I got a 22-year-old girl to go out with a 27-year-old boy. Everything went very well and they both really wanted to get engaged. The girl asked that he commits to 5 years of learning. The boy said that even though he is a very serious learner, he doesn’t want to commit to another 5 years because he is older and is ready to move on in life.
The girl turned down the shidduch, and I believe she did something wrong. I feel that she should have focused on the bigger picture of getting herself married and building a bayis ne’eman. If she found someone she liked, she should have grabbed him and not gotten stuck on how many years he is going to learn. The number of years he learns after they marry should not be determined before the engagement, but after they get married. Take one day at a time to see how it’s working out.
What are your thoughts on the subject?
If the underlying question accompanying the narrative presented means to ask whether this young woman could have married this bochur, built a beautiful home together, and lived happily ever after, I would have to admit that such a conclusion certainly lies within the realm of the possible, and perhaps even within the realm of the likely. And if the question is further asking whether this young woman has now effectively ordained upon herself an additional stint of unknown duration spent in shidduchim, I would have to admit that such a conclusion equally lies within the realm of the possible (but hopefully, and b’ezras Hashem, not within the realm of the likely). However, if the question intends to ask whether or not she has objectively made a grave error in judgment, I do not believe any of us have the right to issue such an adjudication. Unwanted and unpleasant consequences of one’s actions are not always indicators of wrongdoing, sometimes they are merely the result of complex and multi-layered circumstances.
Throughout the lifecycle of every human being, it is inevitable that one will face massive dilemmas in key areas that carry immensely heavy longitudinal ramifications. A person may gain admission into a prestigious and exclusive seminary, yeshiva, or university, and after much thought, elect to go elsewhere, for what appears to others to be a trivial concern. A person may be offered their dream job, and after great deliberation, pass on the opportunity for a personal reason that seems frivolous to the observer. That is any one person’s right: to make value-based determinations, weighing and evaluating the various pros and cons, and emerging with the choice that is ultimately most comfortable and feels most correct for them, despite the sacrifices that simply cannot be avoided, and undeterred by the fact that no one else can wrap their head around the verdict which has been made.
Dating and marriage are no different. Single men and women are often proffered prospects that those around them are 100% sure should be capitalized on, and the dater will then walk away from the table. It is their life, and that is their right. It does not necessarily mean that person is in severe need of coaching or mentoring (although a storied history of rejecting quality shidduchim at the 11th hour tends to be a prognostic in that regard), nor does it necessarily mean that person is a poor and adventitious decision-maker. All it means is that the dater has assessed the situation, and has resolved that all things considered, this was not the person they would like to live together with for the rest of time. And that is their business and their business alone.
Unfortunately, when it comes to shidduchim, single men and women of all ages are commonly infantilized and expected to genuflect at every turn to the whims and notions of anyone who imagines themselves higher up in the pecking order, and their abilities to calculate the future of the own lives are regularly pathologized. It is as if the unspoken, and sometimes the very rudely, condescendingly, and explicitly articulated message being conveyed, is that insofar as you are single and I am not, you are a fool who cannot be allowed to figure out whom you should marry without suffocating outside counsel.
This is silly and unfair. When it comes to each of our own lives, I am sure that we have all willfully and intentionally done things which cost us dearly in some way or another, concomitant with deeming another factor more meaningful, regardless of how insignificant anyone else views that game-changing or game-ending concern of ours to be. And it is that exact same degree of latitude which we so readily afford ourselves that needs to be far more generously accorded to those who are genuinely doing their earnest best to navigate and negotiate one of the most important and impactful arenas they will ever enter.
To be clear, it is vital for each and every dater to seek out guidance and feedback from trusted advisors who have knowledge and experience aplenty to share – just as we all must seek direction from rabbonim, from our parents, and from those we feel can offer us critical perspective when we stand before life-altering crossroads. And once a dater has reflected upon and absorbed the hadracha they have sought out, it is for us to remain confident in their aptitude to make the best decisions they are able, and lend credence to their determinations. We must understand and appreciate that their priorities and ours may not be perfectly aligned, and accept that such divergences are perfectly fine.
Yodeia machashavos hoshia na. Kabir v’naor hatzlicha na. Loveish tzidakos aneinu v’yom kareinu.