This is not a topic that I am able to relate to. That’s not to say I never did anything “behind my parents’ back,” but not when it came to dating. I was very open with my parents in terms of what type of person I wanted to date, when I met shadchanim, when I went out, my thoughts after the date, etc. I kept them “in the know.” But I know others who don’t keep their parents “in the know.” For whatever the reason, be it that they don’t get along with their parents, they are looking for a type of person that their parents don’t want or like, etc., the person may have to date or meet with a shadchan whom their parents don’t know about.
I know of someone (and it may be common) who only introduced his kallah to his parents after he proposed. By doing this he was basically telling his parents, this is the woman I am going to marry and you have no say in the matter at all. The young man didn’t do it out of spite or with anger, but he had been living on his own for a while and was used to being independent. He didn’t feel it necessary to have his future kallah meet his parents before he proposed. I’m not saying whether I agree with that or not, and I am not saying that he did anything behind his parents’ back, as he wasn’t living at home, was a professional, and handled shadchanim and shidduchim personally without getting his mother involved. This was his way of conducting his life; he was a grown man and made decisions in his professional as well as personal life without consulting his parents. I also dated men who were in their 40s and their mommies were still contacting shadchanim for them and all had to be approved of by the mother before the 40-year-old son would agree to a date! Now that’s a bit much! I’m not referring to that situation here. In this column, I am referring to people still living at home and specifically doing something regarding shidduchim without informing their parents.
A few weeks ago, a colleague of mine asked for advice. I should preface that she is 21 and still living at home. She said that at the moment her mother was “too busy” to deal with shidduchim and shadchanim and told her that “when things calm down” she will start contacting shadchanim again on her behalf. This girl complained. She said that all of her friends were dating and some were married. She didn’t want to wait until “things calmed down” to date, because it may take a month or longer. She felt that by taking a “forced vacation” from dating, she may miss opportunities and remain single “forever.” I asked her if it was possible that she speak with her mother to discuss how she feels and to suggest that she communicate with shadchanim, but keep her mother updated on all that happens. My friend said that her parents were very involved with her siblings’ shidduchim, and that would never work. All suggestions I proposed were shot down with “my parents won’t let.” I finally told her that she should respect her parents and their wishes and to keep in mind that they want the best for her, and hopefully she will get back in the dating game shortly.
The following week, my colleague called to tell me that she had an appointment with a shadchan. I was under the false impression that “things had calmed down” and her mother began calling shadchanim on her behalf. WRONG! The young woman told me that she felt she had to take charge of her life. Those were the words that she used. She called a particular shadchan and scheduled an appointment to meet with her without informing her parents. My colleague said she was going to leave work early, go home to change clothes and freshen up, and then she was going to meet the shadchan. I told her that she is taking a big step, and while it was good to hear that she was “taking control of her life,” I asked her what will happen when her parents find out. It’s one thing to meet with a shadchan, but then what happens when and if the shadchan calls to set her up? What will happen if she agrees to a date and then the fellow picks her up at her house? When was she going to explain that she started this ball rolling without telling them, when she specifically was told by her mother that she would have to take a hiatus from dating? My friend looked stumped. I don’t think she thought all of this through.
Each family has its own dynamic. Everyone knows what role they play in their family and how to go about daily life. Many times, when the dynamics are changed, some anarchy can exist until all returns to normal – if it can return to normal. If it can’t, then a new dynamic and structure arises. My colleague didn’t think her plan all the way through. She saw a quick fix to her issue. She didn’t think about all the factors involved. She didn’t think that the structure of her family may be affected and topple over like dominos, one after the other. She didn’t think about when the shadchan does call with a date, how this may influence her younger siblings and their behavior. If she defied a rule in the house and it seems like a pretty big rule, maybe the younger siblings will start following her example. It can throw off the balance of the family. I’m not blaming my co-worker because she simply didn’t think of the bigger picture and what can happen (besides dating) because of her actions.
I know of someone (and it may be common)
who only introduced his kallah to his parents after he proposed
Years ago, when I was in college, a friend of mine was dating someone she knew her parents didn’t approve of. She would discuss it with me. She told me that she would tell her parents that she was going to the movies or to a girlfriend’s house when she would actually be meeting her boyfriend. At one point, her parents caught her in the lie. An awful fight ensued. I wasn’t able to relate to what she was going through at the time, but I was very interested in hearing what she had to say. I’m sad to say that it sort of sounded like a Romeo and Juliet story (without the two warring families. It was just that her parents didn’t like her boyfriend). I couldn’t help but ask her what would happen if she married her boyfriend. She looked at me with a blank expression. “Oh, I don’t think will happen. He’s not marriage material.” I was very confused. Here she was causing a disruption in the family that affected everyone: brothers and sisters, as everyone lived at home. All of them had to hear the arguments about her dating the boyfriend, but she wasn’t thinking of marrying him? All the fighting caused the balance of the home environment to be altered, and the siblings’ lives were affected as well, even minutely. What was the point of it then? Was he just a distraction from what was going on in her life for the moment? If she didn’t see a future with this fellow, then why cause all the upheaval with her parents? My questions were never answered.
I told my young colleague of the friend that I once had and the situation she was in. I added that no two situations are exactly the same, but she too went out without her parents’ knowledge or approval. I related the arguments that I was told about. I told this girl that she is free to do whatever she wants to do and she doesn’t have to listen to me, but she did come for advice. My advice to her: Think the situation all the way through and the various outcomes that could come from her having a secret meeting with a shadchan. If the ends are worth the means, then she can carry on with her plan. But, I reminded her, that if she wasn’t willing to pay the price of maybe losing the respect of her parents, starting a family argument, etc. all because she didn’t want to wait a few weeks, then maybe she should rethink her appointment with the shadchan.
Yes, dating isn’t easy. It’s even harder when parents, friends, and siblings are involved. You should keep in mind that your family and loved ones only want what is best for you (even if you don’t agree with them). Try thinking of the reasons they may have for doing or saying what they do. Remember, my colleague’s mother had said that she was dealing with a lot at the time and didn’t have all the time she would need to pay full attention to the shadchanim and shidduchim. That means that the mother wanted to be fully involved and to help her daughter. Whatever actions you decide to take, just keep in mind what Sir Isaac Newton said: “To every action there is always opposed an equal reaction.” You must be prepared to deal with the consequences.
Hatzlachah to you all.
Goldy Krantz is an LMSW and a lifelong Queens resident, guest lecturer, and author of the shidduch dating book, The Best of My Worst and children’s book Where Has Zaidy Gone? She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.