Why am I not married yet? By Rabbi Daniel Schonbuch


I’m a 32-year single Orthodox woman living in New York and I’m having trouble getting married. I’ve dated over 40 guys and never felt that I found the right one. What should I do?

Dear Reader,

Unfortunately, the question you asked is not so uncommon. In fact, I would say, as a marriage and family therapist who deals with helping singles get married, that about half of my clients every week are in a similar position that you are in today.

Due to my knowledge of family and relational psychology, I understand the dynamics of singles who have spent years dating numerous people but are unable to close the deal. Let me share with you one of the most profound insights I learned as a therapist and I have shared with hundreds of young professionals who I have helped to get married over the last decade.

One of the greatest psychologists – and at the same time one of the most unknown personalities – of the 20th century is John Bowlby. Over 60 years ago, Bowlby developed one of the most insightful concepts in relational psychology called “Attachment Theory”. This theory is built upon watching thousands of mothers and babies interact and seeing how they bond or fail to connect.

Most importantly, Bowlby studied what happens to those children 20 or 30 years later. He noticed that there are three types of attachment styles between mothers and children which will be revealed in childhood and years later when the child grows into and adult and engages in an affectionate or romantic relationship. The three types of attachment are Secure, Anxious, and Avoidant Attachment. Let’s briefly review all three.

Secure attachment comes from having a mother who is affectionate and bonds easily with her child whether a boy or a girl. This mother is caring, giving, and highly empathetic. More importantly, the mother listens to her child’s feelings, making the child feel secure. What Bowlby noticed is that the same child who experienced secure attachment as a child will more easily be able to experience safe and secure attachment with their spouse. This means they will have an easier time of getting and staying married.

If the child had a mother who was worried and preoccupied with problems such as emotional distress, poverty, violence, divorce etc., the child becomes anxiously attached. That anxious attachment will be revealed in early adulthood when, trying to be involved in a relationship, she finds herself constantly worried if she is “really” loved by her spouse or fiancé. She will obsess about being loved and notice any changes in texting patterns or when her spouse won’t return her messages or will come home late by a few minutes.

The third type of attachment is called Avoidant Attachment. This emerges from a mother who was emotionally distant and possibly abusive. That child will be uncomfortable with getting close to someone and will avoid close attachment, especially when it comes to getting married. Starting during childhood the avoidantly attached individual reasons to himself, “I ask my mother for what I need emotionally or physically, I will only be met with rejection, so it’s better to not ask for my needs“. As well, he will find it very difficult to enter into a long-term and committed relationship, especially with someone whom he may depend on and have to ask for his own needs. This is true for both men and women.

As a therapist, I believe that most serial daters are people who have suffered from avoidant attachment for many years. Many of them have dated 30 or even 70 people, yet still, find it difficult to get married. The reason Is that when they start getting close to someone there attachment system sends off an alarm that says “don’t open up because you’ll be hurt“. In order to avoid that feeling, they will pull back, especially when things are going well, leaving the person they are dating feeling bewildered. Others will spend many months or years with the avoidantly attached person blaming themselves thinking that there’s something wrong with them and not the avoidant. They may even give up the most precious years of their life trying to make somebody happy but never feel they are responded to in kind.

Of course, I have not met you, and I’m not sure of your attachment style. It is possible that you are having other difficulties that are not attachment-related and need to be looked into. However, if they are based on an avoidant attachment style, attachment-based therapy will help you understand your issues and guide you on how to move on.

Despite what you are going through, there is help. I suggest you read a fantastic book on attachment theory for singles called “Attached” by Dr. Amir Levine. Or if necessary, please call me to make an appointment.

Please send any questions you have about dating and marriage to me at rabbischonbuch@yahoo.com.

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Rabbi Daniel Schonbuch, LMFT (Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist) works with individuals, couples and families. His offices are conveniently located in Flatbush, Crown Heights or via Skype worldwide. To make an appointment in person or by phone/Skype,

call 646-428-4723 or email: rabbischonbuch@yahoo.com


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