inappropriate.

The best solution to both of those is to learn how to lead a happy and fulfilling life on your own, thus preventing you from desperately leaping into a bad marriage or opening yourself to hopelessly being changed by another person. Only a complete person can successfully allow someone else into their lives.

And when the society constantly pushes its members to make important decisions before they’re good and ready, they’re doing everyone a disservice.

 

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Posted by jaffeworld in divorce, Israel, opinion, 0 comments