By Rabbi Ben Zion Greiper
Someone approached me with this question: How shall I find the right person to get married to? When asked what he was looking for, he answered, “I know what I like and need.”
There was a story of a king who wanted to give one poor man a lot of money to show how benevolent he was. He picked a man, showed him the treasury house, and said, “Come back tomorrow at 1:00 p.m., and for one hour you will take what you want.” The poor man left. Immediately the king’s servant said to the king, “This man will come with a big U-Haul truck and take bags full of diamonds and gold. He will then have so much power.”
The king said that he was right and replied, “Find out what he likes and tell me.” The next day at 1:00 p.m. the poor man came with two U-Haul trucks. The treasury house was opened. The poor man came in to collect. Wow! He first watched the most spectacular, dynamic, and skilled clowns. He loved clowns! The colors, the prowess, and the music—he was in awe. When he got tired, he smelled the most delicious foods. His favorites! He then ate and ate.
Then the servant tapped him on the shoulder and said, “Mister, you have 30 seconds.” He had gotten involved with what he thought was most important and had lost out on the precious jewels and riches.
Today, with shidduchim it could also be this way. There are the main points to look for, and other points which are not important.
Another issue is that we are spoiled at a very early age to get what we want. We get the breakfast we want, the dress and suit we want. As we get older, we get phones, cars, and many things we want. The word “no” is impossible to deal with. In dating, we want exactly what we want and think it’s good for us. We reject and get rejected. This is the big problem. We have to get a mentor and learn to look for what’s most important. Then we will be successful.
A woman should look for the following (and a man should be the following):
Industrious. Someone who works, is involved in Yiddishkeit, davens regularly, learns regularly . . .
Kind. Someone who knows how to give attention and appreciate you.
Listens. He should know how to validate you and listen to you.
Respectful. He should want to please. He should honor his parents and have a mentor or rabbi that he is accountable to.
Attractive. You should be somewhat attracted to him.
A man should look for a woman who is:
Industrious. She should be busy doing good things, kind acts, constructive and productive activities.
Eishes chayil. Being involved in being Jewish, says Tehillim, involved in Shabbos and yom tov, happy being Jewish.
Listens. She must be a good listener; she should validate your words and not be argumentative.
Respectful. She should know how to give attention and appreciation. She aims to please. Honors her parents, has a reliable mentor.
Attractive. You should be somewhat attracted to her.
Basic rules. It should be fun. No interrogation. You should have a lot to speak about. Make a list of your interests, family activities, work activities, etc. Practice reflective listening. When the other person speaks, show interest and encouragement by asking questions and adding information. If you want to know something about the person—for example, if you feel being close to family is important—ask questions about the family and tell about your relationship with your family. See if you get a positive or negative response.
Where to go. For a man, dinner means money, sometimes a lot of money. Remember he’s going out with someone he doesn’t know. This will make him look at her with a critical eye on how much she makes him spend. He might think she’s not sensitive to his finances and he might feel uneasy about this pressure. This is introducing on the date a negative, not needed emotion. Why create it?
A woman also might feel uneasy in making him spend, or she might judge the way he deals with finances and think he’s cheap. That is also a pressure that is not necessary. It’s not what a date is for and what marriage is about. Instead, pick a place free of financial or external pressures where both sides are very comfortable and where they can talk and enjoy. The fancy place and extravagant lights are not the purpose. If sometimes someone makes a mistake and goes to the wrong place, still give each other a chance.
It is important that each party be sensitive about where they go on the date. Each should be totally comfortable. Going out for a fancy dinner sometimes can add distractions to what is important. Remember the goals involved in why you are dating.
After the first date, speak to your mentor and keep in mind the list of what to look for.
The Second Date
The second date should be fun to light conversation. Listening is crucial. Keep reminding yourself what’s important to look for. The good person is someone who lasts. Forget about your lists. You can get along with many different people. Marriage is the goal.
Again tell each other what’s important to you. Their response will help you know if you are on the same page. Be flexible, open, and realize what marriage really is. Be realistic and you will see good results because marriage is work and what you make out of it. That’s why you should speak to people with a good marriage. They’ll talk about the ups and downs and what’s important in marriage.
So let’s begin today, get a mentor, become realistic, and review what to look for.
Rabbi Ben Tzion Greiper is the author of Getting and Staying Married The Torah Way and many other books.