Author Archives: sara

About sara

Sara Eisemann, LMSW, ACSW, is a therapist who lives in Oak Park, Michigan, with her husband and five children. She is on temporary leave from the field (about 10 years now) as she raises her family, but has maintained her love for working with people. Sara lectures on topics related to relationships, personal development and growth. She has a passion for humor, writing, and kiruv but mostly for promoting self-awareness and authenticity in our relationship with Hashem and with each other. She welcomes questions, comments, feedbacks and interaction.

0 Too Happy – Too Sad

Question:

I get very emotionally invested once a date is set up for me and I would like to ask you advice on how to detach so that I can move forward more easily. Before I go on a date, I immediately fantasize on a rosy outcome of that date and hope for the best. When the date falls through, I feel tremendously discouraged and disheartened. It becomes very hard to think positively. Is there anything I can do to prevent the immense discouragement that I feel?
Thank you!

Answer:

Hi Toby!
What you’re describing is very normal and actually encouraging. I would be much more  concerned if you told me that you don’t even want to bother going out because why should this one be any different than the others.when we date it’s because after doing our research and davening we really believe that this one might be the right one.
So I definitely wouldn’t want you to lose that optimism, because it’s a sign of hope and because it means you’re bringing your whole  self into the date. What you do want, however, is a way to temper your emotional investment and tools for dealing with setbacks.
Both of these can be helped by using some cognitive behavioral work. Think of your emotions as a ruler with your thoughts on either end. Before a date you’re at 10 with excitement and after a disappointment you’re at 0 with despair. We want to to slide both of those reactions to somewhere around 5 or 6 by adjusting your thoughts about them. Instead of “he’s  THE one”, try substituting, “I’m excited to meet him. We’ve heard such nice  things. I hope this is a good experience. “
Try replacing “I can’t bear this anymore ” with “wow, I am REALLY bummed,I liked this guy.”
Of course the feelings will still be there- that’s a good thing. It’s tragic when feelings become so overwhelming that we have to shut them down. But hopefully they’ll be shorter in duration,less intense and less devastating.
In the moments of hearing a no, the mind doesn’t want to hear any login.  This is similar to Pirkei Avos  where the   Mishna exhorts us not to comfort a mourners while his dead still lies before him. But after the sting wears off, ultimately our comfort comes from knowing that everything has a time and a place and both are determined by Hashem.
I hope that helps and I hope you soon experience the joyous mutual yes.
Sara

0 Pictures…. To Send Or Not To Send?

Question:

My daughter is 24 years old, bright, talented, kind, pretty, with a fantastic, warm personality.

Shidduchim are difficult if a girl doesn’t have the “right” degree, the “right” job, the “right”

hobbies, but we’re doing our best to network and have her meet shadchanim.

Recently, a shidduch came up, and the other side asked for a picturer. We were horrified. The

person who asked tried to defend the boy’s mother by saying that it’s very acceptable these days.

I’ve married off three daughters and three sons, B”H, and never before have I been asked for a

picture, nor did I ever ask.

For us, this is enough of a reason to say no to a bochur. It speaks volumes of a certain type of boy

and a certain type of mother, both of which are extremely distasteful to my daughter. (The

shadchan also said, “Well, he was very burnt recently, so…” I had to laugh. Burnt by what,

exactly? He dated a girl he thought wasn’t pretty enough? Nebach!)

Would you agree that asking for a picture is indicative of shallow, small­minded people? That my

daughter would spend the rest of her married life looking over her shoulder making sure she

looked pretty enough for dear old Mom? Or in a world where a yes from a boy is so hard to come

by, is this something we should be overlooking?

Horrified

Dear Horrified,

I’m so happy to hear that through shidduchim for six children this is the first time you’ve received

this request. Unfortunately, as your shadchan mentioned, it’s becoming more the norm. Which is

not saying it’s more “acceptable.” Popularity is no indication of acceptability. Many practices of

diminished tznius in our community have become more widespread. That doesn’t make them less

of a breach; it only makes us less sensitized to their damage.

The same is true here. What has become ok in the shidduch world is enough to make a decent

person blush. Twenty years ago we would have clucked at the crassness of the outside world that

diminishes the worth of a person to the image they convey on a photo. Now we’ve elevated that

same action to a lofty rationalization: “We don’t want to waste anyone’s time. You get so much

from a picture; it makes sense to see if there’s b’chlal any shaychus.” Throw in a few yeshivish

words and it’s practically a mitzvah. I’ve heard all the rationalizations; I even understand them.

On some level they make a lot of sense. But all that benefit belies the real issue at hand — the

cheapening of our daughters’ dignity.

