CONTENTS AT A GLANCE
TEN KEYS FOR MEASURING THE
HEALTHINESS OF ATTRACTION AND DURABILITY PROSPECTS FOR A MARRIAGE RELATIONSHIP
TEN KEYS TO
EVALUATING AND DISCERNING WHO THE RIGHT MATCH FOR YOURSELF IS
FINDING OUT ABOUT A
SHIDDUCH DURING DATING
FOR WHEN YOU SUSPECT YOU
ARE DATING A DYSFUNCTIONAL PERSON
TO ACHIEVE TRUE
SPECIALNESS WHEN FINDING YOUR MATE
FROM OUR SAGES ON FINDING
SHOULD I MARRY A PERSON
TRUSTING HIM/HER TO CHANGE?
HOW TO HANDLE BEING
REJECTED BY SOMEONE YOU DON'T WANT TO BE REJECTED BY
EFFORT FOR FINDING YOUR MATE
HOW THE "PERFECT
WHEN THERE ARE
RELATIONSHIP PROBLEMS, WHEN DO YOU FIX AND WHEN DO YOU RUN?
DEFINING TRUE LOVE VS.
HUMAN DYNAMICS OF
KEYS TO WHAT IS REALISTIC
AND LASTING IN A MATCH
[Note 1: Rabbi Forsythe is sometimes asked
about personal matchmaking. However, for the last few years, he has restricted matchmaking
to people who he knows personally and knows well for a considerable period of time. He no
longer does matchmaking for the public at-large. His current work with singles is
primarily compatibility-profiling interviews, private counseling, public lecturing,
shabatones, workshops and the like.]
[Note 2: In halacha, there is NO kibud av
ve'aim in shidduchim. A single should marry the person who he gets along with and who is
good for him/her. There is a world of difference in halacha between a parent giving mature
advice or sharing life experience vs. making or killing a shidduch. The ultimate criteria
for suitability of a shidduch is: what is good for the couple.]
TEN KEYS FOR MEASURING THE
HEALTHINESS OF ATTRACTION AND DURABILITY PROSPECTS FOR A MARRIAGE RELATIONSHIP
When I give live presentations and
workshops for singles, on subjects of relationships or finding one's mate, one of the
recurring areas of intense interest from audiences is how to determine which person to
choose for marriage.
For the purpose of this series, the next
two installments will be dedicated to two facets of this question. This section will
address factors which indicate whether your interest in a person is healthy and solid. The
next section will address discerning (from the indications in the relationship) if the
person is suitable for you. There are, of course, no guarantees (since there are many
variables in oneself, the other and unforseen developments in life). However, we can
strive to weed out serious and costly mistakes and to increase the chances for helpful
judgement and for success.
1. You are consistently attracted to
good-hearted people who have more psychological and relating positives, and less
negatives. You do not focus on externals or material advantages. You would unconditionally
take the person if (s)he did not have money or social status. Your focus and priorities
emphasize good inner qualities and your objective prospects for "human
2. Attraction to this person is relative
calm, not intense or excited.
3. Attraction is to people who are
well-liked by, who are respected by, and who get along well with, a good number of people
who are mature, psychologically healthy, responsible and who have good midos and
4. Attraction is to people who you respect
more than you like or love.
5. You think through relationship choices
in advance for long-run prospects (reasonably and objectively, the best you can; so as to
judge a fairly compatible, if not perfect, candidate) before emotional investment or
6. You are happier to give to the other
person than to get from the person. You are attracted to people who, like you, are happier
to give than to take. You allow the other to give also, so that the interchange is
approximately even. Note: healthy giving is in order to please, benefit or complete the
other person; not to "rescue" the other person, nor to obtain approval or
pay-back; because these are giving to your own immature needs.
7. You are not attracted based on what
others think of your choice. You are attracted on the basis of a solid and wholesome match
for your life with productive, stable, positive and enduring prospects. You seek and heed
prudent, objective and mature advice; but you do not respond to pressure (e.g. matchmaker,
rabbi, parents, peers, offer of money to marry) and you do not seek approval (e.g. marry a
kollel guy, professional or someone from a rich or esteemed family because it makes you
look or feel good).
8. You consistently resolve differences
with people peacefully, calmly, directly, gently and promptly. Any resolution contains
heartfelt concern for fairness and consideration for the other's feelings and needs. If
either of you hurts the other, the offender immediately (upon learning of the error)
"runs" to sincerely and unhesitatingly communicate, apologize and do what it
takes to make it right. You both understand each other reasonably well and both adapt to
please or to get along with each other. Peace is always a top, non-compromisable priority.
Whenever you cannot work out an acceptable resolution by yourselves, you both voluntarily
go to da'as Torah and, regardless of the difficulty or discomfort involved, faithfully and
totally obey the p'sak with a good attitude.
9. You are turned off by people who have
bad or destructive midos: e.g. they are cruel, antagonistic, angry, arrogant, selfish,
unhappy, dishonesty, grudge-bearing, jealous, critical, demanding, unstable, rigid or
undisciplined; or are hungry for honor, approval, power, materialism or self-indulgence.
10. If you see any patterns which don't
work, you fix them each time, so that you progressively are doing better and better as a
relator and judge of prospective partners. You have the courage and integrity needed to
steadily grow. You see marriage as a lifelong commitment to and mechanism for healthy
TEN KEYS TO EVALUATING
AND DISCERNING WHO THE RIGHT MATCH FOR YOURSELF IS
In the previous installment we looked at
the aspect of selecting one's mate pertaining to what healthy attraction is and prospects
for one's general selection criteria in a partner for a durable marriage.
In this installment we will move on to the
step of evaluating indications in the actual relationship for whether a person might be
"the right one."
When I do live singles presentations and
workshops, these are questions of considerable concern to audience members. In addition,
they often express frustration with many of the common hardships experienced, especially
by older singles. So, let me also add here a few words of encouragement and comfort. For
example, many complain that they find many people out there who are not as nice as they
should be. To this I say that you should concentrate on being the best and most
marriageable person you can be. Increase your merit in both practical and spiritual terms
so that G-d, the ultimate Maker of all matches, should see you as a ready "kailee
(utensil)" for your soul-mate. One more example is people feeling ready to "give
up." No - do not give up. The Talmud only refers to giving up in one kind of case. If
your wallet falls into the ocean (i.e. if you lose property in a way that, in nature, you
can expect to never get it back), then we say it is normal to give up. Otherwise keep
plugging and strong!
1. The person behaves with fine midos
(character traits, particularly the ones upon which a lasting, successful relationship
depend; e.g. respect for self and others, responsibility, trustworthiness, humility,
peacefulness, kindness, compassion, softness and good-heartedness) and behaves with derech
eretz (decent, polite, thoughtful behavior).
2. You feel comfortable and secure with the
other person. Neither of you needs to put on any phoney act, to lie about or hide your
imperfections or feelings, to hesitate about expressing yourself nor to make unnatural
effort to be impressive, acceptable or interesting.
3. The real (inner) you is able to relate
to the real (inner) person in the other. The primary level of relating is heart-to-heart
(not to wallet, talent, looks or other self-serving worldly benefits).
4. You enjoy the other's company, get along
well and look forward to seeing each other when apart. Note: it is an unhealthy sign to
miss the person when apart and to want to go apart when together!
5. You enjoy doing kind and thoughtful
things for the other person, without asking for or expecting remuneration. You care for
the other person as much as you do for yourself. You feel his/her pain or happiness and
his/her feelings or will are as important as your own. Therefore, bending your will to
please him/her, to save him/her from hurt, to give of yourself or to get along well is not
a significant problem for you. You want the other to be happy and it makes you happy to
make the other happy. If a thing is important to the other, that is enough to make it
important to you. You are more interested in having a commitment relationship with this
person than frightened or put-off by the demands or limitations imposed by commitment.
6. You communicate well, comfortably,
effectively and honestly, without inhibition. You steadily achieve understanding which
promotes the well-being and development of the relationship.
7. You have compatible religious ideals and
life direction and goals.
