Question for People Married More Than Five Years

Have you found True Love?

This question comes from my friend, who wants to know if True Love exists in the Jewish world. She doesn’t know how to define it. Rather, she chooses to let each couple define it in their own relationship.

So, people married 5+ years: would you say you have found True Love?


Crushing II

The response to the Crushing post left me curious. I have some questions.

Guys who ditch girls after 2 hours of no first-date sparks: do you find that you “spark” frequently enough that this is a reasonable dating strategy? Like, 75% of the time? 45%? 90%? Or does it not matter, because immediate pyrotechnics are simply mandatory?

Have you never found that a woman “grows” on you? Like, ever?

Girls – hypothetically,  if you used “sparks” as a criteria for second dates, what percentage of your dates would make it to date two? Because I think only 6% of mine would have made it, and one of those guys was a first-class jerk, so make that even less. That would have freed up a great deal of my time, but it also would have thrown out some of the nicest, most promising guys. (Then again, I’m still single, so maybe I should take up this strategy after all.)


Elyu went on a first date with a decent guy. There were no apparent hashkafic issues. He wasn’t slovenly or rude. She saw no reason not to go out again.


But, the shadchan informed her, the Guy didn’t quite see things that way.


Elyu had not either been slovenly or rude or hashkafically off. But Guy had not felt any “sparks.” And so, he was off to strike his flint against a woman of another mettle.


“Sparks?” Elyu asked indignantly. “We sat across a table from each other for two hours. What was he expecting?”


Not being male, I couldn’t say. Presumably not the same thing he feels when he sees an ad for “Keeping Up with the Kardashians.”


There is a concept of “love at first sight,” also known as the “crush,” a phenomenon that can occur before even making a person’s acquaintance. The best illustration of this can be seen in photos from a Twilight premier, with weeping girls trying to touch an actor they don’t know at all, and who probably has character flaws they would never tolerate in an ordinary boyfriend.


The Crush is a powerful motivational force – just look at Romeo and Juliet. It’s also a really bad way of gauging long-term compatibility.


But maybe, with all the checking out that we Orthodox Jews do before the first date, it doesn’t matter. You already know that you are basically compatible with the person. It’s just a matter of seeing whether you want to be.


Except I do know of at least one person who gazed soulfully into her future-husband’s blue eyes on the first date and made her decision immediately. I don’t know if she completed shanah rishonah before the mental disorder stopped being an endearing quirk and became a form of borderline abuse. Would she have noticed this issue if she’d gone on her seven dates without “crush goggles” on? It seems more likely. She might even have gone on more than seven dates.


Yes, we all want to be attracted to our spouses. But please please! Not on the first date. That’s just asking for trouble.


The chances of crushing on a first date are kind of slim anyway, wouldn’t you say? Our society goes through a great deal to keep crush goggles from fogging our judgement. There is no touching, no dancing, no tiny black dress. You’re not supposed to be head over heels on the first date. It’s actively discouraged.


What Guy highlights is a weakness of our hybrid dating method. We have secular expectations, but traditional behaviors. Crushes are inevitable in high-contact, low-lighting situations. Less so over sushi in a crowded kosher restaurant. Crushes are fine if you’re going to be in perpetual company for the next year or two, sharing an apartment. You’re bound to find out all the turnoffs sooner or later. Not so much if you’re going on 7 to 14 stand-alone dates before exchanging vows.


Having a first-date crush, then, seems both over-demanding and ill-advised, from my perspective. But I could be pontificating from an ivory tower. What do you think? (Please ID as male/female.)


Other BadforShidduchim posts about love:

What Is This Thing Called Chemistry? – an exploration of this vague reason to discontinue dating.

I Knew Right Away – I’ve known right away that I would be great friends with someone. Is that how you ‘know right away’ that you’ll be great spouses with someone?

Does Marriage Need Love? A Non-Jewish Perspective – Who needs love anyway? It can come later.

Marrying Someone Second Best – The point is to settle down – key word being “settle.”

Rescuing to Create Love – Love is just oxytocin. How to create some with the right ambiance.

Above Love

What intrigued me most about this conversation was my coworker’s perspective on the question: does marriage need love?

When I was in the bais yaakov system, they repeatedly informed us that love comes after marriage. You pick out someone you’ll be compatible with in terms of personality and hashkafa, and then you fall in love with them afterwards.

I took this on faith, the same way I took most everything on which I had no other perspective, and sallied forth to look for someone compatible to marry.