Try this experiment: The next time a shadchan requests a picture of your daughter respond with,

“We’d be happy to send one just as soon as we receive a picture of the young man in question.”

How many of you jolted at the sheer brazenness of that request when you read it? Why?

Because it brings to light the real issue here.

Boys (or their mothers) ask for a picture because they can. If physical attraction and compatibility

were the real issue, it would be a perfectly legitimate request. Each prospective partner should

have the right to decide before going out whether the potential for attraction is there. The reason

it’s jarring is because we assume that in this “market” the boys have the currency. I’m embarrassed

to phrase it so crudely, but I don’t make the news, I just report it. The underlying message is,

“You’re a commodity. Before I trouble myself to even go to the market I want to make sure it’s

worth my while.”

How does this make our girls feel? How can our boys look at our girls respectfully when we, the

adults, perpetuate this attitude? And how do a newlywed bride and her new mother­ in ­law forge a

healthy relationship when the kallah feels scrutinized on such a superficial level?

This is not to say that both sides giving a picture is the way to go. That still would not address the

underlying breach of tznius. But at least it levels the playing field.

I’m also appalled at the lack of class inherent in such a request. You ask for a picture and then you

say no. Do you really think anyone believes the reasons you gave for saying no? By asking for a

picture you are essentially setting yourself up to hurt a girl if you say no. Is it nice to ask her

parents to provide the weapon with which to hurt their child? If it’s that important to you to see a

picture before you give a yes, find another way to get it.

At the height of my impassioned feelings on the topic, a good friend directed me to an article on

yeshiva world news in which the opinions of several gedolim were quoted about this question. Rav

Chaim Kanievsky shlita, Rav Dovid Feinstein shlita, Rav Moshe Heineman shlita, and Rav

Shmuel Fuerst shlita all came out unequivocally against the practice as a breach of tznius and as a

practical measure, stating that there’s a chein that comes across in person that cannot be conveyed

in a picture. Think about all the married people you know. How many would not have gone out

had they based the decision on a picture?

So that’s my opinion.

Having said all that, I have to add that I do not judge anyone who gives a picture. Every parent

reassesses at every stage of the dating process what they are and aren’t willing to give on. It’s

rough out there, and parents do what they feel they must. May Hashem reward our desire to

sanctify our children by helping both our sons and daughters find their zivug hagun b’karov!

0 My Friend Has Issues!?

Question:

I have a close friend who will soon be entering the shidduch parsha. This guy has a great head for

learning, wonderful aspirations for a future in Torah and chinuch, and is handsome too. There’s

only one problem: he has emotional issues that can very likely be me’akeyv (hinder) when it comes

to this parsha.

During different stages of my relationship with this bochur, I’ve seen him beat himself up verbally

on one end of the spectrum, and be manipulative to others (including me) on the other end of the

spectrum. It’s quite possible that he might even need the help of a professional. I care too much

about this friend not to say anything, but I don’t know what to say or how to say it!

Any advice would be appreciated!

A Friend

Dear Friend,

No one ever said being a friend was easy! That’s quite a dilemma you have here.

It sounds like you understand that being a true friend involves much more than hanging together

and having a good time. When the mishna in Avos exhorts us to “knei lecha chaver, acquire for

yourself a friend,” it’s teaching us about the absolute necessity of friendship.

A true friend is close enough to know our issues and yet distant enough to provide some objective

reflection. A parent who sees a flaw in a child will have difficulty separating from it; they will

often experience it as an extension of their own failure or pain. While a good friend sees the issue,

they don’t own it the same way. They can therefore hold a mirror to the friend’s behavior without

being overly invested in the reaction/outcome. Their feedback becomes about the friend, not about

themselves, and is therefore a priceless gift.

I think you know this, and own this responsibility; you are just not sure how to provide this “gift”

because you sense your friend’s vulnerability. I saw a beautiful quote recently that stated, “A true

friend is someone who sees the pain in your eyes while everyone else believes your smile.” You

seem to intuit your friend’s pain and know that approaching him will not be easy as his defenses

are so raw, and self­awareness doesn’t seem to be his thing.

The consequences of not confronting him, however, are potentially devastating. When the core of a

system is rotted, everything that sprouts from it will be diseased as well. When a spouse enters a

marriage with an eroded sense of self (i.e. emotional issues) they can’t function well as an

individual. This in turn corrupts the marital system which then leads to a toxic home environment

that poisons its inhabitants. The members of that family then go on to pour out their pain in their

extended environments causing untold pain to everyone around them. I mean no drama here; this is

simply the core of so much suffering.

