Mishpacha readers who’ve brought meaning, growth, and joy into their single years share their takes and tips
Being single is not a steerah to having a normal, functional, and balanced life. Don’t see the life you’re living as the end of the world; don’t put your life on hold, not getting the degree you dream of or pursuing the full-time job you’d love, just because you’re waiting to get married.
Keep the hischadshus and fun spontaneity in life alive. Do something random, pick up an old hobby or find a new one. Learn a cool skill, discover an inspiring shiur, find a passion, make chesed a part of who you are, go out by yourself or with friends for a walk, Slurpees, to the beach, anywhere. Find a way to be around kids — they’re hilarious, and you won’t be able to keep yourself from being amused. Amuse yourself.
Just do something that makes you feel like you, makes you feel happy to be alive, makes you excited in the present here and now. Life has so much more to offer you if you just open your eyes to its possibilities. No one is forcing you to play the role of the victimized damsel in distress, awaiting some knight in shining armor. Choose to be the vibrant princess who lives vivaciously, knows how to laugh a little, and never gives up an opportunity to carpe diem.
As someone who hasn’t been given the ability to start a family of my own yet, connecting to a kiruv organization adds a lot of meaning and purpose to my life. So much kiruv is needed in the world, and when I’m married and building my own family, I might not be able to focus on this as much as I’d like. Doing kiruv leads to opportunities for Shabbos and Yom Tov plans, as well as being in an environment where being 27 and single doesn’t feel so old (a nice break from my usual reality).
Be confident about who you are. I wear dresses from last year, slinky skirts to the grocery store, and sometimes my hair’s in a pony and I skip the makeup. It feels good to get dressed up, but some days are sweater and slinky skirt days, and if I’m seen in public like that, so be it. I have to do what’s right for me, and that’s all I can do.
Explore the world! See new countries, experience a new climate and culture, hear different languages and accents. There’s a good chance you won’t be able to do this once you’re married. Every time you have a small vacation, even for a few days, fly somewhere fun. You’d be surprised how cheap some places are, especially when it’s not peak travel time. There’s so much to see and do, even if you go for only one or two days, even if you go with just one friend.
When you’re away, you forget about the world you left behind and come back feeling like a new person. Do this every few months so that when you start to feel low, you know you have something to look forward to.
Rav Shimshon Pincus’s piece about the difference between bitachon and denial was a game changer for me. He says that denial is when people think, “Everything’s gonna be okay” while bitachon is more along the lines of, “Hashem loves me and is doing the absolute best thing for me. So b’ezras Hashem I’ll get married, and I’m going to keep davening for that. But if I don’t get married, then every second of this single life I’m living is the best possible thing for me, and I’m going to rock the socks off this challenge and be the best me I can be, regardless of my marital status.” (Another funny source of comfort for me: This past summer, I kept thinking, if I’m not wearing a wig at least I’m getting awesome highlights!)
When you’re one of the last of your friends to get married, it provides you with a unique opportunity to get to know the families your friends have created by spending Shabbosim with them. You get to observe and take lessons for when you build your own home. You also get to be the fun “aunt” who brings treats for the kids and maybe even gives your friend a break by hanging with the kids for awhile.
Lots of well-meaning advice givers tell us experienced singles to make friends with our younger counterparts — but what I’ve learned is that they too tend to get married (shocking, right?) and then you’re left with no friends in the city, yet again. So I started schmoozing with the women in the staff room at school and soon enough I had friends from ages 18 to 70!
When I walk into a simchah, I’m met with smiles and greetings from so many women, while some other girls are camping out in the corner of the hall keeping to themselves…. They add so much sunshine and smiles to my life.
Redt shidduchim. Those of us who are single tend to “get it” and are usually more sensitive and understand our friends. I think of the guys I dated or was redt to in the past but didn’t work for me. I’ve set up numerous dates and made some shidduchim. This also gives me a sense of purpose. If I’m not meant to be married yet, I can use my time to help others.
Strengthen your self-belief and self-worth. There are many reasons why you can look down on yourself — comments from others, self-doubt, etc. As long as you’re doing appropriate hishtadlus, you don’t have to change (or lower your standards) to find a shidduch. Allow yourself to experience negative emotions (in a healthy way). They’re real and need caring and recognition, not be pushed aside. This can be done with yourself, family, friends, professionals, mentors, or rebbetzins.
Heels are overrated. What matters is that you feel confident and that you feel good about the way you look. If you love your heels, that’s great! Keep wearing them. But don’t feel pressured into thinking that they’re a must or that you can’t look good (or get married) unless you’re teetering around in uncomfortably high shoes.
Sleep in and don’t feel guilty about it. Im yirtzeh Hashem, one day soon, we’ll all be getting up at the crack of dawn with our own children, just like our married siblings and friends. On the days that I can sleep in, I do, and I enjoy it. Yes, I long for the family that’ll wake me up and beg for me to play at 6 a.m. — but for now, I might as well relish the extra hours.
