Why I’m a fan of the shidduch dating system

Recently I came across something online about the shidduch/Orthodox dating system about was very harsh and negative.  The shidduch system without a doubt has its problems, because it’s a system and systems can never be individualized to meet the needs of all individuals.  However, it’s overall a very good system with a very high degree of success.

I met my husband almost 24 years ago when the idea was suggested by a couple who knew us both.  We went out seven times over the course of two and a half weeks, and got engaged on our seventh date.  We were engaged for ten weeks, and three months after we met were married.

When I heard about this approach to dating when I was growing up, I couldn’t imagine how it worked.  You hardly know the person, for goodness sakes!  How in the world can you commit to spending your life with someone that you don’t know?

Shidduch dating is the opposite of the casual, ‘try it on to see how you like it and throw it away if you change your mind’ approach toward relationships that is so common in the 21st century.  You would think that if the length/degree of involvement with someone is the most critical factor in determining suitability for marriage, a couple that has lived together prior to marriage should be significantly more likely to have a long term stable marriage.  However, studies have shown that those who live with their partners before getting married have a higher divorce rate and lower rate of marital satisfaction than those who don’t.

What if success in marriage isn’t about how long you know someone, but how committed you are to mutual goals and to one another?  What if you carefully and thoughtfully think about who you are and what kind of person you want to spend your life with, and carefully and thoughtfully go about the dating process to find that person?  What if the system is set up to support you in doing this, and others who are in the system share similar intentions and understandings?

Shidduch dating is very different from being set up on a blind date.  It works because there are some ground rules that set the tone for mature relationships.

  1. Compatibility – In the shidduch dating world, people are matched for compatibility in important areas before they ever meet.  Suggestions are made and then looked into.  Only if both sides agree that the important things match up  does the couple go out to see if they hit it off personality-wise.

2) Commitment – Both parties are going out because they are seriously interested in finding a marriage partner.  There’s mutual clarity on what the purpose of going out is.  You don’t have one person getting attached with hopes that one day it might lead to a long term relationship and five years later the other announces he’s not interested in marriage.   If they don’t emotionally connect after meeting a few times, then they move on and go out with someone else.

3) Focus – When dating, the intention is to get to know the other person. No hanging out for weeks or months with casual chit chat or going to activities where you don’t interact with one another.  That doesn’t mean that shidduch dates aren’t fun! My husband and I enjoyed parks, picnics, restaurants, miniature golf and a museum when we dated.  However, the setting or activity is the backdrop to help someone get to know what the other person is like, what matters to them and what life direction they want to take.  What are their goals and aspirations? What kind of character do they have?

4) No physical contact – Physical contact is like emotional superglue and can prematurely create feelings of connection before a mature emotional context for the relationship is there, clouding one’s judgment about if this is the person they really want to spend the rest of their life with.

You’d be amazed at how much you can get to know someone when you’re meeting in a purposeful and thoughtful way with the intent to see if someone would make a good life partner!

If there are questions you have about the process, please ask and I’ll do my best to address them in a separate post.  


10 thoughts on “Why I’m a fan of the shidduch dating system

  1. Yes,the shidduch system works! Sadly the corruption of this system fueled by money demands and unrealistic expectations and entitlement has created a monster and is the source of many people’s disillusionment. Only 1 of my kids met via shidduch but all of my kids played by the rules (dating for tachlis, shomrei negia etc); all were engaged and married within a short time and remain happily married many years later bh. Im sad to say that in my city shadchanim at that time were our biggest impediments rather than facilitators for people who did not fit into a box or for parents who didnt have yichus or money. They wielded power and made it hard to remember that HaShem is the one who is in control. Grateful to HaShem!

    1. Galia, there are many times I have to remind myself that this is just the effort that I make but that success is in the hands of G-d!

      I’m grateful that I haven’t experienced the system as corrupt in any way but there will always be immaturity and unreasonable expectations whenever you’re dealing with people. I try to focus on being the person that G-d wants me to be in this situation rather than on others who sometimes approach things in a way that wouldn’t be a source of integrity for me. That sounds kind of lofty and vague but I really mean it, if I don’t find perspective I could easily can feel worn down and stressed about things that really i have no control over. Hmm, have to see if I can find time to post more extensively about this!

  2. I’ve recently started wading into online dating (I’m not Jewish). It is the worst. I would love a system like this. Even the online dating sites that let you set “deal breakers” are still spotty, at best. “You matched with this person 75%!” Ok… but is that because he agrees and doesn’t want kids or because he likes the same things I do on Netflix?

    Meh. Very disillusioned. I would love a system like this.

    1. Oh, Anne, I’m so sorry to hear it’s been so unpleasant….

      I was reading an online list of ten recommended questions for a first date (in the non-Jewish world), eg what’s your favorite music, movie, where would your dream vacation be – all decent questions to break the ice. But the explanation of how the answer to each would show you something meaningful about the person was so wrong.

      My husband and I never would have been a match based on music and movie preferences! We had so many superficial differences – but we were very emotionally compatible and that’s what our focus was on. I wish there was some way to import the focus on character and shared values to the wider population because that’s where long term marital satisfaction comes from.

      As I told someone in a different context a few days ago, be clear about what you really want, believe it’s possible, keep doing what you can to move toward it and then trust that a Higher Power will somehow open the channels for you to have that. And somehow when you align your spiritual energy in that way, it brings you what you really desire.

  3. Shidduch dating works as long as the kids are from what deemed to be “right” families and “right” background. If you have anything going against you (BT, ger, foreigner, handicap, weird), the system will not set you up with good matches, but with nebachs.
    I am Russian, and, although I was lucky to meet my husband very early on in the game, the fact that I was being set up with other Russians over my objections, whose level of observance, or whose goals did not corresponded to mine, was just an example of how things go wrong.
    Also, how is all these humble young men feel that it is OK to demand a picture of a girl before agreeing to a date? How can they say that they will not date girls whose fathers will not support them? Shidduch system can work, but it seems to be bringing out the worst in people, especially when the practitioners are not as highly-minded as they should be.

    1. Ilana, I hear what you’re saying and why it was so frustrating for you.

      I want to clarify – it’s not the ‘system’ who sets you up – it’s the people you know who are working for you. I have five different shadchanim that I’m currently speaking to, in addition to private individuals who make suggestions. Some ‘get’ me and my family more than others. There is one in particular who has known me for over 20 years and thinks my family is amazing – so the quality of her suggestions is obviously different than the one who thinks we’re kind of strange because we homeschool!

      As far as the different deterrents that people have working against them and the demands people make – I want to elaborate on this in a post, because my response is more than a short comment.

      1. I wrote up a follow-up post on this topic within a couple of days, but am unable to post it because my internet filter company is blocking me from posting on my own website! If it weren’t so frustrating it would be amusing, but as soon as they resolve the problem I plan to get that post up.

  4. It only works if everyone is honest
    My MIL waited till after the wedding to then tell me and everyone she spoke to that she hope she I fail to achieve my stated life goals and ambitions.
    Then she wonders why I hate her

    1. I’m sorry you had that experience, Yitz!

      Regardless of if people are in the framework of the shidduch system or anything else, relationships only work when people are respectful and kind to one another. I hope that your marriage is a good one in spite of your relationship with your mother in law.

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