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Thursday, June 19, 2008

I'd Rather Hear from the Kallah in 5-10 Years

Hat Tip: Larry Lennhoff

A recent kallah has written her own letter to the Yated. The impetus for her letter, I believe, is based on this jem of a piece that Larry Lennhoff posted pieces of a few weeks back where a bochur writes upset girls break up without a good reason and believes they should seek advice from someone "smarter than them to help make the right decision" and then writes "Parents don't count." (Well, excuse me!)

This week a new kallah writes to share the advice she received from her Rebbitzen. To make this post short, I have to wonder if she will agree with the advice she is so eager to share in 5-10 years when she has a number of children and is neck deep in the daily stresses of life and they have changed somewhat. At that point will she be willing to condemn an emotional connection (i.e. "feelings") going into the marriage "goyish?" Will she still believe that the ingredients to a good marriage as simple as "being comfortable with his hashkafos" [emphasis mine] and
"lik[ing] his looks?"

There is no question that our children receive a lot of mixed messages from many places and as a parent I plan to put my own message into their box even if I "don't count." Call me an apikorus," but I plan to tell my own daughters that marriage partners are not interchangeable and that being on board with his "hashkafa" and liking someone's looks alone won't make a marriage. Furthermore, these things can shift (especially "looks," and it isn't always a positive shift). While "fireworks" should never be the only determining factor in who you marry, a sense of caring for each other and trust in each other are essential components of a healthy marriage.

I'd be very concerned if in today's day and age a young kallah told me she had "no feelings" for the man she intends to marry. I wonder if this kallah's parents agree with her Rebbitzen or have an alternative view that has not been shared?

A REBBETZIN’S ADVICE

Dear Editor,

I am responding to the letter titled “Causing the Shidduch Crisis” in which the writer, Z. F., brought up an important point which I had wanted to share in the Readers Write column in the past. I am referring to what Z. F. wrote about girls saying no to a shidduch for no reason other than the fact that “I didn’t feel anything.”

I am actually one of those 10% of girls who spoke to a rebbetzin for advice while dating. She gave me good advice and I figured I’d share it with all your readers, since I wasn’t aware of this before (and, you never know, maybe this is one of the causes of the shidduch crisis). She said, “You’re not supposed to feel anything; that’s a goyishe concept. Before marriage, there should be no feelings. What you should be looking to find out on a date is: What are his hashkafos? Are you comfortable with his hashkafos? Do you like his looks? Does he annoy you? In other words, is this a person with whom you could live for the next 100 years? You are not supposed to hear bells or anything.”

She also told me that you need to daven for siyata diShmaya that it should be the right one. I listened to her advice, and now, boruch Hashem, I am engaged. I hope that this will help some of the people in the parsha of shidduchim.

A Smarter Kallah

22 comments:

JS said...

Oh...my...God. So much I would like to say. I'll start out by saying that there would probably be an uproar if boys received the same advice from their rabbis. Such an incredibly sexist, misogynistic, pile of rubbish. The rebbetzin probably told her she should "submit" to her husband as well - it's l'sheim shamayim. It's letters like these that make me wonder if we're all practicing the same religion here. It's amazing what you can make people do in the name of religion and that they'll actually thank you for it and convince others it's right.

They elevate these rabbis and rebbetzins to be demigods. And 9 times out of 10 they're the same "mora d'asrahs" that are called up at the chuppah to speak and can only come up with some generic plain vanilla unpersonal speech about the chattan and kallah and their families. They know little if anything about these people and yet they're giving advice at the most critical junction and telling them to ignore their parents. L'havdil I went through the same thing with rabbis at school pressuring to spend shannah alef or bet in Israel - it didn't matter what parents wanted. They even offered to find financing if parents wouldn't pay. These people live in the stone age blinded by the thought that they're right, working l'sheim shamayim and everyone else is a corrupting, goyyish influence. You shouldn't listen to yourself, your friends, or your parents - only them.

In a few years we'll probably be wondering why we now have a "divorce crisis" or a "spousal abuse crisis" or a "child abuse crisis".

ProfK said...

I've posted before about how schools are pushing parents out of the picture when it comes to influencing children, and this posting also makes me see red. Parents don't count? Some "strange" (and yes, strange is the word if this rebbetzin thinks that emotion has no place in getting married) rebbetzin is going to give better advice then a parent could?

