Q. What's the take on Traditional Jewish Dating vs. Modern Dating?
A. Read these great articles below taken from Rabbi Moss's weekly e-mail list. (To subscribe email firstname.lastname@example.org). For more Jewish wisdom from Rabbi Moss, click here.
Question of the Week:
My best friend just got engaged after only a month and a half of dating. She met the guy through the Jewish dating system, a Shidduch, and they are an amazingly well-suited couple. What I don't understand is, how after such a short while can they possibly know enough to decide to live with each other for the rest of their lives? It can take years to know that you have found the right one. I don't understand how people "just know" in as little as a month or two. Can you explain?
A guy is sitting in a bar and a girl comes and sits down nearby. They catch each other's eye and smile.
The guy says "Hi, my name's Hank. Can I buy you a drink?"
The girl says, "Before you do that, I would like to know if you are thinking of marriage or just looking for something casual. I am ready to settle down and would rather not waste my time. Also, are you the family type? I really want to have a lot of kids. What are your values? Do you have strong beliefs and convictions? I do and I want to share them with my husband. I would also like to know what vision you have for your future. Once we get past this, we can start the small talk."
Hank goes back to watching the football.
But doesn't this woman have a point? Wouldn't it make sense to find out these things before starting a relationship? Isn't it silly to risk becoming emotionally attached to someone who is on a totally different page to you? If they aren't ready for marriage and you are, if they don't want a family and you do, if they don't have the same value system as yours, then why start going down a path that will only lead to heartache? Every relationship is a risk, but shouldn't the risk be a bit more calculated and a bit less random?
The problem is, in today's world of dating, it is completely uncool to discuss any of these heavy topics in the first 6 months of a relationship. But how stupid is that? You only face the real relationship issues once you are so entangled as to not be able to see clearly anymore.
The traditional Jewish dating system is different. Before you even meet, you find out the facts about each other. By speaking to a mutual friend or rabbi or some other trustworthy outsider, you can get a basic picture of a person without even laying eyes on them. Before ever seeing their face you can know what their values are, where they are going in life and whether they are on the same general page as you.
You only date someone who has the same values as you. You would only agree to meet someone who shares your beliefs, holds dear the same values, and has a similar list of priorities in life.
Once you have all that information, the actual date is just to see if you click, if you can communicate, understand each other, like each other and are attracted to each other. Most of the big questions have already been answered, you already know that the fundamentals are there, on paper it's all good, now you need to see if there is a real connection. With the deeper issues out of the way, this doesn't take long.
And in this system, you only date for marriage. You will either become engaged, or go back to being complete strangers. No messy grey areas, no lingering attachments, no relationships without commitment, no drawn-out entanglements that are going nowhere, no random romances that were doomed from the start.
The Shidduch system is not perfect. But it's far better than any other dating system I have seen. It definitely beats sitting in a bar watching the football.
Question of the Week:
I liked with your take on traditional Jewish dating, and can see some of its advantages over modern dating. But one thing doesn't make sense. In traditional circles, you only live together after marriage. This is crazy. The only way to really know someone is to live with them for a few years first. You wouldn't buy a car without first taking it for a test drive. So how can you get married without trying living together?
Test driving a car is very similar to driving the same car after you have bought it. But living with someone before you are married is nothing like living with the same person after you are married. The relationship is totally different.
When people are emotionally involved without any formal commitment, there is an invisible sword dangling over the relationship at all times. When we are just living together, I know that at any moment, you can just walk out on me. Nothing is stopping you from leaving except your feelings towards me, so I'd better be on my best behavior and do everything I can to please you. I am being held hostage by my own feelings, threatened by an unspoken warning - as long as I make you happy, I'm in. But if I say the wrong thing or do the wrong thing, you're out of here.
How can I be completely myself in such an emotionally volatile position? No wonder so many people live together for six years but can't stay married for more than six months. Ask them, "What did you find out after the wedding that you didn't know before?" They'll answer, "The person I married was not the person I lived with before." And they're right. The person you lived with did their best to keep you happy. The person you married had the security to finally be themselves, with commitment as a safety net. After walking on emotional eggshells for years they can finally let their true self out. And that self may be far less agreeable than the insecure live-in partner that did all they can to please you.Not every couple that lives together before marriage is doomed to failure, but there is no indication that they are better off either. But if you follow the traditional system - first use the mind and do some research, then slowly introduce the heart when you meet - you are more likely to make it. First find out about their values and their character. Do they see marriage as an ideal, do they believe in family, are they committed and focused in their personal life, do they have integrity and trustworthiness, are they good-natured and considerate? If so, then they are probably good marriage material. Meet and see if you click. You don't need to live with them to find this out.You can test drive a car, but you can't test-marry a person. Use your mind first, then your heart, pray for guidance, and you'll find the right one.