Wednesday, June 16, 2010

What would you give up for love?

Some say the shidduch system doesn’t work because it’s backwards. In secular American society, couples meet each other first and get to know each other (I’ll refer to this as “the person”) and only then, after they’ve determined that they like each other, do they discuss their beliefs, outlooks, perspectives on the world (I’ll refer to this as “the paper”). In the shidduch world, we look at the paper first and then the person. Here’s my question: Let’s say you found someone and you were in love and you wanted to marry them- the person, but didn’t know so much about what they believe- the paper. What would you give up to be with that person?

I mean, isn’t marriage about giving and compromise? We ask all of these questions which seem to be perfectly reasonable, but when you think about them, if those one or two issues were the only thing standing in your way between a life of love, happiness and marriage, and a life of being alone, would you really let those issues stand in the way? Isn't the most important question, "Do I want to spend every day, every hour, every second of my life with this person? Do I want to build a life with this person?" If you found someone who you enjoyed spending time with and understood you, and who you admired etc, what would you be willing to give up to be with them? More specifically, would you give up on:

1. Place to live: What happened to the idea that as long as you’re with your true love then it doesn’t matter where you are? If you were in love, wouldn’t you move to the middle of nowhere (for those who claim to refuse to live outside of the New York area) or to New York/Brooklyn (for those who claim to refuse to live in the New York area)? Would you really pass up on love for this one or would you try to compromise?

2. Family: Let’s say the person doesn’t have the best family for any number of reasons- you just don’t get along, different background then yours, whatever it is. Is that enough to deter you? You love someone, but have an issue their family so that’s the end of it?

3. TV: If you watch TV, would you give it up for true love? If you don’t watch TV, you wouldn’t be OK with your spouse doing so? “I love you, but we can’t spend the rest of our lives together happily ever after because I don’t want our kids to watch TV?”

4. Education: If they are the right one, does it really matter where they went to school? Of if they don’t have as high of a degree as you?

5. Working vs. learning/kollel. Girls: If you fell in love with someone who wanted to learn and you wanted someone with a job, or if you want someone who will learn and he wants to get a job, wouldn’t you try to make it work, - maybe he could agree to work for a few years or you could live a different lifestyle than you imagined. Wouldn’t you rather be happy? Guys- if you want to learn- you wouldn’t get a job for the woman you love? You wouldn’t sit and learn- maybe for a few years for the right girl?

These are just examples, I’m sure there are more things you can think of that you’d give up. Yet all these questions are commonly asked (or at least some people ask some of them). I understand that these questions are indicative of other things. Perhaps people assume that if it’s a bad family, it’s something in the genes and maybe their kids will end up that way. TV, earner vs. learner, education, location, these are all indicative of the type of life style you want to lead, how you envision your future and your life.

Compare and contrast with: If you were in love with someone, but they didn’t believe in Hashem or keep Halacha, would you marry them anyway? No. I don’t think you would, and I don’t think you should. It’s too big. You can’t marry someone on a completely different page than you.

You might say, “So now what? If we don’t ask these questions, why not just go out with anyone? How do we differentiate one potential date from the next?” My answer is: What if shadchanim tried to set people up more based on personalities and if two people would get along? Granted this is harder because it requires knowing the person and not the paper and that takes time, but what if we shifted the focus from the paper to the person? Which of those things (or others) would you give up?


  1. (Sorry to nit-pick "If you fell in love with someone who wanted to learn and you wanted someone with a job, or if you want someone with a job and he wants to learn" is the same question repeated)

    There are many things that people are willing to compromise on for the right person. The question is how important is it to the person. There are girls who would not give up on a few years of Kollel no matter the guy, or guys who wouldn't date a girl who wouldn't want him in Kollel.

    I believe that in the shidduch system that anything which is really a deal-breaker in your eyes should be researched beforehand. I mean if someone does not want a TV in their home (whether its for educational or religious reasons) and its important enough to them, why not ask before going out? Is it really worth the tension and resentment in a marriage for it? I mean marriage is hard enough without throwing that added tension of differing values in.

