Is Settling In Shidduchim Ever An Option?

By | November 6, 2014

Question:

In the recent Mishpacha article about the shidduch crisis the numbers were scary. In a similar vein,
someone once told me, “Girls need to understand that shidduchim is like playing musical chairs —
there just aren’t enough ‘chairs’ for every “player!” Make sure you get a chair!” (As if Hashem
didn’t appoint a zivug for every “player”?!?!) If this is the case, what should be my mindset when
going out? Should I say yes to a boy I feel would not be a good husband for me just because he
won’t be a bad husband and I might get left out in the cold?? When that music stops, you grab the
first chair you see, make sure it has four legs and no rusty nails, and SIT. Should that be the
attitude in shidduchim? Sounds more than a bit crazy — and scary — and might help the shidduch
crisis, but I wonder what it would do to the ever­ascending divorce rate.

Dizzy from the Chase

Dear Dizzy,

A wise question is half the answer.
I think you yourself know the inherent danger in making desperate choices. I thank Dina Friedman
for teaching me what we know but are often afraid to embrace — fear is not a good place from
which to make decisions. The musical chairs metaphor would be great except one critical point:
life is not a game. Life is a serious construct, delicately orchestrated for each of us by Hashem for
our greatest good. Reducing marriage, or any dimension of life, to a numbers game seriously
undermines the belief in that personal Hashgacha.

I still haven’t told you anything you don’t know. I’d like to paraphrase your question to reflect
what I believe you’re actually asking. “Given that we live in a world of teva, nature, and that
b’derech hateva, following natural laws, boys have a perceived upper hand in shidduchim, does it
behoove me to be more realistic and less idealistic about my prospective marriage partner? Should
I settle because, at the end of the day, ‘lo tov heyos he’adam levado, it’s not good for man to be
alone’?”

That question begs intelligent, rational response. The first thing we must do is separate between
“being realistic” and “settling.” The first leaves you feeling like you did the right thing, and the
second leaves you feeling cheapened. Being realistic means recognizing that we don’t get to write
the script of our lives. Yes, we have dreams, but many of them are just wishful thinking, not the
stuff true dreams are made of. Sure, it would be great if “he” could have 100% of the items on
your list (I know, you’re realistic, you’d accept just 95% 🙂 but you recognize that not all of them
would actually impact his ability to be a good husband. “Settling” means recognizing that a
virtue/item on your list which you very much need is indeed not present, but making the decision
to forge ahead because it’s better than being alone.

That list is relative and subjective. What’s important to one person may be irrelevant to another.
For example, you may have always wanted your husband to be tall because that would make you
feel safe and protected, and while some might chide you for being “picky,” you might continue to
insist this is priority. Being realistic would mean recognizing that you might not get a tall husband
but that the person you marry makes you feel safe and protected in other significant ways. Settling
means you marry the person who doesn’t make you feel protected but you decide it’s better to be
married.

Or, for example, you come from a heimishe background and you are redt to a Yekkish boy. Being
realistic would mean recognizing that this boy has good middos and is a yarei shamayim and that
you can make this work. Settling would mean feeling like you’re giving up an important part of
your identity and experiencing a tremendous sense of loss over it but feeling like you have no
choice.

Settling is a dangerous dynamic in relationships because it skews the balance of power. Being
realistic opens each partner up to a healthy understanding and appreciation of the relationship and
its parameters.

Nobody can decide for you on any given issue whether you are being realistic or settling. That’s a
subjective decision based on how important a specific issue is to you. But once you’re able to
identify it as one or the other your choice will become clear.

In the process, however, don’t lose your self­dignity and do not give in to fear. Remember the
timeless advice shared in the classic “Matchmaker” song, “playing with matches a girl can get
burned….” So proceed with your pride, your bearings, and a good measure of flexibility, and trust
that Hashem has enough chairs for everyone who needs a seat.

All the best,

Sara

Category: Advice and Chizuk

About sara

Sara Eisemann, LMSW, ACSW, is a therapist who lives in Oak Park, Michigan, with her husband and five children. She is on temporary leave from the field (about 10 years now) as she raises her family, but has maintained her love for working with people. Sara lectures on topics related to relationships, personal development and growth. She has a passion for humor, writing, and kiruv but mostly for promoting self-awareness and authenticity in our relationship with Hashem and with each other. She welcomes questions, comments, feedbacks and interaction.

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