Category Archives: marriage

tehila and meir engaged

Celebrating Chanuka, a birthday….and another engagement!!!

Dd22 celebrated her 23rd birthday on the first night of Chanuka in a very special way – by getting engaged!

We are delighted to announce the engagement of Tehila to Meir Samberg of Memphis, TN!

tehila and meir engaged

The l’chaim was at our house last night (the first night of Chanuka).

For Michal’s lechaim exactly two weeks ago, I shared a picture of the expanded Werner ladies group.  Below is the expanded Werner guy group. :)

L - r: ds11 months, dh, ds24, Meir (dsil1);

L – r: ds11 months, dh, ds24, Meir (dsil1);ds15, ds11, ds18, Amitai (dsil2), ds10; front: ds8 and ds5

Dh and I with our three couples!

Dh and I with our three couples! L- r: dh, ds24, dsil2, Meir (dsil1), Tehila (dd23), dd21, ddil1, Avivah

I can’t tell you what a beautiful feeling it is to watch one’s children find their soulmate! Each and every one has chosen such a special person who is uniquely suited to him/her. Really, it’s remarkable. And so exciting!

The engagement party will be this Monday evening from 8 – 10 pm in RBS at the Bais Mordechai shul. If you’re reading this and are local, please consider this an invitation!



My tips for making your marriage awesome!

My husband and I are celebrating 25 years of marriage!  Eleven wonderful children, several national and international moves, job changes, health scares…we’ve navigated lots of situations together over the years and our marriage is a source of great happiness and stability for us both!

In honor of our anniversary I want to share some of the lessons that have been helpful to me in building our relationship.

Me and my husband

What I say is applicable to husbands or wives, but for simplicity I’m going to address this post to women. I also believe that in the typical relationship (not including abuse or addictions) women have more power than men do to significantly impact the quality of the relationship.

Here’s my first  tip for a good marriage but only those of you who aren’t yet married can use this one:

  • Choose well.  Choose a spouse who is kind, caring, emotionally stable, shares your values and with whom you emotionally connect.  Lots of problems that later come up in relationships are because people didn’t choose well and that’s something that’s really hard to overcome.

I was young when I got married but I consciously sought out role models of strong relationships and thought about what kind of person would be a healthy match for me.  Notice I said ‘healthy’, not ‘good’.  People get into relationships that can feel exciting or good on some level but not be healthy.  People mistakenly think that marriage is all about meeting the right one and the stars sparkling in the air around them.  That can be part of it, but there’s a definite place for carefully looking for the qualities that are important to you.

Okay, on to other musings that are of applicable to everyone!

A general principle of healthy relationships is that people want to be around people who make them feel good.  When you were dating, the odds are high that you and your husband enjoyed one another and felt appreciated by the other.  And you loved being around each other.

But too often, the sheen wears off after you’ve been married for a while and you start focusing on what isn’t and what you don’t have instead of what is and what you do have. You want to change him to be more like what you want him to be. Guaranteed recipe for misery.

  • Be conscious of your husband’s good qualities and let him know how much you appreciate them!  Just because you see some other less desirable qualities doesn’t erase all those good qualities. Every one of us is a work in progress. Don’t be shy about letting your husband know you think he’s a great guy!  What you focus on grows.
  • Don’t get so used to the things he brings to the relationship that you take them for granted.  My husband goes out to work every day to support his family and has done this for many years.  Does his consistently showing up and being responsible not deserve positive feedback just because he’s been doing it so long??  I let him know on a regular basis how much it means to me that he works so hard to take care of us even though he’d probably rather be kicking back on a beach somewhere.

And when it comes to making those changes that you want him to make – he’s lots more likely to make the effort to please you when he feels accepted and appreciated by you.

  • No one wants to feel taken for granted, belittled or inadequate.  I’ve often heard wives talk about their husbands as if he’s one more child that needs to be tended to. Ladies – guys aren’t completely obtuse.  When you think about him like this and speak about him to your friends like this, don’t you think he gets a sense of that even if you don’t directly say anything to him?

And let’s face it.  How many of us can feel that kind of exasperation and not express it?  Come on, you’d have to be a saint to be thinking those kind of thoughts and be able to keep them to yourself!  Learn to shift your thinking by focusing on his good qualities.