Some day someone is going to write the following letter, and I hope I live to see it.

Dear Rabbi/Rebbitzin/Rosh Yeshiva:
My son/daughter has just become engaged. It is you that have the mazel tov coming. It was your advice that this son/daughter followed rather than that of us, the parents. Dating went according to your rules, not ours. What was looked for was what you said was important, not what we said was important. Where this new couple will be living is where you said they have to live, not where we would prefer. And I am truly grateful to you that you advised this couple that making a living was unnecessary for the choson and only optional for the kallah because the parents will be supporting.

Congratulations! Since you have acted as this couple's parents in all the areas where parents are supposed to have input, you now have the zchus of completing the job. I've made an appointment for you with the caterer, who will expect you to bring a check for the downpayment. I've also made an appointment for you to take the kallah for a sheitle, and of course pay for it. I've checked into what support should cost you for this couple and their future children. You should be able to support them the way you want on only about $30,000 a year until they have to start paying your tuition. At that point it is going to cost you lots more.

Speaking of tuition, since you are the parents of our children, why are you sending me tuition bills for our children still in school? It is up to parents to pay tuition, so that expense is now yours. In fact, I eagerly am awaiting the refund check you are going to send me for all those years where I paid the tuition that you should have been paying for. I'll be nice though; I won't ask for the interest on that money I lent you all unwillingly.

Again, mazel tov on the engagement of YOUR children.

Sincerely,
Mrs. Irrelevant

PS: I am enclosing the bills, sent to me by accident, for our youngest son's summer camp--your choice--and our daughter's new wardrobe. Isn't being a parent fun?

Ahuva said...

I think the rebbetzin's basic message of "don't concentrate on hormones" is good, but this is taking it much too far. Eventually this kallah is going to have to get into bed with her chosson. There has to be *something* there. She's not signing up for a roommate.

The problem is what do you do when the guy is otherwise perfect for you-- except that there are no sparks? Do you continue dating and daven that feelings develop, or do you just let it go so that you don't hurt the guy? It's easy to say that someone equally good that you do have feelings for will come along when you're 20. It gets much harder as you get older.

aml said...

I think this is so sad. I feel bad for these girls. And her future husband. I too am curious about where they will be several years from now.

JS said...

I'd love someone to explain what "hashkafa" mean beyond "does he want to learn full time, or only part time" or "do you want to move to Israel". How this word became so entrenched in our culture and religion, I will never know. It's become the single most important thing someone should be looking for in a spouse, what is their "religious outlook" - and yet, for some reason it doesn't include any of the things you'd think a normal person would care about.

In terms of "feelings", I don't think the rebbetzin was saying "don't concentrate on hormones", I think she was saying "feelings, attraction, love, etc all come later; if they don't daven to hashem to provide". What a naive and stupid outlook on life.

Mike S. said...

I don't know. From the perspective of my 30 years of marriage, while the rebbitzin's language is not something I'd approve of, the advice is not unsound. Compatible Hashkafos (i.e. world views), a minimal level of physical attraction and compatible personalities (I assume that is what is meant by "does he annoy you") are far more important than the initial rush of infatuation. I would have added, do you think he will be a good father? In my case, the initial infatuation wore off before the (2 years long) engagement was over, but the love we have built over three decades of marriage is much deeper than infatuation ever could be. Certainly I love my wife far more now than when I proposed.

I suspect the place where I would disagree most strongly with the rebbitzin would be how long a period one should evaluate the prospective spouse. I'd say at least 6 months, and it would be better if the couple met each other other than in a dating situation--like in college. Peoples' behavior is more artificial on a shidduch date than in everyday interaction.

ShifraT said...

I agree with Ahuva--there's got to be an underlying attration/chemistry or an important part of married life is at risk. This is not to say that you must be head over heals, but yes, something's gotta be there for a happy marriage.
In regard to her question, yes, I would certainly advise continuing to date if everything else is there besides for some feelings of attraction. Sometimes you have to see if any build up; it may take more time for some couples than for others.

twinsmommy said...

My husband's cousin, who married an Ohr Somayach guy who has been in kollel for the past however many years..... said that neither of them could work for a living for the whole first year because that was when they needed to spend time "getting to know each other". Well I guess they never got to know each other because many years later and 2 kids later, STILL neither of them work for a living and are supported by family/community/etc.

