As a bochur in shidduchim, I have the following question about something that has frustrated me.
For the average boy and girl from basic yeshiva backgrounds, there are certain “serious” issues that are generally reserved for discussion from date 4 and on. The reason that these issues aren’t discussed early on, I assume, is because the boy and girl have to get to know each other before they can have such a discussion.
My question is why we must wait until the fourth date to learn about deal-breakers. Why can’t these things be clarified beforehand? Why waste our time, energy and money?
For example, I went out with a girl, and on the fourth date she said that she wanted “a deeper thinker.” The shadchan then told me that it is not a shidduch for that reason. Why did I have to go out four times to find this out?
While I can certainly empathize with your frustration, I believe there are two very important topics for us to delve into if we are to successfully address your concern. The first is defining what constitutes wastefulness in shidduchim, and the second is what constitutes a deal-breaker. Once we have a more comprehensive understanding of these concepts, I feel we will be in a much better position to answer your question.
Regarding the first topic, in recent years, I have noticed a significant increase in the use of the term, “getting burned.” Although there are definitely times when this phrase is quite applicable, I believe it should be used judiciously and reserved for more appropriate circumstances. A case in point would be when a couple has gone very far into their dating with one another, are perhaps on the cusp of engagement, and then, with little or no warning, one side calls things off for a reason that appears vague or due to a concern that was already discussed and thought to have been settled. In such a case, it is perfectly appropriate for the single person who is suddenly found left out in the cold to express feelings of “getting burned.”
However, when young men and women use that same phrase after having gone out only a few times, and before the relationship has ever reached any significant degree of seriousness, I believe that to be a real misunderstanding of what the process of dating requires, and that it can even smack of impatience and entitlement. Part of what I believe leads to this mindset, is how one defines wastefulness within the confines of shidduchim.
Going on dates is not a waste of time, energy, or money. Going on dates is the crux of the hishtadlus that all single people must take on in order to get married. If a couple goes out, and the date goes well enough for both of them to go on another date, and then another, and another, it would follow that there is probably some real potential to the shidduch. If that is the case, additional dates are not wasteful. They are the necessary work which must be put forth towards marriage. And even if it turns out after 4 or 5 dates that it’s not a shidduch, that doesn’t make it a waste.
Most young men and women who enter shidduchim do not get married to the first person they date. Finding a spouse takes time and money, along with physical, intellectual and emotional energy. And sometimes, it takes an awful lot of all of those things. To expect that the quest is meant to come easy, and without any difficulty or setbacks, is not only mistaken, it is also likely to lead to a rather acrimonious experience every time that a shidduch ends after more than 2 dates.
Each time a single person goes out and the shidduch ends up not working, that is an opportunity to learn more about oneself and gain a greater grasp of what one is looking for in a shidduch. That is not wasteful. It is an opportunity, and it is part of the journey and the hishtadlus that is necessary in finding one’s bashert.
The second topic I would like to discuss is defining what constitutes a deal-breaker. In my experience, there are two types of deal-breakers: those that are truly and unequivocally deal-breakers and those that one believes will be deal-breakers based on what they think is important to them. What falls into each category will vary from person to person, and even for one person, these matters are fluid and often change over time.
For the sake of simplicity, let’s look at few black-and-white examples of true deal-breakers and hope that each of us can extrapolate for ourselves to the more personal gray areas. Being shomer-Shabbos would be an example of a true deal-breaker, as would be the more concrete hashkafic beliefs or minhagim that one holds dear. Such are matters that are not up for debate or question. Either the two people are in agreement and the shidduch can be considered, or they are not in agreement and there is nothing to discuss. Of course, there are more examples, but I believe that is sufficient to make the point.
Then you have matters which one believes will be deal-breakers, based on what they know of themselves thus far in life, and they may or may not prove true depending on the overall positives of a given shidduch. For example, the physical appearance of one’s spouse, what city they are from, how intelligent or wealthy they are, and so on and so forth. While, for some, these might hold true as actual deal-breakers, for many, these types of considerations often fall by the wayside once a young man or woman meets someone they feel to be special and is meant for them. At that point, it usually becomes clear that the personal connection far outweighs any number of matters that one may have previously expected to be considered deal-breakers.
Lastly, within this second category, there are matters which may be core needs for one person, but not for another. For example, moving to Eretz Yisroel or learning in kollel for any number of years. For some, these are life ideologies which have no leeway, and for others, these are important preferences which they believe to be deal-breakers, but may realize upon meeting “the one” that there is actually some wiggle room there.
In looking at your case, the question of how deep a thinker you may or may not be, and how important that would be for this young woman, would seem to me to be a matter which does not quite qualify as a definitive core need or belief. It could be that this young woman absolutely needs to marry a man who is a deep thinker, or it could very well be that she may, in time, meet someone who is not a particularly deep thinker, but is so striking to her as a match in many other ways that she will no longer be concerned with the depth of his thinking capabilities. This in no way reflects ill on you, it simply means that overall it wasn’t the right match – which is fine – and now each of you will continue searching for your respective zivugim.
In conclusion then, as I see it, matters which are of such basic and foundational importance that there is no starting point, absent their presence, should not only be discussed before the fourth date, they should be clarified before a yes is ever given. Going out with someone who is incompatible on truly core matters would, in fact, be quite wasteful for all parties.
However, those matters which often prove to carry much less power than previously expected, should specifically not, in my opinion, be discussed early on in the dating. Doing so can come at the cost of missing out on a potential match. If, after a first date, there appears to be potential in a shidduch, but one does not allow some time for a connection to develop, matters which appear to be mountains may stay as such – whereas, given more time, they may transform into molehills. Or not. The only thing we can say for sure is that the only way to find out is to try. Consequently, I firmly believe that the time, energy, and money spent to discover which reality will hold true, can hardly be called a waste.
May HaKadosh Boruch Hu give you ample koach to press forward in the journey of finding your zivug hagon v’yafeh.