On Having Married Off Our First FFB Child

Marrying off our daughter was a thrilling experience but one that, as a BT, was not without its challenging moments. But before addressing the challenges, I would like to mention something very positive: my mechutanim (parents of the boy), very established FFBs, were dafka looking for the daughter of a BT couple for their son. This boy, full of talent, middos, and “out of the box” intelligence (OK, I’m biased), was looking for a girl serious about her yiddishkeit, but did not want to be part of a judgmental, restrictive sort of family. So when looking for prospective shidduchim, his parents sought out those in the BT world. Here, in our world, as the shadchan said, they believed they would find the “real deal”: real Torah without the shtick. I take this as a personal compliment, but it is also a compliment to our entire BT community. I mention this in case anyone was worried that all children of BTs will necessarily face an uphill battle in the parsha of shidduchim. You never know. What you think is a liability may turn out to be an asset.

But being a BT “in the parsha” did carry with it a different challenge: mainly the resurrection of all of my parents negative feelings about orthodoxy. They had a laundry list of objections to this marriage and, frankly, from their point of view, I can’t blame them: she was too young to get married (almost 19); she hadn’t been to college yet (she is going now, but it wasn’t our first priority); why do they have to live in Israel (they can’t appreciate the kedushah, only the bombs); they knew each other such a short time (frum shidduch dating); she seemed too subservient to him (she let him take the lead, like a Bais Yaakov girl naturally does). My parents were outraged that he came from such a large family (let’s just say more than 10 children) and feared that she would spend the rest of her life pregnant and washing baby bottles, never “fulfilling her potential.” Her chassan had no “degree” of any sort, and my parents believe that knowing gemora will not earn them a living. “Rabbis are a dime a dozen in Israel!” they accurately screamed. Although they had always been generous with us, they resented the idea of our (even partially) supporting them, stating that if they can’t support themselves or he’s not professionally directed, they shouldn’t get married (they couldn’t appreciate the teaching opportunities he had with his connections).

Basically, they listed all the differences between the secular and the (more right-wing) frum points of view about dating and marriage, albeit in a loud and emotionally charged way. Why did I feel a sense of déjà vu? Hadn’t I gone through all this before, perhaps around 20 years ago?!

The hardest part for me about this parsha, therefore, was reliving all the fights I thought were behind us. Now I am more mature, of course, so I restrained myself much, much more, and I was not nearly as shaken in my beliefs and determination to do what I thought best as when I was young. However, the grief of the ongoing acrimony with my parents accompanied the joy, and it significantly marred what “should” have been a purely joyous time. It also took me by surprise that we couldn’t get through this easily, that my parents hadn’t yet given up and mellowed at all about my “orthodox lifestyle.”

Although some parents do come around, not all do; some BTs experience a wonderful rapprochement with their parents, but others, like myself, have to slog along for over 20 years continuing to fight the good fight. With love, of course, but with heartache.

24 comments on “On Having Married Off Our First FFB Child

  1. Chaya:

    “Belle” is also a nom de plume for the same reasons! When writing about my family I use an alias, to protect their privacy and my own as well. And I always wondered why wouldn’t it be loshen hara to describe negative behaviors by our family. So, I’m with you!

  2. Belle,

    Mazal tov. It’s great to hear that your mechutanim sought out a BT family. That is good news for klal Yisrael.

    (who usually posts under her last name but is tired of BeyondBT posts coming up first thing in Google searches and concerned that her candid sharing might cause shalom bayit problems in her own non-frum family!)

  3. Anonymous, I agree with you completely — you were insightful and real. I hope Belle answers your questions.

    Just as an aside: Even though many people date for a few weeks and get engaged or married right away, it does not mean it is smart. One must know the true nature of their mate and how they operate. In my experience it is almost impossible to truly understand the depth, intellect, trusworthyness and mental health of a potential spouse before six weks to two months. And even then the people should get to know each other more.

    Yes, I am FFB, and I firmly belive this. We trust in Hashem to help us out, but we also must do our homework thoroughly.