8. You attribute importance and weight to
the person. You respect the person very much - more than you love the person. You
willingly and rapidly act to relate to and to respond to the will, feelings, needs and
taste of the other person, without hesitation or feeling judgmental nor imposed upon - not
only out of the emotion of love, but because you respect the person more than you respect
9. You care for and relate to the entire
person. You accept or complete each other's (non-damaging) shortcomings. You voluntarily
give from each other's strengths to make your partner and your "team" stronger,
happier, better and more productive.
10. You want to bring each other to each
one's goals and potential, and you both want to help each other to grow and to be happy.
FINDING OUT ABOUT A
SHIDDUCH DURING DATING
One of the things I constantly study when I do counseling
is where the root of problems lie. One common theme that I often see is: where mistakes
are made in the courting and mate-selection process. Given the diverse minhagim among
Torah Jews, there are at least two categories into which this must be divided. I must
differentiate Chasidish from non-Chasidish, because the latter (e.g. Litvish, Sefardic,
Modern) go on dates while the Chasidish use the "bashow" procedure. The
approaches to dealing with mate-selection in the two groups are very different.
In another section of this site, I plan to deal with the scenario of those Chasidim who
do not date nor meet much in person [even non-Chasidim can benefit from the material there
on investigating a shidduch, and you are duly referred there to the section on the
"Bashow Minhag" for more on investigating a shidduch]. Chasidim rely heavily on
investigation, instead. Now we move on to a different mate-selecting procedure, and
obtaining signs in advance for a good and lasting marriage.
Singles who come to me for counseling (including divorced and widowed) are concerned
about problematic dating, how to select, relating behavior, making or repeating mistakes,
potential durability of a marriage, discovering a phoney, etc. I advise the non-Chasidish
singles to examine the prospects with someone whom they date. When you go out, especially
with a new person, find things to do that allow you to get to know each other, interact
with each other, and that you both enjoy. Some examples along this line that people report
to work well include bowling, miniature golf, a museum or botanical garden. Such
activities are fun, they feel light and comfortable, you communicate (if you can't find
what to say by yourself, you can talk about what you are seeing or doing to "break
the ice"). Do not go to a movie or show or anything that precludes interacting with
each other while you are doing it. It is a mathematics axiom that parallel lines never
meet. If you and your date are parallel lines watching a stage or screen, you don't meet!
Besides, there are serious halachic problems with the content of most movies or shows
these days, so they are generally not suitable in Jewish law. Choose activities that allow
you to interact. Enjoy your time together and spend a sufficient amount of time to get to
know each other REASONABLY well (note: before marriage, you can't know any person
When you are getting to know each other more, after a few initial dates, I recommend
that people go out for a full length day-trip (e.g. drive out-of-town to the country -
making sure to keep the laws prohibiting Yichud/seclusion), perhaps more than once. By
spending a prolonged period of time, people tend to become more and more themselves as a
day stretches out. You more and more get to see the real person in greater depth. You get
to see some of the foibles or inconsistencies and some of the ways the person interacts
with relating partners or challenging life situations. As you get further into your day,
more of the real person comes out. There's only so much that a person can act. Over time,
the guard goes down more and more. You may, for example, see if the person is ever rude,
vulgar, critical, mean, inconsiderate, impatient, selfish, dishonest or condescending.
Even if the person is nice to you, is the person nasty to a waiter or gas station
attendant? Does the person get angry or nasty in a traffic jam? You can better judge - and
have more insight into - whether this is someone you can really relate to, trust and
appreciate; whether the person's good qualities are sincere, stable and authentic. There
is no guarantee that a person won't maintain an act. I've seen some really shrewd,
troubled, insecure, manipulative people who consciously hide their faults well until a
relationship is quite developed and another person is emotionally "hooked" or
until after marriage. However, there can often be signs, if you know how to read them. For
example, Chazal say that you can tell who a person is by who he praises. Does the person
praise Pirkei Avos or Dow Jones, the Chofetz Chayim or the Super Bowl?
I am not suggesting that you ever "trap" a person. I am just saying to enter
into situations in which the person is more likely to be his honest self. For example, go
for a day trip or observe conduct with employees in a restaurant, or whether the person
gets vulgar in a traffic jam. If a situation makes him/her angry or nasty, observe and
learn about how the person handles provocation and about the person's temper or character
weakness. Do not intentionally provoke the person yourself. That would be a sin and no
shidduch can be blessed if it comes about through any sin, whether deceiving, instigating
or any other sin.
IN DIRECT PROPORTION TO ANY CONCERN OR SUSPICION, 1. call more people for information
than you would otherwise (the more concern, the more people), and 2. see more of the
people you contact for information "in person" face-to-face (the more concern,
the more people you must speak to in-person...to get facial gestures or visual signs that
may indicate invented, covered or incomplete information, or evasiveness; which would be
hidden over the phone). In my counseling experience, some marriage trouble and break-up
stems from untrue, rushed, undisclosed, vague, half-true or ignored information; so if
something seems odd, inconsistent or worrisome; believe nothing more than the name and
address of the boy or girl! EVERYTHING THAT YOU COULDN'T GET FROM ANY PHONE BOOK, CHECK
OUT YOURSELF THOROUGHLY! Call a rov for what to discuss and to determine what is lashon
hora vs. what is necessary to speak about in each case.
Do not merely infer something about a shidduch that needs to be actually verified and
known. The gemora says that when witnesses came, if they said, "We did not see a
moon," Sanhedrin CANNOT declare the day to NOT be Rosh Chodesh because WHAT YOU DO
NOT SEE IS NOT TESTIMONY. If witnesses see the moon, bais din can declare the day to be
Rosh Chodesh. ONLY WHAT YOU SEE IS TESTIMONY. THE SAME APPLIES IN SHIDDUCHIM. And, the
same way you check out the boy/girl, check out the shadchan! Get references to couples and
parents and inquire from them whether the shadchan's work and attitude were satisfactory,
honest and helpful.
Is there instability, dishonesty or dysfunction in the family? Don't be fooled by those
who act saintly in public and are beasts in their home. Even if the home has problems, HAS
THE INDIVIDUAL BOY OR GIRL RISEN ABOVE ANY SHORTCOMINGS OF THE FAMILY (remember, we have
our Jewish people specifically BECAUSE RIVKA LEFT EVIL BESUEL AND LOVON!). Does the boy or
girl have good midos, straight hashkofos and loyalty to Torah? Is the boy or girl tocho
kibaro (the same person inside and out), eidl (gentle) and temimi (uncomplicated,
psychologically and religiously)? Is the person sensitive, considerate and responsive to
other people? How does the person handle disagreement, provocation or pressure? Does the
person have a good heart and do chesed, and take responsibility for other people in
somewhat mature ways? Does (s)he keep his word? Does the youth have a rov for HALACHA AND
LIFE QUESTIONS - who the person FAITHFULLY LISTENS TO (not just goes to!)? Warning: some
manipulative people craft shaalos to get desired answers; find out if the person's
questions also are honest! Does the boy or girl have good social skills, regular and
healthy group interactions, and fine bain adam lechavairo (interpersonal) conduct? If you
have any doubts, the inquiring set of parents and/or their child should spend more time
with the prospect to see if any flaws, inconsistencies, "bad vibes" or arguing
come to the surface. Have at least one, preferably several, QUALIFIED and caring advisors
(rebitzen, rabbi, counselor) who know you reasonably well. One may catch something another
missed, or have input the other did not have. Get OBJECTIVE input. Talk over impressions,
events, reactions, behaviors (of the person you are dating and your own) and whether your
various feelings are helpful and reliable or not. Don't be too hasty to either accept or
reject a prospect for marriage. You don't want to get hurt for marrying or dumping someone
you should not have. You must have BALANCE (as with all things in the Torah).
In any of these cases (Chasidish or not), all we can really do is increase chances for
the good, not guarantee. The point for everybody is: 1. well-done Hishtadlus (practical
effort); 2. each single truly being the best and most marriageable person (s)he can be; 3.
and prayer to Hashem for mercy, help, success and blessing.