I'm considered crazy by my fellow frummies for getting to know my husband before marrying him.

Good thing we know each other already---- we've been able to work for a living our entire marriage--- goody for us!

*insert rolling eyes right here*

Good Shabbos!

Ariella said...

True, you don't hear bells, see stars, or the like unless you are deeply in infatuation. But you should feel some connection. I like the term "attachment" from the Austen novels for this sense. The thought of the person in question should evoke positive feelings, and that does go beyond the physical. I
found this quote I like: “Remember that a successful marriage depends on two things: (1) finding the right person and (2) being the right person”

SephardiLady said...

MikeS-I don't recall being infactuated with my husband, but I most certainly had "feelings." I felt very strongly that he cared about me personally. I felt comfortable sharing and opening myself up to him. I felt a great sense of trust. I felt connected and wanted to share what happened in my day with him, and he with me. I didn't think the Rebbitzen addressed feelings of "attachment" to a person which is different that infactuation. Of course I agree completely that infactuation does not a marriage make. But the Rebbitzen seems to be dismissing attachment and connection, i.e. "feelings" are "goyish" which seems overreaching to me.

Nonetheless, I'd like to hear from the kallah in 5-10 years and hope all will be successful.

Anonymous said...

Let's say in 5-10 years you do hear from the kallah and she expresses tremendous satisfaction that she listened to the Rebbetzins advice, unlike many of her friends who are still singles in the UWS.Would anyone's views be changed?I for one dought it.Although I never heard anyone openly regret marrying a spouse they had no feelings for, (other then that the marraige would work out) I did hear older singles regret they didn't marry under the circumstances given in the letter.

Chaim B. said...

>>>“You’re not supposed to feel anything; that’s a goyishe concept. What you should be looking to find out on a date is...Do you like his looks?

Can someone please explain to me why feelings are goyish but checking out whether someone looks good is not (or maybe s"heker hachein v'hevel hayofi" is only directed at the men?)

Ariella said...

R' Aberman at Michlalah said that the wedding bracha's reference to "reyim ahuvim" indicate that the bride and groom already have affection for each other before the wedding. But he also would say to be "halachic" rather than "frum," so I am certain this rebbetzin would find fault with his "hashkafa."
I linked to this post and added some marriage quotes at http://kallahmagazine.blogspot.com/2008/06/shidduch-shopping.html

HearingLawyer said...

I agree along the lines of what Mike S wrote. In fact, I would be willing to bet that the Rebbetzin did not say it the way that the letter writer did. More likley the Rebbetzin expressed that the idea of bells going off is not "real life" and is a hollywood creation. think about it, the girl herself said that she was told to think about "this a person with whom you could live for the next 100 years?" that is actually a very insightful question and requires thinking about the other person's personality. So all in, I bet the girl has misunderstood what she was told (which, granted, may be a different problem).

"They elevate these rabbis and rebbetzins to be demigods. And 9 times out of 10 they're the same "mora d'asrahs" that are called up at the chuppah to speak and can only come up with some generic plain vanilla unpersonal speech about the chattan and kallah and their families. They know little if anything about these people and yet they're giving advice at the most critical junction and telling them to ignore their parents."
-JS
I'm sorry, but I think this is a very unfair comment. It is way too easy to throw out something like this with nothing to back it up. I have no problem believing that you saw this happen (although I question whether all the facts you imply (i.e., the Rabbi that the chosson or kallah sought life advice from gave a speech like this under the chuppah or at their simcha) actually happened), but it could just as easily be b/c the Rabbi in question was just not a good public speaker. And even if it did happen exactly as you described, so what? Does one or 2 instances indict all Mechanchim?

JS said...

hearinglawyer,

Sorry you think it's unfair, but I've been to many, many weddings where this is what happens. The chattan/kallah/family chose this rabbi to speak, they didn't get some guy off the street. He's either their personal shul rabbi - but more often is the rabbi of the chattan or kallah who has been doing classes with them, known them for awhile, through israel and college at the least. And yet - what do they have to say? The same generic garbage they say for EVERYONE. Let's face it, they don't really know them.

But my point is moreso that not only do they not know them, they presume to know them better than their parents do. Let's not forget the letter writer's premise: she agrees with the previous writer that parents have no say and shouldn't be looked to for guidance - only rabbis/rebbitzins should. I find that attitude abhorrent.

