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Apr 1, 2014

Farewell to the Shidduch Dating World

I've tried it, over and over. Between websites, shadchanim, friends setting me up, I've racked more dates than I want to remember with more women than I should have kept count. Let's just say after reaching 75 I realized that counting is not productive for me, just as dating the "frum" way isn't productive for me. In fact, I'm not sure it really ever was -I certainly didn't quite fit that mold.

What does all this mean? Will I never go on a blind date or shidduch date? Will I be off the internet dating websites forever? Is this my last post? I have no definitive answers forever. I have searched my doubts, considered whether I should simply redouble my efforts, "tone down," "read between the lines," and just keep slogging along the same route(s). As Einstien said, though, insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. For my sanity, I need to try something else, something new, something different.

I'd like to be clear on a few points here. First, that this isn't about becoming less religious. In fact, I've found more observance as I've worked through the process, and a deeper connection with God as I continue to pour my heart and pain out -both in dating and in davening. I'm not talking here about letting go of my shomer ideology, I'm taking about a dating system that feels broken to me -a system I am now choosing not to participate in. Second, this isn't a decision of emotions, even as painful as it is. I have thought through the process and my place in it. I have come to the conclusion that it's not for me, and I will lay out the reasons below:

1) Relationships are made of experiences not criteria. There is some interesting research about the phenomenon in online dating (and I extend that to my experience of shidduch dating as well) regarding a distinction between search by criterion and experience and how much searching by some "measurable" criteria fails at actually finding compatibility. I am done with questions and information about potential dates (and myself) that have nothing to do with actually experiencing the other person.

2) People are not a pile of characteristics, nor do they need to fit our set of desires. Every time I see and hear about the "things" a woman is looking for, I have a nauseous and visceral retching reaction. It may well be (or not be) the case that I am "mature," "sensitive," "growth oriented," or "humerous," but I'm absolutely uninterested in trying to decide or cram myself into a bunch of those traits (and the religious/hashkafic ones as well) in order to determine my "fitness" or a woman's "fitness." It always felt to me that it's more about searching for those things than meeting and forming a connection with the person, much like objectifying as it is about finding something rather than being with someone. I've learned that people and life are much more vibrant, much less clean-cut, and far more interesting when related to as people than a pile of traits. The best of people are not only highly flawed (as I am), but own it -it is a core part of who they are. For me, it has been a journey of realizing that having a list was a road-block to recognizing and appreciating the entirely of another person.

3) I am a high-contact, deep-connection, intense person. There is something in moments of connection -moments of vulnerability, moments of listening and understanding, being understood, feeling deeply known and knowing the other, simply accepting without need for either myself or the other to be anything other than exactly what we are -that is essential and core to the way I am, every day. It is a testament to my being in the right place with my career. I am comfortable going zero-to-sixty when I sense what I am describing above, and it has been my experience that the "frum" dating world does not often foster that type of connection. In fact, I have often felt that all the protocols, labels, lists, and laborious information-gathering is counter to developing that type of connection.

4) Formal dating artificially increases pressure to consider marriage prematurely. Instead of thinking, "who is this person, I want to really understand them" I often found (and still find) myself asking "do I want to marry this?" over all the little things that I experience as early as the first date. My values for dating and relationships are so dissonant with this thinking that I actually cringed as I wrote that I have those thoughts. Ultimately, I think that is at the core of my choice here -the values I have cultivated for myself with respect to dating and relationships are so far and away from those I was introduced to and experienced in shidduch dating that I have come to recognize it's just not for me.

5) My highest value in a relationship is knowing and being known deeply, accepting and being accepted completely, and trusting one another to make our own way through personal struggles. The first time I experienced this, it was shocking that simply feeling known, understood, accepted, and trusted in my capability to engage life and my personal issues was so important. It's necessary to both have patience as we each struggle with our own challenges, flaws, issues, and find our own growth side-by-side. I certainly have a great deal I struggle with, but I don't need someone to push me along; I'd rather have someone simply sit with me when I am entrenched in my own issues, feeling that they know in their bones that I will make it through successfully in my own time. In dating, it translates as my taking time and continuing to go out in order to be with someone, to remain present and understand who they are, how they experience the world, and what brings them meaning.