  • You’re not his mother.   It’s not your job to fix him or oversee all the details of his life.  He’s an adult, so treat him like one.
  •  When you husband does something to make you happy, don’t point out all the ways he could have done it better.  Let him know how much you appreciate the effort.
  • When you first see your spouse after a long day apart, don’t jump into complaining about how hard your day was.  I know, it’s hard to set aside one’s desire to be heard.  But take a few minutes to warmly greet your spouse.  A warm smile and welcoming, “I’m so happy to see you!” help make your home a place your spouse wants to be.
  • Let him make mistakes without pointing out everything he did wrong.  Seriously, would you want to live with an all seeing eye who pointed out all of your errors? I’d want to run in the other direction!  That’s one reason for the escape of men to their man caves.
  • Ask for what you want.  Don’t hint around and don’t expect him to read your mind and then get resentful that he didn’t do what you wanted him to do!  And don’t tell yourself if he really loved you he’d know what you want without you telling him – that’s not true and it’s just not fair.
  • Make time to spend just enjoying each other. Not at home, distracted by the chores that need to be done or the kids that need to be put to sleep.  It’s worth the effort to get out on a regular basis.  My husband and I go out every week and when we took a break from this for a couple of months due to scheduling changes, I  felt something was missing.
  • Have friendships outside of your marriage; don’t expect your spouse to be the one and only person you can talk to about everything.  That can become a burden.  My husband is my best friend, but that doesn’t mean I expect him to be interested in every single thing that interests me!
  • Similarly, don’t expect your spouse to be your therapist and to listen to all your sadness and pain – that gets old pretty fast.

And here’s a really big one, so big that I could have really put this first.

  • Make self-care a priority.  It’s not your husband’s job to make sure you get enough sleep, time with friends, exercise, meditation, yoga, bubble baths, upbeat music, etc, etc.  It’s your job to make yourself happy.  You can ask for his logistical support and chances are high he’ll be happy to help you make it happen if you’ve been warm, affirming and positive toward him.  Most husbands really want to make their wives happy.  But it’s not his job.

If you could live with someone who was cheerful and fulfilled by her life, or someone who was a resentful martyr who put herself last, who would you rather spend time with?  Who would you want to come home to?  I’ve said this before about raising children but it’s just as true with marriage – you do everyone around you a favor by making yourself a priority.

I could go on and on with lots of little tips but it really comes down to this: treat your husband as you would want to treated- with kindness, respect and appreciation.  Give him the benefit of the doubt when something goes wrong.  Learn to let go of having to have things your way, and realize that ‘our’ way can be even better. Stop shaming, blaming, and complaining.

You know how I learned all this?  By making lots of mistakes!  At times I’ve been petty, judgmental, not respectful, impatient, unappreciative and resentful.  But I chose a good man and I was smart enough to remind myself of that even when I was feeling disgruntled. I knew that strong marriages didn’t happen by themselves; I messed up plenty but I’d try to do it better or differently the next time.

Personally, learning to let go and accept and appreciate what is has been one of the biggest lessons for me.   Some people are naturally easy going and accepting; I’m not one of them.  I came into marriage with a strong propensity to move fast, think fast, and be detail oriented, which strongly correlates with being impatient, reactive and critical.  I’ve worked very, very hard to learn to slow down, to make room for the interpretations that others bring to situations, and to focus on the positive.   And that’s made a huge difference in my marriage.

My husband has been an incredible source of acceptance and support for me through all these years, and I’m very, very grateful to be married to this amazing man.  Every year has just gotten better and I’m looking forward to the next 25 years!



The wedding was beautiful!!! (pics included)

What a beautiful evening our son’s wedding was!

We are still floating with joy at the joining of these two wonderful souls. What a special and beautiful couple they make!

I was so touched by the presence of friends from different stages in our lives – Beitar, Seattle, Baltimore, Karmiel and Ramat Beit Shemesh.  There were a couple of women who even knew me from high school, as well as a friend who I met at 16 and several others who came for the bride’s side but turns out also knew me from when I was in seminary (age 17/18).  It was very special to have friends share this milestone event with us and I can’t describe how much it meant to me to have each person there.

