I am a high school teacher who is concerned about her students’ future and their entry into shidduchim in a year or two. (I teach eleventh and twelfth graders.) If there was something that you wished girls my students’ ages knew before they entered shidduchim, what would it be?
Students of mine have told me that they read this very column, and they are fearful of the shidduch experience. What advice would you give them if you were in my position?
Given the climate of today’s shidduch system, as evidenced by your students’ expressions of fear, it is very wise of you to be concerned about properly preparing them as they grow more aware of the imminence of shidduchim. I often wonder why more schools do not incorporate a workshop, or a series of required classes, on this topic for the young women in their final years of high school.
While it would be very difficult, in a column of this size, to fully share all that which could, and perhaps should, be shared with your students, there are five points that I would like to highlight; davening, mindfulness, preparedness, expectations and positivity. As you are a seasoned educator, I am sure that you could build on each point, and expand the number of points, when discussing this topic with your students. I would like to note, that while these words are addressed to your students, who are young women, they equally apply to young men nearing shidduchim, as well.
Davening. Yes, this is a line that is constantly repeated, but that is because it is a core belief of how Jewish people approach any need in life. Davening is, of course, not a magic trick, but its value and its importance can never be underestimated or forgotten. Though we may never know the full power and effect of our tefilos, we do know that they are creating tremendous zechusim for us and that Hashem is always listening.
Mindfulness. Being that we live in a point in time where almost every action and decision that we make, is fairly easily unearthed, it is important for young women to be mindful of their decisions and actions, and to understand the consequences of their choices, vis-a-vis shidduchim. This is not to say that it is healthy to spend the next number of years of their lives looking over their shoulders and feeling suffocated, but rather, to be mindful that most of our decisions and actions can be traced back, and can often have an impact on our future. A healthy balance must be reached between feeling able to live one’s life with a proper modicum of freedom of choice, and making responsible decisions so that our actions do not result in unwanted or negative effects later on down the line.
Preparedness. This is a point more relevant to parents than singles, but it is certainly something that young women close to shidduchim should be aware of, and discuss with their parents. Going through shidduchim is not an easy or simple task; and for a young woman to come home from seminary, and for her parents to only then begin preparing for shidduchim, will, generally speaking, put them some steps behind where they really ought to be. I would like to stress again that this point is more so a matter for the parents. A young woman should not have to be preoccupied with shidduchim while still in high school and seminary, but as shidduchim are clearly on their mind already, it would be helpful for them to share this with their parents so that their parents can be properly prepared.
This does not mean that before a young woman even finishes high school, that her parents should have already put together a draft of her shidduch profile and begun calling shadchanim. Simply that they should take some time to speak to friends and family who have gone through shidduchim and begin to develop an understanding of what the process is all about and what they will need to do in order to successfully navigate the shidduch parsha. In doing so, it alleviates the stress and the pressure of trying to figure everything out, while at the same time, trying to meet shadchanim, prepare a profile, research potential shidduch ideas, and both get, and go on, dates. Being preliminarily ready and prepared before the actual dating starts, by receiving hadracha from those who can guide you through process based on their experiences, most often proves to be a significant help in successfully going through shidduchim.
Expectations. As young women grow nearer to the age of marriage, it is natural to begin accumulating and aggregating a mental list of characteristics they would like in a spouse. It is important to remember that no person is perfect, and that every person comes with some degree of baggage, the same way we ourselves do. It may be a relative that suffers from a significant health issue or is no longer frum, chas v’shalom. It may be a physical trait or middah that one had thought they did not prefer. Whatever it is, the person that we marry, just like we are, will be imperfect.
Many singles who dated for some time will tell you that as they dated longer, they began to realize that many of the checkpoints they had thought they needed to be makpid on, were not really worth being makpid on, and had they realized that sooner, they very possibly could have gotten married earlier. This does not mean that as one gets older, they are lowering their expectations or “settling,” It means realizing that certain expectations or hakpados that they thought mattered so much, in fact didn’t. What is most beneficial and appropriate is to hone in on the few things (3 or 4, not 10 or 15) that each us feels really matter to us for our personal needs. It can take time to figure that out, and being introspective and reflective about who we really are and what we really need, as we prepare for dating, will help in figuring out what are those things that really matter and that we really do need in a spouse, and what things are not m’akev.
Positivity. When thinking about entering shidduchim, it can be very easy to get swallowed by fear and anxiety. Above all, it is most important to maintain a sense of positivity. The majority of singles do get married within a rather reasonable time of entering shidduchim, and go on to have children, raise families and live beautiful lives. Yes, there are young men and women for whom it takes much longer and for whom dating and marriage proves to be much harder, but for the majority of us, that will not be the case.
If a single enters their dating life feeling full of doom and gloom, not only is that highly unhealthy, it rarely leads to successful dating. Our singles must be properly educated as to what the shidduch parsha is all about and what it entails, but they should know, that for most of them, the process will be anywhere from manageable to even enjoyable, and that it will pass sooner than later. Our singles must believe that that is the experience that they will have, and enter shidduchim with a mind frame of confidence and positivity, trusting that Hakadosh Boruch Hu will bring them their zivugim, b’karov uv’nachas.
May Hashem give you, and all of the teachers of the Bnos Yisroel, all of the necessary tools to successfully lead them into this chapter of their lives, and in a way that replaces their fear with hope.