I guess I’m not a philosopher or someone who can teach others how to think of a situation in a new way. The fact that I have been trying to get people to approach shidduchim in a different way, a way of not calling everyone in the neighborhood or who taught at his or her school to find out information on the girl/guy, has been around for decades. It may not be the popular opinion, but I’m not the first person to speak about this. Not only do I speak about it, I live it as well. I met my husband at work. I knew what I knew about him from him. I talk the talk and walk the walk. Sometimes people get wrapped up in the “narishkeit” when it comes to shidduchim. That, too, has been around for a very long time, as well. Here are two emails from women who talked the talk long before I talked to my husband (then co-worker). Sometimes it’s better to lead by action instead of just telling others what to do.
I have been out of the dating scene for many years, but when I dated I followed your philosophy – even before you started writing. I dated the person, not his grandmother or the color of his socks. I dated the person. Yes, my mother called a neighbor or a cousin just to see if any extra information was able to be found out; but if none could be, I still went out with the guy. What did I “judge” the guy on, if I didn’t know the whole yichus of maternal and paternal heritage or what his dog died from years earlier? I considered how he treated me, how he spoke of others, if our lifestyles were able to mesh, and a couple of other things, when deciding if I should invest more time with this person or even move to the next stage of the relationship.
It happened that one time I dated someone about whom I was unable to really find any info. The one person I was able to contact, who knew the guy, admitted that he knew him about a decade earlier. He told me what his thoughts were but added, “That was ten years ago.” My parents warned me against it, because it seemed strange to them that no one except the shadchan knew of this guy. But I decided to go for one date with him. Nothing horrible happened on the date. Nothing horrible happened on any of our dates together. All was fine and we’ve been married for four years. People should stop trying to find out information on someone – which is basically like asking someone for lashon ha’ra under the guise of wanting to find out if this person is right for me, and just go out with the girl/guy. Spare an hour or two for coffee. Just go. If I listened to everyone, we wouldn’t be married.
I know you don’t need me to tell you this, but you are right. You’re right in the way you think and approach shidduchim. You always say to forget about doing research or asking crazy questions that have nothing to do with the true nature of the girl and guy. Ask a question or two; do your hishtadlus, but then decide. Decide for yourself if you want to go out with the person. Don’t rely on the woman/man who sits two rows behind the girl/gentleman’s mother/father in shul.
Almost a decade ago, I was dating. It seemed like I was doing everything right; visiting and paying shadchanim, going to singles Shabbatons, having either my mother or myself call the references we were given, etc., but here I was still single. Then a college friend suggested a friend of her husband’s. She admitted that the friend was fairly new to our area, Far Rockaway (at the time), but her husband got to know him and he seemed like a nice guy and worth a date. I wrote down the guy’s information of what my friend was able to tell me. His name was Daniel and I jotted down the information.
Unfortunately (or fortunately), I couldn’t find out anything substantial about the friend other than what I was originally told. I called a rav of the shul in his home town. The rav said that he knew Daniel’s family, but hadn’t really seen or spoken with Daniel in the past few years, because he went away to college/yeshivah and then moved to the New York area. I trusted my friend – that Daniel was a nice, easygoing guy with a personality similar to mine (sarcastically critical). Against the counsel of my parents, I took a chance and agreed to go out with Daniel.
As I said, it was a decade ago and Daniel and I are married with four children ka”h. I didn’t do “my research” and Daniel, too, relied on his friend’s information about me. We dated for a few months. Not all of it was perfect. We had a few disagreements, but kept with it because minor disagreements in the grand scheme of things shouldn’t be the cause of cutting someone out of your life. Our marriage, as well, has had ups and pretty low downs; but again, communication is key (like you always say), and I’m in this for the long haul. Unless my husband and I can’t find common ground and disagree on everything, unless our hashkafos change so much along with our personalities that we aren’t the same person anymore, then I (and he) are here to stay. Too many times, even after research was done and dozens of people were contacted and interrogated about a girl or guy, the couple may date once and say, “Nope. Not for me.” Dating isn’t a buffet: “I’ll pass on the beef and broccoli because maybe the sweet-and-sour chicken at the other end is better. Hope there’s chicken left by the time I get down there.” I’m hearing too many stories of men and women ending a relationship over a disagreement or argument or whatever it is because they aren’t willing to work for it. A happy relationship doesn’t fall into your lap; it requires both parties giving 100 percent of themselves. These couples would rather just drop the whole thing and look for another entrée than to see if differences can be worked out or if they agree to disagree.