I don’t have official wedding photos yet;  what I have are some pictures taken by people on the sidelines when the photographer wasn’t looking (he didn’t allow pics taken at the same time he was shooting). Though they are the same poses by the photographer you’ll see that some of these are obviously in between moments and hopefully my family will forgive me posting these. (Edited to add – some of my children were NOT happy with the photos I shared and were therefore removed.  Here is the link to the official photos.)

First, me and my husband.

Me and my husband

I had some angst about my gown after it arrived.  A blog-reader-turned-friend-turned-seamstress-for-the-wedding asked me what my concern was. I told her I was concerned the color was too much.

She responded, “This gown is to the ‘mother-of-the-groom black-gown’ phenomena what homeschooling is to the ‘keep your kid in an unhealthy schooling situation’ phenomena. It’s so in-line with Avivah Werner……”

So I wore it. :)

Next, a family picture.  Baby Rafael wasn’t feeling well and unfortunately was screaming for the few minutes we took a family photo.  :(    We put our desire for him to be in the pictures on the back burner since it was clear he needed calming, which is why he doesn’t appear in later photos.

(to be replaced soon)

Below: siblings picture (minus Rafael). Back l- r: ds11, ds9, dd16, dd20, dd22; front l- r: ds18, ds23, ds4, ds15, ds8

(to be replaced soon)

Below: my three lovely girls, l – r, dd16, dd20, dd22.

(to be replaced soon)

(Edited -sorry, they requested I remove this.)Below: seven of our eight wonderful sons. Back l- r: ds9, ds18, ds23, ds15; front l- r: ds4, ds8, ds11.

wedding brothers

Below: Rafael (six months) later in the evening with his Bubby, wearing his protective ear gear (sound protection for loud music).

Rafael and his Bubby

The family pictures together with the bride were taken later in the evening and sadly only two pictures were taken even then. It’s very sad. In any case I don’t have any of those yet.  I hate to leave the bride out of the wedding post but I only have one picture and it’s not a good one.

I also don’t have any wedding pictures of the bride and groom yet, so I’ll instead share a picture taken two nights later at the sheva brachos we hosted in our home.

Aren't they the cutest couple?

Aren’t they the cutest couple?

When I used to think about marrying off a child, I imagined it would be a time with a lot of tension (since I’ve heard people talk about it in that way), but it wasn’t like that at all. It has been a wonderful experience all around and we are SO happy to have a new member of the family!


Beautiful fireworks on the black sky background

Our son’s wedding – if you’re local you’re invited!!!

The gowns have been fitted, the boys shoes are shines, each one’s clothing purchased and organized in the closet, bow ties sewn for Yirmi and Rafael (will finish putting on the elastic tonight).  Most of the numerous behind the scenes details are taken care of…

We are rejoicing in this happy season of life and welcome you to join us in person!

The wedding will be this week in Jerusalem.  If you are local and would like to come for the chupa (wedding ceremony) or later for dancing, please email me for details of where and when (introduce yourself if we haven’t been in touch in the past)!

I always love meeting my blog readers and would be delighted to have you share as we celebrate the marriage of the amazing young man so many of you have ‘known’ for almost eleven years.



wedding graphic

Wedding plans, post high school plans, birthdays…busy, busy!

Yesterday someone asked me how I find time to write so often.  Funny how others can look at the same situation completely differently than me – I feel like I hardly am able to find time to write!  It was good to be reminded that there are always two ways to view a situation and that I can choose a more positive interpretation.

It’s a busy, busy season of life right now!

First of all, the wedding!  Less than a week to go with a list of things still to do, but it’s all getting done calmly and without stress.  After seeing friends whose tension level was seriously racheted up when their children were engaged, my goal for this engagement period was to be emotionally present, calm, and to enjoy the joy of this time.  Thankfully that has been the reality and we are so grateful and excited as we prepare for our first wedding.  So often I’ve wondered who our children will marry, and it’s beautiful to see how perfectly our daugher-in-love complements ds23; they are a lovely couple!


Ds18 will be graduating soon, and has spent the last few months considering his post high school plans.  Since he’s in a yeshiva high school (that includes a full secular curriculum versus yeshiva ketana where no secular subjects are taught) people say it makes it harder (and even impossible) to get into the selective post high school yeshiva he’s interested in, but I don’t believe that these kind of things need to be issues – yes, it sets the bar to jump over higher but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done.

