Meeting Your Mate
by Molly Lugmo
"Where ya going tonight all dressed up?"
"I'm going on a 'shidduch'."
"A shidduch? You mean a date?"
"No, a shidduch!"
"Are you crazy?"
A shidduch has long been thought about as being the Jewish version of a forced marriage. There is much misconception about shidduchs. Two sets of parents agreeing on a marriage for their children with out even consulting the feelings of the children themselves. Or maybe it is the Jewish version of the blind date. At any rate it has been the butt of jokes and scoffed at by the modern sophisticated youth.
Yet after a dearth of unsuccessful marriages and a fling of shacking up together as a prerequisite for a successful marriage that some how ends up sour, many young adults are reviving their interest in the old established Jewish traditional 'shidduch'.
Shidduchs are very common amongst the religious for centuries as the proper means to meet their life mate. It has proved successful for many generations until it fell into disrepute in the face of the romantic dating.
What is the difference between a shidduch and a date?
Well for one, tachlis, the end goal, makes the difference. In a date the end goal is a good time with some one nice, whereas in a shidduch, the end goal is a quality marital partner. With these two diverse goals we can begin to understand the high marital success rate for a shidduch and the low rate for a date.
In a date, generally a place of entertainment is chosen and an event is enjoyed together. Interspersed between the entertainment is some conversation, perhaps about the source of entertainment, perhaps about other more personal topics. In a shidduch, a neutral place (which is not a place of entertainment) is selected, and the conversation is the main focus. Each side asks questions about the other, and shares their feelings and opinions openly so that the other side can understand their character, their desires and their direction.
A date often is a romantic interlude that comes to its conclusion with some hugging and kissing, perhaps more, perhaps less. A shidduch is a hands-free event, for the schmuching (hugging and kissing) would cloud the purpose of the event, the proper evaluation of the other. Emotional involvement is only granted after the other person has been properly seen as worthy of a life time mate.
A date starts with a chance meeting, followed up by a proposal to go out together. A shidduch starts with a proposal by a third party (the shadchan male or shadchanit female) and develops after a careful investigation of the character and integrity by both parties of the other sides. Both sides refer back to the shadchan with their findings. If they are both interested, then a meeting is made. If, however, one of the parties feels that this is not for them, then the relationship does not even begin and no hard feelings are made.
Even if the couple sees each other several times and then one side decides that the other is not for them, then it is the job of the shadchan to tell the other side. The shadchan generally says that the other side feels that this person is a very nice person but not the one for them. No hard feelings or depression is caused since each side knows that the purpose of the meetings were to assess the possibility of a marriage. With dating, hard feelings can be generated if there has been some emotional involvement and then one side wants to terminate the relationship. This generally leaves the other side feeling rejected and depressed.
Perhaps one of the most important points which contribute to the success of the "brokered" marriage is the fact that the couple keeps their hands off the other. This is not always easy, but the dividends, are overwhelming. Sex before marriage, including hugging and kissing, can cause emotional attachments before the partner has been certified as worthy and appropriate by the mind.
Sex comes together with the marriage. In the confines of marriage it is a positive thing, but before marriage it can destroy a person. The freedom of the western society has brought much material wealth, but in terms of personal pleasure, has brought much sadness and loneliness.
When material goods make a person happy, then his happiness is dependent on his ability to generate more and more material goods. When his happiness is based on building a happy loving family, then the materialistic society becomes an obstacle and a hindrance.
In all, thinking youth are realizing that the road to a proper marriage and happy life is not like a commodity purchased in a store. Entanglements cause emotional scarring and unhappiness. A person that is happy with his/her mate, is a person that has much going for them. To make a wise choice, learn from the wise, not from the mistakes of others.
How to Make a Shidduch
To make a shidduch, of course, you need a shadchan or shadchanit. Now there are plenty of professional shadchan services. Some are good, some not so good. Many people prefer using their friends and relatives.
Professional shadchan services are available in all cities that have a sizeable Jewish population. Look in the local Jewish newspapers, they always advertise. Some charge money ahead for their services and others only if their services make the match. Obviously, it is better to start with the latter.
In reality, friends and relatives seem to be a better source. Why? Because they know both parties and they are not interested in just "throwing" two people together in hopes that it will work out. Friends and relatives who know you and the other party, generally feel that this seems to match and many times they are correct, although, many times they are incorrect too.
Speak with your friends and relatives who are married. Tell them that you are looking for some one who is serious. Don't be shy, be persistent. Most friends and relatives are happy to help. If nothing comes up after a reasonable amount of time, remind them again. It does take some persistence, but eventually a name will come up.
Explain to them that you are not looking for a date, but a marriage partner. Give them brief requirements, but not detailed specifics. As an example, say you are interested in a working person; don't say that you want a doctor. If you say you want a doctor, they might rule out a lawyer, etc.
If you use professional services also do the same. Just realize that professional services will give you who ever is available even if it is now even close to your dream, whereas friends and relatives will not bother you unless it seems a realistic match.
Step Two - The Investigation
Once a name is suggested to you, ask details about the person. Don't be shy about this point because this is a crucial part of the successful shidduch. You must verify that the person is a "good" person. This means checking that there are no physical or psychological problems with the person. Find out what the person does: does he/she work? Check with the boss to make sure that he/she is a reliable and considerate person. Check with neighbors to make certain that he/she isn't living some sort of shady life. Checking with the other person's close friends is generally worthless, because you will always get a positive report that will gloss over the other's negative character traits.
When some one tells you that the person is really a great person, ask in which manner is he a "great person", it could be, that he/she can drink more beers than any one else, etc.
The character traits to look for are for a kind and giving individual. How does the person deal with setbacks? What are the person's life goals? Are they compatible with yours? Remember, that you will NOT find some one that is 100% your dream guy/gal, if you find some one that is 50%, this is a good sign.
Other things to look at are the family of the other person. Does he come from a divorced background, he/she or his parents? This is a negative sign. What is the relationship with the parents? A good relationship is a good sign. What are his/her brothers and sisters like? If they are like you, that is a positive sign.
In all, you have to have a bit of detective skills to handle the investigation smoothly. Don't be discouraged, skill comes with practice. Sometimes it may be bfor you to have a third party do the phone calls in your presence. You can listen and offer suggestions as the conversation progresses and make your own opinion as you listen.
Don't feel embarrassed about trying a new method of meeting that special one. It is worth the extra effort to know that you won't be bothered with some dud, and eventually you will find that super person that is really worth the waiting for.
from the January 2003 Edition of the Jewish Magazine