My only son (after three girls) is coming home from yeshiva in Eretz Yisroel for Pesach. He very much wants to begin shidduchim. My daughters did get some shidduch prep in seminary. Unfortunately, most of the boys’ yeshivos do not prepare them at all for the dating process or for marriage.
How can I, as his mother, guide him in preparing himself in making the most important decision of his life? What should he prioritize? Who should guide him? My friend’s son, a BMG yeshiva bochur, had a dating coach. Is this recommended today? Should he be meeting with shadchanim?
Your attentiveness and thoughtfulness towards your son’s entering shidduchim truly speaks volumes about your skills as a parent, and your questions alone will undoubtedly assist those who read them in preparing their own children for shidduchim.
There is, however, quite a bit of ground to cover if we are to address all of the topics you are inquiring about.
While it is true that many yeshivos do not officially have dating prep built into their infrastructure, almost all yeshivos that serve bachurim of dating age do have rebbeim who are expert in the area of shidduchim, and whom the bachurim know they can approach for eitzah and guidance. This does not mean that all bachurim take advantage of the opportunity, but the resource is most often there.
As a parent, then, the first task at hand is to sit down with your son and ask him if he has spent any amount of time speaking with rebbeim or mashgichim about dating, and, if so, what was the conclusion of those conversations. Once you have gauged his level of preparedness for shidduchim, you can then continue the conversation and assess his level of clarity when it comes to self-awareness.
Does he have a well-rounded understanding of both what he brings to the table as a husband and what he is looking for in a wife to complement that?
Does he know how to ascertain if the young woman he is dating, in fact, has those qualities that he is looking for, and how to be sure that the two of them have compatible hashkafos and goals for building a home and a family together?
Does he have a preliminary trajectory in his mind as far as how he expects the first number of years of married life to look, and does he know how to ensure that he and whomever he will be dating share that vision?
These are the types of questions and topics that you and your son must discuss to learn how prepared he actually is for shidduchim and to discern what he needs to flesh out more comprehensively, in order to be as successful as possible in his dating. When it comes to shidduchim, haphazardly winging it is not a particularly sagacious game plan.
As far as what he should prioritize, it is your son’s job to prioritize those matters which are most meaningful to him, and it is your job to make certain that he has his head on straight regarding what he finds most meaningful.
For example, if his top priorities are money, stature, and looks, he needs to recalibrate before even beginning to date. What he should be looking for, as far as meaningful priorities go, are qualities and traits that pertain to the young woman’s character and what he needs in a spouse to complement and complete who he is.
What will be best suited for him when it comes to personal growth? A wife who is strong and will challenge him to grow, or a wife who is more easy going and will support him in growth at his own pace? A person must grow, and one’s spouse will be an integral figure in their growth – both together and individually – but different people need different personality types at their side in order to promote growth.
What is best suited for him to be comfortable, interpersonally, in his marriage? Is he likely to be more comfortable with a wife who is warm and gregarious, or does his techunas hanefesh require someone more reserved and soft?
How important is a broad social life to him, and how much personal space does he need? When he goes out to functions or simchos, will he desire that his wife always accompany him, or will he be fine – or even prefer, at times – to go by himself?
In essence, your first set of conversations, those gauging what he offers as a husband and what his needs are in a spouse, are what must guide him in setting his priorities; and it is answers to questions such as the above that will lead your son to more fully understanding what he should prioritize in his search for a suitable young woman to marry.
As far as whether there should be a dating coach guiding your son, that is entirely dependent on your son’s needs and abilities. Everyone in shidduchim needs competent guidance. For some, it comes in the form of their parents and/or the rebbi/teacher they are closest with. For others, it comes in the form of a dating mentor or coach. For yet others, it encompasses all of the above and more. Many, for example, end up enlisting a shadchan whom they feel understands them deeply to guide them through the process.
Your son’s needs, and the capabilities of those already available to guide him, are what will help determine whether or not he should turn to a coach or mentor and add them to his arsenal. What matters most is that your son has someone, or group of people, deftly guiding, advising, and supporting him, and that those doing so are experienced and fully competent.
Regarding meeting shadchanim, in my opinion, there is no question that every single who enters shidduchim should meet with shadchanim. I understand that many are wary of doing so, or would prefer to be set up both by someone who knows them and with someone that the person redding the shidduch also knows, but that is just not sufficient.
The only exception I can see would be if someone entering shidduchim would like to begin with word of mouth and see what comes of it, perhaps for a few months, before meeting shadchanim. Past that point, unless one is regularly getting dates from friends and relatives, I believe it is generally a shirking of one’s responsibilities to continue refraining from meeting shadchanim.
While many, or perhaps even most, shidduchim, happen through personal channels, for any one individual to be someich on that happening for them is lacking in hishtadlus. The chances of a friend or family member who knows only a handful of singles, actually making the mental connection to redd the shidduch, and getting two yesses, and successfully completing the shidduch, for any one specific person, are rather small. On a Klal level, it happens b’chol yom, however, for a yachid to rely or expect that their particular shidduch will come about in such way is, in my opinion, overly optimistic.
It is my belief that every single, as a part of their hishtadlus, and working within the framework of tevah, should meet with professional and active shadchanim. There is no question that, typically, more dates will result from shadchanim than will from friends and family, and that is the ikur hishtadlus – getting yesses and going on dates. Whether one’s shidduch ultimately comes from one of those dates is immaterial. We must do the work, and Hashem will bring the results mai’oitzaro ha’tov.
May you and your son both be mai’hanimtzaim chayn b’enei Eloikim v’adam, and may your son commence his journey in shidduchim as equipped and confident as possible.