I am a mother of a girl in shidduchim. My daughter is a fine, frum, hard-working girl who possess sterling middos. My daughter has been dating a very fine young man. He possesses a lot of the qualities she is looking for in a husband. Although she is not a materialistic girl, she has pointed out that the boy’s teeth are somewhat crooked and this is bothering her. Would it be appropriate to suggest to the shadchan that the boy look into Invisalign? Can my daughter continue along, thinking that she will address this once she is married?
Thank you so much.
Before any analysis of the inquiry, there are two points I would like to proffer in order to form a baseline for what is to follow. Firstly, and I think this really goes without saying, physical attraction is a necessary component of marriage. And secondly, there isn’t always an identifiable rhyme or reason related to physical attraction, and no one gets to choose what will appeal to them. What is pleasing to one, may not be to another; and what one may consider inconsequential, may be a nonstarter for another. Consequently, no one should be made to feel that they have some sort of responsibility to be attracted to that which they are not.
Now, it is also true that physical attraction is often a corollary of emotional attraction, and thus supervenes only after daters have become more comfortable with one another, over time. We are all in possession of unique and impalpable qualities that are not readily apparent, and it is quite common for daters to find themselves drawn to one another only after recognizing those intangible qualities, and creating a connection that isn’t merely skin deep.
Nonetheless, there are certainly static aspects to physical attraction, as well. That is to say, while there are times when physiognomies and features previously considered unappealing become immaterial, or even endearing, as emotional attraction grows, there also are times when one finds certain characteristics to be aesthetically unattractive, regardless of the depth or intensity of the emotional attraction that is present in a relationship.
However, lack of attraction also flows on a continuum. One extreme might be a feeling that one would be embarrassed to introduce the person they are dating as their spouse, out of sheer aversion to their appearance. The other extreme would be a feeling that though one is not particularly enamored by a certain physical aspect of the person they are dating, they also acknowledge that it is highly unlikely to be attracted to someone on each and every level, and in all aspects, and that which is currently found to be bothersome is rather minuscule when juxtaposed to all the wonderful virtues they have recognized in the person they are dating.
As far as a practical application of the above to the question at hand, I do not believe that much good will come from using the shadchan as the vehicle to counsel this young man to look into oral correction. More likely than not, he will be rather offended and humiliated, possibly resulting in a regression of any connection that has been established until now, and perhaps even causing him to terminate the shidduch, depending on how hard he takes the news. In all probability, it will go over about as well as would a young man’s request that the shadchan recommend a lip or eyebrow waxing for the young woman he is dating.
Though these recommendations are being made with the best of intentions, and with the goal of increasing connection and attraction between the two daters, such messages will almost surely land poorly. It can be challenging enough for a husband or wife to make such direct petitions of each other, let alone two young daters who barely know one another. Receiving such information is inherently painful, and right smack in the middle of a shidduch is the last time one wants to introduce pain.
Rather, I believe this is a decision that must initially be explored internally, and that it should based on the following considerations, which lead to three distinct scenarios.
To begin with, using the aforementioned continuum, an appraisal must be made of just exactly how rankling this young man’s teeth are to the young woman he is dating, assuming there will be no future orthodontic adjustments. If the conclusion is that the irk is minor, a few more dates may be in order. Subsequent to which, it may become clear that the matter is either a complete non-issue, or that it’s a compromise well worth making, succeeding a greater appreciation of the positive attributes of this young man. Should that play out, the issue will find itself resolved, and that will be that. Such would be scenario one.
Conversely, after a few more dates, it may be discovered that what was thought to be a small vexation is actually rather exasperating. Or, the initial upshot may be that the sight of these crooked teeth are grating to the degree that no amount of additional dates will change that. It is also possible that enough time has elapsed to make the determination that the depth of the emotional connection hasn’t produced any improvement in the physical attraction, vis-à-vis this young man’s dental situation.
In any of these second scenario cases, I believe the question then becomes; “If I were to bring up this issue with him, and if for some reason his response was that he is not comfortable making such a change, could I be contentedly married to him?” If one is wholly confident that the answer to that question is, “Yes, there is enough positive to outweigh the negative”, my inclination would be to leave well enough alone, and revisit it again only after marriage – assuming, that is, that the concern persists past that time.
Despite the fact, as mentioned earlier, that such conversations are generally unpleasant, even between husband and wife, it will certainly be a softer blow and a far easier discussion to have as a married couple than as a dating couple. And, provided one is thoroughly confident that they can be happy in the marriage even if there is no transformation with respect to this issue, there is little to be gained in bringing it up now.
Lastly, scenario three would be a conclusion that the issue here is indomitable, and in order for this union to be successful, a change must be made. In such a case, I believe a dialogue between the two daters may need to take place, dependent on whether or not this is the only matter standing between the daters and the chupah.
If there are any other matters that would preclude an engagement, I can perceive of no reason to stir the pot by bringing up a topic such as this, that may cause great affront. Should the shidduch end due to some other cause, the entire issue will have been ultimately irrelevant. As such, if the shidduch is still up in the air, why ask someone to alter their visage, and risk profoundly hurting that person personally, when one isn’t ready to commit yet anyway?
Contrariwise, if this issue is both insuperable, and remains the only drawback left in the shidduch, I feel that it is best addressed directly by the two daters themselves. The concern must be broached with sensitivity and warmth, and with a clear expression that one sees so much good in the person they are dating, and is only introducing what may be a hurtful topic for the sake of becoming closer and bringing the shidduch to fruition – because that is all there is left to overcome – and there is no other way to circumvent it. Within such a context, the conversation may indeed transpire in a productive and shalomdik fashion.
May the Tahor Einayim bestow pure and lucid vision upon all those who are searching for their zivug hagon viyafeh.