One of the most distressing issues that pre-occupies the minds of young and old alike is the growing “Shidduch Crisis.” Anyone in the Orthodox community who is of marriageable age, or has a child, friend or colleague in the shidduch parsha – is aware of the trials and tribulation of getting a match.
Despite an enormous amount of time, money and physical and emotional energy put into attaining the goal of matrimony, the frequent outcome is an inordinate amount of frustration, aggravation and disappointment. The troubling result is an increasing number of men and women in their late 20s, 30’s and older who remain single. Rabbis, social scientists, and
individuals alike are calling the current situation a “shidduch emergency.”
According to Rebbetzin Judi Steinig, director of the Women’s Division for the National Council of Young Israel, “Our office receives steady stream of phone calls, faxes, and e-mails from parents and singles on the shidduch crisis. Singles from the complete spectrum of the Torah community, left wing, centrist, chareidei, and chassidish, are finding it difficult to get married. We believe that some of the issues can be resolved through educational intervention and proper networking.”
Rebbetzin Steinig continues, “The Orthodox community needs to listen to its experts, rabbis, social workers, psychotherapists, and physicians who have insights into some of the issues that arise during the shidduch and dating process. Our shidduch emergency conferences have addressed many of the problems that singles and their families encounter, and our
conferences have attracted participants from throughout the New York Metropolitan area, New Jersey, Connecticut, Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Florida, Texas, Indiana, California, Toronto, and Israel.
“We have also developed a Resource Package with shadchanim and shidduch groups throughout the United States, as well as a shidduch registry with over 30 shadchanim working to make matches for our singles. We hope that others will join us in addressing this emergency.”
Rebbetzin Steinig’s organization recently held its third, all day, multi-disciplinary conference. Rabbis, psychologists, shadchans, medical doctors, parents, never married and second time singles gathered to gain insight into the “why’s” of the crisis and to receive dating advice, learn communication techniques, ways of improving self-esteem, and coping strategies. For many of the attendees, just being able to vent their frustrations and share their tales of meddling matchmakers, inaccurate information, and dating disasters was worth the price of the ticket.
An issue that professionals brought up repeatedly as a major hindrance to marriage was unrealistic expectations. Men and women alike are looking for the full package in a partner – intelligence, looks, high earning capacity, learnedness. Many girls (or their parents) want someone who has the time to learn, and run a practice or a business, and work out at the gym, and do half the household choirs. At the same time, the men are out to get a girl who has supermodel looks, and has a PhD (poppa has dough) or who herself has a decent earning capacity. People look at their date and ask themselves, “what can s/he offer me?” – instead of looking inward and thinking, “what do I have to offer that makes me a potential marriage partner?”
Too often, the date falls short of the other person’s expectations and is rejected prematurely. There was a popular anti-war song in the 1960’s which had the phrase, “all we are saying is – give peace a chance.” In terms of shidduchim, the words should be changed to read: “all we are saying is – give him/her a chance!”
Medical, law and other professional schools recognize that first-time MCAT or LSAT takers may be nervous or tired, or just be having a bad day. They allow those who did not score well – in other words, those who did not “make a good first impression” – a second chance. Why don’t people on a date give the person they are out with the same courtesy? A major contributing factor in the shidduch emergency is jumping to conclusions based on limited exposure – after just a couple hours with a total stranger, a decision is made that he/she is not marriage material.
Not only is the person doing the rejecting being unfair to the other person – but he is being unfair to himself. How can one possibly know a person well enough to make such a weighty judgment? Unless the shadchan was dishonest and embellished the qualifications of the other party and he/she is nowhere near your basic requirements in a mate – a second date should be considered – for your mutual benefit. There are many people in happy successful marriages who were reluctant to go out a second time and were coaxed to do so. They then discovered that there was more to the other person than was initially apparent.
Perhaps if you are very young and there is a very large pool of potential mates, then it might not be so fateful to forego a second date. But if you are older and are turning away “7”s in the hope that your “10” will show up, you may be in for a long wait. Ironically, your idea of a “10” may see you as only as a “7” and not try to develop a relationship and instead keep looking. Sadly, you may end up as an older single, full of regret or out of desperation, end up “settling” for an unsuitable “4”.
Years ago, I was at a Shabbaton with a male acquaintance who was 28 years old. At a table near us was a young woman, also 28, whom we both knew from the neighborhood. He admitted to me that he had been very interested in her when he was 22, but the interest had been one sided.
“She’s still available,” I said. “Why don’t you ask her out? Maybe now she’ll be more open to going out with you.” He looked at me incredulously. “Go out with her – are you kidding? She’s way too old!” The young man eventually married and has several children. The “girl” who rejected him is in her 40’s and still looking.
This brings me to another major issue that I feel has resulted in the shidduch crisis. Some people do find their “10s” – men and women who are what they are looking for – yet they cannot take that leap into the matrimonial sea. This inability to make a commitment – fueled perhaps by a fear of failure – stops people from going forward with their lives, and
is a problem I will address in a future column.
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