FOR WHEN YOU SUSPECT YOU
ARE DATING A DYSFUNCTIONAL PERSON
Every person is an individual, so I never like
generalizations. From my counseling experience, it is very common for those who grow up
exposed to dysfunction of any kind to be impacted by it. If the negative behavior was
between the parents, the child can learn to relate to a relationship partner the way he
saw his parents relate. If, as a young person, he saw dysfunction between parent and
child, he can be trained that way too (learning distorted and destructive ideas and
behavior about how to treat and raise one's children).
Often, the impact can be in terms of "emotional association," so the
relationship between the person's history and his behavior might be less seemingly direct
or obvious, and it might require training to recognize. However, people grow up to
understand reality according to their perception of their upbringing. Some people are deep
enough to see that destructive behavior is not an option and they decide that they will
not treat a spouse or child abusively BUT, they might manifest this in extreme or
distorted ways that can be unhealthy in some other aspect. For example, they may go to
another extreme; or turn off and be emotionally unavailable to a spouse or children
because of fear of failure, insecurity, defense against inner trauma or as if "doing
nothing means I do nothing wrong."
For example, a grown up can be a workaholic so he provides generously for his children
- but is never there for them emotionally or is constantly not physically present when the
child needs a parent there. He has not stopped his family's "tradition" of
emotional starvation of its children. He has only switched its manifestation from
emotional abuse to emotional deprivation. He hasn't escaped his history. He has just
modified its expression. His children could grow up to pursue dysfunctional or futile
relationships. I had a case in which a young woman sought dysfunctional men, one after the
other, because she desperately needed to feel validated, since her "nice" but
workaholic father was never there for her. Her father provided for her materially but she
was starved for love and self-worth. All of her father's money didn't address this for
her. By trying to "rescue" losers who were incapable of love or commitment, she
hoped to earn or extract a man's love and recognition for her. It was unattainable and she
ran from futile relationship to futile relationship. She emotionally associated
dysfunctional men with her own intense and misguided quest for meaning and her intense
need for fulfillment.
Often, it takes deep therapeutic counseling to heal and resolve such issues, and this
only is possible in any real way when there is more motivation to change than to maintain
one's habits and patterns. When this happens, it is often, unfortunately, after the person
has had one or more seriously painful and disappointing relationship failures. If it is
catastrophic enough, the person is forced to see that what they do and the partners they
select don't work out, and they have to reconsider and explore what is going on within.
I find as a counselor that people from troubled backgrounds typically bring childhood
trouble with them to their being a spouse or parent. But if a person is motivated,
substantial, honest and courageous enough; they can fix their issues; learn what is wrong
and unhealthy; and be satisfactory as spouse and parent.
But, generally it takes hard and painful work, and the percentage of people who
actually complete and succeed their work in these areas is not very large, as a matter of
making healthy and successful marriages. So you have to investigate very carefully and
When possible, ask your rabbis, rebitzens, mature friends to investigate by obtaining
and contacting references. Cross-check information to detect half-truths, cover-ups,
deceit and/or contradictions or other "red flag" signals to worry about and
further investigate. It is legitimate to ask about a shidduch all that is reasonably
needed, even if only for a vague but genuine suspicion.
Often people are attracted to dysfunctional relationships as if people have antennas
for relating partners who feed into their issues, often with some kind of irrational and
rigid co-dependence and unjustifiable defense of the relationship.
On the one hand, it is great to get out before marriage but it is better not to get in
with someone dysfunctional, in the first place.
I do not believe that everyone is automatically entitled to marry. They must be
basically free from harmfulness, irresponsibility, immaturity and other destructive or
unfair characteristics; as each has no right to hurt or shortchange another. If one isn't
ready for the obligations, responsibilities and duties of marriage; one should not be
allowed to marry. Unfortunately, it is a status symbol and marriage does not always
represent itself in its own right. People want the status, non-loneliness, someone to
control or possess, or other irrelevant or neurotic things. As marriage partners, they are
If one finds him/herself attracted to dysfunctional people repeatedly, the person needs
professional attention. If one is duped once, the person needs better investigative skills
and techniques; and perhaps the help of others who can do some diligent investigation,
looking for verification of or contradictions within information.
One must also have a balanced view: there are no perfect shidduchim so each must
evaluate what (s)he can live with, who (s)he might be able to be supportive and accepting
of and compatible with, and what another person's good points are. Some people have
strengths or patience that enable them to widen the range of people they could manage with
[as long as the other person is never damaging or neglectful]. Some people come out of
dysfunctional homes alright and some people come out of functional homes "relational
disasters." Some people are impacted intensely and other are impacted only slightly.
You have to take people one by one.
If a person has very good midos, a strong striving for truth and to generally behave as
a "mentsh" [decent, mature, honorable human being], considerable and authentic
will to work on him/herself and the ability to do tshuva [lasting and reliable repentance]
for wrong conduct; the person who had a rough history might be able to fulfill the role of
spouse and parent satisfactorily. Do not make a decision about such a person or
relationship alone nor hastily. Investigate thoroughly so you "go in with your eyes
open," and obtain da'as Torah and the advice of wise, mature, objective and concerned
people. The more that you have suspicion, the more you should obtain information and
verification of that information.
TO ACHIEVE TRUE
SPECIALNESS WHEN FINDING YOUR MATE
Not all of my relationship counseling is
restricted to married couples. A part of my practical counseling work is with single
couples who are trying to evaluate whether they are right for marriage to each other. When
single couples come for counseling, there are recurring issues which I see, and I believe
writing about some of them will help couples who are confused, have mixed feelings about
their prospects for marriage or a complex package of positives and negatives.
It is not unusual for couples to have
differences. Mature people who can work through their differences can end up even closer
and more attached than they were before. When there are differences, I am more concerned
if their approach to differences is hostile (vicious, sabotaging, critical, malcontent,
confrontational, unstable, explosive, punitive, etc.) or "resolution-oriented"
(calm, peaceful, honest, compassionate, patient, supportive, compromising, respectful,
etc.). Further, if differences appear which indicate to me that both partners want
something from each other which will help them both grow, I take this as a good sign that
the couple can be "basherte" because this means they each can bring each other
to "shlaimus (completeness as a human being), which is an important component of
One of the techniques I use to advise
singles who find it difficult to decide who to marry is to make a thorough and brutally
honest inventory of their positive and negative attributes as an individual. Starting with
the positives (e.g. "I am kind, communicative, adaptive, caring, sensitive"
etc.), consider these as a basis for relating standards. How does the person you are
interested in compare? Is the person capable of appreciating you and exchanging on a
compatible two-way basis? Would giving yourself to this person be a waste or a reasonable
investment of your time, interest and qualities?
I want to caution the reader about the
person who is "sensitive." Some people are sensitive about THEMSELVES while they
can be sadistic or irresponsible to others. Such "sensitivity" is unhealthy and
destructive. Sensitivity is only of value in a relationship when the person 1. is AT LEAST
as sensitive, preferably more, on behalf of the other person than for self and 2. never
uses the sensitivity to cost or hurt the other person!
Now list your negatives. Divide them into
two categories. Are any of them destructive, neglectful or harmful to others? If so, I
would not recommend proceeding because no relationship should harm either of its
participants and these negatives must be worked on. Although it would be logical to put
this question (of harmful negatives) first, some people get too defensive or closed about
their faults. They may deny that they have faults or become angry. Mentioning their
positives FIRST is more likely to put the mind at ease and convey that this is a fair and
balanced exploration. People are often more PSYCHOlogical than logical!
Then, we can inventory the non-harmful
negatives that make us human and I will ask what kind of a person can help you grow out of
your faults, accept them or compensate for them with their strengths? Make a similar
inventory of the person you are in the relationship with (as well as other past
relationships, if a pattern or sabotage-
condition is indicated): list each person's
1. positives, 2. harmful negatives and 3. neutral "human negatives." Then we can
compare the results of all this exploration with what the Torah, as well as helpful
guidelines for psychological health, indicate; and we can consider what this indicates
about the individual's readiness for marriage and prospects for a workable relationship
with any other particular individual. The person or couple generally can have some useful
tools for evaluating prospects in a committed, intimate and sustained relationship. Bear
in mind that this is one tool and any given case may require others.