I wanted to tell you and your readers this (please print my email, if you can), and let them know that research means nothing. Questioning a high school teacher about a 25-year-old means nothing, as well, because people change over time. Talking and spending time with the actual person who was redt to you can do more than hours of researching. Why is it so unheard of to just meet someone for an hour for coffee or lunch, or a walk in the park or something else? If you aren’t willing to put yourself out there for an hour to meet this person, how can you say that you are willing to put weeks, months, and even years into a relationship that may end up being rocky? I’m not saying that younger couples today don’t want to work at anything and try to do things the easy way; but then that’s why we have so many singles in their 30s, 40s, and 50s. Put the time in and get to know the person. No one is committing anyone to five or six dates. If after the second or third coffee or lunch date you find that you have nothing in common with this person, then you can thank him or her for their time, apologize for it not working out, and move on.
But if “Mindy” or “Moshe” is looking for the perfect guy or girl whose references praise him and talk about writing to Congress asking that his/her birthday be made a National Holiday because this person is the greatest thing since sliced bread, that’s never going to happen; and even if they do get the delivery of the perfect mate, there will be ups and downs. There may be weeks of arguing and months of therapy; but you have to be committed to see this through, and not look at marriage as something to do while things are easy. Marriage is hard work. You lose your identity when you become a wife and then when you become a parent. You have to be ready to duck things, avoid, and jump through hurdles sometimes to get through one average day. No researcher will tell you if the person will last long through a crisis or will be there when the chips are down – because it’s sad, but true: Some cut and run when it gets tough, and some rise to the occasion. But no reference will ever say, “He/she is the type to disappoint you when you need him/her.”
I knew nothing about Daniel. We met, spent time together, got to know each other, argued a bit, married, loved each other, argued, apologized, argued again, apologized again...but in the end we want our marriage to work and are putting in the effort. I feel like I am quoting half of your articles – but you speak the truth, and I know it because I’m living it and was living it before you started writing the column.
Thank you, Goldy.
Devorah (my real name)
Thank you, Devorah, for your email and the permission to publish it.
Your email made me smile (as did the first one I published) – not because you told me I was right, but because you went against what was expected of you (to call references and “check out” Daniel), and even if your story ended up with you and Daniel not being right for each other, you took the chance. You said, “It seemed like I was doing everything right: visiting and paying shadchanim, going to singles Shabbatons, having either my mother or myself call the references we were given, etc., but here I was still single.” What exactly is “the right thing”? Should all singles meet with shadchanim, go to speed-dating events, Shabbatons, etc.? No, all must do what they feel is right for them, and you were doing what you thought was right. But it was leading nowhere. You trusted a friend and went out. It could have been a “one and done” and you wouldn’t have been in any worse place than you were at the time. But you took a chance and it worked out. You didn’t cut and run when things got tough; you both stood your ground and communicated. That’s the key!
Yes, marriage is work. Many people can often say that they go to work once they leave the office. On my first day of work, 17 years ago, a co-worker was asked how her weekend was (My first day was on a Monday). The co-worker said, “Ugh! Don’t want to talk about it. I’m here to relax and to forget it.” I know she was joking, but there is some truth in that joke: Marriage and life are hard. I love how you tell readers how hard marriage is. Many people think of it as the end of a Disney Princess film. But it is far from that. Yes, there will be many happy times hopefully. But there will be times when you want to ring each other’s neck, when you both think the other one is wrong, when you can’t even see the issue through your spouse’s eyes because “you’re so stupid,” when you won’t talk to each other for hours because you are Mommy and Daddy and the kids need you more than you need to ask each other how your day was (because you can always do that after the kids go to sleep). But, yes, people have to be willing to put in the effort and stick through the bad times if they really want things to work out in the end – and, no, a high school teacher won’t be able to tell you if “Mindy/Moshe” will freak out if the kids end up getting chicken pox at once or if you have three consecutive late payments on the credit card or if she thinks you insulted her homemaking to your mother.
You can always make a phone call or two; but again, like you (and I and many others) say, you are dating the person.
I wish you all hatzlachah!