There's a term that's been floating around which I really appreciate, "with-ness," which is some kind of amalgamation of "with" and "witness." It refers to the experience of standing by and sharing in experience while trusting the person to manage and take care of whatever is going on independently. There is a kind of deep trust and knowing which comes with that stance, and it is an experience I have experienced reciprocally and treasure. Aside from being rare, it is my way of searching for a soul mate. At this moment, I feel the shidduch system isn't very conducive to that way of relating.


  1. I don't think the problem is with shidduch-dating, per se; I think you were doing which I have been doing until recently, being too open.

    I would go out even if I had a bad vibe because I thought that is what a single is supposed to do, and especially since there are enough stories about someone who dated another who totally wasn't what he was looking for and BAM! But you know what, if my bashert is meant to be someone totally not what I'm looking for, he will have to be sent my way other than the standard shidduch system.

    The premise of the shidduch system is that you are provided with enough basic information about someone else that you can gauge if it is worth a date. Online research beforehand (like FB) help you to see even more than what is on paper. After going out with guys who didn't have the same priorities as me because I didn't want to seem judgmental or I didn't want to offend the shadchan, yo get pretty burned out.

    From what I'm reading, I'm guessing you are burned out.

    So here's my suggestion: Don't throw out the baby with the bath water. Just be more selective.

    1) Friends' suggestions tend to have more validity than anything else. The majority of shidduchim are made my relatives or friends, so even if you have had bad experiences, give those a shot, within reason.

    2) Shadchanim emailing you random profiles is not redting a shidduch. Those can be taken with a grain (or a pound) of salt.

    3) Online dating can be messy because there is more opportunities for the single to self-promote, or describe themselves how they like to see themselves, but not who they are in actuality. Tread carefully.

    Take a breather from dating, but since you do want to get married it would not be recommended to quit shidduch dating completely. Additionally, just because someone is single doesn't mean the method they date is without merit; sometimes Hashem just wants us to be single for longer than others. After all, if bashert is bashert, but I am doing my hishtadlus, that must mean that I just have to wait a little longer!

  2. Damn, I just wrote a whole response and somehow lost it.
    In a nutshell, what I want to say is that I think you are generalising ALOT by assuming that the people in the shidduch system think like the shidduch system 'thinks'.
    Re point #3: Most girls (religious or secular) would find a guy who spills his guts or gets emotional early on as too intense. So you're looking for a type of girl as opposed to girl who dates out of the shidduch system. I think it's important to make that distinction.
    Re point #4: It's great you are aware of how the square thinkers in the shidduch system have infected your thoughts. But you can easily tell a girl "I'm feeling internal pressure to decide really early on whether to marry you and that is preventing me from being present on the date. Could we agree to put marriage on the back burner for a few dates so we can have fun getting to know each other without the pressure?" You can even get the shadchan to pass on that message. I've done that. Any girl that is a thinker would enjoy getting to know you regardless of whether you propose or not. Getting to know new people, especially people with depth, is interesting.
    If you are serious about getting a frum girl, it doesn't seem wise to drop the frum system. Yeh, go for it and date other girls too! But you're better off also staying in it even if you're not the typical shidduch-date candidate.
    I hope I don't offend but it interesting how on the one hand, you have such a broad-minded perspective on things, but on the other hand, you are quite black and white about yourself and what you need. Doesn't give the girl of your dreams much room to enter your life.

  3. Hmmm... Interesting thoughts. I myself am burnt out by online dating and traditional shidduch dating. I think that perhaps there is a happy medium. You can still be open to meeting girls friends or relatives want to set you up with , but also be open to meeting girls on your own. Mix it up. After a certain age it becomes more acceptable anyway to meet someone on your own or at a single's function. Even the yentas are more forgiving (if you actually care what they think) because they will be relieved to hear when you do marry. All the best whichever route you choose. I hope you continue blogging. Your thoughts are always appreciated.