  4. Wow! I came home to so many great comments! Thanks for all the mazel tovs!

    Anonymous: yes, it was interesting that I had many of the same concerns as my parents: just *how were* they going to support themselves, after all? Didn’t my daughter have aspirations for a college & graduate degree, so what is going to happen now? And my parents yelling those questions at me did unnerve me. However, both my husband and I felt strongly that this particular boy was a great match for our daughter, and she, and we, believed in the ideal of learning & teaching Torah. We did it for a few years when we were first married and they were great, elevated years.

    I should add that although her husband is already a talented teacher and I project he will go far in that field, we just had to, at some point, jump on the bitachon express. We just decided that a shidduch is THE priority in life, and where or when one goes to college is secondary, and plans can always change. I don’t belive they will starve.

    Michoel: yes, in a way, my anti-frum parents do raise our children’s apprecieation for our mesiras nefesh. However, I think your children will get it anyway, even with supportive grandparents. They are not blind. They are a blessing.

    Mark: believe it or not, I think the “arguments” were productive, because this time around I could maturely explain to them the reasoning behind our decisions, and as YM pointed out, part of that was explaining how important marriage was to our daughter. [amusing: I proposed they could choose which they preferred: that she had a non-committed live-in boyfriend (typical for today), or a committed, dedicated husband] They did agree with many of my points, they just had a different time line.

    Since she is the princess of the family (only granddaughter), and she is so good to them (calls them all the time) they love her to peices, and despite all the acrimony over the marriage, they cannot help but love her, married or not. I believe they will come to love him as well. My pain was going through the process of telling them the news.

  5. Mazel Tov,

    Perhaps your parents are worried that if all of your children become kollel families, they will be asked to participate in supporting them if you can’t manage. And since they didn’t ask for that but are rather planning for retirement, as everyone their age in their world is doing, this seems like a burden being put on them unjustly, albeit indirectly.

    My father did not appreciate the following story I once told him while I was in kollel and he was sending me a monthly check (that he offered and I never asked for). At the time I had been in kollel for over 6 years and he had been pushing for me to look for a position in chinuch. Here’s the story…

    Rav Yisroel Salanter was on a line to catch a train. A Jewish businessman noticed him and started up a conversation. As the line was moving, he noticed that Rav Yisroel had no ticket. He asked him about it and Rav Yisroel said that he didn’t have the money for a ticket but he had bitochon that it would all work out. Finally as the train was about to leave and the conductor shouted his last call of “all aboard”, the buisnessman bought Rav Yisroel the ticket as she shouted at him “See where your bitochon got you? Had it not been for me, you would never have gotten on the train!”

    The point of the story as I heard it in a mussar shmuess was that indeed it WAS the bitochon that got him the train.

    My father did not appreciate the story and if your parents have to foot the bill for some of your decisions that they opposed, I suppose they will not be happy campers either.

    BTs must never forget that while we believe we are right and we have guidance from the Torah and our teachers to assure us of that, we have to repect and remember where the parents are coming from.

    What may seem to us (and our community Rabbis) as frum and proper, is quite likely to be perceived as manipulation by them.

  6. Gregory, all I am saying is that in the secular world, many people have a hard time meeting someone and having a relationship reach the state of marriage. Not everyone, but the statistics are bleak, especially when the woman is over 30 or 35. A person whose granddaughter is getting married should be looking at this and feeling tremendous thanks, not looking at all the negatives that they perceive. One reason that people think this way is because 30-40 years ago, I don’t think the world of secular marriage was as difficult as it is now.

  7. I think that Mark’s suggestion in this regard is correct. Arguments on these and any other issues between a BT and parents are as complete a losing proposition as you will find with regards to the admittedly delicate relationships between BTs and their parents. In this context, dwelling on past history feeds the coffers of social workers, anthropologists who write about the Jewish family, psychologists and psychiatrists . Therefore, I advocate a path of inclusiveness without even getting to a stage where there can be a discussion over the young couple’e prospects.