Another thing which I believe is vital for
the marital success of the frum Jew is to only marry someone committed to halacha. Find
out early on before marriage if the person has one or more rovs who (s)he goes to for
halacha and life questions. Find out from the rov(s) if the person obeys faithfully;
especially when doing so is a test of will, character or self-discipline. If you would
only marry someone who has A CONSISTENT HISTORY of uncompromisingly and steadily obeying
halacha and daas Torah, and of having derech eretz and refined midos; the chances are much
greater that you will never be abused, abandoned, a moreddess, an agunah, emasculated,
tormented or think that you need a prenuptial agreement; because the Torah tells the
mature person truly devoted to the will of G-d what to do in every single situation of
HoRav Shimon Schwab ztz'l, former leader of
the German Jewish community, once told me, if one wants a "segula" for success,
let what (s)he does be completely leshaim Shomayim (for the sake of G-d).
One of the great keys to specialness in a
match is giving what each has to offer in accordance with what would please and benefit
the other. We only have our Jewish people because Rivka gave unhesitatingly to Eliezer. He
asked for some water for himself and she gave to his entire entourage and animals,
fulfilling what Shammai says (in Pirkei Avos), "Say little and do much;" which
she RAN to do and which she did politely and with a good attitude! It is the trait of
diligent, constant giving for the good of the other person which creates love for that
other person (Tractate Derech Eretz Zuta); and only when this is practiced mutually
between man and woman can their marriage have happiness and satisfaction (Michtav
Me'Eliyahu]. And it was only after marriage that Yitzchok loved Rivka [Genesis 24:67]. We
see that we do not love by taking nor by "trying" to give casually without
marriage. The "system" only works when the two evaluate before marriage their
ability to give to each other what they each individually need from the other, as well as
what spouses are objectively responsible to give in marriage. DEMANDING KILLS
RELATIONSHIPS. The time during dating must be used to concentrate on exploring the
couple's ability to relate in serious domains such as these. Yitzchok could exchange love
with Rivka by their making COMMITMENT to give to the other and to accept what the other
gives. Only when this is applied steadily can the couple truly develop love for each other
and be happy and satisfied. When a couple is able to establish and to trust that they are
both willing to work together and "custom tailor" each one's giving to please
and benefit the other ongoingly, theirs will be a marriage that will endure and be
"special" every day for a lifetime.
FROM OUR SAGES ON FINDING
"Take a step down and select a
marriage partner [i.e. there will always be something(s) about a shidduch that you will
have to give in on]. A woman would rather be married than live alone. Rabbi Hama Ben
Chanina said, "When a man marries a wife, his sins are buried as it says [Proverbs
18:22], 'He who finds a wife finds good and obtains favor from Hashem.' [Yevamos
Derech Eretz Raba (chapter 1) says,
"Eliyahu Hanovie kisses the man who marries a woman who is fit for him and The Holy
One Blessed Be He loves him."
A midrash (source not known) is cited in
the famed and respected sefer, Menoras HaMeor, section "To Marry a Wife," part
four, chapter two. "The sages said in a midrash that one wise woman directed her
daughter when she was about to marry, saying to her, 'My daughter, stand before your
husband like before a king and serve him. If you will be like a maid to him, he will be
like a slave to you and he will honor you like his master. And if you will make yourself
big upon him, he will be like a master over you against your will; and you will be, in his
eyes, cheap like one of the maidservants.'"
Rabbi Elchonon Wasserman said that a
shidduch should be attractive, good-natured and healthy. The Steipler said that you should
not select someone without good midos - who will apply them in practical every day living
(e.g. taking good care when the other is sick or taking out the garbage when needed). Are
your criteria for choosing someone a true basis for a lasting relationship; backed up by
realistic expectations, self-awareness and behavior patterns? What criteria for your
mate-search should be negotiable or subject to re-evaluation? Think of your "track
record," the consequences of your views and choices, and of long run.
[Excerpt of prayer from sefer "Avodas
Hakodesh" for a Yoray Shomayim man who wishes to find his mate]. "Master of the
universe, in Your kindness, You formed Your world and created man and made for him a
help-mate, and You commanded us to marry a woman and have children and Your servants, our
sages, were stringent to not delay this mitzva. And since the life of man in this world
and the world to come are almost dependent upon the wife, and, due to our many sins we
cannot know for sure who is fitting to marry and fulfill Your will, I come before You with
a broken heart to plead before You, Merciful Father, to prepare for me the proper mate,
who has fear of Heaven, who has all of the good midos; who has good fortune, good
intellect, success in her endeavors and blessing; because through this I will be able to
accomplish holy work without trouble; and may she be suitable for me. In Your great mercy,
may you be compassionate to me and turn my heart to be able to complete my part and
fulfill your commandments, and that it be good for me in this world and the eternal world.
You are the only one Who is merciful, compassionate, generous, protector, supporter,
rescuer, correct and redeemer. Answer me and hear my prayer, for You are the only One Who
hears prayer of every mouth."
[Excerpt from prayer for Yoray Shomayim
woman for her mate]. May it be Your will, my G-d and G-d of my fathers, that You should
cause me to find, in your great mercy and kindness, the mate who will be proper for me who
will provide all of my true needs and the repair of my soul. May he be proper and correct
to bring kosher children who will be Torah scholars and tzadikim, people of truth and fear
of sin. May this mate be a good man whose deeds are beautiful and who does good deeds
steadily. May he be a scholar engaged in Torah for its own sake. May he have fear of
Heaven, pursue justice and bestow kindness. May there be no trace of any invalid thing in
him, nor blemish or defect. May he not have anger but, rather, may he have all of the good
midos, be humble, healthy, capable. May he never cruel to anyone and never evil. May we
merit to dwell together successfully."
SHOULD I MARRY A PERSON
TRUSTING HIM/HER TO CHANGE?
A marriage should be composed of two people
who: * get along for the most part compatibly and healthily, * are focused on pleasing and
respecting each other, * communicate, * effectively and responsibly handle the practical
functioning required by adulthood and * bring each other to eternal life through
cooperatively and maturely achieving their potentials and meritorious goals during earthly
life. They should be able to come to a clear and confident decision to marry each other
within a few weeks or months.
Some couples have questions about their
suitability for each other. Sometimes, they can work their issues out, with communicative
cooperation or the help of a counselor; and they proceed to productive marriages. Often,
these days, the picture painted by couples is not so simple or pretty.
When their are major, disruptive and
unresolvable problems or concerns; don't marry on the basis of expecting major change
(e.g. religiously or psychologically). Expecting change can lead to disaster. Marry or
don't marry on the basis of the way the person NOW TRULY is. People often promise to
change because they want something (to be married, to have security, benefits that you
offer, etc.) and they * do not make the change, * make a partial or temporary unreliable
change that does not really satisfy the promise - or the disappointed spouse, or * change
into something else unexpected.
If the person is "worth waiting
* work with the person for a reasonable
period of time to enable him/her to make enough change or to demonstrate that this change
may be relied upon, or * separate, giving the person the option to present him/herself
later in the changed condition, if you both still happen to be single then. For the sake
of your sanity, DO NOT figure on the person making satisfactory changes; MOVE ON WITH YOUR
LIFE. In actuality, it is rare to the point of insignificance, that the person actually
makes those needed lasting and trustworthy changes, so it is healthiest to forget him/her.
I have seen relationships drag on a year,
two, three years. There is generally something fundamental and essential missing, so it
does not escalate to marriage. Both parties have some profound and unhealthy emotional
need, dependency or lacking. The relationship often offers something that one or both
parties would like to have received from one or both parents, an older sibling and/or some
other significant adult who effected the single as a child with deep emotional and mental
impact; or the relationship compensates for some trauma, deprivation, neglect or
rejection. Either way, the relationship has a foundation in * something unhealthy that is
there, or * something healthy that ISN'T there. In either event, the relationship has no
healthy foundation. In time, it often can degenerate to rocky, adversarial, punitive
behavior. Always, or often enough, such basics as warmth, respect, peace, tenderness,
supportiveness, kindness, patience, responsiveness, adaptability, principle, humility,
responsibility, maturity and consistency are gone. One of my sayings is, "If you have
to fight for basics, there is no relationship."
