Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

15 Av 5766 - August 9, 2006 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Home and Family

Sasson v'Simchah
by Dena Neuman

Part II

"If you have been dating for a few years and haven't been able to develop a connection with anyone after several dates, it's possible that a dating mentor can help you." That is how psychotherapist Rosie Einhorn and family lawyer Sherry Zimmerman see it.

As founders of the organization "Sasson V'Simcha — The Center For Jewish Marriage", they know from experience. They have been advising singles, training mentors, and giving workshops to singles, parents, and members of the community for close to ten years. They regularly receive "mazal tov" calls, informing them of an engagement, from people who have read their book, "Talking Tachlis — A Single's Strategy for Marriage", or have heard them speak, as well as individuals they have mentored. Many of these callers are people who had been dating unproductively for years and actualized success after they changed their mindset, attitude, or dating technique. With the help which Sasson V'Simcha and its founders provided, many others have been able to identify and overcome "roadblocks" that in the past kept them from moving forward.


What can parents do to help?

A lot. Starting when your children are young; emphasize the importance of marriage as a life goal and the positive aspects of being married and building a Torah home. Encourage your children to look forward to the time when they will be able to date for marriage. Frum families are being assaulted by contemporary society's emphasis on self- actualization and self-fulfillment at the expense of marriage.

We have to show our children that the Torah values of marriage, giving of oneself, and building a family are extremely fulfilling and that our Torah lifestyle enables us to be givers and builders rather than takers. In addition, we should help them understand that a good marriage gives young people the framework to blossom and become self- actualized — marriage will help them have a far more rewarding life than will the lifestyle idealized by secular values.

When children are almost ready to begin to go out on shidduchim, encourage them to do some of the exercises we describe in Talking Tachlis [Parshas V'Eschanan, Home and Family]. These exercises can help them get a good sense of the type of individual they are, the direction they would like to travel in life, and the personal qualities that make them unique. Once they know more about themselves, they can identify the personal qualities in another person that will complement their own.

Talk to each other about the best way to describe your child as a potential shidduch, and to highlight the attributes s/he is looking for in a future spouse. The best way to do this is by emphasizing four special qualities about your child and four special qualities that your child is looking for. Discourage long, petty lists that limit choices for no important reason.

Help your child set realistic goals and expectations, and tell them a little about human nature. For instance, our children may not realize that that people grow in marriage and the person they date is a work in progress. We have met girls who confessed that they refused suggestions about certain young men because they didn't seem to be serious enough in their learning; years later, these men are more mature, married, and still learning, and the girls are still looking.

Parents have to be sensitive to their child's needs and not try to superimpose their own wishes on their child. We have counseled frum, yeshivish singles who have been going out for years, always with someone they wouldn't consider marrying, because their parents refuse to take their needs seriously and continue to push their own agenda. Parents should also realize that there is no magic age that makes a person ready to date for marriage.

If children aren't ready, don't push them. Instead, encourage them to address what they feel they need to sort out or accomplish before they will be ready to date. If your child has fears or low self-esteem, or is socially awkward, find a professional to help address these issues so that when your children do begin to date they are more socially skilled, confident, and optimistic. If your children are concerned about how they will set up their home, continue education and/or pay bills, discuss how you can help in a reasonable way, according to what you can do, and how they can contribute.

And on a practical level?

Help your children be mature enough to be good marriage partners and to be ready to assume the responsibilities of married life by encouraging them gradually to take responsibility for themselves and for other people. For instance, encourage them to make certain decisions on their own and learn to deal with the consequences. Let them learn how to manage an allowance, handle their own laundry, and help with household tasks, even if they are only home for bein hazemanim. Encourage them to participate in community/chessed projects. All of this prepares them to be giving and responsible people.

A mother contacted us about her 27-year-old son, who was living at home, going for career training, working part time, and had no desire to date for marriage. She told us that he had absolutely no responsibilities and came and went as he pleased, while she did his laundry, prepared his meals, and took care of all of his finances. We told her that one reason he wasn't motivated to get married was that he was treated like a 15-year-old rather than an adult! We encouraged her and her husband to make changes that would enable him to become more responsible for himself and less self- centered.