    In this instance and as many as possible ,I also avoided aany arguments. Remember,even if comments are made that might offend you or Torah Judaism- I think that the best course in this context is to offer them the right and zcus to walk down the aisle at a family simcha, allow them to shep nachas over their einachlach,and absolutely do not replay any past arguments-doing that will not enhance your simcha.

    Remember-in a way, it is your simcha and you are celebrating a milestone in your family which shows where you are today, as opposed to those days when you and your parents/siblings might have had some discussions that you all would rather forget about. The key is to ignore and let go of the past and be as inclusive as much as possible. It is simply is the wrong time to act and react to every negative or possibly negative comment.

    OTOH, by including a parent in the procession by saying that we would like you to walk down the aisle, you are including them and sending as positive a message as possible, regardless of how things might have been in the past, which goes well beyond the formality of someone in the wedding procession of who needs a suit or gown..IMO, it is a tremendous sign of maturity on a BT to do so, as opposed to sending an invitation and asking them to be a wallflower.

  8. Mazal Tov Belle! I, being BT albeit not black hat, am often critical of marriage at such an early age, lack of education, etc (all the points your parents listed); however, I do understand the rationale, and don’t criticize those who do.

    At the same time, I consider myself lucky to have gotten married at 25 (not earlier or later) to a wonderful person who is my age, and that both of us work full time and have paid for our own wedding, living expenses, etc.

    To YM: please don’t look at everything as black and white – not everyone who is not frum lives a life of the aforementioned show.

  9. YM,
    Great point. But please don’t mention that program by name in the same paragraph as discussing someone’s nice BY educated daughter.

  10. My wife is FFA (frum from Atlanta). Before she was involved in yiddishkeit and started hanging around Toco Hills, she had a gang with three other woment that she hung around with. I have met all three; they are all successful, attractive women in their mid-late 30’s. All three are unmarried and I belive somewhat bitter about it.

    Belle, your parents are living in a time warp. It used to be that even in the non-religious world, the majority of people aspired to get married, got married and stayed married. Now, just last week, I read in the NY Times that more than 50% of adults are single. Have your parents ever watched Sex in the City? Would they prefer that their granddaughter, after years of causal relationships, find themselves unable to meet anyone Jewish who is interested in a marital relationship and has the maturity and ability to sustain a marriage?

    Belle, Mazel Tov. You should schlep much nachas from your daughter, son-in-Law and (b’ezras Hashem) grandchildren.

  11. Mazal Tov Belle. You are very fortunate that you had such a wonderful Shidduch experience. I’m sure it had much to do with the solid parenting efforts you’ve obviously made over the years.

    I’m sorry that the parents issues marred your joy. Over 10 years ago, I made a mental decision to not argue with my mother. I would listen to what she had to say and try not to offer a response if I disagreed. It has mostly worked except for the few times I’ve messed up.

  12. Mazal Tov! That parsha must be both an exciting and scary one. I’m only up to my son’s driving lessons, and that is scary enough. Mazel tov as well on coming full circle. You should have lots of nachas.

  13. David:

    I know what you are saying, but since there is NOTHING they can do about it at this point, why make the Machatanim & new Chasan & Kallah unhappy by harping on what they don’t like…it will only make everyone miserable.


    Thanks for “backing me up”!

  14. Belle-You may recall that Mark and I both wrote about our daughter’s chasunah. One factoid that I omitted-both the kallah’s bubbie and grandmother walked down the aisle. Neither is an advertisement for or overly understanding of the Kollel lifestyle, but they certainly enjoyed themselves during the Chupah and dancing on the women’s side of the mechitzah. I tend to think that involving them in the Chupah helped to at least temporarily reduce their anxiety level about their grandaughter’s future. I once heard or saw ( from R Y Haber in Yerushalayim) that one of the reasons that we are so leibedik at a chasunah is because we want to assure the chasan and kallah that we know that not everything is a bowl of cherries but that we want the chasan and kallah to approach life with the memories that all of their friends, their parents friends, relatives and mentors ( RY, rabbanim) are rooting for them in a very public way.