The relationship provides comfort, is
convenient (at least emotionally) and is difficult to break. One party tends to get
frustrated or impatient, but can't seem to make the break. Instead of a straightforward,
mature or responsible break, one party will provoke the other or sabotage the relationship
often, so the fault and the blame for the break will be the other person's. The end of
this pattern is generally unpleasant (if not downright vicious), and it seems surprising
that something that was once so nice and valuable degenerated to something so low. But the
trouble was there since "day one."
My marriage and "serious couple"
counseling experience shows consistently that when there is a serious problem at the
start, it does not get remedied in a workable time frame. One or both may need individual
counseling on a deep and long term basis. As a rule of thumb, if you can work out within
yourself to accept the shortcomings of the person; and you both basically get along,
communicate and please each other; and you can handle as a couple the practical
functioning required by adult life; and the relationship is stable; then you have a
"candidate." If your discord, non-attraction or incompatibility does not get
ironed out within the couple or few months designated for a Jewish dating relationship,
then my experience says that chances are you are going to be ENGAGED IN FUTILITY - NOT
ENGAGED TO BE MARRIED!
There is a Biblical verse that indicates
that a relationship which drags on is going to end up a futility, "A wish that drags
on sickens the heart (Mishlay 13:12)."
HOW TO HANDLE BEING
REJECTED BY SOMEONE YOU DON'T WANT TO BE REJECTED BY
A painful part of the singles situation is
being rejected, especially by a person you have hopes about. It can be an emotional blow.
The best defense against your remaining single is being the best partner another could
want. I've noticed in my counseling experience, after a relationship is ended, that often
people can't "let go." Sometimes the singles blame the other * as having damaged
the relationship, * as having faulty judgement about rejecting them or * as not seeing how
wonderful a marriage the couple could have had. This is all fantasy. I have seen numerous
men and women in tears over someone rejecting them. They, tragically, are "off the
market" and unable to move forward with a realistic relationship. They are
"stuck" and in pain, sometimes for months or years. It is as if the relationship
aspect of their lives is suspended. One person grew clinically suicidal after being
rejected. I was involved in setting up hospitalization, in conjunction with a
psychiatrist. Sometime the singles grow bitter, jaded, or untrusting. Sometimes they
bounce back after some time (and, if necessary, counseling) when the wound is healed.
To give a concrete example, a divorced
40-ish year old woman attended one of my lecture series. Afterwards, she complained to me
that men want younger women. "What's wrong with men that they don't want women who
are 'age appropriate' for them?" That is the wrong question.
There are couples who marry with a variety
of age differences between them. The main thing is that the couple like each other and get
along. The Pezishnitzer Rebbe (who lived in Poland at the time of World War Two) said if a
couple with an age difference of 20 years is "basherte," they should marry and
G-d will not leave the younger widowed at an early age. If sometimes men want women who
are younger, that is their issue. Clearly, this woman was feeling hurt and upset that she
was rejected several times, presumably for her age. She cannot do anything about her age.
She cannot reform a population of men who want younger women. She cannot control the will
- whether correct or mistaken - of other people.
There is a principle called, "tului al
daas achairim (dependent upon the will of others)" which shows up in halacha. For
example, when a Jew does a mitzva there is a blessing to say. Why is there no blessing on
the mitzva of giving charity? Because it is "tului al daas achairim." You may
take out money, make a blessing and offer the money to the poor person. If, for whatever
reason, the poor person does not accept the donation at the last moment, you will have
said a blessing in vain. The poor person may not like your looks, may die while you reach
into your pocket, or may see someone offer him a bigger donation. Blessings contain G-d's
name and we may not say G-d's name in vain. So strict is the prohibition of saying G-d's
name in vain, we do not say a blessing for a mitzva when it's consummation requires the
active participation of another - upon whose will we are dependent and over whom we have
no control. When washing before bread I am dependent solely upon my own will so I am able
- and obligated - to make a blessing for the mitzva. In the case of charity I am dependent
upon the will of others and the other is not to be depended upon to accomplish the mitzva,
so there is no blessing.
In shiduchim, when rejected by someone who
you don't want to be rejected by, that is not within your control. All you can do is be
the best possible catch in your power to be. You can be the best possible addition to
someone else's life. You can develop your good potentials. That is in your control. Be
great, as defined by the good you offer and the negative that you don't. Be valuable, in
accordance with what the Torah says is true value in a human being and mate. You can't
control someone else's decision about you. You can just know securely that the rejection
was not your fault and that you are prepared to offer your best self to the right one.
Getting back to the woman who had been
rejected because of age, what she can do is be the best possible mate any rational man
could want. What she can do is work on her midos, virtues, qualities, goodness, habits,
responsibilities and behaviors; so that any man who rejects her loses a great potential
mate. What she can do is take full responsibility for her part of a marriage. What she can
do is be her best self and be prepared to make the right guy happier than happy. If she
would be her greatest, and be prepared to relate to the greatness in the right guy, wild
horses wouldn't keep a good shidduch from her. As long as she condemns, resents and cries
about how blameworthy guys are, all the men in the world who she will see as "age
appropriate" will see her as "single appropriate." Her focus is on why
"they're not good," instead of presenting to the world her genuine focus of
"we both are truly very good." Two excellent people make a happier couple!
EFFORT FOR FINDING YOUR MATE
Network. Networking can bring a lot of
results for the amount of effort put in. By getting people "on the lookout for
you," you multiply the amount of activity done on your behalf. To the extent that you
effectively network, you add effort to your mate-search that exceeds the limits of your
Go to people for Shabos or Yom Tov.
Circulate. Get a wider circle of people to know you. Choose people who:
1. have judgement,
2. know other single men and women or
3. can get to know you meaningfully,
so that you can find ways to widen your
number of connections and use your finite time sensibly and productively.
If you go out with someone and it doesn't
"click," but (s)he is basically a decent, normal person, go on the
"lookout" for each other, perhaps using a matchmaker, rebitzen or friendly
couple as a tasteful intermediary. Since you have gotten to know each other a little bit,
you may have enough of a sense of each other to think of people, from among people you now
know, who may constitute a reasonable set-up. Happy marriages have arisen out of such
thoughtful action. The person who you go out with today may not be for you, but you may
have a cousin, co-worker or neighbor who might "click" for the other. And, the
other person may have "a someone" who they know who may "click" for
Find couples who have successful marriages
and who are successful relaters. Become friends with them, spend time with them, create as
many opportunities as possible, as often as you can to be with them. Go to as many
different couples as you can. Go to these couples for shabos, holidays, and on every
occasion that you can. Watch how happily married couples treat each other, emote, respect
each other, speak to each other, interact with each other. Observe and learn from these
living examples what marriage - and successfully married people - are. Ask them to talk to
you about what makes them happy and successful. Pick up their skills and their ways so
that you too can become a successful relator. You can be very constructively effected and
inspired by seeing successful marriages.
Try to make friends, or at least decent
acquaintances, who you can get comfortable enough to describe what you are all about and
what kind of mate you are looking for. They are real friends if they can constructively
and caringly tell you things about yourself that you don't (or won't) see, and help you
get more "on target" about who you are and need. A true friend will not merely
say what you want to hear. You want people "on the lookout" as well as "on
Honestly introspect daily about your
behavior, emotions, needs, "check list," goals, values, priorities, direction,
success ratio, and whether you "are better off being 'yourself' or being
Be careful and discriminating about the
single events that you go to. Check on the hashkofa, the observance level of the expected
crowd and sponsor, the shul, the koshruss of the food and the reliability of the
administrators. You cannot put yourself in situations that risk any Torah compromise.
Have at least one, preferably several,
QUALIFIED and caring advisors (e.g. rebitzen, rabbi, counselor, perceptive friends) who
know you reasonably well. One may catch something another missed, or have input the other
did not have, or several may note a fault so you'll stop evading it. Get OBJECTIVE input.
Talk over impressions, events, reactions, behaviors (of the person you are dating and your
own) and whether your various feelings are helpful and reliable or not. Don't be too hasty
to either accept or reject a prospect for marriage. You don't want to get hurt for
marrying or dumping someone you should not have. You must have BALANCE (as with all things
in the Torah).
