Dear Dating Coach,
I’m smart. I always feel like I need to apologize when I say this, but I’m hoping you will understand. I did really well in school, on tests, and graduated top of my class. My grades and test scores allowed me to secure a well-paying job where I excel, and my colleagues turn to me when they need direction. That being said, I regularly hear negative feedback from shadchanim when I request to be set up with girls who are also very smart. I am also often berated after saying no to a girl because I felt that she was not as smart as I had hoped. Why am I wrong for wanting to marry someone who is on the same playing field as I am? Please tell me what to say to those who scoff when I talk about needing someone who is highly intellectual. I know I am right; I just need your help to explain. Please advise!
One of my favorite places in Israel is Ir David. For those of you who have never been, part of the tour allows you to walk through a long narrow tunnel built by King Chizkiyahu to protect their water source. If you’ve walked through this tunnel, you know that those 20 minutes can feel like hours as you make your way knee-deep in cold water blanketed by total darkness. The tunnel is narrow; the walls leave you no option but to continue forward, your goal solely focused on finding an exit. Searching for that “light at the end of the tunnel” becomes all-consuming during that journey, and every step becomes weighty and important. Some sing as they walk through, some are rendered mute by their need to reach the end, but most are singularly focused on the light, and only the light. If you are blessed you will take a moment to look inward during your walk, or perhaps your guide may remind you to do so. This pivotal moment will encourage you to exhale, to refocus, and to allow your heart to be inspired by the tunnel itself; by its beauty, by its ingenuity, and by its purpose.
I know I am intelligent…
I appreciate your diligence, your brains, and the opportunities that you believe your intellect has offered you. You would like to date girls that also did well academically as you anticipate exciting conversations, shared views, and forging a connection based on brain power and smarts. You believe that you are being shamed for your desire to be matched with girls who are smart enough in your eyes, and are surprised by the pushback from shadchanim and others. You have noticed that you feel more attracted to girls that are academic and are less excited when you feel like they don’t measure up intellectually.
Because I know…
Being smart is terrific. It is a gift from Hashem, like talent and beauty and the ability to fold bed sheets (obviously). You are smart. You know it, you want others to know it, and you want to marry someone who will mirror that intellect.
That being said, forgive me when I say that your smarts have clouded your vision. Even if we don’t discuss the various smarts people possess – street-smarts, people-smarts, and the like. Even if we neglect to mention how academic ability is certainly not the only benchmark when we refer to brain power. Without any focus at all on other forms of intellect, I would still respectfully contend that you have missed the point entirely. I do not believe that the shadchanim are discouraging you from marrying someone that you connect with on an intellectual level. I do not believe that they are telling you that you should date those that are not as clever as you are. Instead, they are reminding you that you have become so focused on one singular trait that you disregard the many middos required for stable, loving, and successful marriages. They are begging you to open up your heart and your mind to a whole person – a whole woman who is kind, giving, loving, and smart.
That I know nothing.
Your tunnel vision refuses to allow you to see that instead of leading with your intellect, you are leading with arrogance. The shadchanim only hear your self-importance, your single-minded focus, and your inability to accept opportunity when they present it to you. Sure, they want you to marry someone clever, but your fixation on brain power makes them question how smart you actually are. Take a moment to reflect, to regroup, and to use your superior intellect to recognize the brilliant girls you are being offered. Clever women who understand that theory, and academia are rendered meaningless without respect, humility, and shared hashkafa. Smart girls are impressed with work ethic over natural ability and graciousness over self-aggrandizing intelligence. Tell the shadchanim that you now see how you have been shortsighted, so focused on a goal, that you forgot that your bashert will be more than just a brain. Value yourself as a whole person who possesses a myriad of good qualities, so you can see beyond the light, to a loving partner who appreciates all of you as well. Shed that layer of arrogance and reveal your soul – I’m sure it’s even brighter than your brain.