I got a call from a fellow who said, “Rebbe, you have to help me.”
“Sure, sure. What’s up?” I replied.
“Well, I was set up with this girl, and I think that I’m going to fall for her.”
“That’s great. So what’s the problem?”
“What’s the problem? That’s the problem. She’s not what I’m looking for! I want a girl who…” and he went on to list the “Miss Potato Head” qualities that he needed to be truly happy.
It took me almost an hour to help him see what he was doing. He had a clear image of the kind of girl he was going to marry, and this young woman did not fit that picture. But that was the problem—he wasn’t looking for his bashert. He was out looking for his choice—the woman that he fashioned in the image that he formed—and he was convinced that nothing but that would bring him lasting happiness. He wasn’t focused on the fact that it’s Hashem’s job to create people. And it’s Hashem’s job to find matches for those people.
The proper way to go out is to forget all the criteria, skip the laundry lists, drop all the “I needs” and “I wants,” and ask only one question: how do I feel about this person. Not, is she the best girl I can get? Not even, is she the best one for me? Or, do I see myself in twenty years from now being happy with her?
Ask yourself how you feel now. Is there a certain comfort level? Does it just seem to be right? If she passed the paper test, and the answer to this question is yes, then that is the sign that she is the right person. She is the person who was predetermined by Hashem for you. You’ve done your proper hishtadlus. Now you move forward with confidence and assurance that Hashem has predetermined the one that is right for you and brought her to you.
Thirty-Two Reasons to Drop Someone
One of the complications with this system is that when a person has a feeling that this is the right one, they won’t allow themselves to feel it. “I need someone smarter, or taller, or richer, or funnier, or more easygoing, or more driven,” or whatever imaginable attribute that people can think up. So they say no.
Because this happens so often, I hope you’ll excuse me for listing some of the more common “reasons” for saying no.
“He’s not smart enough.”
“He’s too smart.”
“He’s very smart, but not the kind of smart I’m looking for.”
“His family isn’t good enough.”
“His family is too good.”
“His family is perfect, but I need a ba’al teshuvah.”
“I don’t like her looks.”
“She looks too good.”
“Her looks are great, but it’s not the look I’m looking for.”
Too tall. Too short. Too smart. Too dumb. Too worldly. Too sheltered. Too narrow. Too broad. Too plain. Too fancy. The list goes on and on.
Now you may ask, aren’t these things important? Good family, smart, and attractive? Aren’t they huge contributors to the success of a marriage? The answer is that they are incredibly important, and if you were putting together your Mrs. Potato Head, I think you should grab a whole big bunch of all of them. But that is the point. You aren’t creating your bashert; you are searching for her. And you don’t know whether she is smart, or pretty, or comes from a good family or not. There is only one thing that you will know about her—that she is the one that Hashem picked for you. The way you tell that is by allowing your heart to tell you.
Doesn’t Attraction Matter?
You may ask, but don’t I have to think she’s pretty? How can I marry a woman if I don’t feel that she’s attractive?
The answer is yes, you should be attracted, and if you aren’t and that bothers you, it might be an indicator that she isn’t the right one for you.
But it might not be, and here is where things get tricky. If you like her but don’t feel attracted, or you enjoy the dates but it just seems kind of flat, this means you have a question and you should speak to someone older and wiser for advice. The fact that you aren’t attracted to her may be a sign that she isn’t right for you.
But only too often what happens is that she is pretty enough for you. But… she’s not pretty enough for your sisters, your mother, your buddies, or your Hollywood notion of what a wife should look like.
And so you won’t allow yourself to feel that attraction.
The Other Side of the Fence
And this doesn’t only apply to men. A woman might be going out with someone, and she’ll say, “It’s going well, but…” And there is something blocking her from moving forward—but she can’t quite put her finger on it.
It may well be that he isn’t the right person for her. However, there are many times that she is stopping herself from feeling that it’s a good fit because (and now fill in the blank):
She doesn’t think he will be successful; she doesn’t like the family he comes from; she doesn’t feel that her brothers will respect him. Or what will her friends think? Or her aunt? Or her dorm counselor? Or a whole host of other reasons that only she knows.
That is when she needs help sorting out her feelings, and she should speak to someone older and wiser for direction.
A word of caution: older means older, and wiser means wiser. Only too often I have asked a nineteen-year-old girl if she asked advice before deciding to say “no.” And she said, “Absolutely. I asked my friend, and she’s married, so she knows.”
“I see,” I would say. “And how old is this friend of yours?”
“Why, she’s at least twenty.”
To be candid, it’s hard to believe that a twenty-year-old has the wisdom and life experience to offer much guidance in these situations. And it’s prudent to find someone who has the vision and da’as Torah to guide you properly.
Most often, that guidance is to help you sort out what is realistic, what you should be looking for, and more than anything, what you are feeling. At the end of the day, the decision is yours. Hashem gave you an inner guidance system: the superb set of emotions, understandings, and intuitions that we call your heart. Sometimes, however, you need help sorting through exactly what you’re feeling. And that’s where it’s invaluable to have someone older and wiser to guide you.
But the guidance isn’t to make the decision for you. It’s to help you focus on how you feel. Your heart may know, but cutting through the static and asking yourself, “What do I honestly feel?”
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.