Remember, it is no trick to get married.
Anyone can hire a hall. Going through with a ceremony DOES NOT PROVE you found your
basherte. The trick is finding someone you can stay with for a lifetime. Regrettably,
people marry (and even have children) and then break up. It was not basherte. The failed
marriage may have been "preparation" for the "real one," to learn a
needed lesson, for a kapora or any other reason deemed appropriate by G-d. When I counsel
singles, I urge them to seek a compatible, trustworthy and stable mate; not one who
"feels good to have" nor to "use in order to be married."
All we can do is increase chances for the
good, not guarantee. Central points are: 1. do well-done "targeted" Hishtadlus;
2. each single truly being the best and most marriageable person (s)he can be; 3. and pray
with all your heart to Hashem for mercy, help, blessing and success.
HOW THE "PERFECT
I have written extensively on criteria for
healthy and durable shidduchim, emphasizing matters of good hashkafa and midos, a good
heart, honesty, responsibility, communication, common goals, respect, humility and
psychological normality. These criteria often vary from the those chosen by frum and
supposedly knowledgeable people. The Torah gives each person free will, the bigger the
person the bigger his yaitzer hora and everyone can either do good or bad things. I will
bring two case histories, each showing how a "perfect shidduch" became a fiasco
and was based on perverse criteria. Names are, of course, fictitious, to protect privacy.
Mr. Bernstein, a fabulously wealthy man,
went into a yeshiva and asked to speak to the Rosh HaYeshiva (head dean). He said that he
had a daughter of marriageable age and wanted the best-learning guy in the yeshiva for his
daughter, Sora. He would give the couple a fortune of money so that the fellow could
continue to learn Torah. The Rosh HaYeshiva said he had just the boy, who was excellent in
learning. The boy, Shmerel, was called in and given the proposition and he agreed.
At the wedding, the rich father-in-law,
true to his word, presented to the couple an enormous sum of money. Just when Sora gave
birth to their SEVENTH CHILD, the money ran out. Shmerel said to his wife, "If I have
to go work for someone, let me work for someone I love, not you," and he divorced
Sora promptly. He had gone after the externals. Mr. Bernstein went after the fashion of
judging a boy by his intellect, without regard for the important qualities. Sora was
caught in the middle; together with seven perplexed, broken and abandoned children. And
there never had been any heart. There was nothing of any substance there. We see from
Shmerel that even if one is brilliant in the mind, if one isn't also brilliant in the
heart, one can be very stupid in how one uses one's brilliance. In marriage, midos come
Getzel wanted a girl with personality. It
would have to feel like "electricity," be fun and she would be his best friend.
When he was set up with Genendel, it was like a dream, like Heaven. She was bouncy yet
"cool," intelligent without airs. After they were married, he noticed some
changes in Genendel. She became more demanding and rigid. Things had to be her way, to
increasing and irrational degrees of detail and precision. She become more forceful and
intense. Her approach to everything; money, intimacy, Yiddishkeit, pastimes; assumed a
frantic quality with progressive blindness to Getzel and any impact her behaviors had on
him. He was unable to communicate, never mind reason, with her. There was only her way.
Getzel became incidental. She was closed to his existence as a distinct human being.
Fights erupted more and more. They became very cruel, hurtful and hostile towards each
other. The marriage was very destructive and the trouble escalated to the point where
divorce had to be contemplated. This made Genendel aware that "something" was
wrong, although it "probably was all his fault." They both went into counseling
Genendel had been through a very troubled
childhood, but since the emotional abuse was kept essentially within the privacy of the
home, it was kept fairly secret and since she knew of no "normal" upbringing or
home environment, she viewed her "reality" to be normal. She manifested her
problems and inner restlessness by showing the world a bubbly personality, in her
desperate desire for love and approval. To the world she seemed personable and positive.
When she became secure with her marriage, the act could stop. The bitter, vicious,
controlling, resentful and insecure inner person; who had been "psychologically
buried" since childhood; progressively came out after marriage. Therefore, there was
no indication or information before marriage that Genendel was seriously ill and
destructive, and that what appeared to be "loads of personality" was really the
outer phoney face of an emotional cripple carrying unmanageable pain, defense, anger,
fright, instability and escapism.
Getzel had his "peckel" of
problems too: spoiled, immature, emotionally neglected; passively, not actively, damaged
like his wife. They each had "antennas" that sought the likes of each other out
(which is why they each were so intensely attracted to each other) and their neuroses fed
into each other's neuroses. Psychologically, they were a "team," co-dependent on
Once we all started realizing the situation
for what it was, we started working on each one's individual inner resolution and the
marriage resolution. Genendel found out that she was pregnant and was smart enough to
realize that she owed a normal, nurturing and healthy upbringing to her baby. There was
enough love-bond and sense of responsibility (to their halachic obligation to do all that
is humanly possible to bring peace) to motivate them to salvage their marriage. They were
fortunate to have an unusually dedicated rov, who was very supportive and who they both
respected. When he told them to keep working with me and to do all that they could and
should to stay together, they obeyed loyally. They both are complex and troubled people.
The work which they have to do WITHIN THEMSELVES AND BETWEEN THEMSELVES is considerable.
They are motivated, have the support of their rov and a unified loyalty to him and Torah,
and have become committed to giving their forthcoming child a normal life. They plan to
overcome all the fighting and pain, make adaptations, heal themselves individually and
resolve the marriage as "allies." It's a slow and gradual process but progress,
so far, is significant. They are both learning to recognize each other as people and
respond to each other as "mentshen." They have caused each other a lot of
suffering, but they are reconciled to learn to be good to each other and grow so that they
will be able to get along workably, as a steady and practical matter.
WHEN THERE ARE
RELATIONSHIP PROBLEMS, WHEN DO YOU FIX AND WHEN DO YOU RUN?
When there are relationship problems, try
to work them through. No one can wait for a perfect person. So, to simply just reject each
person when there are problems isn't necessarily an answer, if there is enough of a
healthy, livable foundation. But, a relationship cannot drag on interminably nor stagnate
in an inadequate, deficient state either, even if a futile or destructive relationship
gets you emotionally entangled.
Any relationship that is not escalating to
marriage must be given a time limit. Analyze the nature of each problem, including what is
its root. Set up concrete goals for addressing each problem, including definitions by
which each goal would be considered achieved. This way you can plan a sensible course,
create objective and actionable criteria for how to take action and how to measure success
or failure. If the problems are unworkable in the appropriate time-frame, or are damaging,
If there are signs of trouble, even if
trouble only starts out seeming a remote possibility, there is a fundamental need to
accept that possible wrong or trouble exists within one person or the other the person
(or, quite often on some level, both people). Always first look into - and accept
responsibility for - yourself. Whereas one can't control another person, the diligent and
honest person of character and maturity can diligently work on him/herself. If there must
be fault in a relationship, the Torah requires that IT NOT BE YOURS.
Adaptability is a key to emotional health,
on condition that there is a foundation in healthy principal and personality ("don't
be so open minded your brains fall out!" - don't violate principle, halacha or
morality). Rigidity is a trait that the Talmud says G-d hates, and psychologically it is
very unhealthy, and it suggests that there is a need for professional counseling. There
must be sincere effort. It is crucial to be able to communicate, empathize, be adaptive
and resolve differences or disputes on behalf of the relationship. If any of these are
missing, this indicates a serious flaw. If you can get professional help THAT IS EFFECTIVE
IN A REASONABLE TIME-FRAME AND OFFERS PROSPECTS OF LASTING AND TRUSTWORTHY RESULTS, there
is hope. In my counseling experience of married or "serious" couples, when a
flaw such as one of these is rigid and impenetrable, it is often "a break-up waiting
to happen." Such problems are not remedied without considerable therapeutic work, and
mustering of ample will power can be difficult. If a person is not motivated sufficiently
to change tough and destructive flaws, and to persevere with a serious therapeutic
process, there is generally not enough there in the relationship to work with.
