Do I need to step up my game in terms of hishtadlus? And how do we deal with our daughter’s complaints?
My daughter has been in shidduchim for a few years. She’s currently furious with me and my husband, but mostly with me, for what she feels is a lack of effort on our part to find her dates. We’re a typical family, no great yichus or money or any other external draw, and, to make matters worse, we’re not from the Tristate area, so the shidduch suggestions are few and far between. Like maybe twice a year….
My husband and I feel that shidduchim are in Hashem’s hands and that our job is reasonable hishtadlus. We define that as going to meet shadchanim when they are in town, mentioning our daughter’s name when we are at simchahs, and sending reminder emails to shadchanim every couple months or so. We feel our efforts are better spent in tefillah.
My daughter feels we are being way too passive. She is constantly comparing us to her friends’ parents (read: mothers — she is so mad at me) and letting us know in the nicest way how we are falling short. She would like me to be on the phone a few nights a week networking with any and every person we know who might know a boy.
Baruch Hashem, my daughter is respectful, so she doesn’t yell, but in a way, her frostiness and disappointment are harder to take. Our formerly warm home has turned into a storm of tension that is creating discomfort for the whole family.
My question is twofold: Do I need to step up my game in terms of hishtadlus? And how do we deal with our daughter’s complaints?
Trying My Best
You are in such an unenviable position.
I’m guessing you’re feeling kind of frustrated about your daughter’s shidduchim yourself. It’s so hard having her dump her frustration on you on top of that. Your even-keeled approach is inspiring and refreshing. Let’s have a look at why it irks your daughter so much.
Your daughter must be feeling so helpless here. I’ve often thought about how, when it comes to shidduchim, the illusion of control is hard to achieve. When a person faces medical challenges, she can be very busy running to doctor appointments, pursuing alternative healing, exercising, etc. In shidduchim, in contrast, there’s often a sense of stagnation.
Even when you expend hishtadlus, there can be no concrete outcome from it. You can send out résumés to 15 shadchanim and literally not receive a single suggestion. It’s easy to feel helpless. You and your husband have channeled that sense of futility into faith, and it has spurred you to recognize that hishtadlus and outcome run on two parallel tracks. For your daughter, who has probably not yet reached that level of spiritual maturity, it may trigger a sense of desperation.
Your daughter may feel a sense of aloneness in this struggle as she watches friends move on with their lives. And whom do we turn to when we feel alone if not our parents? She’s looking to you to fix things in the way that we turn to our parents to fix things. And when you cannot do that for her, it escalates the sense of panic and the feeling of being alone. She also feels safe enough with you to dump her feelings on you, knowing that you will love her and stay with her regardless.
It’s easy to fall into a cycle of defending yourself and your hashkafah, but this will fall on deaf ears. In order to repair this rift, you will need to connect to your daughter’s deepest fears without owning her fear and without becoming defensive. Your daughter needs, first and foremost, acknowledgment of the fear — fear that’s currently being masked by anger — in a very deep and real way.
That validation is necessary as the first step in healing. Remember to leave any justification of your approach, however holy, out of the conversation. The teaching moment about emunah will be lost if she’s not listening or feeling heard.
Very often, understanding alone is enough to take the sting out of the argument. Once your daughter feels emotionally held, she can better state her position and she can be more open to hearing yours. Listening with the intent to hear, and not with the intent to respond, will allow you to listen objectively to her position and see if perhaps she is raising some valid suggestions. After she feels heard, you can offer your stance and hopefully, in that context, your daughter will actually be able to listen.
We often confuse verbal teaching with chinuch. Chinuch is what happens between the lines of what we say. Chinuch is a child learning that what she thinks and feel matters to Hashem when she sees a parent valuing what she thinks and hears. It’s a child feeling loved and cared for by Hashem when they receive love and care from their parent. When a child experiences being emotionally held by a parent who expresses faith that she will im yirtzeh Hashem get everything she needs, including her zivug hagun, she too can tap into that faith.
One thing that really jumps out from your letter is that your daughter seems to be directing the bulk of her anger at you. I think this happens a lot. Very often there’s an intensity in a mother-child relationship that isn’t always present in the father-child relationship, especially vis-à-vis issues related to having one’s needs met.
Having said that, I would encourage you to review your relationship with your daughter for patterns and see if her frustration over this issue mirrors any ongoing issues in your relationship. Does she often feel that you are not attentive enough to her needs? Does she often feel you don’t understand the depth of her pain? This could be an old feeling. Perhaps this struggle is an opportunity from Hashem to do some repair work before she goes out in pursuit of the most important relationship in her life.
Do you need to be doing more for her shidduchim? I feel like that question is not the real issue. If you are able to dig beneath the complaints and access the feelings beneath the fury, then the anger will probably diminish. If you don’t address the underlying feelings, no matter how much more effort you expend, your daughter will still be frustrated.
You may decide to expend more visible effort so your daughter feels heard, and that’s probably meaningful hishtadlus. So continue to focus your efforts in tefillah, determine if you want to increase some level of networking to show your daughter her feelings matter, and work at the same time at healing the relationship.
May the zechus of all three bring your daughter her zivug hagun b’karov!
All the best,
Sara Eisemann, LMSW, ACSW, is a licensed social worker and a dating mentor. She lectures on topics related to relationships, personal development, authenticity, and growth. She welcomes questions, comments, feedback, and interaction at email@example.com.
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 775)
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