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Preparing for Part Two

Ariel Greenberg

More and more couples today are witnessing their own churban — the dissolution of their own mini Beis HaMikdash. But second chances are the blessing of life, and whether widowed or divorced, it’s always possible to rebuild. What happens in the interim, in that preparation phase between the first and second bayis? And how can the newly single fortify themselves for Part Two?

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

The shidduch process is daunting in the best of cases.

Take a young man and a young woman, both unaccustomed to communicating with members of the opposite gender, throw them together for a few hours five or ten times, and hopefully there will be a mazel tov at the end.

But then there are people for whom the process is more complex. No, they’re not less-accustomed to communicating with members of the opposite gender; in fact, it’s their previous experience that makes the process more complicated. From widows and widowers to those who are divorced, these men and women have been through the loss or pain, and sometimes the stigma, of a previous marriage. And now they are ready to move on, to hopefully find the right one — for the second time.


Getting Realistic

Once a miniscule subset of people seeking shidduchim, second-timers are no longer a tiny minority. Dovid Katsburg of Jerusalem’s Binyan Olam, one of the largest chareidi, non-Internet-based shidduch databases, shares some staggering statistics. “Since we started five years ago, we’ve interviewed and registered 8,000 singles, many of whom are now married. Out of that total, we’ve interviewed 2,000 men and women — about half of each — who have already been married once.”

Yet for all the growth in numbers, second-timers still feel like a lonely bunch.

Chanoch, four years after a divorce, says he’s been working on himself ever since his last marriage disintegrated, trying to approach shidduchim with a more mature, pragmatic view.

“The fantasy attitude is so common, it’s easy to fall into the pattern of being unrealistic,” he says. “People in shidduchim have a healthy tendency to try to imagine their bashert, but there’s no way to conjure a theoretical person. So some singles resort to fantasy and imagination, building Mr. or Mrs. Perfect, only to be disappointed by reality. For second-timers, this situation is exacerbated by their previous experience. They are sure the right one will be different, a fresh experience differing sharply from their previous spouse.”

But searching for someone “better” than the ex could be dangerous. “The mentality might be, ‘I’m done and I’m moving on — I want to get on with life.’ Not so fast,” says Rabbi Dovid Weinberger of Congregation Shaaray Tefila in Lawrence, New York. “Is this a decision you really thought through? Are you really prepared?”

A divorcé seeking to remarry has to move past the first marriage, Rabbi Weinberger agrees, but he should discuss what went wrong, in therapy, with a rav, or both. “If he talks about where he was at fault, understands how he was part of the failed marriage, and deals with the issue, there is a better chance it won’t repeat itself.”

A divorcé’s preparations for remarriage require introspection, explains Mr. Shaya Ostrov, a well-known social worker and author in Far Rockaway, New York, who specializes in dating and marriage. A divorce is the end of a relationship with someone the divorcé once cared for and loved, and there is a need for him to acknowledge this changed identity. “The person they’ve internalized over the years is now lost to them,” Mr. Ostrov says. “It’s a tremendous sense of loss.”


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