Your shiduch ‘wishlist’

wishlist

This very comprehensive list from lubavitchsingles.com lays out 20+ qualities and attributes that people often include on their shiduch ‘wish list’. The author purports that you have to choose which are the 5 major ones that you most desire in your spouse, those that are absolutely not compromisable.  This is an in-depth inventory with elaboration of each quality, and is worth reviewing.

There are those qualities that everyone wants in a spouse: kind and caring, respectful and respectable, honest, emotionally healthy, put together.  And then, there are those that are crucial to some people and less important to others.

Here, I share another perspective to add to that thorough list and article. As you work through a list of qualities that you absolutely must have in a spouse, it is also important to state to yourself WHY that is so crucial to you for a successful marriage.

 

  • What about a particular physical attribute [taller than 5’10”/ smaller than size 4/ curly hair/ straight hair/ petite/ long beard/ short beard/ fit] is so important to a successful marriage? Is it that you feel that you can only respect someone who you feel good standing next to?
  • What about his/ her schooling is so important to a successful marriage? Perhaps, you are using the schools that they attended as a shortcut to guesstimate what the person is probably all about?
  • Family background? Do you feel that you would be more comfortable joining a family that is similar to yours? Or perhaps that a person who grew up in a particular type of home has certain values that you really want in a spouse? Or that it would be prestigious to be part of a particular family?
  • Sense of humor? First, let’s narrow down what type of humor you are talking about: tells good jokes and is the life of the party, ability to laugh at oneself and not take life too seriously, witty and lighthearted, tells good one-liners. And then, how would that enrich a marriage and one’s life? Do you feel that being with someone who doesn’t take everything too seriously will make for a more calm home? Do you want someone who can lighten any mood with a great joke?
  • Type of clothing – how often he wears his hat and jacket, what color shirts and pants he generally wears. Are you making some inferences about his chasidishkeit and values based on the way he or she dresses?
  • Smart, intellectual, curious? Do you need someone with whom you can have interesting and deep conversation? Is it that you feel you can only respect someone who pursues lots of interests and can have conversations about lots of different topics? Do you feel that you need someone whom your friends and colleagues can respect for their contributions to conversations?
  • Gets along with lots of different types of people.
  • A real baalbuste.
  • Makes good money.
  • A real chevreman.
  • etc.

Of course, you realize that no one person has perfect traits and qualities, or personality; you know you have to prioritize. As you go through the rest of the list, articulate to yourself what about that is so important to you for your marriage and life. If it is not that important, move it lower on your wish list or remove it altogether.

You might create a chart similar to this one as you work on this.

Trait/ Quality What aspect of marriage
would this serve
How important
(1= not important <-> 5 = must have)

 

Lastly, be honest with yourself: are you the type of person that the person on your wish list would want to live with?

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Getting parents & adult children on the same page

list

In our frum communities, most shidduchim are set up with the assistance and advocacy of the young adult’s parents.  The young man or woman is dependent on their parents to find them a potential match. Often that works out very well. But there are times when the parent and adult child are ‘not on the same page’; they have different qualities on their shidduch wish lists. And this causes much frustration, waste of time and efforts, and overall disillusionment with the shidduch system.

Young adults do have less life experience, and their parents,  from love, concern and life experience, are looking for a particular type of person, from a particular type of family, of a certain social standing in the community, with plans for a precise path in life. Many times, these ideas are not what the young person wants for their lives, or even are realistic.

The young person will always be their child, their little boy or girl, for whom they want the absolutely best.Their child is now an adult who is old enough and responsible enough to be married and joining their life with another person. As such, the adult children’s thoughts should carry a lot of weight when looking for a spouse.

If you (or your friend) is in some variation of this dilemma, here are some ways you might discuss this  with your parents. Respect and appreciation for your parents are crucial for such conversations to be effective.


Invite your parent (or advocate) to have an open discussion about what you are looking for in a spouse.

