My neck gets tense when I think about shadchans. Matchmakers. I have issues with shadchans. For full disclosure I have never been to a shadchan, but sometimes you don’t need to try something first in order to know it’s not for you (like ingesting scorpion venom for example). But I have a dilemma. I want to meet someone. I am a single man living in Jerusalem, I wear a kippah and tzit-tzit, I daven three times a day (usually) and in my world a lot of religious single men and women meet through shadchans. As you can tell, I have a lot of resistance to taking this route. For years it has not been a valid option in my mind.
Why not? Because it seems like many young people who go to shadchans, are under so much pressure to get married, that love has been almost entirely removed from the equation and they get married for the wrong reasons. A big one being cultural pressure. I often hear the phrase in religious dating conversations ‘marriage is work’. The process has become so mechanical in fact, that it is now a norm that people are required to write resumes for their shadchans. It’s as if they are applying for a job.
I have spoken with numerous friends who have gone on date after date, where it feels like a job interview, a business negotiation session, defenses up, needing to look good, needing to have the right answers, like some hellish reality show where if you do the right gymnastics you get to go to date #2! And if you aren’t eliminated you get to go to date #3! And if you are really good at playing survive-a-date, you get to make it all the way to the chuppah! Where adoring fans will smile and cheer as you commit to spending the rest of your life to continuing to look good and maintain appearances… or else!
If marriage is a job, then just as I shouldn’t expect unconditional love, deep conversations, or cuddling from my boss or co-workers, does that mean I shouldn’t expect that when I come home from work either? Where is the love? Marriage is work? Where is the marriage where I get to come home from work and just be myself? Where is marriage is a loving refuge from life’s storms? Why can’t dating be a part of that? If I have to act as if I am applying for a job in order to go on a date, then I quit beforehand, because no one is going to be paying me to love my wife. I realize the piece of paper is a starting point in meeting someone, but as they say ‘the medium is the message’.
I don’t see how the authentic relationship necessary to build a healthy marriage, to have real love, can be established in context in which a person is forced to fit into superficial dating assembly line whose ‘on’ button is a resume. I also don’t believe that a person a-priori NEEDS a shadchan to get married. Somehow, human beings have managed to meet, fall in love, get married, and even have functional and positive relationships without a shadchans.
So in terms of my dilemma… at this point… even if I’m not going to write a shidduch resume… I do believe in God. Ultimately, God is going to bring me and my wife together.
I guess God is my shadchan.