    Also, there are instances where the person may have the same values as the potential spouse, but would not be able to compromise due to logistical, financial, or personal reasons. For instance, if a girl is an orphan and would want to live near her surviving parent/siblings etc, and you really wanted to live in a different community, you may have to compromise. If you are really dead-set against living in a certain community, don't go out with the other person if you know they are dead-set on living there. Or if he wants to learn a few years, but between parental support (or lack thereof) and spousal support you would not be able to make it, it may require a compromise.

    but to answer your question on a personal level for me:
    I ask before i go out where the girl wants to live,
    I look into the family and try not to date girls too different than their families (whether more or less religious than theirs, even if on my level, it creates less tensions. Been there done that)
    TV is a non-negotiable for me
    Education doesn't matter to me as long as they are happy with what they are doing and reasonably intelligent
    As for the working question, as much as i would like to have a few years to learn, i cannot do it for financial, educational, and personal reasons at this time in my life. Maybe a different lifetime. I value the experience of starting a marriage based in Kollel and Torah. Where the husbands schedule is flexible that he can devote more time to his wife than a regular working professional and where a yeshiva/makom torah is where their lives are centered around. But can't have it for myself.

  2. sorry for the long comment, i think it was longer than your post :-)

  3. The compromises you mention are huge, and not everyone is able to do so for the long-term. Sometimes it's too hard to work out the differences.

    I was under the impression that shidduchim were redt based on both personality and paper, not just one or the other. When I set people up, I try to do that, at least.

  4. For me, the things that I'm looking for in another guy is similarities, in background, in ideals, in beliefs. I have to respect the man I would marry; I, personally, cannot respect a man who wants to sit and learn. I need TV for my sanity. I really want to live near my family.

    I am also aware that as marriages go on, many begin to take them for granted and become focus more on what they had to give up (did you ever see the movie, "Forget Paris"? Billy Crystal. Funny.)

    Qualities can also eventually turn from positives to negatives. One of my favorite lines by Joy Behar: at first, one gushes their beloved is the strong, silent type. In a few years, she shrieks, "What are you, mute?"

    No matter how shidduchim are redt (personality v. paper) at least we are all in agreement that Hashem plans accordingly.

  5. Harry-er
    1. It wasn't nitpicking- thanks for pointing that out, I will change that!

    2. I think all of the things I listed are important, that is why I listed them. Hopefully it's obvious that we should compromise on the non-important things for marriage (such as what color table cloth a person uses). My point was that if two people are in love then maybe they would give up even these important things.

    3. To quote you "TV is a non-negotiable for me." See that's what I'm saying- what do you mean by that? (I'm assuming you mean that you do not want to own a TV and will not settle for having one, a point of view I happen to agree with.) Let's say you met a girl who watches TV, and you really like her. Other than that, she's perfect- personality, hashkafa, looks, everything. She's willing to compromise and not own a TV and she's Ok with her kids not watching TV, but she wants to watch TV herself. Then what?

    4. I like long comments so thanks :)

    tnspr569- Yup, the issues are huge, that's why I brought them up. I think perhaps they are huge but not as huge as we might think. Shidduchim are based on the person and the paper, that's true, but IMO the focus is more on the paper and less on the person. The idea is that if the paper is good, then they can figure out the person part when the two people meet. It's taken into account, but not the focus.

    Bookworm- similar to what I said to harry-er about TV. Let's say the guy doesn't watch TV and doesn't want his kids to, but he's OK with you watching TV?

  6. I would be willing to compromise, if not completely give in, to all five of the things mentioned, but I don't believe I should, or will have to. The only things listed that I care about are learning vs. working and TV. My life would be a heck of a lot easier if a girl came along and wanted to marry me and support me while I learn. But, I know that's not the right thing for me to do. I have a 46" HDTV in my bedroom and I wouldn't want to get rid of it, but honestly, I hardly ever watch it. So, yeah, I could theoretically marry someone who wanted me to get rid of my TV and learn in kollel, but I'd much rather marry someone who would be ok with me watching TV and working and I think it makes sense to find out that stuff before dating someone.