I know that you come from a place of wanting ONLY THE BEST for me. I so appreciate that from you. (genuine appreciation)

I’m younger and less experienced in life than you so I value your insights and perspectives.  (recognition that their experiences are worth listening to)

At the same time, I am the one living my life and I have some thoughts on what I hope for my life. (acknowledging that the first half of the statement is just as true as the second, rather than using the word ‘but’ or ‘however’ which disqualifies the statement before.)

I feel/think that we have different perspectives about what is most suitable for who I am and what I want for my life. (recognition that the different views are perspectives based on different positions in life)

I am hoping we can have an open and productive conversation about how I envision my life and what I consider important in a spouse for a successful life together. (an invitation for a conversation)

And then, together you and I can come up with a shortlist of ‘most important’ qualities. (including the parent in the process and stating that you want your opinions to be included)

I want to give this conversation the time and consideration it needs to really be productive. I’m thinking that we might each prepare our shortlist of qualities, and then we can review and reflect on them together.  (a meta conversation;  a conversation about how we want the next conversation to go)

I am hoping we can have the conversation in 3 days; what date/time should I put into my calendar, and where? (showing the importance of the preparation for the conversation, and dedicating exclusive time to it in the near future)

Be prepared to explain each quality on your shortlist and why you consider it important for your marriage.

I would like to marry someone who enjoys being around people. I love people – learning from different people, gaining new understandings and perspectives and ideas. That’s what really energizes and stimulates me. I really enjoy loud boisterous Shabbos meals and gatherings.

Listen carefully –  with an open and curious mind –  to what your parent presents. Allow them to finish their thought before you jump in.  And confirm that you understand the message as it was intended; leave room for them to clarify or restate their position.

So as I understand what I just heard: [a solid intact family] is best because [the children have seen good models of healthy relationship]. Did I get that?

So as I understand: I’d feel most comfortable joining a family that is most similar to ours; one that has the same family background. Everything would be familiar, and I’d fit in quite easily. Did I understand it correctly?

If you have a different opinion on something your parent says, you can present it as your value, rather than a position.

Of course, I want a healthy relationship with my spouse. I think there are several ways a person might gain the tools and mindsets for a successful marriage. One way might be through growing up in a family of peace and love. There are other ways too; such as hanging out often in a functioning home, working with a therapist, working on middos, realizing the importance of consistently being in touch with a mashpia. The way I see it, I want a spouse who is committed to always keeping the relationship and family first.

I do agree that it would be ideal to marry into a family that has the same background for generations; there would be something comforting about that. At the same time, I am thinking that the person I marry would be most important, more so than his family’s background. If we respect each other’s families and the differences, and put our own family first, then the family’s background is less important.

Ask more questions to fully understand their thoughts. And be prepared to consider their opinions.

Hmm. That’s an interesting perspective. I have never thought of it from that angle. Can you please tell me more.

I can totally see where you are coming from. Please help me understand that even more. Can you please restate it in different words, or use a different example?

I get most of what you are saying. What I’m stuck on is [how does that really play out in real life?] Please help me to understand that point better.

Thanks for presenting that point. I had never seen it that way. I really will consider what you said.

End the conversation with a concrete conclusion.

I really thank you for the time and understanding; I am so grateful that you really listened to who I am. To pull everything we discussed together, this is how I would like for you to portray who I am and what I am looking for in a spouse.   And then proceed to summarize what was discussed during the conversation.

IYH, through such conversations, you and your parents will be on the same page regarding your shidduchim, and your dating experience will be pleasant and successful. (BTW, these same conversation tips are valuable throughout your married life too.)

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How well do you know the other person

Getting to Know each otherWhen meeting someone for shiduchim purposes, it is important to know what you ought to know about each other and the relationship before you commit to marriage and a life time together.  

‘Research’ does not tell you enough. The way you feel about who each other is and in each other’s company is also very important.  Trust your feelings. They they tell you so much, much more than your thoughts. And certainly more than ‘everything we checked out is wonderful’.

Here are just some things to consider.  There may be others that are specific to your unique self.

It is important to really be honest with yourself, and not delude yourself, or be hopeful, make assumptions, infer, ‘I just know’.  It is worthwhile to confirm. Meet again, if necessary.  It is also quite valuable to discuss with an objective third party who can help you think clearly.