When I started shidduchim, one of my friends recommended I write down my thoughts after dates to process the date and how I’m feeling. I’ve done some of that, but I’ve also taken to journaling as a solace even when I’m not processing a recent date. It has given me the chance to reflect on who I am and what I’m looking for. I also like to write little positive reminders to myself, which I go back and read when I’m feeling down.
I haven’t had much time to journal, though. I have a very demanding job and a busy home life, too. Recently, I bought myself a journal on Amazon called “One Line a Day.” You can start at any date and it helps you keep track of short, daily memories for the next five years. When I saw it, I thought about how much I wanted to remember my time in shidduchim in a positive light. I wanted to remember all the happy moments and accomplishments during this time. This journal is really easy to keep up with, and I feel like I’m giving myself a much-needed daily boost of positivity.
Now that I’m happily married with children, baruch Hashem, after being in shiddduchin for over 15 years, my advice is this: “Allow yourself to mourn your dream, without mourning your future.”
Your life isn’t picture perfect right now. Trust me, I get it. (Yes, I too became a great-aunt before becoming a mother.) You’re not only entitled to mourn your dream, it behooves you to give yourself that. But please, don’t mourn your future, because it will, im yirtzeh Hashem, be filled with many years of brachah together with your husband and children that will, undoubtedly, make up for the pain and challenges of your single years.
No, you should not go to your ten-year high school reunion. Trust me, you can get the same pity stares from your classmates at tomorrow night’s wedding. AND you won’t be going through the yearbook to see what everyone is up to in life, so it’s a win-win. I can think of other forms of self-torture that are far less painful. Be your own hero and stay home!
If you want to get married, don’t stand on ceremony. As hard and as painful and as “unfair” as the shidduch system is, do yourself a favor and just… send the picture, get on a plane even though it’s “his turn” (for the out-of-towners), leave work 15 minutes early to make it work, hustle to give the shadchan an answer (yes, even though the boys get to take their sweet old time), meet the boy’s mother in aisle 6 of Amazing Savings (cringe) even though you haven’t even met the boy yet (double cringe), pretend like you actually care to finish the date even though he started off boasting the coat he is currently wearing is also the coat he wore to his bar mitzvah (oh and he just celebrated his 30th birthday… you do the math), etc.
Just do it! You’ll feel much better that you got through this with dignity and grace rather than shadchanim thinking that you’re overly sensitive and resentful (even though you and I both know it’s not you, it’s the system).
Go to therapy. Now’s the perfect time to process the thoughts, feelings, and experiences (both childhood and adult) that could hinder not just your ability to be a wife and mother, but also to be a complete, content person. I’ve been out of seminary a few years now, the last two of which I’ve been to therapy every week. The difference between my therapy and non-therapy years are clear. Hashem bentshed me with an incredible therapist, and it’s been life-changing.
“Spend your money now before your husband spends it for you!”
This is what a well-meaning friend advised me as an older single. To her consternation, when she got married, she was saddled with her husband’s student loans.
Her statement’s a bit extreme, but there is some validity to it. As a former “older single” who was working full-time and earning a nice salary, I made sure to take occasional vacations with friends as well as to splurge on an item here and there. I felt that I worked hard and deserved it. I remember one purchase: an expensive pair of beautiful, black leather boots — which I still have today, 20 years later. So go ahead and treat yourself once in awhile; it will energize you and give you a lift!
Don’t compare! It’s very tempting to talk about your dating experiences, but be careful. Hashem specially designed a unique dating experience for each one of us and we’ll never find someone who went through the exact same story as we did, even if it may seem that way at first glance. Don’t be jealous of your friend if she gets dates all day, and if you’re burned-out from dating, don’t eye the girl who seems to have the perfect few dates with nice long breaks between them. These are both legitimate challenges that can’t be compared — so don’t.
As a single girl, the times of year I most dreaded were family times, when couples and families get together. That’s how SOS (Save Our Singles) was born. During summer holidays about five years ago, my friend and I decided to arrange a “day camp” for the older singles in Golders Green. We enjoyed a full-week program of day trips, games cafés, netball games, and even prizes at the end. We hadn’t all known each other well, but we ended up becoming best of friends.
This continued into the year: games every Friday night, Chol Hamoed day trips, Shabbosim away, birthday celebrations and traveling the world at every opportunity. Through this we were able to thrive, support each other, and enjoy each other’s company, without any pitying looks — people were begging to join!
My friend and I are now married, but the SOS is still thriving…. We daven that they should all get married very soon so we can close down SOS and Share Our Simchahs.
