Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Orthodox Dating Process

We all know that orthodox dating practices are different than other Jewish groups or the secular public. However, there isn't much explanation of the process. And most of the kvetching (whining) is about being an "older single," which most converts and baalei teshuva are. Unfortunately, most of the internet resources on the topic are on specific topics.

So, in the interest of simplification and practicality, I'm going to try to make an overview of the orthodox dating process. This article presumes that you are just beginning to date in an orthodox fashion, and therefore, does not deal with the circumstances of someone who has been trying and not finding success.

FYI, converts: No one will let you start this process until you've finished your conversion. If you find someone, you find someone, but no reputable website or matchmaker will take you until you have a shiny conversion certificate.

The Goal
  • Dating for marriage, not for the sake of dating.
Getting Ready to Date
  • The first rule of dating for everyone is that if you want to love someone else, you must love yourself first. Healthy self esteem and self-acceptance.
  • Think about what you want from life. What are your life goals? 
  • Know your strengths and weaknesses.
  • Make a list of deal-breakers and must-haves. Then evaluate those to determine if they're actually important enough to be on that list.
  • Come to terms with the fact that you probably won't get what you envisioned. 
  • Come to terms with the fact that you may find exactly what you're looking for, but that person may have been married before and/or have children from a prior relationship.
  • Come to terms with the fact that you will probably have at least one long-distance relationship, especially if you live in a small community. Give it a shot!
  • Realize that orthodox dating is usually for a very short time before engagement, compared to secular standards. It's not unusual to hear of a couple dating for only 2-4 months before an engagement.
  • Keep in mind that real "love" usually comes after marriage, not before. The first time someone loves a partner in the Torah, Yaakov (Isaac) "loves" Rivka (Rebecca) after marrying her. To quote an Aish article, "I don't marry a soulmate. I marry a good person with integrity and with goals and expectations consistent with my own."
  • Start telling people that you're looking to get married. 
  • Put on your game face and get a positive attitude about the whole thing.
Choosing the Dating Method
Nowadays, you have several options:
  • Professional Matchmaker. A pro will likely require you to prepare a "shidduch resume," which is exactly as dispassionate and business-like as it sounds. Most people dislike professional matchmakers because the process has severe flaws in the modern world. Also, you can burn out on "shidduch" (blind) dates.
  • Informal Matchmaker. Friends, coworkers, family members, the old lady you walked across the street. Literally, every person you meet.
  • Personal Connections/Kismet. Aka, chance. I don't suggest that this be your only method.
  • Jewish "Singles" Events. Treat classes and other Jewish events as a place to meet other singles with similar interests.
  • Online Dating Services. Be aware that at least one site (Saw You at Sinai) combines traditional matchmaking with "regular" online dating.
What to Do Once You Get a Date
  • Make an effort. In other words, when you're going on a date, dress nicely. Put your best foot forward. Be as positive and optimistic as your nature allows.
  • Give the person a few tries, unless they are very clearly a "no." But if it's not working out after three or so dates (either no attraction forms, it turns out you don't have the same goals, or the person has questionable traits), cut 'em loose.
  • Keep it objective. Don't be blinded by the bling or a hot bod.
Factors to Assess in a Potential Partner
  • Middos/Good Character Traits. Take the person as they are, not what they might become. As they say, "Everyone changes after marriage...for the worse."
  • Common Life Goals.
  • Attraction. I suggest giving this a few dates before making a final determination so long as the other two factors are present. Hopefully being shomer negiah can help you keep this area in focus, rather than letting it blind you! Shomer negiah is really the "key" to orthodox dating.
  • How well do you communicate? That's the "key" to orthodox marriage!
What to Do If You Meet Potential Mates in a Way Without a Formal Date
  • Beats me. Awwwwwkward.

And While You're Doing All This 
  • Keep your other single friends in mind. Become a matchmaker!


  1. Oh, cruel irony. At 3am this morning (as I discovered when I woke up), SYAS sent me an email saying that unfortunately, my dating status doesn't allow me to get matches. Maybe that would be because my profile and account were supposed to be deleted six months ago! FAIL. On the scale of a JDate FAIL. (Disclaimer: I hate JDate. Seriously. Be careful with them.)