We all know that yeshiva educations are lacking in many ways. Science, math, history, and basically any secular study. Well, I have found another gaping hole in the education of our young men. It dawned on me slowly, but about a year or so into my dating career it crystallized: nobody had told any of my gentleman callers that love came after marriage. My dates wanted to fall giddily in love before they proposed, and when they didn’t, they told the shadchan “no.”

The one who left me most confused was the guy who was clearly smitten on date one, but failed to ever be smitten again, and after four dates gave the shadchan a garbled excuse for why he didn’t want to go out again, but which even the shadchan admitted boiled down to “Not sure what happened but let’s not keep trying.” I was puzzled. Didn’t he realize that his crush was a shallow, ephemeral rush of hormones created by a combination of lighting and angles and gazing into eyes and as easily gained or lost as the conditions permitted?

But eventually I came around. I realized that love was clearly an important thing, and by not insisting on it, I was short-selling myself. I decided that I too would require my dates to be conceivably loveable in order for us to go out again.

I wish I could say that this changed my dating life. That I started a career as a dating diva, turning down guys because they were too hairy, or skinny, or big-footed. That wasn’t what happened. What happened was that, instead of the guy saying “no” after date two while I dithered “Well, if he’s interested”—instead, we both said “no” after date two, and my ego came out much the less bruised for it.

I’m not going to lie. I enjoyed that phase of my dating career. There was such certainty in it. I never felt guilty about turning down a guy whose company I didn’t mind but who didn’t have a bat’s chance at the optometrist of interesting me romantically. Nor did I feel very bad when one of those guys turned me down. “I wasn’t so into him anyway,” I’d shrug.

There was some cognitive dissonance. I mean, who is into anyone after spending 4-8 hours with them in a formal setting? Do I have a single friend in my life that I fell in love with at first sight? Or even second sight? (Actually, some of my oldest friends are people that I hated at first sight.) Dating like this was some kind of absurd parody, and it was never going to land me a mate. Why was I even trying?

Worst of all was the fear lurking just below the surface: was I in the right, or was this the highway to picky older singlehood? If Mr. Perfect showed up, would I turn him down for failing to make my heart flutter?  Absurd from one perspective, reasonable from another, and completely theoretical from every which way. Mr. Perfect never showed, or else he never agreed to a third date, so I didn’t need to face down my theories with my beliefs.

I coasted along until a late-night conversation with a friend.

“You’re not a guy,” she informed me. “You can think with your head. You pick someone reasonable and you try to make him fall in love with you.”

“You make it sound so easy,” I groused.

“I know, I shouldn’t talk. I don’t have guys falling at my feet either. And I haven’t met any that I’d want to. But if I found a half-normal Sephardi guy to marry, I would do it in a second, love optional.”

With that, I was back in mega-uncertainty mode. Not that it mattered, since I didn’t date anyone half-normal for quite a while, but lacking a principle to live by was troublesome.

And now, here was the lab tech, telling me the same thing as my bais yaakov teachers: pick someone likable for whatever accessories they have, and let love follow after marriage.

Wrong? Right? Indifferent? Say it below.

Thought Question: If You Could, Would You?

Yesterday, someone linked to this Atlantic article by a single woman with an IVF baby. These women have their kid, but… something is missing. Indeed, they kinda miss having a guy around the house.

Just goes to show – some people are never satisfied.

But seriously. The message of the article is “Don’t be like us!” (Because, you know, ever since we first started playing with our Barbies we threw out the Ken as unnecessary and played ‘single mom with IVF baby’) “Settle for Mr. Not-so-perfect!”

Which I find kinda offensive. Because she’s insinuating that most women have guys lined up and proposing every night but we turn them away for offenses like wearing pale yellow button downs or enjoying football. Now, I don’t know about you, but I’ve never been at risk for a single proposal. Ever. Not like those heroines in romances like North and South who get a proposal every chapter and you’re supposed to weep for their isolation and loneliness. As far as I know, there isn’t a single guy in the universe at this moment who wants to marry me (I know, I know, who can blame ’em?). I bet most of you can say that too.

But following this article, by the time women are willing to settle nobody wants to marry them. She doesn’t address guys, but I imagine it’s similar, except that if the guy is old enough and rich enough, some bimbo will be willing to take the dive.

So here’s the question: At what age would you consider yourself beyond hope? And, if you reached that age, would you be willing to ‘settle’ for many of the things you’re hanging out for right now? If, at that age, you met someone else who was willing to settle and who basically fits this description from the article:

I would say even if he’s not the love of your life, make sure he’s someone you respect intellectually, makes you laugh, appreciates you … there are plenty of these men in the older, overweight, and bald category (which they all eventually become anyway).

would you be willing to enter an amicable but dispassionate marriage with them?

What is this Thing Called Chemistry?

