Question: I am a single, never-been-married guy in my thirties. The latest craze in the shidduch scene is an outrage. Starting in their late twenties, many girls refuse to go out with older guys. In fact, they prefer to date guys younger than themselves. I heard this from shadchanim and girls as well.
I am not going to lay blame with who is originally responsible for this phenomenon. I understand that encouraging younger guys to go out with older girls was designed to break the shidduch crisis. But what about the older guys such as myself? Am I also obligated to date older girls? In my case, that would mean that only females in their forties are available to me. What about my halachic obligation for pru u’rvu?
The Panelists Respond
A shidduch is a very personal decision based on an assessment of one’s own needs. There are girls who refuse to go out with guys older than themselves. Many girls have admitted to me that they and their friends have a preference for dating younger guys. Furthermore, and this will shock you, there are mothers in certain communities that have formed a club of sorts where they support each other in their quest to find younger husbands for their daughters.
In an effort to find a solution to the shidduch crisis and help marry off older single girls, various people and organizations have promoted the concept of younger guys dating girls older than themselves. Their hearts were in the right place, so theoretically it made sense. However, these people have since realized that most guys are not going to personalize this idea by marrying someone based on what might be idealistically trendy.
Humans, for the most part, are creatures of habit—and that applies to shidduchim as well. Whether right or wrong, traditionally husbands have usually been older than their wives. True, there have been famous exceptions to this fact. However, most guys are generally more comfortable dating girls younger than themselves. Therefore I understand your frustration with regard to the current challenge you are facing.
Along these same lines of frustration, girls in your age bracket are also facing rejection from guys their own age. There are guys in their thirties who will agree to go out only with girls that are in their twenties. Their reasons for such preferences, interestingly, are somewhat similar to those of the girls who want to date younger guys.
In answer to your question, you have no obligation to date anyone you do not want to. If a shadchan suggests a girl whom you do not feel comfortable dating, just say so. With the availability of many older single girls, it is not surprising that shadchanim try to set those girls up before their younger counterparts.
From my personal perspective as a shadchan, prior to suggesting a shidduch, I always ask the singles, or their parents who represent them, to tell me the highest age they realistically feel comfortable dating. This practice, I believe, eliminates singles from feeling insulted and being placed in the uncomfortable position of challenging or debating the shadchan. Singles should proactively apply that technique, and from the get-go convey to the shadchan all they desire in a spouse.
I once asked a girl in her thirties who requested that she be set up with younger guys, if I were to hypothetically bring her an amazing guy possessing all the qualities she seeks, with the caveat being that he is several years older, would she reject such a shidduch? She grinned from ear to ear and sheepishly admitted that she would agree to meet such a guy.
The old adage “It’s all in the presentation” holds true. If you were to be presented in a skillful fashion to a girl who is seeking in a husband all that you have to offer, I doubt that she would say no on the basis that you are not younger than she.
Baila Sebrow is president of Neshoma Advocates, communications and recruitment liaison for Sovri-Beth Israel, executive director of Teach Our Children, and a shadchanis. She can be reached at Bsebrow@aol.com.
Without knowing much about this new “craze in the shidduch scene,” I can’t imagine that setting up girls with younger men was meant to be a hard-and-fast rule. I think it was meant to create a more open environment for dating and marriage.
I believe that the “shidduch crisis” is caused by just this type of black-and-white thinking; you must have this type of yeshiva education and come from a family that uses white tablecloths on Shabbos to go out with so-and-so. What might have begun as a way to connect people of similar hashkafos ends up dividing people who might otherwise be a good match.
The focus should not be on whether she is five years younger or older than you. It should be on whether you share common values, dreams, and goals, you have good communication skills, you’re both emotionally stable and financially responsible, and enjoy each other’s personalities. Most of the rest is stuff that doesn’t matter in the long run.
A few years’ age difference does not make for a good or bad shidduch. Being open to dating someone with the right attributes is far more important. Best of luck in finding your bashert.
Sandy Weiner is a dating coach at Last First Date, LLC. v
In each installment of the Five Towns Jewish Times Dating Forum, a question pertaining to contemporary dating issues will be addressed by our diverse and experienced forum panelists. Questions and comments can be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org.