Any common mistakes to avoid?

The most common one is — don't tell a single, "You are being too picky." It is not helpful advice to them. Everyone is looking for the right person for himself or herself. A man or woman that you think is picky may simply need guidance about dating, or they may be not realize they are not looking for what's right for them. Sometimes, they just haven't met the right person. If you don't know a single well, don't push him to date when the suggestion is not right for him, or not what he is looking for.

Just because two people seem right for each other "on paper" doesn't mean that their personalities are right together. Realize that both people need to develop a connection and attraction to each other when they are dating. This often develops gradually. However, if a couple has gone out several times and haven't started to form a connection, they are probably not right for each other. We think it is a mistake to tell such people that the connection will develop after they are married — it often does not happen. With Hashem's help, each of them will soon find the person who is right for them.

Tell us about "Dating 101"

This is a class we give to help young women prepare for successful shidduch dating. We tell how they can discover what type of person they should be looking for, what to talk about with their parents, and how they can help themselves be mature enough to be a good spouse. We point out that when they go out with a young man, the basics should have been resolved — they should be on the same page in terms of goals, lifestyle, and other important factors.

The real purpose of going out is to see if personalities are compatible. We educate them about the dating process, and talk about healthy as well as unrealistic expectations about how their dates should progress. In addition, we talk to them about how they can evaluate whether someone they are dating is right for them.

Part of our talk includes introducing dating skills. For example, we encourage singles to take a lesson from the business world, and be prepared for the first date by being well-dressed and with a plan for their end of the conversation. It will prove very helpful for them to develop a repertoire of some stories, anecdotes, and good open-ended questions. Help them select a topic that they feel strongly about — as they discuss it and become excited, they'll come off as an interesting person.

We advise them to discuss lighter subjects — "airplane talk" — on the first date, and how to introduce more personal topics as the dates continue, including lifestyle expectations, child rearing and education, and how they picture their home life and Shabbosim in their home. We suggest the types of questions that will help them learn how the other person thinks, how s/he handles stressful situations, what they dislike and what they admire, and what they want to accomplish in life. We also recommend going out twice a week, when possible. More can get too intense too quickly, and less can make a person lose interest.

What's next?

We feel very strongly that parents and schools should be playing a greater role in preparing young men and women for dating and for marriage, so that they choose the partners who are right for them and go on to build stable, happy, enduring marriages. All of us can see that our sons and daughters need guidance in this area.

We suggest that every high school and seminary should have a day-long seminar, preferably a few times a year, on the topic of dating and marriage. Shiurim should cover subjects ranging from the centrality of marriage and family in Jewish life, how the Torah views the relationship between a husband and a wife, and what traits and interpersonal skills young people should strive to develop so that they can be good marriage partners. A considerable part of the program should expand on the topics we cover in our Dating 101 programs.

We would also like to see more classes to train married people to be mentors for singles. Most singles look for guidance while they are dating, and they need to be able to turn to knowledgeable, insightful people who are able to give them a listening ear, emotional support, and good advice. A good mentor can help a dater gain clarity to make wise choices, and can `hold the hand' of a single who needs that extra amount of encouragement to become engaged or cope with the stress of engagement. Our organization offers training workshops for mentors in Israel and in many U.S. cities.

Boruch Hashem, we see so much success. Someone called recently to tell us that she had had three children in shidduchim, and thanks to our programs, they are all married now. There's another aspect of our work that is even more encouraging to us. It's the fact that our organization has helped make people aware that there are many ways they, too, can help couples meet, marry, and build Torah homes — by serving as mentors, by offering guidance programs to singles and to parents, by setting up effective matchmaking committees, by being able to refer singles to therapists who can help them deal with roadblocks.

We feel certain that as we expand our programs, and more people get involved, many more lasting marriages can take place


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