“Bochurim should enter shidduchim earlier.” We hear that all the time.
So here I am, a 21-year-old bochur who feels that he is ready to enter shidduchim. But how do I do that? My parents will think I lost my mind. And am I to blame for wondering how my friends going to react? “What’s the matter with him?” they are going to ask. “Did he become modern or something?”
I feel ready for marriage, but what’s the mehalech?
And what about the fact that I am not familiar with any bochurim my age who are married? None of my friends, not even one, is married or considering shidduchim.
I would like to help address the crisis and also do what’s best for myself. Please advise.
Firstly, I must applaud you for recognizing that you are ready to enter shidduchim, even though you are at an age where people may doubt your choice. Doing what is right for you is of supreme importance, and your entering shidduchim at this age will help to combat the imbalance in numbers for bnos yisroel and hopefully help to inspire other young men to do the same if they feel they are ready. Please know though, that as an individual, it goes in that order. It is commendable that you want to help address the crisis, but you should only do so if it is truly what is best for you.
If you feel you are in fact ready to get married, you must therefore feel that you are ready to be an independent adult. Part of being an independent adult is learning how to balance doing what is right for you, despite what others may think, together with the advice and support of madrichim in your life that can counsel you and advocate for you.
However, before I continue on that vein and answer your question, let us realize that you are making a lot of assumptions. It is possible that your parents will be thrilled for you to enter shidduchim and for them to marry off a child. It is also quite possible that your friends will be excited for you and not question your dedication towards yiddishkeit. You might be very pleasantly surprised with people’s reactions towards your decision.
Nevertheless, because you are indeed on the younger side of when most bachurim enter shidduchim, and because these stigmas often do cause people to have unnecessarily extreme reactions to these sorts of things, I would like to offer you some guidance on what to do if your fears become reality as it pertains to the responses you get when you inform people that you want to start dating.
Regarding your parents, if they respond by believing you to be off your rocker, I would suggest a meeting with yourself, your parents and a Rav/Rebbi you are close with. If you are really ready to enter shidduchim and begin to take on the responsibilities that come with being a married man, your Rav should recognize this and help to bring your parents on board and guide them from thinking you are nuts to putting their full support behind you in helping you find your zivug.
Regarding your friends, you have touched on two points. As far as people wondering if you “have become modern or something,” part of making decisions as an independent adult is not always worrying about what everyone else thinks if it is counter to what you need to live a fulfilling life for yourself. Of course this assumes that what you are doing is healthy and appropriate, and if you are indeed ready for marriage, then in this case what you are doing meets both of those criteria.
Concerning the fact that none of your friends have even begun to consider shidduchim, I understand that being first can be disconcerting and that it is hard to make a concrete step that separates you from those you have been spending the majority of your life with. However, once again, if you are truly ready for marriage, you will be shifting towards having a wife who will supplant your friends as the most important person in your life. Don’t worry, in a healthy marriage you will still be able to maintain your personal friendships, even if they consume less of your time than previously, and, b’ezras Hashem, in a few short years, your friends will soon be dating and getting married themselves.
My advice, therefore, in the case that your fears prove to be true, is to first ascertain with great self-reflection and with the help of a Rav/Rebbi that you are sincerely ready to get married because that is what is best for you. Once that has been established, you must muster up the courage and strength to move forward with confidence, and in time, with Hashem’s help, those who doubted you at first will soon be standing steadfast at your side giving you encouragement and support in your new endeavor.