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AdviceLine: Issue 279 

“The people who grow the most are the ones who are unconditionally accepted the way they are today.”


My shidduch-aged daughter is struggling both spiritually and emotionally. Emotionally, she has trouble resolving conflicts, being honest with people, and speaking calmly in times of stress. If she’s upset at someone she’ll berate them and scream at them until she feels better, and then pretends like nothing happened. Similarly, if she makes a mistake, for instance if she does an aveirah, she’ll pretend it didn't happen rather than work through the emotions and do a proper charata-vidui-kabbalah teshuvah.

Spiritually, she has made a lot of mistakes regarding basic halachah and standards of a Bais Yaakov girl. (These mistakes started with non-Jewish music and movies, and then progressed to shomer negiah problems and drinking).

In my opinion she shouldn’t be dating at all, at least until she is stronger emotionally and more solid spiritually, but she is 20 years old and her friends are already starting to date and get married. I understand she wouldn’t, couldn’t, marry someone who is in kollel or living an intense Torah life. But how exactly am I suppose to advocate for her at all, when I myself would run away if she were from a different family and suggested for my son?

Rabbi Zev Leff

Your first and main move should be to encourage you daughter to seek help in improving herself spiritually and emotionally. Explain to her that her future happiness and stability depend on this, and delaying her involvement in shidduchim will be to her benefit.

In addition, advise her that the caliber of the person who will be her spouse, and what kind of the home she will be able to establish, will depend on who she is and what she has to offer as far as her level of Yiddishkeit and emotional maturity.

You should also inform her that if you are asked about her you must be honest in your response — lauding her strong points and being frank about her weaknesses and attributes. She should realize that people will not cover for her, or refrain from describing her as she really is. This is not to hurt her, but to be truthful and not deceive any prospective shidduch.

Perhaps if you cannot convince your daughter to seek aid and to build herself up before she seeks to build a home, then maybe a rav or rebbetzin, a teacher, or a good friend who she respects can impress upon her the necessity of such a move.

May Hashem Yisbarach give you hatzlachah, and may you see much Yiddishe nachas from your daughter and all your children.

Rabbi Zev Leff is the rav of Moshav Matisyahu, rosh yeshivah of Yeshiva
Gedola Matisyahu, and rosh kollel of kollel Yesod Refael. Rav Leff is an internationally recognized lecturer, and teaches in numerous seminaries, where he is valued for his incisive classes that combine scholarship, wit, and a deep understanding of contemporary issues.

Mrs. Dina Schoonmaker

It seems that your daughter’s situation is very loaded emotionally for you. The intensity of your feelings may indicate a need for a neutral outside party to be guiding your daughter through this difficult stage. A former teacher, older married relative, life coach, or other experienced individual may be able to serve as a “dating advisor.”

This role is emerging as being a necessary component in guiding singles, even those who are well-integrated. Although ideally parents should be the ones guiding their children, the fact is that in today’s world many children chafe at being given advice by their parents and are more open to receiving input from an outsider. In addition, a parent’s intense emotions and occasional bias can cloud their objectivity.

Some parents, like yourself, are very aware of their child’s shortcoming; other may find too many shortcoming in the shidduchim suggested, finding them all not perfect enough for their perfect child.

In addition, parents often have deep subconscious resistance to the idea of their child leaving home. They may inadvertently sabotage the shidduch process due to fear of the child leaving. Or, conversely, they may eagerly push an inappropriate suggestion due to the pressure of wanting to see the child married off

All of these considerations point toward the advisability of encouraging the child to develop a relationship with an insightful outsider who can help her navigate the dating maze.

In your case, there are additional benefits. In order for your daughter to develop religiously and emotionally she will need someone who sees her potential and can help her focus on her assets and strengths as a key to overcoming her weaknesses. She may benefit from some therapy but it’s possible that if you are the one recommended it she may not agree to go. A dating advisor can build trust and then be able to offer constructive advice.

If you leave so much in the hand of a dating advisor, what is your role? You will continue to play an essential role in providing your daughter with safety and encouragement. Though you are critical of your daughter’s choices, the last thing you want is for her to end up in an unhappy marriage. Some of the boys who she will be set up with may be going through their own difficult time — some will be more emotionally stable than others. You want to make sure that she does not fall into a potentially destructive relationship just because a boy expresses a lot of interest in her. You can work together with the dating advisor, be your daughter’s advocate and protector.

In the same vein, you can help her develop life skills that will be relevant for the development of a happy marriage regardless of her religious choices. Obviously, your role is contingent on her wanting your input and it being communicated in a most loving and positive way.

I’d like to end with a paradox that you may want to think about. There’s a quote that points out, “The people who grow the most are the ones who are unconditionally accepted the way they are today.” Many times we women exercise tough love thinking that if we show the people in our lives how disappointed we are then they’ll be motivated to change. The truth is that in most cases, positive regard will fill them up with the fuel of self-esteem, acceptance and belief in themselves — all the elements essential for the fulfillment of their ultimate potential.

Mrs. Dina Schoonmaker is a veteran teacher in Michlalah Jerusalem College and lectures in various other seminaries. She also has a phone service through which she counsels the alumni of Michlalah in matters of shidduchim and marriage.

Rebbetzin Michal Cohen LCSW

I really feel for you, as there is nothing more difficult than seeing our children make poor choices and not live up to their potential. As a friend of mine says, parents are only as happy as their least happy child.

You do not indicate where your daughter is holding in her own awareness of her issues. It is indeed hard to assess the situation when I have no idea what her perceptions of the facts are and how she feels. Not knowing anything about your daughter I can only deal with the information you have provided.

Your daughter is an adult. She needs to be making her own decisions. Does your daughter want to begin dating because she is ready to look for a spouse or only because her friends are getting married? If she feels that she is not ready and would like to have time to work on herself then I would, of course, fully support her in resisting the peer pressure. I would encourage her to get the help that she wants and postpone making a decision that will impact on the rest of her life.

However, if your daughter does not see her issues as you do, it is not likely she will want to work on anything right now. I would assume you have already pointed out your concerns to her and that has not been met favorably by her. So even if you think she needs help, there is not much likelihood that you would be able to convince her, and forcing her to get it will probably do irreparable damage to your relationship with her — a relationship that she needs to have.  People only change when they really want to and we can never force people to see things our way.

So as hard as this reality is I think you need to distance yourself from her issues and let your daughter lead her own life —including shidduchim if that’s what she wants to pursue right now. Remember that she is only 20; she has a lot of time to work on her issues, if she chooses to.

As for your feeling that you would not want her if she was suggested for your son, that’s fine. She is not being suggested for your son. She is your daughter and she needs your unconditional love and your support. If you give that to her she might just find the strength to do her own changing and become everything you hope for her.

Rebbetzin Michal Cohen LCSW is the rebbetzin of Congregation Adas Yeshurun in Chicago where her husband Rabbi Zev Cohen has been the rav for 24 years. She has been a licensed clinical social worker at a family service agency, counseling individuals, couples, and families for 16 years, and teaches kallos under the auspices of Daughters of Israel.

(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 279)

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