Your friend must acknowledge and own his behavior before he can enter an intimate relationship. I

agree with you— he may indeed require professional intervention. I can’t draw any conclusions

from the little information you shared, but he certainly exhibits behavior that might indicate a

personality disorder.

I don’t know much about your relationship. Do your conversations ever go down personal roads?

Do you feel you can bring this up in the context of an article you just read or a story you just

heard? If you can muster up the courage, it would be beneficial to lovingly point out when your

friend lashes out (either against himself or against you). Yes, it may be awkward, but you are

opening the door to his chance of a fulfilling life and potentially sparing another family in Klal

Yisroel much anguish.

Your friend must feel your love and concern above all, so only have this conversation when you’re

completely centered and not angry. If you feel there is no way you can broach this yourself, you

will need to engage the help of a wise and trusted rebbe of his.

Although you don’t explicitly ask, I infer that you are also concerned about what to do when

you’re approached for shidduch information about this friend. The first thing you must do is clarify

your halachic responsibility, as you need to know what you can say, and what you must say. I’d

suggest asking the shaila and formulating your response now so that you’re not caught completely

off guard when it comes up.

You may be in the unique position of knowing crucial information about your friend that isn’t

available to his more casual acquaintances, and this information carries heavy responsibility with

it. These calls are difficult — no one wants to relay information that may be a deal breaker, yet

neither does anyone want to be responsible for withholding information that could potentially be

harmful to an unsuspecting shidduch. So prepare carefully beforehand.

I wish you much hatzlacha in this sensitive and necessary venture.

All the best,

Sara

0 Freezing Up

Question:

I’ve been dating for a year and have been learning a lot from each of my experiences. One of

my weak points while I’m dating is not asking enough important questions. I find myself

freezing up when I try to think of how to word my questions because I don’t want to put the

boy on the spot. I see how this is detrimental since I end up going out with each boy longer

than I would need to.  If I could be more upfront in the beginning about what is important to

me, we probably would both have more clarity. Otherwise I am  a confident dater who keeps up

conversation well and answers the questions posed to me. I was wondering if you could help

me put some important dating questions into words so I can feel confident that these are okay

to ask in the future. Specifically, I would like to know how to ask a boy how important his

Yiddishkeit is to him and how he plans to raise his future family.

Thank you so much for all the incredible advice

Answer:

Your question reminded me of an old favorite dating joke. A young man who was starting to

date asked his older brother for advice on topics to discuss on dates. The brother replied, “The

three “F’s”- food, family and ‘filosophy.” Armed with this knowledge the young man asked his

shy date, “So, do you like lokshen kugel?”, to which she shook her head no. Ok, on to family.

“Do you have any brothers?”. Once again, she shook her head in the negative. Racking his brain

to stir up some conversation he turned to philosophy. “If you had brothers, would they like

lokshen kugel?”

I love this story because it underscores the futility of using canned lines on a date at the same

time that it captures the inherent dilemma of trying to know a stranger deeply in the unnatural

context of a shidduch date. I would love to give you some great lines and take care of this

problem for you, but that won’t work. Using someone else’s words will feel and come off as

artificial.

The first thing you need to remember is that we get information from many sources; direct

questions are but one way. You will learn much about how important a boy’s Yiddishkeit is to

him by the things he tells you, by the priorities he sets etc.  For example, if he smugly tells you

about the Walmart gemach, where he and his friends bought an air conditioner at the

beginning of bein hazmanim and then returned it at the end of the season, reveling in his

ingenuity all the while, he has told you a lot about his integrity (or lack thereof).  Alternatively,

if he mentions in passing how they couldn’t start their trip at 7 p.m. because that would mean

missing Mincha, he’s told you about his commitment to davening and Avodas Hashem. So you

need to read between the lines. Asking a direct question may just give you an answer he thinks

you want to hear.

 

Most of what you’re listening for is not actual information but attitudes. When does he light

up? Does he get excited when he’s telling you things related to his Yiddishkeit? Those are the

moments you want to step in. If he shares an anecdote or a feeling about his Yiddishkeit, stay

there. Ask him to tell you more. See where the conversation goes from there. As much as you’d

like to know sooner rather than later, this is a process that has to unfold. Coming across too

pushy will be a real turn off.

 

This will also help with your feelings of freezing up. If you allow the conversation to unfold

naturally you won’t feel as stressed about coming up with the perfect wording for the

question.  As you focus more on listening to what he’s saying and less on what you’re going to

ask, you will know more about him AND your date will feel heard and well received. As the

relationship progresses you will have to gauge when it is appropriate to ask questions like,

“Where do you see yourself in five years?” which are both personal and generic at the same

time. When your date tells stories about siblings or mentors he is close to, you can ask what it

is about them that he respects. There are wonderful games designed to help people know each

other better and playing them can be a way to deepen your knowledge of each other in a safe,

less pressured way.