He went to visit several yeshivas and it was clear to him that this particular yeshiva was the best fit for him.  But they didn’t get back to him quickly about setting up an interview and it looked like it wasn’t going to happen.  (They extensively check out the student before inviting them to interview.)  It was very exciting when he was invited to test there – they’ve never interviewed a student from his high school and it was significant to be invited.  The interview seemed to go well but he was told there was more testing to follow.

I was in the supermarket two days ago when he called. When he told me he was accepted, I got choked up and couldn’t respond.  After a minute of silence and no sound on my part he was sure I didn’t hear what he said.   “Mommy, did you hear what I said?  I was accepted to ‘Blank’ Yeshiva!”

I managed to get out a congratulations through teary eyes.  It’s a huge accomplishment and it happened because of the person he’s built himself into and the efforts he’s made day after day.  Oh, my, so much emotion.  I’d better get some bulletproof makeup for the wedding.  :)


Dd16 has been considering her plans for the coming year, and last week told me she’d like to go to seminary next year.  While it’s not something we had talked about previously, I completely support her and told her it sounded like it could be a very good choice for her.  She has a specific seminary in mind, and called them two days ago for an application – and was told that day was the deadline!  She sent it in and went to visit and sat in classes yesterday, which she very much enjoyed.  She needs to interview there and it’s preferred that parents come, but I simply can’t go to an interview with her until after the wedding.  They have hesitations about accepting a student her age so we’ll see how that goes.


Since Rafael joined the family three months ago, I’ve been busy working my way through a list of medical appointments for him.  Yesterday I spent hours in Jerusalem at a hospital having his hearing tested.  It was a very unpleasant test for him and he screamed for 45 minutes before falling asleep when his response to sound stimulation could finally be monitored, but I was very grateful to learn that his hearing is good!

Another project that has taken ongoing effort is getting mother’s milk for him.  I am so grateful to the many women who have donated to him!  He was obviously reacting badly to dairy formula when in the hospital and mother’s milk has been very important in building up his immune system. He’s been almost exclusively on mother’s milk for the last 14 weeks, which is a huge amount of donor milk that we’ve had to get.  For the times that we’ve run out, we’re fortunate that our pediatrician generously gave us sample boxes of a hypoallergenic formula.  I’m in the process of having him officially approved for a different formula (since he’s reacting even to the hypoallergenic formula he’s been getting) and once that happens we’ll be able to purchase it ourselves; hopefully that will be completed this week.

I’ve also been in the process of getting Rafael evaluated for early child development Ds9 and Rafaelservices.  My experience in Karmiel with this for Yirmi wasn’t pleasant and I was dreading going through this process again.  Just reading through paperwork for Yirmi (which I needed because we are opening a new file for him here and they needed it) gave me a sick feeling in my stomach.

The meeting with the physical therapist and social worker was very pleasant, completely different than my past experience.  The physical therapist said Rafael’s development is impressive and that it’s obvious that we’ve been working with him.  Yes, we do invest time and effort into supporting his development but in line with my educational approach, it’s integrated into daily living rather than therapies that we stop our lives to do.  Rafael is delicious and we just love him to pieces!


Can you believe Yirmi will be turning five soon!?  He’s doing wonderfully and I’ll update on him closer to his birthday.  We’ve been given an appointment with a developmental doctor so he can be evaluated comprehensively as part of the process to get speech therapy services.  Since he has apraxia, a clear and obvious speech delay, I hope services will be easily approved.  We’ve worked on his speech extensively at home and it’s exciting to see how beautifully it’s coming along.  He’s such a cute and smart little guy!


We are in the middle of birthday season here.  We started the season with ds11 in April, followed by ds8 and then dh in May.  Ds14 will have a birthday the day after the wedding, then Yirmi two weeks later opens July, ds23 two days after that, dd20 a month later and now our lovely daughter-in-love joins the birthday line-up for August!


Everyone is growing up so quickly!  Time seems to speed up more as the years go by.  As I feel the days flying by I have such a strong desire to be emotionally present for every moment  (which isn’t possible but it’s a direction to shoot for!).  Life is so full and it’s easy to get caught up in what needs to be done on a daily basis, so it’s really a conscious choice that I’m trying to make each day.


And now yet more wonderful news – our son is engaged!

We are thrilled and delighted to announce the engagement of our oldest son, Elazar!