Also, I think the term "feelings" is being misunderstood by some commenters here. She's not talking about infatuation, after all she mentions if "you like his looks" (although she may just mean do not find him unattractive which is not the same as do you find him attractive). I think "feelings" must mean the type of connection SL mentioned above. In other words, the connection will come later don't wait for it now - just get married.

The rebbetzin is saying check his haskafa is compatible with yours, check that he's not unattractive, check that he doesn't annoy you, then get engaged. The "feelings", the connection, love, etc will come later.

Can someone please explain to me what in the world "hashkafa" is? In each sect it's so narrow and silly as to be meaningless in my opinion. In MO circles: will you and if so how willy ou cover your hair? do you wear pants? will you go to shiur? etc. This is what's most important in a marriage?

HearingLawyer said...

JS,
We'll have to agree to disagree on whether Rabbis/Rebbetzins are actually advising people on major issues when they do not really know them, but that fact that you have seen Rabbis speaking at weddings and saying the same generic "garbage" (as you pejoratively put it) does not prove anything other than that some Rabbis may need to take a public speaking course.

On the primary point, I don't disagree with you that a person should not be getting engaged to someone that they have not developed feelings for, but I still have serious questions about whether the letter writer really understood what she was being told.

JS said...

HL,

I don't care how well the person speaks in public, they can do a little better than some generic speech that could be applied to nearly anyone in the room. It's like the rabbis who speak at a funeral and didn't know the deceased and give a speech that could apply to anyone.

The previous man who wrote to the yated said girls broke off dating because they didn't "click". It's pretty clear imo that the girl is equating "feelings" with "clicking". Meaning it doesn't matter if there's no connection, no feelings...all of that will come later b'ezrat hashem. I don't understand how the rebbetzin could have given advice that would be so horribly misconstrued by this girl. The language used, such as "goyish" makes it clear that she's probably quoting the rebbetzin verbatim.

I don't understand why you find it so hard to believe that there are rabbis/rebbitzins who believe this and are trying to convince as many of our young ones who will listen - whether the parents like it or not.

anonymous said...

"Feelings" aren't a goyishe concept, they're a human concept. The rebbetzin wasn't telling the writer to ignore hormones, she was saying to ignore feelings, or lack thereof. There seems to be sort of a misunderstanding of the difference between necessary and sufficient. Just having feelings isn't sufficient for a lasting relationship, but it is necessary. You also need compatability (i.e., haskafic compatability, economic compatability, etc.), but the idea that girls are being told that feelings are irrelevant to a marriage is horrifying.

Anonymous said...

Today for Shabbos lunch we had over a local divorcee, and then after Shabbos I spoke with my downstairs neighbor who is in the process of a divorce and apologized to me for all the shouting matches that we had heard during this past year from downstairs.

It was very unsettling to then read this letter advising people to marry somebody because of his hashkafos and his looks. That's terrible. A successful relationship has to be built on a much stronger foundation than that, especially given the pressures of frum family life.

Mike S. said...

I don't agree; you are taking the language, which may not even be a direct quote, too literally. She said to consider whether this is the person you could live for 1000 years; no one would agree to that without feeling some emotional connection. And the basic point, that the feelings for one another that develop during the marriage are far deeper and longer lasting than the ones you bring into the marriage. At least that has been my experience.

Anonymous said...

tnspr: My wife and I got married in college (I was in the middle of my senior year) and the deal we made with our parents was to give us the money they would have spent on the dorm for the time we would have been living on campus. This worked out well and a few odd jobs and a bit of the wedding money pad our way for a few months until I began working.

Anonymous said...

I was introduced to my husband on a shiddach 23 years ago this month. It seemed like we had known each other forever.

We went for a beracha and the Mekubbal said that our neshamot had been married in a previous life and that our grandfathers in shamayim had made our shiddach, not the shadchan.

It did really seem that way.

Now I have daughters in the shiddach parsha and I am telling them that when you meet a heart of gold......Hashem will send you the signs that it is right, you will know.

The only thing I was nervous about on my wedding day was tripping on my dress!!(worse happened actually, as we walked from the chuppah, my husband stepped on the dress and
the whole back ripped off. Good thing I had on a heavy slip!!