  2. I find the shidduch system as practiced in much of the observant world to be despicable. Maybe worse. Precious human beings are held hostage to ridiculous criteria and demands. Investigated more like criminals than someone with whom I might build a holy Jewish home. Ridiculous gross assumptions about 'newly observant' (even if it is the parents who became observant a generation ago!) and converts; about clothing and home furnishings. The approach is unable to discern the true human and religious qualities (not the same at all) of an individual. I wouldn't want to marry someone who approves of much of what passes for shidduch business. I would be loath to approach a professional shadchan. People should meet in a more natural, human manner. This can include suggestions/matches made by friends, etc. - but I would be very very wary of what makes up a shidduch in much of the 'frum' world today!

  3. I know a few couples (including converts and BTs) who met through the combination website-matchmaker approach. They seemed happy with it.

  4. "As they say, 'Everyone changes after marriage...for the worse.'"

    I'm happy to say, about a week and a half shy of my 8th anniversary, my husband most certainly did not change for the worse after marriage. Of course, I only had about twenty years before that to get to know him, so as we say, we both certainly knew what we were getting into when we signed up for the wedding.

    Then again, I have the best husband ever and most people can't expect to get as lucky as I did. But I hope you at least come close.

  5. Good luck out there, Mordechai! While the current shidduch system certainly has its flaws, it also has certain advantages. For instance, it is nice to be able to do a reference check of sorts prior to getting involved. You would check the references of a prospective employee, no? Why not a spouse? I also enjoyed having a third-party to discuss the dates with at the outset of a shidduch. It really helped look at things in an objective manner.

    Having dated both in the secular manner and the shidduch manner, I much prefer the latter. I was set up with my husband in July of 2007 and we were married that December. And it's been a fabulous three years.

  6. Rivki, thank you. I had my good luck years ago, and it continues thank God! Our children are all grown up and long out of the house. My wife is a successful, interesting, educated, lovely and complex person.

    I think the comparison between business and a shidduch is superficial and very flawed. The nature of the relationships is very different. Marriage requires a sort of humanity, empathy, commitment, love that has little or no place in a business relationship. Marriage is a primarily deeply human endeavor with critical practical demands thrown in. Business is a primarily pragmatic, 'what's in it for me' relationship with important human elements thrown in.

    The current shidduch approaches practiced in much of the observant community involve way more than simply 'checking references' or 'discussing with a third party.' Those have always been normal things to do. But the flawed, contrived theories and methods employed in much of the shidduch scene has no evidence to support its success or efficacy. Did we mention it is often ridiculous and demeaning? And the divorce rate is rising significantly in the observant population. It is part of the same larger malaise that keeps kids out of certain schools because their mothers wear denim skirts or the wrong headcovering, or their fathers pursue the wrong profession (if any). It is an approach that is another piece of the romanticizing of a 'Europe' that actually never was. It is an approach, in its present form, that ignores the individuality, humanity, and depth of people in favor of unfounded, laughable social perspectives and theories that do nothing to address the humanity of the participants. It is founded on an ongoing lack of social contact, experience, and skills which foster an inability to deal with deeper variations in philosophy, sentiment, intellect, or talents. Read some time the difficulties confronting converts or newly-observant people with schools or shidduchim as they report it on some of the blogs like BeyondBT. The comments can be very disturbing. The best thing about much of the shidduch scene is it tells sensitive, intelligent, multidimensional people where NOT to look.

  7. I agree with Mordechai on this for the most part.

  8. Your last point is well appreciated, namely, once you're hitched, try hitching up your friends. I remember the many years I was single and found dating quite draining, and especially because according to our sages dictum, יגעת ומצאת, that if you toil you'll find, and so I toiled at it, occasionally dated twice a day!

  9. Replies
    1. Just chiming in to confirm that yes, Yaakov is indeed 'Jacob' in the original Hebrew.

      And 'Isaac' is Yitzchak in Hebrew while we're on the subject. lol