You may remember him from a photo last week with his two youngest brothers:

Ds23 with ds4 and Rafael

Ds23 with Yirmi and Rafael

I began writing this blog 10.5 years ago, when he had just turned 13.  Some of you have been reading from the beginning and have watched him (as well as our other children) grow up through all these years.  He has become an amazing young man.

Last week my husband and I had the opportunity to meet the young woman he was dating (we went right from there to pick up Rafael!).  At that point it was clear that his intentions were serious and it didn’t take more than a few minutes for it to be obvious to us both what a beautiful person she is and to see what a perfect match they were!

Last night he proposed to this very special young lady.  It brings me so much joy to share with you all our overflowing happiness as he embarks on this new stage of life with his wonderful fiance, Rivkie!

Elazar and Rivkie

May you all be blessed with abundant good in your lives, and may we all share in continued good news!



If you want to be happy, this is what you need to invest in!

Sorry I’ve been AWOL for a while!  I’ve been having computer issues that have been dramatically limiting my computer access.  The issue isn’t resolving as quickly as I would like (to put it mildly!) so I’m using it as an opportunity to practice patience and remembering to allow life to happen on G-d’s timeline and let go of my idea of when things have to happen.


If you ask young people what’s most important to them, they’re likely to say ‘making money’ or ‘becoming famous’.  So much of our society is focused on these external goals.  While those goals are of value,  in a 75 year study of over 700 men, researchers wanted to determine- what makes a good life?  Is it the things that we strive for when we’re starting our adult lives?

The primary message to emerge from this study is that good relationships keep us happier and healthier.  It’s nice to have more relationships and connections, but what matters more than the number of relationships is the quality of those relationships.

As I watched the video above, I thought about my own life and agreed that this is what has brought me the most happiness.  My husband and I celebrated our 24th anniversary a week ago, tomorrow our youngest will turn 4 and two days later our oldest will turn 23.  So this is annually a period in which I’m conscious of completing one stage and turning the page to a new stage.

Over this period of time, there have been times of financial stress and of abundance, of physical health and physical challenge, of struggles and of triumphs.  Sometimes external validation has been there and sometimes it hasn’t. But throughout it all, the relationships with my immediate family members has given me a sense of stability and satisfaction.

It’s knowing the power of effectively investing in relationships that motivates my work as a parenting consultant.  As much as good relationships add to the quality of one’s life, constant conflict and stress in relationships downgrades your happiness  – even if in other areas you seem to have it all.  Often people feel hopeless and frustrated about relationships with their spouse and children, but just because that’s how it is now doesn’t mean that’s how it needs to stay.

We all want happiness but as the speaker above said, relationships can be complicated and messy, it’s hard work and it’s life-long.  However, the benefits of creating those relationships are deeply valuable; they heavily influences physical health, emotional health, cognitive health and life span.

After all these years of marriage, I continue to look for ways to invest in my marital relationship.  I shared with you about going away together for the weekend recently; we also go out once a week together.  It’s not where we go but just making space away from the house and kids that matters.  But once a week wouldn’t be enough if we didn’t connect during the week!  If a couple of days go by without having significant conversation together (not the day to day business of co-running a home kind of talk), it feels like something important is missing.

How do you invest in keeping relationships healthy and strong?  If your relationships aren’t supportive of you, what can you do to improve them or find other ways to nurture yourself?


Sea of galilee

Nurturing myself by nurturing my marriage – my trip to Tiberias with dh

Dh is having a significant birthday in a week, and we decided to celebrate by spending the weekend in Tiberias – without our children!

The last time we did this was over ten years ago, and it was wonderful, amazing, renewing – something everyone should do when their stage of life allows for it. Couple time is so critical. There’s a reason you married your spouse!

It’s easy to forget what brought you together when you’re caught up in the busyness of life and you feel like two ships passing in the night or partnering business associates checking in about the tasks of the day.  Creating time to recharge and  reconnect allows you to renew and deepen your appreciation of one another.

And getting out of the house completely changes the energy.  I enjoy being at home and spending time with dh, but the dishes and laundry and kids are all still there and even when I create physical space to speak with dh without interruption, in my mind it’s hard to put everything to the side.

lake of galileeOur trip to Tiberias definitely was getting away!  The trip by bus was about 5 hours each direction.  The hotel we stayed at had a stunning view from high above the Sea of Galilee and we both agreed that just being able to sit quietly with the palm trees blowing, the birds chirping and the inspiring view was enough of a reason to have made the trip.  It was literally that centering.

