By: Eva Kairey
You just found out someone you know got engaged, and right after “Mabrouk!” or “Mazal Tov!”, the most popular question that follows is, “So how did you meet each other?”
It seems that everyone is always game to hear a great story about how a couple met, and of course, every couple has a story to tell that is more entertaining than the next. With this in mind, we invite couples from our community to share their stories with us for possible publication in future issues.
My story, which will hopefully be the first of many to grace these pages, centers around a sage piece of advice from a trusted friend.
Like all singles, I had my list of what I was looking for in a match. I also had my list of what I didn’t think I could handle, and therefore didn’t want, and this list included “divorced” and, even more so, “divorced with child/children.” Therefore, when the man who is now my husband was suggested to me as a potential match, the first 50 or so times, I immediately and unhesitatingly said, “No, thank you.”
It wasn’t that I didn’t want to go out with him. I had known him for 15 years, and knew personally that he was a great guy. However, I just couldn’t get passed the idea that he was “divorced with a child.” I didn’t think I could handle it, and it literally frightened me.
Things would have continued this way if not for the wise piece of advice a friend of mine gave me later on: “Every marriage has its challenges, whether you know it up front or discover it along the way. This would be your challenge, and you’re privileged to know it up front.”
While internalization of this advice was certainly a turning point for me and the catalyst for my first date with my husband, it would take a considerable amount of time before I would even reach this point.
A Married Man on a Train
The first person who actually tried to set us up was an elderly woman sitting next to me on the subway. One day, while riding home from work, I looked up after completing my daily Tehillim and saw Eli sitting right next to me. (At the time, he was in the process of finalizing his divorce, but I had no idea). We said hello to each other. He had been looking at pictures of his daughter and himself, wearing a great big smile on his face. I thought that was so sweet. We spoke a little, and he told me about how he took his daughter out last weekend and they took pictures. He then he got off the train.
As soon as he exited the train, the elderly woman who was sitting nearby quickly came over and sat right next to me. She smiled and said, “Cute Guy!”
“Yeah,” I said, smiling, “but he’s married.”
The next stop was mine, and as I got off the train, my phone rang. It was a good friend who, over the course of the conversation, mentioned Eli and that he was getting divorced. I couldn’t believe my ears – I had just seen him and had no idea!
Months went by, and every day my phone rang with someone else who wanted to set me up with Eli. The answer was always the same: “He is a great guy, but I can’t do it. I can’t bring myself to go out with someone who is divorced with a child. I just can’t handle it.” They tried and tried, but I didn’t want to just date him and then reject him because of something I knew in advance.
The Community Magazine Connection
Shortly after writing an article about the Yad Yosef Bridal Fund in Community Magazine, which also mentioned the raffle we were having and my contact information, Eli sent me an email telling me that he had just read my article and it touched his heart. He asked me to bill him for a book of raffles and wished me luck with the Bridal Fund.
Unbeknownst to me, Eli then asked one of the community’s matchmakers to set us up. One Sunday afternoon, she called me, introduced herself, and suggested that we meet. She tried to broach the topic of dating a divorced man with a child, but I wouldn’t budge. It wasn’t for me.
But the suggestion from my friends and acquaintances kept coming. I really wanted to go out with him. He was everything I was looking for, and more, but I was scared – really scared. I then remembered what a friend of mine had told me a while earlier about her marriage to a divorced man with children: “Hashem sent the most perfect man for me. There is no one in the world more perfect for me than my husband.”
A Heartfelt Prayer, an Immediate Response
I started to wonder if perhaps he was the right one and I wasn’t opening my eyes to it. Was this Hashem sending me my naseeb, but me turning him away for no other reason but my fears? I was torn and needed clarity. I sought advice (which I learned is crucial while dating) from a friend who, I believed, would truly understand and be able to guide me since she herself was married to a divorced man with children. I will never forget that day, the Friday afternoon when I called her and said, “I need your help! I have a dilemma, and you are the only person who could help me get through it.” She somehow knew exactly what I wanted to ask her…
Gd bless her, she stayed on the phone with me and worked through everything I was thinking and feeling, because she knew exactly what I was going through. She reassured me that I could handle the situation, it wasn’t so frightening, and I could be a good stepmother. My friend also emphasized that I should be grateful to know the challenges of this marriage in advance, because every marriage comes with challenges. She then encouraged me to take the “leap” immediately.
I hung up the phone and just sat at my desk with tears in my eyes. I looked up to Hashem, and prayed: “Please Hashem, I really want to go out with him, but I am so scared. Please help me. If indeed, he is the right one for me, please send me a very clear message, and please let it be obvious that You, Hashem, are sending me the message!” A tear slid down my cheek, and I wiped it off, gathered my things and left work for the weekend.
The clear message from Hashem didn’t take long to arrive. When I got to the subway platform, I happened to see one of my friends. We started talking and the topic turned to dating, and the next thing I knew the topic turned to “Dating men that are divorced with children”. I said “You don’t have a problem with it?” She said “Not at all”. I then explained to her my dilemma and the rest of the train ride, she sat there trying to reassure me that I could do it, and I had to go. We both got off at Kings Highway and were about to part ways, when my friend said the following, “Eva, you have to go, it’s not a coincidence we saw each other on the train today, Hashem is sending you a message – take it”.
I literally started shaking when I heard that. It was exactly what I had asked for – I said “Thank you Hashem!”
The next day in shul, after Kiddush, I joined my friends who were in the middle of a discussion about “Dating divorced men with children”. When I walked over, one of them mentioned my hesitations. My other friend said “Why not? I actually know a great guy, who would be perfect for you!” (Turns out it was Eli). The next thing I knew she pulled me over to the side and was trying to convince me that I had to go. I hesitated, and so she grabbed me by the shoulders and said “Eva, he’s perfect for you, it is not a coincidence we are having this conversation, Hashem is sending you a message, take it!”
Needless to say, by the second encounter, I was shaken to my very core. I turned to Hashem and said, “Thank you Hashem, I got it. I got the message.”
A Match is Made
The next morning, I was meeting one of my friends who happened to have been one of the last people who called to try and set me up with Eli. She was friendly with Eli’s sister. As soon as I got in the car, I said, “Okay, call his sister, tell her I’ll go out with him.”
My friend was so excited, she didn’t know where to start. That night, however, she called me and said, “His sister just called me back, and said he wants to know why you changed your mind.”
“What!?” I exclaimed.
“He said that everyone tried to get you to go out with him, but no one was able to change your mind. He doesn’t want anyone forcing you to go out with him.”
When I heard that, I was really touched, and I told her, “Please tell him that no one is forcing me to go, but I want to go, and Hashem changed my mind.” I told her the whole story, it got back to him, and we went out three days later.
We both knew on our first date that we had struck our match. I knew he was a great guy, but when I saw how much he adored his daughter, and how his face lit up whenever he talked about her, I knew that he was the right one for me. Amazingly enough, what I had been afraid of all along was precisely what made me care for him all the more.
I had waited a long time to get married. All those years, Hashem had a plan. Although my husband and I knew each other for 15 years before we actually got married, I see that we both had things to learn, and to grow from, and we both had to go through a lot in order to become the people we are today and to build the life and family that we have today. I am truly grateful to Hashem for everything!
Share your story, so that the unmistakable hashgahah peratit (Divine providence) that is clearly manifest in each match, can help inspire those who are still looking. Every union is undoubtedly designated by Hashem, and every couple can tell you how they clearly saw the hand of Hashem in every step of the way, as I myself can personally attest.
Send your story to email@example.com or fax it to 718-504-4246.