Don’t be so hard on yourself. The entire onus of this process should not fall on you. Hopefully

at some point your date will be initiating some of those questions as well. Focus more on being

present in the moment and less on trying to control the process.  

Hatzlacha,

Sara

0 Reality

Question:

My daughter returned from seminary last year and has been in shidduchim for several months.

While she was in Eretz Yisroel she developed a close relationship with one of her teachers whom

she now considers a mentor. My husband and I are thrilled about the growth she experienced and

are happy she found a mentor she respects, but we’re also concerned. My daughter calls this

teacher for “approval” before we give a yes and checks in with her after every date, giving much

consideration to her feedback.

We feel that some of her direction has been misguided. While my daughter has beautiful middos

and aspirations, she also has very human needs and struggles we’re privy to that this mentor may

not be. We fear she’s being guided towards a lifestyle that she may want, but may not be able to

sustain. It seems this mentor is overstepping her role, but if we ever question her advice, we get

that patronizing “I guess this is what they warned us about in seminary” look. What’s our role here

as parents? Are we underestimating our daughter? Should we speak to the mentor directly? We

don’t want to tarnish her idealism, but we also want to set her up for realistic success.

Voice of Reality

Dear Voice,

Just check your parenting manual, the chapter entitled “balancing idealism with realism.” Oh

right…children don’t come with one. We hear so much about achieving the elusive balance

between children’s potential and their current reality, but have little direction about what that looks

like in real time. As our children enter shidduchim and the stakes grow higher, the need to find that

balance becomes ever greater. To further complicate your dilemma, it seems you’re not the only

voice speaking here. We have your thoughts, the input of the mentor and, last but not least, your

daughter’s emerging opinions.

The first thing to remember is that while you may not share common views, you all share a

common goal — finding your daughter a fine man who is a good fit for her. You might differ on

what makes him fine or what constitutes a good fit for her, but you all agree this is the goal.

As parents, you have the longitudinal view. You’ve seen your daughter at various stages and in

many situations. You have the video. Your daughter’s teacher has the in­depth view. She’s seen

your daughter’s inner yearnings and her unfettered, best self. She has the snap shot.

You know what your daughter is; the teacher knows what your daughter can be.

Both those dimensions deserve serious consideration as shidduchim are considered. When your

daughter gives you the “you don’t understand” look I think the message behind the message is, “I

just discovered new layers of greatness within me this year and they excite me. Please don’t

dampen my enthusiasm for ruchnius with this thing you call ‘reality.’ It makes me feel you don’t

believe in me.” It sounds as though the teacher is mirroring the parts of your daughter that she

herself is most proud of; no wonder she wants to align herself with this woman.

Before you can introduce the element of reality (in your daughter’s mind that reads as “criticism”)

you must first also align yourself with the glowing version of herself that she wants to identify

with. She has to feel that you believe in her ability to live these ideals. When you stop fighting her

and create an accepting space for her to explore these issues herself, she’ll probably come to many

of the same conclusions you’re trying to present.

Disclaimer: Unfortunately there are adults in positions of power who, consciously or

unconsciously, feed off the influence they wield on their young charges. If you feel there’s a

controlling dynamic underlying this teacher’s connection to your daughter, you’ll need to intervene

more directly. If you suspect insidious intent, you need to point this out to your daughter with

specific examples. Do not try to forbid contact, as this will backfire.

I am assuming, however, that this isn’t the case, and that we’re just looking at differences of

opinion. “Join” with your daughter by embracing her growth and her desire to live an elevated life.

Verbally acknowledge whatever points her mentor makes that you agree with. Then ask non-
judgmental, open­ended questions about how your daughter would deal with certain situations and

how she’d reconcile certain life scenarios with her personality and needs.

Finally, remember that we’re just actors in the drama of life that Hashem directs. Some girls find

their bashert right after seminary, and marry someone with whom they create a certain type of

home. Others don’t find their bashert until later, after they may experience an internal hashkafic

shifts. They may create a different home than they would have fresh out of seminary. Neither is an

accident, nor is it something we can control. We can only be the best parents we can be.

So, do what you can to merge the three voices, create space for your daughter to come to her own

conclusions, listen to your parental instincts and, most importantly — let go and let Hashem lead

you and your daughter.

Hatzlacha,

Sara