But we also enjoyed the  food (that we didn’t have to prepare and clean up from) and the restful hotel environment, which is so different from home.  Conversations that weren’t interrupted ten times with various children going in and out, time to nap and read and talk about what we were reading and just be present in the moment-  it was wonderful.

We both agreed that this is something that we would like to begin to make a yearly event instead of waiting for a special occasion!

If you’re wondering who was holding down the fort, it was dd19, ds17, dd15 and ds13. They celebrated ds7’s birthday while we were gone and the kids all told us they had a great Shabbos with dd19 and ds17 in charge.

Years ago I resisted going away, feeling I couldn’t leave young children without me.  And in fact, I don’t take these trips away when I have very young children.  But we mothers can always find something to feel guilty about!  When we leave the house for our ‘couple time’ (and this includes our weekly date nights), I also leave behind any guilt!  Really, what is better for children than growing up in a home where their parents consciously take time to nurture their relationship?


More about the shidduch dating system

A huge thank you to my internet server (who also provides my filter) for figuring out why my internal control panel on my blog has been blocked from me for the last week!

Today I’ll (finally!) respond to some concerns/questions that were expressed about the shidduch system after my last post.

As highly as I think of the shidduch approach, that doesn’t mean that I’m oblivious to areas where there is room for improvement.  But the minute my children entered shidduchim, I decided I would no longer engage in theoretical conversations about the drawbacks.

You can be part of the problem or you can be part of the solution.  If I were to complain and have an intellectual discussion with no intent to actually do anything, I might be able to convince you or even myself that in some way I was doing something positive by raising awareness.  Sounding convincing isn’t the same as being productive.  I want to draw positive energy into my life, and complaining doesn’t flow with my goals and intentions.

>>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 don’t agree with this at all.  The ‘system’ doesn’t set up anyone! The system is made up of individuals who put their time into helping others find a life partner. Some of these people won’t be tuned into you and what you want, and won’t be very helpful. Others will have a more accurate sense of who would be suited to you, and make suggestions accordingly.

When people think about who will be a good match for someone, they look at the most obvious factors first – someone who has a similar background/life path.  Converts and baalei teshuva are often matched because they share a similar path that is harder for someone who hasn’t had that journey to relate to. Someone with a disability is likely to be matched with someone with a disability.  Someone from a certain culture is often suggested to someone of the same culture.

I’m uncomfortable with the comment that anyone in one of these categories won’t be set up with a ‘good match’, because it implies that only those outside of these categories are ‘good’.

There’s no such thing as any one person who is ‘perfect’.  There’s only the person who is ‘perfect’ for you!  Since every person has their divinely ordained match, he will be the perfect match for the person that is right for him.  And he won’t match those he isn’t meant to match.

Everyone is looking for something else and cares about different things.  And what seem like drawbacks really are just factors to help you in the winnowing and sifting process of finding your soul mate.

>>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.<<

I understand that hearing suggestions that weren’t a good fit for one’s goals other than sharing the same cultural background can be hurtful.  But it’s very important when in shidduchim to know what you want and to be consistently clear in communicating that.  No one is forced to go out against their objections. If someone doesn’t like a suggestion, they say they’re not interested and they don’t go out. If someone feels pressured and goes out to get someone off their back, they haven’t respected their own needs and boundaries.

I had the experience more than once of feeling pressured to say yes to someone who I didn’t feel was the right match.  I was concerned my explanations of why I didn’t want to say yes would be seen as petty and of course didn’t want to seem superficial.  But more important than my ego was honoring my child’s needs.  So I had to honestly state my position and stick with it even when it was uncomfortable for me.

>>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?<<

Is it unreasonable for young people to want to see a picture before agreeing to date someone?

No, it’s not.  I completely understand it.

That doesn’t mean I like it.  Pictures don’t show the most important qualities a person has and could lead to someone saying no to someone based on something superficial that wouldn’t be an issue for them if they got to know the person. It could also lead to someone going out with someone else based on their looks rather than the more important qualities.

Personally, I don’t send pictures of my children and don’t ask for pictures of those who are suggested.  This is typical in charedi circles in Israel.

