Latest update: November 7th, 2012
“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”
Thus begins Jane Austen’s classic marriage-themed novel, Pride and Prejudice.
To adapt the line for our world, cross out “‘in possession of a good fortune” (not a requirement) and exchange ‘“should” for ‘“must.’ “ For while it is incumbent upon men and women in frum society to marry, it appears that some who want to want to get married are held back by fears of commitment.
What are some of the unconscious rules by which these “shidduch-shy” live their lives?
Rule #1: Prepare your exit from the start.
Meshulam had always been adamant he wanted a younger girl, even though he was now 30. But he had met his match in a new shadchan his mother sent him to, who (“just trust me”) concealed Kayla’s age. Some good Jewish geography on a third date brought reality to the fore, to Meshulam’s disappointment.
“Look,” he said, “it means a lot to me to marry a younger woman. But, I like you more than a lot of girls, so why don’t we see how it goes?”
Kayla was thrilled to have a second chance, and the couple progressed—albeit slowly—to the point of a real relationship. In fact, Meshulam seemed closer to Kayla than to any other girl he’d dated. But as the time came when parents, shadchan, and Kayla herself felt a proposal should be in the works, none was forthcoming.
Finally Kayla’s parents had words with the shadchan, who had words with Meshulam, who told Kayla they had to “talk.”
It boiled down to this: Kayla was a wonderful girl; Meshulam liked and respected her and wanted the best for her. But, really, he’d always said how important it was to him to marry a younger woman, and Kayla was—older. He was sorry, but it just wouldn’t work.
Meet Meshulam, one of the shidduch-shy—who held his exit card all along.
Rule # 2: Keep yourself unavailable.
When dating, the shidduch-shy may keep her date at arm’s length. Even as the relationship progresses, she does not make extra time for its growth. Motzei Shabbos and Wednesday night work just fine for getting together.
Yitzy’s first few dates hadn’t gone well, and he wondered if the whole process might not be for him, when he met Rena. Lovely, intelligent, lively—she seemed perfect. If he had complaints early on, it was in the amount of time it took her to get back to the shadchan.
It took her a while to agree to “graduate” from the shadchan. When Yitzy pressed she said she preferred having an intermediary, which prevented things from speeding up too soon.
When finally they managed the dating schedule, Yitzy found Rena to be anything but available. Family simchas, homework, shiurim she attended, plans with friends—she was busy, busy, busy. But she had plenty of time for long late-night phone chats. At the three-month mark, Yitzy confronted Rena about the pace of the process.
“Look, Yitzy, I’m a busy, social, well-rounded person. I don’t have time to spend every minute of every day with you. You’re just too needy for me.”
Meet Rena, the Arm’s-Length Girl.
Rule # 3: The more available your partner, the more you want to run.
She’s less available? Time to be interested.
Sarah and Shmuel were making progress, even though the relationship was long-distance. Each dating event meant flying to the other’s city, and therefore entailed three or four dates over a long weekend. Just as it came time for the marriage conversation, Shmuel announced he “wanted a break.” Shocked, Sarah cried hard, then, recovering her dignity, said, “No breaks. If you don’t want to move forward, we’re finished.” Once she gave him the cold shoulder, he was interested again, and asked for another go-round.
The healthy adult usually feels closer to others reciprocally: The more you like me, the more I like you. The shidduch-shy are drawn to unavailable people, or people threatening to leave a relationship. It’s safer that way.
Meet Shmuel—who only runs after the one who runs away.
Rule #4: Insist upon a trait in a partner that’s trivial or very hard to find,
and be rigid in your dating needs.
How about the “boy” (a man in his mid-30s) who only dates blondes, or the older girl who won’t consider the fellow with a receding hairline? Or the man in his 40s who owns a business in his hometown of Phoenix, dates in New York, and “might” eventually move his business—if he finds the right girl? . Or the very tall fellow who won’t date short women because “everyone will stare at us?” The new ba’alas teshuva who won’t contact a shadchan because she doesn’t “want to be an index card in someone’s file?” The almost- 40-year-old man who kept his out-of-town date “on ice” for four days, because he only dates in Manhattan, even though she got herself to his home base of Monsey?
Meet Mr./Miss Impossible, who only wants what he or she can’t have.
Some say to tread cautiously if you see your date following these kinds of rules. I say to tread your way out of the relationship. Your time and energy are better spent elsewhere, preparing to build a bayis ne’eman b’yisrael with someone who intends to do so. Sooner is better than later to break off with such distancers.
An additional note to shadchanim: Your time, efforts, and feelings count, too. Don’t break your heart over the un-reformed shidduch-shy either. Move on to people willing to risk a relationship.Dr. Candida Abrahamson
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