I repeatedly see, in workshops and matchmaking, significant signs in singles that they are not equipped for the roles and responsibilities of marriage. As I often say in lectures, "being lonely or romantic is not automatic readiness for marriage." One has to be responsible, functional, mature and stable. Further, matchmaking is an art and responsibility. Very often, matchmakers are inept, indifferent, incompetent, sneaky or down-right crooked. Although many are sincere and well-meaning, matchmakers are not "trained professionals" nor adept at discerning personality qualities which make or break compatibility or readiness. A single's dysfunction or immaturity; or a shadchan's ineptitude, lack of principle or lack of diligence in checking into the single to a reasonable extent; can be destructive. I have seen countless cases where the single and/or the matchmaker has been the cause of a miserable or doomed marriage. I want to take several installments of this column to bring true case histories in which the behavior of the single or the irresponsibility of the shadchan brought clear relating problems or obstacles that could be seen at the dating stage. From this we will gain insight into the failure of marriages which managed to sneak past the dating phase.
After the shadchan arranged the set-up, Leib phoned Gitty. On the call, Leib asked Gitty where she would like to go to eat on the date. She said that she was open to what Leib would want. Leib said that he'd like to go to Heimee's Hamburgs. Gitty said that this is a fast food kind of place in which there is no privacy to talk. She felt this was unsuitable for a first date. She made a point to say that she didn't need the place to be expensive but she asked that wherever they'd go, she'd like it to be conducive to a first date and to be in good taste. Leib said, "Okay. I'll think about it."
When they met, Gitty asked Leib what he came up with when he thought about where to eat. He said that he hadn't thought about it. He asked her what she wanted. She was a bit perturbed that he hadn't given the matter thought as he said he would. She remained calm and said, "How about Canton Kalman's?" He said, "Nah, I don't want Chinese."
"How about Dovid's Deli?"
"Nah, I don't think so."
She tried a third time. "How about Pinchas Pizza?"
"I'd rather not."
"Do you have a suggestion?"
"Heimee's Hamburgs. Would that be alright?"
She was upset inside but didn't show it. She remained calm, dignified and ladylike. "I told you what my feelings are. I'll agree to whatever you like."
While eating, Gitty mentioned that she would be traveling abroad for an upcoming vacation. Then, the conversation got into the subject of kashruss. "What?" screamed Leib. You would eat XYZ? You're not kosher enough! As long as you plan to travel abroad, you'd be better off spending your time in Israel in a yeshiva learning! You should spend your vacation there and do something with your time!"
"I can't take the luxury of traveling that distance or for such a long time. I have a responsible job. I'm content with my religious level."
Then, Leib started bringing defenses and proofs for his religious ideologies. He started challenging her ideologies. He demanded substantiations for her positions. His speech was driving and intrusive. Gitty felt tense, more like she was on a debate than a date.
Gitty told the matchmaker after the date that Leib is "off the wall" and rigid. The matchmaker agreed that his not thinking about where to eat and his being inflexible about the Hamburger place wasn't nice of him; that he was presumptuous in admonishing someone he didn't really know, loudly, in an unprivate location and in an order-giving manner; and not knowing how to differentiate between a chavrusa and a woman. He may have been religiously sincere, but his relating approach was abrasive, tactless, alienating and out of line.
[This case describes a scene which occurred about a decade and a half ago. The woman, projecting her fault and inadequate self-esteem onto others, is still single today and near the end of her child-bearing years. Everything that she said about the man applied to her and the man was good in every way that she said he was bad. Her criticizing and delegitimatizing came from her own failure to look into her own shortcomings and inner unhappiness.]
Mordechai has been described as a dynamic personality. He is the head of a vibrant business. He has a brilliant and active mind. Since childhood, he has stood out as a lively, creative and friendly person - the last guy you would think of as a "dud." Today he is happily married and has a family.
When he was dating, he was set-up with Yocheved. Yocheved was described to me as a dull woman who didn't have much that was interesting to say. However, she thought of herself as having an A-1 personality.
On the date, Mordechai was rather quiet. He saw nothing about Yocheved that evoked any particular response, so he said relatively little and demonstrated just about no personality.
After the date, Yocheved complained to a friend that Mordechai is real "nothing type of guy." Actually, she had given Mordechai a "nothing type of chance."
A shadchan set Harriet and Max up and shortly after the "go ahead," Max phoned her. Harriet felt that the phone call went OK and was looking forward to the date, set for 8 p.m. a few evenings later.
Shortly before eight o'clock, Max phoned to say that he didn't have a car and would be delayed till he could rent one. Harriet did not require fancy treatment and a down-to-earth friendly walk in the park would have suited her just fine. "Please don't bother. Just come and we'll do something on foot. It's quite alright, really."
"No, No, Harriet. I want to make a nice impression and show you a nice time."
"I just told you that I would be impressed and have a nice time if you just show up on foot, on time and we'll do something simple."
"Don't worry. I know I'm running a little late but I'll be there soon. I'll just go to Alef-Bais Rent-A-Rechev. Catch ya later."
Harriet was a little disturbed. She though that she would phone Alef-Bais, which was not too far away, try to catch him, and ask him to just come over. She got a message machine which said that the business hours were until six o'clock. What was going on? Is he a liar? Is he a kook?
