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Sunday, September 02, 2007

Dating Mentors: Who Should Singles Seek Advice From?

Hat Tip: The Wolf

Wolfish Musings points to a Jewish Press column by Cheryl Kupfer that asks singles to "think for themselves." I too have seen shidduchim nixed by third parties and, like the author, it makes me sad and mad. Sometimes that party is a Rosh Yeshiva, other times a parent, other times a shadchan, other times a friend, and other times a "mentor." I certainly think singles should seek advice, but the big question is from whom?

Nearly two years ago I wrote down a number of an over 30 single who was sharing a table with us at a wedding. He seemed really fantastic. He had a good career. He was nice enough looking. He had an impressive background in learning. And he was involved in his community and seemed very kind. He seemed perfect for a friend of mine.

So, like any good yenta would do, I called him up and told him about my friend. He seemed interested, albeit hesistant, and told me he would have to check with his parents. Unfortunately, he never got back to me. I don't fault him for that. It must be really embarrassing to be guiding high profile clients through serious legal decisions, but be unable to give a thumbs up or a thumbs down to a date without checking in with your family. I later found out that his family are very into yichus and my friend just didn't have enough of it.

Unfortunately, there is a very good chance that this mid-30's single will never have any yichus of his own. And that stinks!!! One would think that family would be some of the best mentors. Here that is not the case.

Another friend of ours went out with a young lady on two or three dates after the "research/checking out" was done. I got the feeling he liked her. But she decided to discontinue their relationship because he wasn't going to go to kollel. Now this wasn't a revelation he made on a date after relaying his intention to learn in kollel post-marriage. He had already spent a chunk of time learning and was now learning at night b'chevruta while pursuing a career during the day.

So what changed? Her "mentor" told her that it is far better to begin your bayit ne'eman by establishing a solid foundation through learning in kollel. Fortunately for him, she showed her true colors. But, being rejected hurts and our friend was hurt unnecessarily. (Of course, dating will not be painless, and I don't believe in trying to completely shield people from pain: near impossible anyways. But, being mislead just makes people cynical and angry at "the system").

Another phenomena that makes me uncomfortable is the practice of getting approval to date a certain girl. Now, I believe that introducing your (almost) intended to close confidants is a *really, really* good idea. Getting to know each other's close family and friends is a natural progression in a relationship. And, when there are issues, sometimes those confidants can see red flags more clearly than those in the relationship for a myriad of reasons. I also believe a confidant, such as a Rosh Yeshiva, can help walk a person through the initial stages of a dating relationship. But, do they have ruach HaKodesh?

I once worked very hard on a shidduch idea (see here) where the Rosh Yeshiva advised no. Both parties are married now, baruch Hashem. But, I'm still a bit in shock that both families could be comfortable with idea and yet the Rosh Yeshiva was given the final decision of whether they should go on a first date or not.

Anyways, given the fact that many singles rely on mentors, it might be a good time to open up a forum on how a single should choose a mentor, because for some individuals it seems like more harm than good is being caused. If you are using a specific mentor how can you make sure they have your best interest in mind? What about when family is a major impediment?


Anonymous said...

From your post:
"her 'mentor' told her that it is far better to begin your bayit ne'eman by establishing a solid foundation through learning in kollel"

Funny how a marriage is on a solid foundation where the first thing the chosson seeks out to do the day after he signs the kesuba is to shirk all responsibility he agreed to in the kesuba (feeding his new wife, clothing her, etc).

twinsmommy said...

anon-- high five! :)

this reminds me of the 80's where the neighborhood kids would knock on the door: "can Heather come out and play?" but instead of it being a child whose parent says yes, it's a grown man or woman whose parent has to make a zillion phone calls, research, and ultimately damage the single man or woman's self esteem before even giving "permission" to date.

I thank HaShem all the time that I met my beshert BEFORE becoming Orthodox. Any MENTOR he or I would have chosen had we had to go the shidduch route NEVER would have set us up in the first place.

And of course my favorite story regarding your assertion that friends/family should MEET the intended before the engagement.... my husband was at his female cousin's wedding at the tish--- his uncle (cousin's father) told him to sit by the chosson--- my husband had to say "ok, who's the chosson?" When she stayed with us while dating him, we weren't allowed to get on the phone with him to thank him for the flowers he sent for Shabbos... it wouldn't have been "appropriate". say what? Baruch HaShem, years and 2 kids later, I guess they know each other now and whether we agree with his kollel lifestyle or not, we've gotten to know him.

Ora said...

Dating mentors can be a wonderful thing. One of the teachers at my midrasha acted as a dating mentor, and she helped a lot of the girls get over a lot of their unrealistic expectations (ex. a successful business man who will be around to help with the kids), and helped them tell the difference between a charmer and a real mentch.

OTOH, in order to find a good dating mentor, people have to have use their own seichel. There's really no substitute for that.

Personally I didn't have any one mentor, but asked a few friends who seemed generally wise to give me advice. From there I composed my own list of rules that all agreed on. I think that's the best tactic--instead of giving total control to one rabbi or even a parent, ask several people--a trusted rabbi/teacher, parent, happily married friends, siblings, etc--and see what the overall trends in their advice seem to be. That way you see other aspects of the situation--while one teacher might tell you to break up with a guy who isn't planning to learn fulltime, a friend might help you see the benefits (ex. not being the sole provider for the family, especially since as a dati woman you'll probably spend a lot of time pregnant).

mother in israel said...

Another thing--if you are an older single don't consult with other older singles! Find someone who has been married for a few years at least.

BubbyT said...

I once met a fantastic boy whom I wanted to introduce to a girl, so he told me to call his rebbe. I did and he insisted on meeting the girl. He nixed it...until a few months after the guy had dated a few other girls. He then called me back and we pursued the shidduch. Thank G-d the girl was open enough to try it. They are now married a few years with an adorable son. ... and the rebbe/mentor gave me full credit for the shidduch at the vort!!

Mike S. said...

It is one thing to have someone you trust to consult with, whether a parent, a teacher or a more experienced friend. It is another thing entirely to have someone make your decisions for you. If you are not ready to decide for yourself, after seeking whatever advice you choose, whether to date someone, you have no business whatsoever geting married. Marriage is for adults.

jewchick said...

I had what I consider the perfect mentor. He is a Rebbe of mine from elementary school, who I've kept in touch with over the years. I introduced two guys to him, and his comment was "it was wonderful to meet someone so important to you." when I thought there were issues I asked what he thought, and he responded, "well, what are priorities for you? does he have these traits that you're looking for?" He would never have said, "I don't think he's good for you," but rather helped me think things through. THAT is what a mentor should be doing.

Mike S. said...

Jewchick has articulated an example of the distinction I meant to draw

Ariella said...

I do think there is too much weeding out and too little openness with respect to shidduchim. I even saw in one of the frum dating books a suggestion from a dating mentor that a girl would feel less bad about her single status if she had gone out with fewer boys by being more restrictive -- though, of course, she would not be any closer to marriage then.

Zach Kessin said...

Just remember, you are the one who has to live with the results, not your rebbe or mentor. If you are dating you need to be mature enough to make your own choices (not that many people are)