No, I’m not talking about the physical science. I’m talking about dating terminology. Walking the Grey Line, a commenter, used it once to mean “I can’t stand her looks.” And I went: “Ooooh. Is that what it means?”

I’ve always wondered. I’ve never used the “no chemistry” excuse to break up because I have no idea what it means.

If you ask google to define “chemistry” it gives you lots of stuff related to things you can’t see but for some reason are supposed to care about anyway. Only one definition relates to relationships: “How two people interact” with the sample sentence “The chemistry of that relationship was wrong from the start.”

Yep, definitely sounds like some of my dates.

But seriously, that’s a very benign definition. It could easily mean that you just weren’t talking on the same wavelength. You know those people? You think you understand them and give an intelligent answer. They give a brief pause and an even briefer confused microexpression before answering, and you know you completely got the wrong end of the stick.

So nope, that can’t be what “chemistry” means. Because you often hear daters use the phrase like so: “We went out four times but… there was no chemistry.” It doesn’t take four dates to realize that you and the other person don’t understand each other.

So, step two: when google fails, ask a real, live, human being. Like maybe one of those people who talk so readily about lack of chemistry.

“So, Mr./Miss Dater. You say that you went on a date on August the 23rd of the year 2009 CE and there was no chemistry. How would you define ‘chemistry’?”

Be prepared to see someone act out “prevaricate” and “obfuscate” and a few other fun words you don’t often get to use. You may not come out knowing what “chemistry” is, but you’ll get the vague notion that it has something to do with feelings, relationships, attraction…

Ah, attraction. This is similar to Walking the Grey Line’s definition. Not Attracted = No Chemistry.

But people are attractive for various reasons. One could say that the popular girl in a class is attractive to all the girls who flock around her. It’s a friendly attraction, and bears no resemblance to anything related to Bore’s atomic model (er, did I spell his name wrong?) or compressed nitrogen or  bubbling test tubes.

Here’s my hypothesis: when people say “chemistry” they really mean “biochemistry.” And by that I mean not atoms or molecules so much as amino acids and proteins… or hormones.

Upon various occasions I have suggested to young women that “no chemistry” means “not falling in love.”  My hypothesis is always greeted with loud guffaws, be they bais yaakov maidels or more modern. “Love?” snicker the more modern ones. The BY types just look affronted.

Love? That’s for cheesy novels and Disney animations. A goyish concept. It’s not about love. It’s all about ezer kinegdo, don’t you know? You fall in love after marriage. Of course, you don’t want to marry someone who revolts you but really, you don’t know what love is until after you’re married. Everyone knows that. Love? You think “no chemistry” means “not falling in love”? How could it? Love is a passing infatuation. Not a Jewish concept. Really, you have such strange ideas that you could be one of those blogger people.

Okay, I get it. I said the “L” word. Wash out my mouth with soap; I won’t make that mistake again, except when I turn up the Fiddler on the Roof soundtrack to “Do You Love Me?” There’s an intriguingly ambiguous song. After years of sharing everything, does love matter? (Are we self-conscious about wanting it because we believe the answer is “no”?) What is ‘love’ anyway? Is it hormones? It is something deeper? Is this a confusing case of using one word for two distinct concepts?

Maybe… maybe Orthodox Judaism has contributed a distinction in usage to the English language. “Love” is only to be used on long-standing relationships – your parents, grandparents, siblings, kinfauna, and best friends forever. To use it on anyone else is to invite censure. “Chemistry” is to be used for short-term bursts of hormone-driven attraction.

You can’t be in love with your spouse until you’ve been married a while, but you can have some Nobel-Prize caliber chemistry going until then.

Or biochemistry. Try that one on the shadchan. “He’s a great guy, and we had a great time, but… the biochemistry isn’t there.”

“I Knew Right Away…”

Have you ever met someone with whom being just seemed natural?

That’s not a very pretty sentence, but the alternative isn’t great either: Have you ever met someone and you just knew immediately that you’d make great friends? Not a friendship based on anything like working in the same office, or a shared interest in Alfred Lord Tennyson, but just an instinctive, intuitive feeling that you’d get along, always, even with years and miles between you – you’d just be able to pick up again with the same warmth as before when back together?

I was thinking of this because of NMF#11. Whenever people ask how we’re friends, we just answer “It’s complicated.” There’s no particularly good reason for us to be friends. We first met during an intramural machanayim game in high school. I fed her cake and she showed me the janitor’s chickens. We hung out for about 2 hours and then didn’t see each other for 3 or so years, when she popped in to spend an hour on my bed in seminary, telling people their personalities based on the shape of their noses. And that was it until she showed up for my open-invitation 21st birthday party instead of flying to Scandinavia that night.

