In light of statistics indicating that the divorce rate in the frum community is increasing, some askonim, rabbonim and community leaders are suggesting that there is something wrong with our dating system and that some of these heartbreaks could have been avoided.
Do the panelists have any suggestions for better dating productivity to avoid, minimize, or reverse this regrettable trend?
Regretfully, I believe there is validity both to the assertion that divorce rates in the frum world are on the rise, and that there is a meaningful degree of interplay afoot between our current dating system and this unfortunate phenomenon. Nevertheless, I would deem it imperative to note that many other factors related to the trajectory and evolution of our sociocultural norms likewise weigh heavily on this upsurge in divorce frequency. Furthermore, there is not nearly enough space in this column to fully delve into the expanse of such a broad and far-reaching topic. As such, it is crucial to understand that any improvements made in the realm of shidduchim, as beneficial as they would certainly be, will be no panacea with regards to comprehensively and unreservedly decreasing incidences of divorce.
With that in mind, I would like to offer three suggestions which I consider vital in their own right. And, hopefully, they might also prove efficient within the framework of using better dating practices as a vehicle to avoid future divorces, despite it being but one piece of a much larger puzzle.
A. Be clear and honest about who you are and what you need in order to maintain a happy and healthy union. Friends, family, teachers, and the world-at-large often project who someone should be and what they should be prioritizing when seeking a spouse. And there is often wisdom to be found in those ideals. Nonetheless, when those principles are out of sync with one’s own authentic character and needs, one must be able to set aside the opinions and pressures of others. The objective being, to ensure that what one is pursuing actually makes sense for who they are and what they need.
When that does not happen, when one gives precedence to the values of others instead of following one’s own, and then becomes persuaded to think they ought to depart from their veridical self, that is when one may discover their ensuing relationships to be fundamentally flawed and ultimately unsustainable. This does not mean that one must wholly set aside outside views; that would be inflexibility to the point of being maladaptive. There is always room to absorb the advice and guidance of others, but it must not come at the expense of losing one’s own sense of self.
B. As a corollary to the above, endeavor to avoid mislabeling trivialities as concrete needs. When it comes to dating, it is all too easy to get caught up in collections of compelling components connected to a shidduch, and then convince oneself that these trappings trump, or equate to, a bona fide meeting of one’s needs. And when one gets lost in such trifles, any satisfaction resulting from inconsequential matters can fast become ephemeral. For as soon as one feels the impact of the absence of their real needs being met, and as discontentment subsequently climbs to the surface, erstwhile compelling superficialities all of a sudden become hollow and insignificant.
To be clear, what might be categorized as a frivolity for one could be absolutely essential for another. There is no objective, hierarchical list of necessities that we all must adhere to. Rather, one must understand what it is that they personally and sincerely need, and safeguard against losing sight of those needs when presented with ideas that are intriguing in alternative, though markedly less substantial, areas.
C. Don’t be in a rush. For many, shidduchim is a hard road to travel. Such is the nature of the enterprise, and indeed, I doubt even one of us is unfamiliar with the Chazal which tells us that kashe zivugim k’krias Yam Suf.
Accordingly, when combining difficulties in dating and anxiety of a prolonged lingering in singlehood, along with the communal sense of urgency to marry hastily, ideas which are scarcely sensible can be seen as having an adequate basis for wedlock. However, making matrimonial commitments under duress, and before earnestly identifying a sufficient measure of compatibility, is no great recipe for success. In time, incongruities will likely emerge, and adversity will inevitably develop.
This is not to say that one must be 100% sure of the match before proceeding. Such a goal is virtually impossible to achieve. In fact, I would posit that every nuptial requires a leap of faith in one respect or another, and that it is positively counterproductive to hold out for the “perfect” match. There is vast ground to be covered in between hurriedly darting into a shidduch prior to its reaching an appropriate threshold, and trusting that a reasonably promising prospect will prove rewarding. And it is integral that one establishes internal clarity as to which side of that equation they are on before walking down the aisle.
In summary, know who you are and stay the course of faithfulness to self; remain attentive to unraveling artificial needs from those which are material; and be fairly certain that a shidduch is genuinely favorable before tying the knot.
May the One who is truly Mezaveig Zivugim see that all of the marriages He creates are enduring, fructifying, and gratifying.