I always make sure to stay in touch with my married friends. While I notice some people don’t make as much of an effort once a friend has children and has less time for a social life, I still find opportunities to spend time with my friends. For example, I often offer to come over Thursday night to help cook, or I meet up with them on an outing with their children. Making sure to keep up with friends helps me feel less isolated even though I may be at a different stage.
I’ve grown to become a more empathetic and caring friend, with a much greater ability to understand people going through challenges; I know not to shy away/cross the street/avoid the subject. I’m not scared of pain and I acknowledge the situation, allowing them to feel safe and understood, knowing to give them the space they need. Over the years I’ve had more and more people turning to me for support. Because although I may not know their situation, I know what pain is, I know how difficult it can be to get up in the morning, and most of all, I know that no one can truly know what someone else is going through. And while I can’t understand what they’re going through, I can be there for them.
I’m in the business of being single for ten years, so I think I have a thing or two to share with fellow singles. Hopefully, we’ll all be zocheh to find our bashert soon and be made redundant.
As in any situation, the way that the people will handle being around you is very much a reflection of how you handle the situation yourself. If you’re content and easygoing, the people around you will handle your situation with positivity. On the other hand, if you’re constantly wallowing in self-pity and going around with a chip on your shoulder, people will view you as the “older single nebach.” Obviously, it’s hard to always be cheerful, and yes, sometimes we’re definitely allowed to (and should) feel our pain, but remember, the way you present to others will make the difference if you are viewed with pity or with respect and admiration.
As heard from Rabbi Fischel Schachter: “No one is ever rejected, you’re just being redirected.”
Rejection is extremely painful, and the disappointment that comes with it even more so. We need to allow ourselves to mourn that loss when we are rejected (because it is a loss of our hopes and dreams), but remember that although we don’t understand why or how, we are being redirected to a better place. B’ezras Hashem, we’ll all get to that point where we will see how the “no” was only in order to lead us away from the wrong one and toward the right one.
I now have the opportunity to earn money and create a sizable savings account that will serve me in good stead in the future. I’ve also been using this time to build up my credit and increase my credit line. (I don’t plan on living on credit, but building credit is very important.)
But there’s also a balance. There will come a time when treating myself will be much more difficult, with other expenses taking precedence. Now, however, my expenses are minimal and I allow myself to purchase little luxuries (all in moderation) that make me happy. Buying the necklace I’ve been eyeing for a few months or the special perfume I love is my method for taking care of myself. Buying a car was another decision I’m glad I made. This has made me more independent and has allowed me to maintain my social life.
When I was already in shidduchim for a few years, I went along with my friend to visit a seminary teacher. I told her that I’d given up on branching out and making new single friends, as every time I invested in a new friendship, the friend would get engaged, and I’d be back at square one. My teacher told me that my attitude toward friendship was wrong: “Not every friendship has to be a deep, lifelong one,” she said. “If it got you through that tekufah in your life in the best way possible and you were able to grow and be productive, that’s enough, even if eventually you lose touch and move on.”
That advice was so helpful. Making new friends enabled me to stay a happy, productive, and growing person. I found that this piece of advice helped me for the future, too. I live in Yerushalayim, where friends and close neighbors constantly move on. At certain points I was ready to give up on building close relationships, when I remembered this advice. Now I have friends all over the world….
Have a first-date outfit (or two — one winter, one summer) so that you don’t need to put too much thought into just another first date — and so that if a shidduch comes up at the last minute and it sounds good, you can be ready to go.
Being single is being in kiruv. So when the little cousins ask, “when are you getting married?” you can say “Hashem is in charge.”
So when the older bubbies say “Nu?” you can say “Hashem is in charge.”
So when you go to simchahs and people say “Im yirtzeh Hashem by you,” you can say “Amen, Hashem is in charge.”
And so when you get back from another bad date you can remind yourself, “Hashem is in charge.”
Is it always this simple and easy? Of course not. Surround yourself with good friends (yes, even if they’re married). Make Torah sources available to you. And use a lot of humor. A lot.
I’ve attended events like “kosher” speed-dating, where a few women and men sit at a table together and the conversation is facilitated by a shadchan. After a few minutes, the men then move to the next table. There are also “Meet the Shadchan” events where a few shadchanim meet with a number of single women, and then immediately afterward, they meet with the men. These events are sometimes quite productive, but not necessarily because you meet your zivug hagun — but because you usually end up making new friends and networking with the other women you meet!
Music really has the ability to bring out and express your emotions, so make a playlist for different situations and times. You can make playlists for feeling lonely, rejected, misunderstood, grateful, joyful, or in need of siyata d’Shmaya.
My hair got all crimpy and gross from being done so many times. I got L’Oréal Paris Elvive Total Repair Shampoo and Hair Masks, which repaired the damage pretty well!
