Sunday, January 20, 2008

Chassidishe Dating- A Responsa

I was very happy to receive the comment about Chassidishe dating for my last post; it raised a point that I now feel prompted to comment upon.

Most shidduchim are made in attempt to maximize success. To this end, couples are often assembled based on the boy and girl:
  • Sharing nusach and/or hashkafah
  • Being from a family that knows or knows of the other family
Such criteria results in certain families being deemed "good families", i.e. families whose children would be considered suitable for marriage. While I acquiesce that this criteria can increase the probability that the given children share common ground upon which to build a life together, I tend to also recognize that other factors play into whether or not a marriage is ultimately successful.

When I stated in my last post that "you knew your spouse very well before marriage", I was being extreme to make a point. However, my tactic appears to have backfired and the point was missed, for which I apologize. So, let me rephrase: while we attempt to minimize the risk involved in choosing a shidduch, all of us take a leap of faith when we decide to get married. We assume, based on either the agreed-upon criteria for compatibility (see above) or for any other number of reasons that draw us to the other person (they seem happy/ stable/giving/intelligent/ fun-loving, etc.) that they will be a good match for us. And really, that's all we can do: first form an opinion of the person and then make that critical decision. Because, irregardless of the length of time that you date and/or of how well you may know a given family and its values, you can never truly predict what the dynamic will be between two people once they are married. So you just do your best to garner a positive outcome and go from there.

I know couples with similar backgrounds who both did and did not work out, as well as couples with disparate backgrounds who are, B'H', happily married. I knew my second husband for three weeks before we got engaged; he proposed on our 10th date. This dating pattern was in contrast to my first husband, who I knew for several months. (I was formally introduced to my first husband by a shadchan at the shul we both attended , but he and I were both initially uninterested in each other. Suffice it to say that our view of each other changed.) My first husband and I had very different upbringings, but a similar mindset; my current husband and I have many cultural differences, but similar upbringings. So I have followed dissimilar paths to marriage, both in terms of length and "type" of partner. And while you could perhaps make the case that I knew my first husband better than my second before marriage, due the length of time that we took to get to know each other, time does not, in my experience, equal quality or insight. Although time did help to grow the bond between my first husband and myself, time did not leave me any better informed about how he would be in marriage. Because such insight about a person's ability to be married comes only after marriage.

And so it would seem, as I mentioned last night, that the mazel rests not in how long or even how well a couple knows each other; as the adage goes, we can never truly know someone until we live with them. Instead, it is how well each member of the couple is prepared to navigate differences and differing expectations post-marriage, and how adept they are at compromising that determines the final outcome. How well, in other words, are the boy and girl prepared for the responsibilities of marriage?

I have very personally experienced the havoc that divorce wreaks on individuals, their families, and the community. It is a tragedy all around- physically, emotionally, spiritually, and socially. I would never wish the experience on anyone. And so I write these posts in the hope that somehow, some way, by sharing my little thoughts I may help even one yid find and retain a successful marriage.

Hashem should help us so that we should all only know Shalom Bayis always.

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