If the problems are not rectifiable to a
functional and stable level, you have to establish that the goal was marriage, that
marriage under prevailing circumstances is not realistic and that the relationship is
over. Be firm about the issue; but soft, considerate and polite as a human being. If the
person with the difficulties promises to change, make clear that enough time was given,
the needed changes were not made to a trustworthy and practical extent. Say that you have
to move forward with your life on your own. If the person can present him/herself in the
future in satisfactory changed form, as can be verified by a rov or professional
counselor, the person can THEN contact you in changed form IF YOU STILL ARE SINGLE AT THAT
TIME. But, as for now, the relationship would be unhealthy, incompatible or unworkable,
and it is over.
It is imperative to cultivate an honest,
open relationship with an intelligent, articulate, learned person with whom the single can
communicate. As Pirkei Avos says, "Make for yourself a Rav, acquire for yourself a
friend." It is your responsibility to make a qualified rabbi YOUR ROV. He does not
seek disciples, you have to seek out the rov. It is your job to create relationship with
people who can advise or direct or guide you, give feedback or support or concern. It can
take numerous times talking to people to achieve results. This can be a slow, arduous
process. It is a vital process that rewards the investment in it. The word
"acquire" (from the same root as "buy") used regarding friend tells us
that any meaningful relationship requires investment and effort. This is not in a sense of
bribing. One has to put in, invest, exert, to give of oneself to build a solid,
meaningful, close and lasting relationship.
Generally, the more similar the two
people's values, goals, attitudes and backgrounds are, the better the likelihood of
working a relationship out, and understanding each other.
DEFINING TRUE LOVE VS.
When I'm asked how to differentiate between
infatuation and genuine love I answer that one has to care about the other as much as for
oneself, and to relate to the entire person (including needs, problems and shortcomings -
if the person has a problem, you are supportive, "there" for the person,
concerned, connected and accepting, you look to justify and understand and exonerate and
help and explain the negatives, and still accept the person and appreciate and enjoy the
positives), and you want to give to the person of your own volition as would please the
other without needing remuneration to motivate you. REAL LOVE SUPPORTS - IT DOES NOT
MEANINGFULLY TAKE AWAY FROM - YOUR NORMAL LIFE. The time you must devote goes into a
wholesome relationship, planning a wedding and into normal functioning. Pirkei Avos tells
us that conditional love will not endure and only UNCONDITIONAL LOVE WILL ENDURE.
I must add a serious word of caution to
this. This above definition of genuine love only applies when it is a healthy love between
two reasonably healthy people. There are serious psychological disorders and emotional
problems which can play out in a relationship. Love might, on the surface or at the start,
look somewhat like the above description of healthy love. Various co-dependent, abusive,
compulsive and dysfunctional relationships contain, as intrinsic symptoms, addictive
clinging and giving to an unsuitable partner, and irrational defense or exoneration of the
partner's faults. So, nowadays, it is crucial to differentiate between a normal
manifestation of love (with such attributes as caring, benefit of doubt, loyalty,
generosity, respect, adaptability, stability, two-sidedness and compassion) and the
"unhealthy brand." Infatuation is typically all-possessing pie-in-the-sky love
that can take a person's mind over. That love fills some emotional need but only remains
while not challenging, threatening or taking away from what the love-object
psychologically represents and provides.
When couples come to me for marriage
counseling, they often tell me that they fear having differences. I tell them they should
fear having fights but NOT to fear having differences. Differences are going to always be
there. If handled in a fair, respectful, mature, two-sided and considerate fashion;
RESOLVING DIFFERENCES WILL INCREASE THE LOVE, TRUST, RESPECT AND CLOSENESS OF A MARRIAGE
(mature and mentshlach resolving of differences can make any relationship better:
neighbors, business, family, etc.)
Healthy love is fairly consistent and is
not diminished by the trials and stresses of "real life" or the loved person's
requirements from you. It grows and deepens over the course of time with ongoing and
mutual giving and maturation. In general, the closer, more vulnerable or more dependent
people are, the greater the Torah's obligation upon you to be good to them. I heard in the
name of a prominent Rabbi that marriage is life's most outstanding opportunity to do
chesed (kindness) when doing so for a spouse and children. There is no one who is more
close, more vulnerable or more dependent; and therefore the capacity to do good is the
most meaningful and constructive.
Giving is the way G-d is to us. We are
commanded to have His ways and midos. The rewards are in this world and the next.
Ironically, by letting go of my preoccupation with my needs and my interests, on
condition, of course that I have a partner with the same attitude and behavior, I can best
get my needs met and satisfied, as much as is humanly possible. And with respect,
kindness, compassion, humility, responsibility, honesty, flexibility, communication,
giving and sacrifice; and all this from the heart to the heart and mutually; happy,
healthy, beautiful, peaceful and successful love will follow and blossom continuously. The
other's happiness, needs, fulfillment, security and well-being are the ticket to your own.
Essence-relating is heart to heart. Qualities of the heart should furnish the highest
value and weight. It is easy to fall into abstraction about this. Do you talk about midos,
human qualities and virtues, practical and compassionate mitzvos? Is this what excites and
energizes you? Is this what you talk about? Is this what attracts you to each other? Is
this what endears a person to you? Is this what evokes your respect? Do you follow up in
practical "real life" or is this empty "lip service?"
For marriage to be able to work, or to
prepare yourself to be a person capable of a workable marriage, when two people are ready
to give up each one's own needs, the orientation becomes the other's needs. To paraphrase
Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler in his Kuntrus HaChesed, in the section on marriage, * only if YOUR
NEEDS are MY job and MY NEEDS are YOUR job, * only if we orient our attitudes and behavior
in the relationship to giving and to pleasing THE OTHER, an ongoing happy and satisfying
marriage can be built and, in like manner, maintained with genuine love for a lifetime.
HUMAN DYNAMICS OF
[Several years ago, American and Israeli
psychologists, rabbis and computer experts teamed up to study what goes into a compatible
shidduch. This installment is a small sample of their discoveries.]
Two maxims are commonly believed: 1.
opposites attract and 2. "birds of a feather flock together." Human personality
is far too subtle and complex to pigeon-hole into simplistic sayings. A shidduch is
composed of two people. If one person alone is subtle and complex, how much moreso is
putting two people together subtle and complex! Generally BOTH maxims are false and
meaningless. For example, neither is true for the attribute of "practicality."
Two people may be deeply in love but if they both end up on the street because neither
remembered to pay the rent, that's no marriage! At least one must be practical. If both
are not practical, the couple won't be able to function. You don't NEED one to be
impractical (opposites attract). You don't need BOTH to be practical (birds of a feather).
What counts? The marriage must contain practicality.
Some traits, because of the dynamics, must
fit one of the two maxims. When you witness a couple who are opposites or the same, you
assume, respectively, that opposites attract or likes attract likes (just the fact that
two mutually existing maxims exist shows you that both are suspect). You are witnessing
and FOCUSING ON ONE OF THE TRAITS whose dynamics are mutually exclusive or whose dynamics
require similarity for a functional, compatible marriage.
A couple SHOULD be at opposite points on
the spectrum between domineering and passive. Two strong-willed people will repeatedly
clash and two passive people may sleep through life. The more one is controlling, the more
the other should be passive. If you see two who are opposites on the spectrum between
passive and domineering, you haven't proved that opposites attract. You've proven that
there's more to life than banging heads together.
Intellectual level must be similar.
Otherwise, they may never be able to talk to each other. Humaneness and sensitivity level
must be somewhat similar. Otherwise, they may never be able to relate, understand or
fulfill each other.
Let me give an example of a complex case.
If a woman has a domineering nature and (in her family) her father was the decision maker,
she will expect the man to make decisions. But, she won't accept a husband's authority.
This will undermine compatibility. She will be in a dilemma. She won't accept or respect a
man who won't be a strong decision maker, while if she marries a strong decision-maker,
she won't accept or respect his strong decisions. She is going to have to work hard to
reconcile strongly contradictory and mutually exclusive elements within, in order to have
a compatible and stable marriage.
