As a bochur in shidduchim, from time to time I get redd girls whose parents are divorced. I wish to know what my parents can ask when finding out information about the girl and what I can discuss with the girl on a date that can determine whether she has a healthy perspective and understanding of a relationship and a marriage.
Can the answer to this question also be applicable to a girl whose parent(s) passed away?
(Although it may not be my place to offer my opinion, as I’m sure everyone’s situation in life is very different, I strongly believe that every boy and girl from a divorced home should be given a fair chance to be looked into, without being thrown under the bus the second the divorce info is seen on the résumé.)
Your insight is appreciated.
To be completely honest, I have been struggling and torn as to whether or not to provide my thoughts on this particular inquiry. On the one hand, the question is of great importance, and sadly, it is one that is becoming practically relevant with ever increasing frequency. Moreover, and as you so rightly noted, single men and women from divorced homes should be afforded every opportunity to date and marry, and should not be relegated to the back of the line or pathologized as a result of the dissolution of their parents’ marriage.
On the other hand, however, each divorce is different, and it seems rather challenging to properly respond to this issue in any fashion other than a highly customized one. Some divorces are highly acrimonious, and others are perfectly amicable. Each child is impacted differently by divorce, and the age of a child at the time of their parents’ divorce can also be a major factor, among many others, in how they are shaped by the experience. No two divorces are the same, and no two children of divorce walk away with the same feelings and outlooks related to the occurrence. Accordingly, under no circumstance should anyone and everyone whose parents are separated be lumped into the same pile.
As such, it is with some trepidation that I share generalities in the public sphere on the subject, and I would strongly encourage those who are looking into dating someone who has divorced parents to speak with a rav and/or mentor in order to approach the opportunity in the most apropos of manners. Again, to be abundantly clear, this is not to say that the shidduch should be cast aside, it is only meant to strengthen the importance of individualizing the process, and not relying on highly non-specific direction.
Tangentially, and so as not to ignore a portion of the narrative, as far as those who have lost either or both of their parents, Rachmana litzlan, I believe that is an entirely different experience and arena, and perhaps one that will be addressed in an upcoming issue.
That said, I would like to convey two thoughts on the matter. One with respect to the researching of the shidduch, and one with respect to the dating itself. And in truth, they are really two parts of a greater whole.
When it comes to the research, I believe the goal is to determine how this single man or woman was affected by the divorce and whether or not they are emotionally prepared to date and to be in a healthy marriage relationship. Nothing more and nothing less. The particulars are not significant, and this is an area where people often get tripped up, as they mistakenly believe they need, or even deserve, to be regaled with every nitty gritty detail about the divorce. This is patently false.
Indeed, there are very spiteful divorces that produce children who are kind and loving, and there are seemingly agreeable divorces that leave a profoundly negative impact on the children, regardless of how smoothly the proceedings appeared to have unfolded. Now, it is also important to understand whether the parents themselves are healthy people, as they could be one’s future in-laws, but even then, the details are not relevant. What is necessary, is simply to be reasonably assured that everyone remains as whole as possible, and can maintain relationships moving forward.
Similarly, it is crucial to be absolutely sure that one is receiving accurate information on the above. This is not a realm where one should be talking to a friend of a friend of a friend and presuming that these indirect references have even the slightest clue as to what they are saying, or have any grasp on the reality of the situation. One must be speaking politely, frankly, and candidly with those who know the entire family well, within the scope of the divorce, and who can genuinely speak to the emotional health of each family member, post-divorce.
As far as the dating goes, it is my opinion that one should not be asking pointed questions about the divorce, or head-on asking the person whom they are dating how the divorce affected them vis-à-vis relationships and marriage. If the person one is dating chooses to broach the topic of their own volition, or if it arises naturally, so be it, but it should not be intentionally or forcefully prompted, and most certainly not at the early stages of the shidduch.
Instead, I believe the goal is to ascertain through normative dialogue, spending time with one another, and overall discussions about hashkafah, life objectives, marriage, and raising a family, whether this person appears to have a wholesome and stable outlook. If they can interact on all levels with middos tovos, maturity, equanimity, understanding, humility, respect, levelheadedness, and an open mind, that should be telling enough. Essentially, one should be looking out for the very same qualities and characteristics they would hope to identify in anyone they would be dating.
All told, if the picture that is painted by references, and confirmed over the duration of the dates, is that of a person who is fully equipped to be a spouse and a parent in their own right, that should allow one to carry on with confidence and conviction in the suitability and sustainability of the shidduch.
May the Gomel L’Ish Chessed Kimifalo ensure that all in His dominion have the prospect, facility, and capacity to build their very own beautiful bayis ne’eman b’Yisroel.