About an hour later he called again and just quickly said that he still was behind but that he was coming. Before she could say anything, he hung up. She was all dressed up, waiting and waiting. She was getting exasperated. About another hour later, her phone rang. It was Max again. "I'm just letting ya know I'm still coming. Don't worry." He hung up, again giving her no time to get a word in edgewise. "What's his agenda? What's his problem?" she wondered.
About 10:45, nearly three hours late, the doorbell rang. He pointed to the street to indicate the nice chariot which he had arranged for. She forced a polite smile. In marched Max, flowers in hand, and announced, "I'm taking you to any restaurant you like. Let's make it something nice. I want to show you a nice time."
Her first thought was that it was too late for that. Maybe if it would have still been eight o'clock. She was frustrated from waiting three hours and she was getting tired already. "No perhaps we'll just stay in and talk." The rest of the family knew to stay out of the livingroom.
"Absolutely not! I want you to have a nice time."
She thought to herself that this guy is in a world of his own and that two minutes with him was already beyond endurance. She forced herself to remain polite and civil. "Given the hour, I'm really not prepared to go out to a restaurant now."
"You've got to eat!"
She thought "I've got to sleep. I've got to escape. Where were you at eight?"
"You'll be going first class. Look at the car I have!"
Forcing herself to keep composure, she said, "No, it's really quite OK. Let's just talk here."
Max was stunned. How could she refuse to let him be impressive?!
They talked for about forty five minutes. All the while she was privately jittery and wanted it to end. He made in impression on her, alright: he doesn't know how to listen, relate or communicate. When he left, around 11:30, she was near shaking.
It was five hours. That was a nice length for a date. The last several dates had run only an hour or two each, and they all turned out to be classic duds. Her mother was starting to think that this guy today must be the basherte that her daughter was hoping for. She was expecting her daughter to come home smiling ear to ear.
Shaindl came home and found her mother eager to hear how it went, complete with an excited facial expression. Before her mother had a chance to blurt out, "Nu?" her face turned to stone...upon seeing Shaindl's expression.
"Mommy, I feel like giving up." Shaindl was on the verge of crying. "These guys are too much. I don't want to date anymore."
"Boobala, what happened?" her mother asked softly.
"We went to Manhattan. We walked around. The whole time he talked about himself. Every other word out of him mouth was 'I.' It was never conversation. It wasn't two-way dialogue. He never asked me to say a word. I couldn't get a word in edgewise. He talked about what he wants to do. He talked about his past. He told me he fell in with a bad crowd as a teenager. He told me he has a 'dark past.' Why should I want to hear about that? If he's OK now, why do I need to hear about it, especially when he's making his first impression? If he's still into anything no good, why is he dating frum girls? He was totally wrapped up in himself.
"He never offered me even a soda. At the end I told him, 'If I don't get something to drink soon, you can take me to Beth Israel Hospital instead of home.'
"He apologized and said, 'I'm so sorry. I guess you'll never want to date me again.' Why should I? He wanted me to see him again, too. Do you believe it? He probably needs a psychologist more than a shidduch. He spoke about himself for five hours and doesn't know how to treat a woman. This is what the shadchanim want me to marry?"
People come to me to ask me if, in my experience, I might have met someone who might be a shidduch (match) for them (or for someone they are concerned about).
After one of my many presentations at Rebitzen Esther Jungreis' world-famed Hineni Heritage Center on Manhattan's Upper West Side, Goldi asked if she could speak to me. She said that she is in her forties and is looking for a shidduch. She asked if I could help her.
In speaking to her I found out a little about her. It was relatively brief and in a public place, so my information on her was rather incomplete. I took her name and number.
About a month or two after, in a workshop I was giving for singles in Queens, there was a fellow who asked to speak to me after the public session. He said he was having trouble finding a mate. He told me about himself and that he would like a nice girl. He was in the low fifties. His nature struck me as compatible for the woman I spoke to at Hineni.
I phoned Goldi. When I had her on the phone I told her I needed to find out more about her because I have a guy in mind, but I need more information to make an assessment about whether or not the two are "candidates" for eachother.
One of the things that came out in that conversation is that Goldi still could have children, but she does not want children.
I told her that she said to me that she has been observant all her life. Central to the Jewish value system is having children. You would figure that a woman who is from an observant Jewish upbringing and background wants and values children. Here is an observant man in his low fifties who has never had children.
I asked her, "Do you know that in Jewish law, the first priority in getting married is to have children. It is a commandment for a man to marry and have children. This obligation is not fulfilled until a man has at least one viable son and one viable daughter. If you're telling me that you don't want children, and given that you say you can, and let's assume that you really can, do you realize that I cannot set you up with a man, in Jewish law, because his first obligation is to get married and have children. In Jewish law a man who is capable of having children and who has not yet had at least one son AND one daughter may not marry you. You could only be set up with either a man who already has children so as to have already fulfilled his obligation, such as someone divorced or widowed OR the only other alternative is to set you up with a man who knows that he is not capable of having children, so that having children is not an option for that man. Those are the only two options you've got. You want a Torah observant man and you want him to be unable to have what the Torah tells him to get married for."
Goldi told me, "You know, I never thought of it that way. That's maybe one of the reasons I'm having difficulty getting married. Men go out with me and they want children and I'm not ready to provide them with children so they reject me. You're making me think that I have to reassess the way I'm going about looking for a mate. It hasn't worked all these years."
Goldi has been inviting rejection. She has been defining herself in a way that makes her ineligible when going out with men for whom she wants to be eligible.