The spectrum between stinginess and
generosity presents another complex condition. If both are generous, or to a lesser
degree, if the man is generous and the woman stingy, the match is OK. But if the man is
stingy and the woman is generous, the marriage can be explosive. The Talmud says
"women's minds are close to money." In practical married life, women tend more
to spend and make most purchases for the household. Since she understands spending in her
nature, a stingy woman has some "margin" to understand a spending husband. The
stingy man is further away from spending, so he is the opposite. A stingy man will get
angry and fight when his wife spends in ways that he feels are unjustifiable.
You can't match two introverts because
neither will talk to the other. One or both must be extrovert. It's not a case of
opposites nor likes. Extroversion must be in the relationship, as practicality must be in
the relationship. Each personality trait must be analyzed for compatibility; for whether
each trait requires - on its own unique merits - that which is similar, opposite or
otherwise between the man and the woman. Never push a single into a marriage in which
compatibility is suspect. Get orthodox rabbinical guidance from a rov with expertise in
this area, when you have questions. Compatibility is subtle and complex, and depends on a
multiplicity of factors. Singles sense compatibility, so advice to them can be wrong.
Respect the single's own decision and intuitive feel.
KEYS TO WHAT IS REALISTIC
AND LASTING IN A MATCH
It is one thing when shadchanim set people
up on dates that do not lead to marriage. It is another when the date has no basis in fact
and is silly, frustrating and a pointless waste of time, money and hope. No shadchanim can
guarantee a match but they should be able to assure due consideration before proposing any
match. It is an insult to singles to set them up and torture them with a meeting that has
no basis and makes no sense from start to finish. The reasons can vary: laziness,
inadequate deliberation, erroneous criteria, misleading by either the shadchan or one or
both of the singles, arbitrariness and plain stupidity. Those familiar with the
"Frus-Dating" segment of this site may have seen the true "horror
stories" in dating and matchmaking, often due to an inept or self-serving shadchan.
I set out here to provide GENUINE CRITERIA
AND PRIORITIES TO USE IN MAKING SHIDDUCHIM WHICH HAVE REASONABLE CHANCES FOR BEING HAPPY,
PEACEFUL AND LASTING.
The Torah, in Shma Yisroel (Deut. 6:5),
says that G-d commands us to love Him with all our laiv (heart), nefesh (personality) and
mi'ode (externals). Since it is good enough for G-d to tell us to love Him with these
three elements in this sequence, I hold it to be fundamental for every form of true love.
Therefore, the first criteria for considering (never mind conducting) a relationship is
that the first priority must be the issues of the heart (midos, character and values).
Here is the innermost essence of the person and the foundation of who and how good the
person truly is. The personality comes second. Here are the individual "kochos
hanefesh" which express the qualities of the heart and create linkage between the
inner-person and outside world; the personality, emotions and talent. The externals come
last (looks, wealth, status). EACH LEVEL BUILDS ON THE NEXT IN SEQUENTIAL AND PRIORITY
The first and foremost consideration MUST
be the qualities and issues of heart. Unless you can ascertain that the person has a good
heart and excellent midos, is kind and honorable, has correct values and hashkofos; you
don't even go on because there is nothing "relational" to work with or rely on.
Better to leave someone single than to impose his/her destructive, disturbed or immature
treatment on an unsuspecting and innocent spouse who deserves a real mate.
The second level can be more subtle and
confusing because nefesh is also in the person, but it is not at the core, as the heart
is. A person can have great nefesh elements (e.g. professional, personable, humorous,
artistic) but can still be a two-legged animal without a fine and cultivated heart. In
fact, a talented and capable bad-hearted person can be down-right dangerous, even if the
person, in public, is attractive and cute to the opposite gender. Nefesh provides a means
of externalizing and characterizing the heart with your individuality and strengths; but
focus on how good a heart is under that fun, witty and interesting musical genius. Is the
person an irresponsible, unprincipled and cruel deadbeat or a "lomed-vov-nik
(angel)" - in the heart?
Mi'ode, the third level in shidduchim, must
be the least priority. Wealth, status and looks are good if they are there, but these are
not what a marriage depends on. These are not the actual person, and we know that Avos
tells us that any love which is dependent upon something will not endure. If a shadchan
asks you what furniture or eye color you want, or whether your mother shops with a
shopping cart [which is "proof" your family lacks class] or if the shadchan is
ever rude or pushy, politely and promptly conclude the interview.
In Evven Ha'Ezzer 2:2, the Shulchan Aruch
discusses what is suitable to look for in a marriage partner. All Jewish families [without
a halachic basis to think otherwise] are considered kosher and it is permitted to marry
among them without reservation. If a family or person is alienated from another, is
continually fighting with others, or delegitimizes others, or is very brazen, or is cruel,
or hates people, or does not bestow kindness, then we suspect that they may not be kosher
and we distance ourselves from them.
Tell each shadchan clearly that you are
makpid (stringent) on emmess (truth) and that you are not at all open to misrepresentation
by omission or commission, nor exaggerations and vague generalities.
You must also be scrupulously honest in all
matters. For example, do not lie about your age (not even a little bit), physical
conditions (especially internal ones which are covered and cannot be seen) or family (e.g.
congenital conditions such as retardation, epilepsy or heart trouble); and do not dye your
hair to look younger than you are. If you have any concerns or questions, speak them over
with a rov. There may be some things that you are permitted to not mention about yourself
or your family, or you may be allowed to delay saying them till after a first meeting.
Generally, if a thing must be revealed, and you have permission from a rov to delay
revealing it, you must reveal it before the shidduch becomes too developed [this can mean
to tell before the other person becomes emotionally involved in or seriously interested in
the shidduch, or would be hurt or would hate you or would talk lashon hora or richillus
(about you, your family or the shadchan) for not being told sooner]. The midrash says that
one's true "basherte" [destined mate] will accept his/her defects. If a person
does not accept your non-harmful shortcomings, that person is NOT your
"basherte." On the other hand, no one has any right to impose shortcomings that
harm, offend, short-change or sadden a partner; whether by active injuring or by passive
I advise only accepting shidduchim that the
shadchan demonstrates reasonable and first-hand knowledge of. Discuss what you want a
couple to value, respect, understand, appreciate, care for in and give to one another.
Life goals and mission are crucial. What "turns you off?" Rabbi Elchonon
Wasserman said that a shidduch should be attractive, good-natured and healthy. The
Steipler said that you should not select someone without good midos - who will apply them
in practical every day living (e.g. taking good care when the other is sick, refraining
from anger, taking out the garbage without delay or argument). Are your criteria for
choosing someone a true basis for a lasting relationship; backed up by realistic
expectations, self-awareness and behavior patterns? What criteria for your mate-search
should be negotiable or subject to re-evaluation? Think of your "track record,"
the consequences of your views and choices, and of long run.
It is significant to ask what may be
unrealistic about one's idealized mate or check-list, that it has not worked out yet. On
what can you be flexible, adaptive or compromising? What are non-negotiables (highest
priorities), preferences (secondary priorities) and frills (dispensable)? What do you
value, respect, understand, appreciate and care for in another? What do you want to be
valued, respected, understood, appreciated and cared for by another? What potential and
mission do you want marriage to actualize for yourself and a mate? What makes you want to
give to another? What attracts you, turns you off, what needs do you have, to what needs
can you give? Are your expectations, self-awareness and behavior patterns realistic? How
well do they do when tested in the "real world?" Are they the basis for a
relationship that can last? How can you be a gain for another person's life...and be happy
To the single, I urge you to make sure the
shadchan is one who can find out enough of the "true you" and of prospective
matches. I recommend that you think twice about matchings in which one party knows the man
and a separate party knows the woman. This, to my mind, is insultingly arbitrary. How can
anyone validate such a matching (with someone totally unknown and "undefined" to
either of these two "shadchanim")? If such a possible set-up sounds good, the
shadchan with the best judgement should meet the other, as-yet-unknown, single.
The standards for shadchanim matching
singles - and singles accepting matches - can be upgraded significantly by shadchanim and
singles who are prepared to make the effort to start with the heart - in the relationship
between the shadchan and the single - so that more singles find the relationship that
starts with the heart...for keeps...so we can see TOV come alive with "gomail
chasadim TOVim" [doing good kindnesses] and "sha'a TOVah umutzlachas [finding
one's mate at the good and successful time].