  15. Mazel Tov, Belle! May you enjoy much nachas from your newly enlarged family.

    I found your story partcularly inspiring because of the nature of how the shidduch came to be. What a wonderful, sensible son-in-law -and since I have a daugher just a step away from “The Parsha” (this is her Israel year), it’s great to know that there are guys like that out there.

    Wait till the grandchildren, I”H, come along. If nothing else about the marriage appeals to your parents, the pictures they’ll be showing around will.

  16. There can be an advantage to very anti parents. It can raise the esteen that the grand-children have for their BT parents’ mesiras nefesh. My children have one pair of grandparetns that are very into pouring on the love and giving lots of presents. They say things such as “Oh that’s OK, you have Shabbos and we have Saturday. Everyone has to do what makes them happy.” In small ways, they sometimes undermine the chinuch that we are trying to give them. In a way, hostile parents might make it easier to entirely brush off.

  17. I also stronhgly believe in what Marty just posted-Shidduchim are part of HaShem’s plans. I don’t get horrified at stories about couples who get engaged after a brief courtship if they haven’t gone out with others or at the age of a chasan or kallah. OTOH, I do think that any potential kallah’s parents have to do a lot of networking , self examination and research into these issues ranging from whether the Kollel lifestyle is right for their daughter, what kind of guy ( ranging from future Gadol to mchanech or guy who may be eventually heading for college and law school) and having contacts among the future chasan’s peers ( other avreichim, talmidim and RY and Mashgichim) who can vouch his midos. It is not an easy process but it need not be as difficult as it is described in the media, etc.

  18. Even if we all agree on that, Marty, that won’t help Belle’s parents since they don’t believe it.

    In retrospect, a lot of my parent’s concerns before my marriage (too young, wait until after grad school, not enough money stored away, etc.) arose because they were truly concerned. In their world, bitachon doesn’t play that large a role, if any, on a day to day basis. And, to tell you the truth, IMHO, sometimes hishtadlus is lacking on the part of some young couples.

    To me, it is not the concerns that are the problem, it is often the way they are communicated.

  19. Mazal Tov, Belle, What a glorious time and a great achievement for you and your husband after all of your hishtadlus to become frum!!!
    May you continue to ejoy nachas from your children.

    Your parents may yet share your joy, especially if you keep trying to communicate through stories, photos, etc… of the new family.

  20. Mazel Tov! On some issues, your parents may understand being a Shomer Torah uMitzvos. OTOH, om some issues, such as how a young Kollel couple will make do, the chances of such an understanding occurring are slim.

  21. Belle, I haven’t married off any kids yet but the first thought that came to my mind is that my father died a couple of years ago and how lucky you are to have two living parents.

    My father was also the more shall we say positively disposed toward Torah observance parent. My mother sees the positive but has more potential for the negative and was balanced by my father.

    She would could very well react just like your parents. And even if she doesn’t on the outside so much she will think the same way on the inside. We have a 19-year old daughter, BY grad, wanting to marry a guy in learning and learn a few years in Israel.

    Still it’s better, IMO, to have parents in the world to experience the joy of marrying off a child, even if they may be acrimonious in ways, than not having one or both of one’s parents.

    Or maybe not. I guess it depends how acrimonious they can be.

    Be that as it may, inside I also harbor similar doubts expressing by my mother and your parents. My suspicion is that you do too. How does their acrimony affect you? Does it make you more of an advocate. How do you deal with your doubts, if you have them? How does the secular Belle deal with the reality of the life situation your daughter has embarked upon?

  22. I don’t know if your family will agree with what I’m going to say, but you & I know they should: This shidduch was Orchestrated in Hashem’s Hands. If they understand that, and this marriage is truly meant to be, then they should not complain.


  23. After hearing stories like these for over a generation, I can’t tell you how happy I’m a convert! Although I retained a cordial connection with my family, they had a very clear set of choices – accept me or lose me. Wisely they choose to retain a relationship with me and my wife. In reality my parents demonstrated tremendous respect for our beliefs and observance, despite their total lack of understanding. I wish the young couple much success and happiness.

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