I am following up on a Shidduch Forum column some weeks ago, when most of the panelists seemed to imply that a young man should marry someone even if his heart isn’t in it.
If there is some problem holding back a young man from connecting, or his expectations are unrealistic, then that absolutely needs to be addressed. Simply from knowing a lot of people who went through many years of shidduchim until they met the right person, I believe that it’s important to validate that angle as well.
Yes, there are some people who must date for years until they find the right one. I think about some of these people I know and how happy they are after finding their basherte. Was it worth the wait? Absolutely. I shudder to think of what would have happened if they had gone into a lackluster marriage because “there was no reason to say no.” Having seen over and over again the deep connection and perfect compatibility that a couple can have when they find the right one, it’s pretty horrifying to me to think of people being pushed to get married when they feel no attraction or closeness to the other person.
Maybe the young man in that Shidduch Forum question does not know how to date in order to allow feelings to develop. If that is the case, then he needs help learning how to do that. But if that is not the case, then yes, maybe he really has not met his basherte yet. There really is such a thing. Every situation is very individual, and it takes a mentor who knows the person well to be able to determine if there is a problem or to give the single person chizuk simply to keep searching, because, yes, when you find the right one, there usually should be some level of emotional attraction that develops before getting engaged.
In short, and as I responded when the original question was posed, I believe that the forging of an emotional connection before committing to marriage is paramount. To pressure someone in shidduchim into “just going for it,” and expecting that everything will come out clean in the wash – despite their apprehension and unease rooted in total absence of emotional connection – strikes me as virtually unfathomable, and appears to me to conceivably border on malfeasance.
Directing someone towards marriage, irrespective of their concerns, disregards the issue that the single person is communicating and experiencing, and unions made under such conditions may ultimately be hurtling towards deterioration or divorce.
One of the many factors implicit in the unheralded divorce rate we are seeing in the frum world today is single men and woman jumping the gun and getting married either for the wrong reasons, or before truly feeling confident that the shidduch is right for them. Such marriages commonly occur either because the singles are expressly coerced to move forward, or because they feel unspoken pressure compelling them to do so.
Pushing someone who is emotionally detached into a marriage is but one of the many examples of sending people into marriage before they are properly prepared, and only exacerbates this unfortunate reality in which marriages are ending faster than even.
Nonetheless, and not to detract from the above in any way, shape, or form, there are many people who do get married prior to the formation of a meaningful emotional connection, and go on to lead lives full of simchas hachaim, build beautiful families, and exhibit exemplary shalom bayis.
In order to understand how these realities can coexist, one of the primary distinctions that must be made, is whether or not the single man or woman themselves are personally concerned about their dearth of an existing emotional connection.
For those aware of the lack of emotional connection, and yet unfazed by it, due to a conviction that they retain the overall capability of connecting emotionally, and will, in fact, have that connection with one another in the future, that may be a fine decision.
Presuming the couple shares pleasant interpersonal chemistry, and an intellectual belief that based on the compatibility of their middos and personalities; the commonality of their hashkafos and life goals; and the synchronization of the framework within which they desire to build a Jewish home, they are a sensible match for one another, and thusly decide to get married, that is a conscious conclusion reached without uncertainty or recalcitrance, and may be one which is undeserving of reproach.
The legitimacy, prudence, and perspicacity of such a general practice is perhaps up for debate – albeit outside the scope of this response – but it is an undeniable truth that it does work for many in shidduchim. That is a personal decision that each man and woman has the right to make on their own.
However, and as appeared to be in the case of the single man who wrote in previously, if one’s inability to connect seems to be an indefinite and indelible characteristic of their present nature, and becomes the cause of, and grounds for, considerable disquiet, that is when I believe it is highly inadvisable for one to simply press on and hope for the best.
That one could have theoretically connected with those he or she formerly dated, had one possessed the requisite skills, is essentially irrelevant. As long as one’s ability to emotionally connect remains undeveloped, and for the duration that a person feels that disconnectedness in a profoundly impactful way, it is wise to refrain from proceeding with what might be best described as a treacherously misguided expectation that marriage will somehow assuage and alleviate the problem.
As far as the possibility that the underlying causation for being unable to connect is not having met the right person yet, I would agree that is certainly possible, and in some cases even plausible. However, if someone has dated frequently for nearly a decade, and is still unable to connect, time after time after time, the more likely inference is an inability to connect at all.
Although it goes without saying, this variation can be challenging to evaluate. There is rarely an obvious demarcation of the threshold at which point one can assert that the matter has passed not having met a suitable match, and is encroaching on presenting as a more internal, ingrained issue. And, as noted, a mentor is often needed to assess which is the more likely cause.
Whatever degree of emotional connection is necessitated by dating, it is exponentially more obligatory in marriage. Consequently, whether one hasn’t found someone to connect with yet, or is ill-equipped to advance and cultivate an emotional connection in any setting at all, they are quite likely headed into a marriage that will collapse at a rapid pace, loi aleinu, if they disregard the pause that lack of connection is bringing up in them.
For such a person, I steadfastly maintain the belief that they must wait for, or acquire, the ability to emotionally connect before making the lifelong commitment of marriage to another human being.
May the Poideh U’Matzeil give all those who are fraught with indecision the tools and aptitude to see with einiyim pekichos and feel with leibos pesuchos, and may that clarity lead them to the chupah with calmness and confidence.