  7. I know quite a few couples who banned the TV . . . initially. Then it crept back. All I know is, while a young, bright eyed single guy can claim his children won't watch TV, let's hear his opinion after 5 kids, no sleep, and they're clammering for entertainment.

    His principles just went out the window. Plus, one can have a TV and really monitor what they watch (you can block shows based on ratings).

  8. I've been suggested girls who say that they don't like/want a TV, but don't mind if the guy watches TV. Unclear if that means they are willing to compromise, or that the fact that the guy does/wants to watch TV at this point in time isn't a turn off - presuming that the issue may be discussed and resolved if things became serious.

    A lot of these issues are very key, such as living in New York, which I for one, would never do on any longterm basis - as an optimum. I was once berated, and I think rightly so, for saying I really wanted to move back to my hometown - and leaving it at that. She told me the best thing to do is to state these sorts of things are very strong preferences/ideals, but that you wouldn't ever compromise, if there was reason to do so.

    Granted, TV may very well be different, based on its harmful influence - and similar things can be said about the other ones as well. Living in NY is a totally gashmiyus-filled lifestyle. Even if you don't live in the 5-Towns, having every single kind of restaurant available and dozens of shuls around the corner creates a veritable market of how Judaism functions, and that is a big turn off for me. I'd much rather have a small town, one shul community where being religious means real commitment and dedication to the Jewish community without shopping and choosing this or that aspect.

    Family is a big deal - and are absolutely part of the package no matter who you marry. If you're the type of person that wants a warm in-law relationship, compromising on that can be very hard or impossible if the family is very imbalanced or disfunctional. I DO know someone who wanted married in-laws, and yet his actual in-laws are divorced - so it DOES happen.

    I don't think WHICH school matters as much as the degree level does. The book "I Only Want to Get Married Once" talks about this a good bit. If someone isn't as educated as you, no matter how sweet of a person they are, you might start looking down on them and try to "educate" him/her yourself. The author brings an example to support her point that this may be more of an issue for women than men, since she needs to look up to her husband - if she feels smarter than him, or thinks he's stupid, that's a big problem.

    Lastly, the Kollel/working lifestyle is a pragmatic and hashkafic issue. Someone HAS to pay the bills, but living the kollel-specific lifestyle, which generally doesn't have many gashmiyus perks (unless you're going for the mooching off the parents/in-laws route) can be a big deal for hashkafically different people.

    I agree with harry-er that these things should be found out beforehand - as well as the degree of flexibility that a person has in each area. Only then can you go out with them knowing that there is a chance. Don't count on someone compromising their core values because they like someone. They need to be similar minded, and THEN can compromise on more minor issues, or areas they don't have a hard preference in.

  9. For the record, I don't plan on compromising when it comes to numbers 1-4. (I want to live in Israel, I am very close with my family and hope for someone who is the same way, I don't want to own a TV and I prefer someone with a college degree like myself.)

    They are very important to me, but I think under the right circumstances with the right guy, I could see myself giving them up. I have said no to guys based on their answers to those quesions (as well as other things), but I could envision compromising one of them if everything else was perfect.

    #5 I'm more flexible about. Even though I want a guy who is working, I value learning a lot and would like to marry someone who wants to learn for a year or two. If he wants to learn longer than that, and we are able to afford it, then I would be open to him learning on a long-term basis.

  10. @SternGrad-
    I dont want a TV because its bad spiritually and educationally, however if whoever i date does, then A: i would discuss it with them in a mature manner where the issues are brought out and talked about. and B: i am personally not the type to force my wife to do anything herself she did/didn't want to do, however there are certain things in my (and her) home that i do not want. If she is a mature and intelligent girl she will recognize the need to compromise on such an issue. If not, then she will not be for me.


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