I used to be so nervous before each date, mostly because I was so scared of how I’d feel if it didn’t work out. The game changer? I started promising myself a gift if it’s a no-go. Then I know, if I don’t get a husband, at least I get a _____________. It takes away the nerves and it’s a win-win every time. Who needs husbands when we can get new jewelry anyway?
I found the lack of a “spiritual script” to follow difficult. Seminary students have shiurim, and time and peace of mind to daven three times a day. Married women’s avodah (especially those with children) is their household. But what’s a single girl’s avodah when she can’t concentrate on a shiur after a long day at work, doesn’t have time to daven more than Shacharis, and is busy thinking about work all day? I found my answer in Birchos Hashachar, which tells us which mitzvos are of benefit to us both in This World and the Next. Kibbud av v’eim and gemilus chasadim cover myriad little actions that I can easily fit in around my commitments, even with a tired brain. Of course, I always did both, but now I make an extra effort, as well as put much more thought into what I do. After all, they can provide me my “ticket to Gan Eden.”
If you’d meet me, you’d see a dedicated, experienced teacher in a school, loving and giving to my students, always smiling, always friendly with the younger staff (even as the age difference between us grows). I’m involved in my friends’ lives, and their kids are my little friends. So no, I’m not a bitter older single. But I’m suffering. Beneath my happy, carefree, caring exterior is a shattered heart.
Waiting is no fun. Watching all your friends get married is no picnic, especially as the years move on and the friends getting married are a decade your junior. Having your younger siblings “skip” you is painful. And witnessing them have children, when your heart bleeds to hold your own, is heart wrenching. But I join in their simchahs with a smile on my face. I can be happy for them while being in immense pain for me.
Yom Tov and the Yamim Noraim are extremely challenging and difficult. It’s surviving the days, struggling to get through them, feeling like I’m drowning. It’s being at your parents’ table again, each year with more of your younger siblings married. Another Succos. Another Pesach. Another Rosh Hashanah.
I was a good Bais Yaakov girl, I didn’t think anything would be able to knock me over. But as each year merged in to yet another, my emunah started to waver. I was still strong, still channeling everything back to G-d, but as well over a decade went by, and I was still waiting, I noted my rising anger. G-d, why are you doing this to me? You can do anything, why can’t You just find me one guy? Just one guy! Why? I knew I shouldn’t be questioning, but these feelings were there. I hated who I had become. What had happened to the innocent Bais Yaakov girl? Why couldn’t I just accept Hashem’s plan without being angry? But I couldn’t.
One year I prayed like never before, asking Him to help me deal with this anger. He sent me the right shaliach. It was gruesome, difficult, heart-wrenching work, times like I felt like giving up, but I stuck at it. I learned to go beneath the anger to the pain underneath. I learned again, at this deep level, that G-d has a plan. He has created me and knows better than I what I need. And I have learned to surrender my will to His. I can’t control Him with my segulos, prayers, and good deeds. I’m here to do His Will, to connect to Him, to pray. The end result is in His Hands, and He’ll do what is for my best.
I was working from home during lockdown and feeling very claustrophobic. I have a beautiful picture of the sea hanging on the wall in front of my desk and I started dreaming about just taking my laptop and going to sit on a beach somewhere… well, my battery might not last too long, but then I realized I could rent a hotel room with a sea view and “work from home” from there — so that’s what I did!
If life’s a race and the second we return from seminary the race begins… well, I already lost the race. I may as well take the scenic route! There are places to go, people to see, stuff to do. Now my new fear is not getting everything done before I get married — but it’s also my hope.
I really think the different stages of singlehood just come with different challenges. I look at the 21-year-olds desperate and feeling old and I feel funny, but really, that’s when so many friends are getting married, and it’s really hard. I get it. I think at 21 I was more desperate to get married and now I’m getting more desperate to be married. It’s okay to feel old and young at every stage of shidduchim!
When I was single I decided that finding opportunities to give in ways I wouldn’t be able to once I was married would make my life more meaningful. Throughout those years I came across different opportunities, such as giving people rides to hospitals or therapy, taking hospital shifts, and working with a special-needs child. At one point, I was looking through a pamphlet with different volunteer opportunities and decided to visit elderly people in their homes. As I was about to call the organization to arrange it, I realized that my own grandmother sat at home lonely much of the day — and yet I was about to commit to visiting someone else’s grandmother.
Instead of contacting the organization, I resolved to try to visit my grandmother twice a week after work. I will always cherish the memories of the time we shared, moments we can never have again. I know how much she’d look forward to the company, stocking up on my favorite biscotti every time she went out (though they were already piled up high in her pantry). We would dream about my wedding and dancing together. Her mind took a serious turn for the worse right before I began dating my husband and she went to live in a nursing home, where she became more and more confused. Still, when I brought my chassan to meet her, she said with clarity, “You have no idea how we waited for you!”
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 766)
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