When I follow up a suggestion, I ask a lot about character but not at all about appearance beyond height and hair color.  I don’t ask if someone is attractive because everyone has their own sense of what that means, and this is heavily influenced by feelings of emotional connection.

>>How can they say that they will not date girls whose fathers will not support them?<<

I assume young men who plan to learn Torah full-time are being referred to in this question although in virtually every community, Jewish or non-Jewish, religious or secular, finances play some part in a couple’s decision making.

Can we honor the right of each person to choose whatever parameters they want when choosing the person they want to spend their life with?  Someone else may not agree with those parameters but that doesn’t make it wrong.

There are young men for whom it is very important to stay in learning long term and look to marry into families that share those values and have the financial capacity to be supportive, and young men who want to stay in learning long term who would rather be financially independent even if it means living a much simpler life.

There are parents who want to support children who are learning Torah full-time who have the financial capacity to do so, and others who don’t have the ability to give that help but feel pressured to give what they don’t have.  Unfortunately, we live in a peer dominated world and most of us are afraid to be honest about who we are and what we can do.

I completely understand that people feel very pressured to do more than they can do because they don’t want their child to be left out in the cold. Shidduchim come from G-d and each person will be sent their soul mate when the time is right for them – not a minute before and not a minute after.  There’s a lot of calm that comes with being able to trust the One who is directing circumstances, rather than thinking our efforts and financial abilities are the most important factors to making a match happen.

Each of us has the power to be the change we want to see in the world.   If there’s something I don’t like about how shidduchim are conducted, then I don’t have to engage in it.  My responsibility is to make the choices that are in alignment with my values and accept that others will make the decisions that they make.  The choices others make are totally out of my control.

>>What does it mean to check someone out? And what kind of criteria do you look for?<<

The way it works is this. An introductory suggestion is made to one side first.  The parent (or whoever is handling it) asks for the basic details to see if the suggestion is in the right ball park.  If based on the initial description shared it sounds interesting to that side, the introductory suggestion is made to the other side. Once both sides agree that the idea sounds compatible at the most basic level, then references are exchanged and each side starts researching to get more specific information.  (This is time consuming and part of why you don’t see as many posts from me – I spend several hours a week looking into shidduchim suggested instead of blogging :).)

If after all these inquiries are made and both sides want to move forward, the couple goes out. Often during this process one side will agree and the other won’t.  Sometimes someone will feel hurt when they want to meet and the other side isn’t interested.

A good friend told me it’s a blessing when someone says no and to be grateful, because it’s clearly not for you and you don’t need to spend any additional time and emotion on it.  I’ve come to completely agree with her.  Any time the other side says no, I’m so glad that they saw something that gave them clarity that the match wasn’t a good fit.  I hope others feel similarly when the ‘no’ comes from our side!

Different people have different priorities when making these inquiries.  My priorities are: a mature, responsible and emotionally healthy young adult who comes from an emotionally healthy home, who is compatible with my child in terms of personality and life direction (and height :)).

My son would like to learn long term, and the amount of financial support has never once been a factor in me saying yes or no.  I’ve said ‘no’ to young women whose parents had the means and desire to purchase an apartment for the young couple and said ‘yes’ to young women whose parents who can’t give anything.  I have never once put financial support ahead of my primary criteria.   My job is to help my child find someone with whom he/she can build a happy marriage and meaningful shared life.

“The 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.”

What the shidduch system does is bring out who you really are and what you value.  I’ve been amazed by how many special families there are with wonderful children, and regardless of if anything moved ahead with them or not, am honored to have them all be part of my experience.

I don’t know of any other method or any other society that has a success rate like the shidduch system in the Orthodox world.  The success of this system isn’t just the way people are matched up, but the mutual focus on Torah values and living a principled life that includes a focus on self-growth, striving to be better individuals and to be the best spouse/parent you can be.

Is the divorce rate among young charedi couples too high?  Yes.  Should people be more focused on emotional maturity and being prepared for life rather than the external trappings of marriage?  Absolutely.  Is there too often a focus on the material or superficial?  Definitely.

Having imperfect results doesn’t make the system bad.  It simply highlights the importance of doing your research well since everyone in the shidduch world doesn’t share the same values and expectations.  It’s not always easy to navigate the shidduch system but I’m so grateful to be part of it!


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.