After that we decided to keep it up because it seemed a waste not to.
She’s not the only one. There was a girl in the parallel elementary school class who I knew would make a great friend even though I hardly saw her or had anything to do with her. But there was a taboo on cross-class socializing, so it took until summer camp after 8th grade before we got together. Stargazing and swatting mosquitoes on the baseball field with her one night, I confessed, “I’ve wanted to be your friend for the longest time.” She tickled my ear with a blade of grass to make me think something was crawling up it and answered, “Really? So have I. Be your friend, I mean.” We’ve been at it ever since.

Often people say “I knew from the first date” that they were going to marry their spouse. I wonder if that’s what it’s like. You know, you just see your “bashert” and you know that you will always get along because you just will, and that differences of opinion and styles of living won’t matter because you’ll always just like each other no matter what, and you’ll have that to fall back on. Or when people say that are they referring to some stronger feeling? That giddy rush of love at first sight we all hear about and sometimes witness? Some people have commented to that tune on  the Not for Singles post. Would you care to elucidate on what you mean when you say you “knew” right away?

Sweep Her Off Her Feet

I received the following intriguing email a few weeks ago:

A friend, getting desperate at ever finding a good girl (yes, that happens to guys too), hatched a plan to kidnap a nice BY girl. He would use a friendly shadchan’s services to preselect the very best girl. Whisk her off to a carefully prepared New Mexico cabin. Adobe stucco, very picturesque. Treat her in a most kosher and cavalier way. And allow the Stockholm Syndrome to do the rest. Within 6 weeks he would deliver her back to the parents: safe, secure, and happily married.

There would be a few complications regarding lo signov, but we could rely on the few poskim who say shidduchim trumps  mitzvos lo sa’asei (everybody agrees that it trumps mitzvos asei). That’s it. Desperate times require desperate hishtadlus.
…Are you calling the police?

In the words of the king from Cinderella, “Love, ha! Just a boy and a girl meeting under the right conditions. So, we’re arranging the right conditions.” (Thanks, O.) But are these really the right conditions?

Bride kidnapping is not a new idea. Fiction is rife with such tales, most of them perpetrated by creeps, and generally unsuccessful—think The Phantom of the Opera, and The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Among the attempts at kidnapping that are successful is Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, but that’s a post-WWII musical, which have a reputation for presenting women as far more tractable than they are in real life. (One egregious example of this rewriting of reality is Annie Get Your Gun—in real life, Frank Butler was not a self-absorbed jerk [he stepped down to become Annie’s manager], and Annie had enough backbone not to be his simpering puppy. One wonders why they use the word “tribute” in their descriptions of the film/show. Tribute to who, exactly?

There’s a simple measure of how closely a movie/musical mirrors reality—it’s called the Bechdel test. There are three criteria the production must meet to pass the test:

  1. There must be two significant female characters (with names),
  2. They must speak to each other,
  3. About something besides a man.

Good luck finding a handful that fit. And yet, I know that many women speak to other women about things besides men. Are we still in parentheses?)

But this wasn’t an entry about film criticism. It’s about kidnapping women and hoping for Stockholm Syndrome to kick in. Truth is, even with Stockhold Syndrome, kidnapped women still try to escape. They just find excuses for their captor. Every few years such a case hits the news.

The best course may be the one outlined in the Restoration drama ‘The Conscious Lovers,’ by Richard Steele. There, the main character, a Mr. Bevel, takes under his wing a young lady shipwrecked and all alone in the world. He provides for her all the comforts a young lady needs: an apartment, a maid, and a piano. And he visits frequently to ensure that she’s comfortable. They both become secretly besotted with each other, but neither dares mention it for fear of offending the other with their presumption. But of course, in the end, with typical Restoration drama chaos, everything comes all right and they marry.

Kidnapping a woman immediately gives her reason to resent you. Rescuing her immediately gives her reason to like you. And as Maureen Dowd snidely states, “Women like firefighters because deep down, they all want to be rescued.” Sadly, shining armor is out of fashion these days. Think of the wide appeal of The Princess Bride; it almost certainly stems from its adherence to the knight-in-shining-armor-rescuing-damsel-in-distress model.

So for all desperate gentlemen considering this course of action: It would be far better to arrange for someone else to kidnap the woman, so you can go in and perform a daring rescue worthy of a Jewish thriller novel. On the long trek back to civilization (a kidnapping to the Congo or Amazon would be ideal), the two of you will doubtless bond. By the time you ring her doorbell, the only thing left to discuss will be “Should we send Bad4 a response card?”