Caveat: This is not a checklist, and should not be used as such. You might use this a a rough guide of areas to discuss together. And what to look out for during the dating period.  Ideally, you’d be clear in these areas before committing to marriage.
Note this is written about ‘what a woman should know about the man she is dating’;  these are equally applicable to both men and women.

His values

His values should be compatible with yours. They do not have to be identical.

  • How does he envision his family life to be? His role? His wife’s role?
  • What drives him? What does he see as his purpose in life?
  • How does his Yiddishkeit affect who he is?
  • What are his priorities? How important is materialism to him? Is it compatible with your hopes for your life?

His goals and aspirations

  • What are his goals and aspirations? How do you fit into those? What would be your role?

His personality

  • What are his strengths? What are his limitations? Can you live with those?
  • How does he interact with others? (How do you know that – from your own observations? From your experience with him? From research? From what he says?)
  • Is he controlling in any way? (What is evidence of his controlling behavior or attitude?) How do you feel about that?
  • How does he act when he does not agree with another’s opinions or actions? (How do you know that – from your own observations? From your experience with him? From research? From what he says?)

His health

  • Do you know about any health issues? Do you know how they will affect his future life?

His family and influences

  • How does he get along with his family? His mother? His father?
  • Does he spend a healthy amount of time with his family – not overly dependent, or too independent?
  • Who does he spend most of his time with? Who are his friends? How do they influence him?
  • Where does he get his inspiration and understanding of the world – family, friends, media, working with mashpia, learning? (How do you know that – from your own observations? From your experience with him? From research? From what he says?)

Is he good marriage material for you?

  • Is there anything about him that you thought ’you’d never marry’? How do you feel about that now?
  • What are his ‘human flaws’ (we are all human; nobody is perfect)? How do you feel about them?
  • What baggage (past experiences, attitudes, etc.) is he bringing into the marriage?
  • What does he bring into the marriage that can really make a marriage and a life with him be successful?  Is there anything that concerns you?

Friendship

  • Are you sure he is a good friend to you? What are examples?
  • Do you deeply care about him? Are you ready to give to him? What are examples?

Emotional Safety

  • Do you feel emotionally safe (safe to be and express who you really are) with him? What are some examples?
  • Do you feel comfortable to make requests of him, or to share your perspective?  How has he responded to your requests/ perspective?
  • Are you sure he feels emotionally safe with you? What are some examples?

Admiration & respect

  • What about him do you admire and respect? What are some examples.
  • What about you does he admire and respect? (How do you know that – from your own observations? From your experience with him? From research? From what he says?)
  • Is he making any concessions just to make this work? Have you discussed it? Does he really think he can maintain it? Do you really think he can?
  • Are you making any concessions just to make this work? Have you discussed it? Do you really think you can maintain it? Does he really think you can?
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Perspectives about Benny’s day off

day off

by Devora Krasnianski, founder of Adai Ad Institute

What to do on Benny’s day off?

The background:

Benny has long days.  He awakes at 6:30 to fit in some exercise and then davens before his long commute to work.  At work, he is swamped, with no time for a proper lunch. He is often on his feet or hopping from meeting to job site to next meeting. It is stressful.  He usually comes home around 6:30 and spends some time with the kids and participates in bedtime before he goes out for maariv.

Shira works part time. Her day starts at 6:30 too, when the youngest child wakes up.  And then it is dressing the kids, making lunches, serving breakfast, checking backpacks, bus stops, carpooling and dropping off the baby at the babysitter.  She works until 2. Then, she picks up the baby, does errands, and comes home to make dinner, feed the kids, homework and bedtime.

Benny will be having a day off next Monday (let’s say it’s a legal holiday).

Benny: I finally have a day off. That means I can wake up a bit later to join a later minyan and then have a day to relax. I‘ll be able to catch up on some emails, learn a little, meet up with some friends for lunch, and then relax some more.

Shira: Benny finally has a day off. That means that he can finally be around one morning to help me with the morning rush, so my day is not as frazzled as it usually is. If he goes to the supermarket and picks up the baby from the babysitter, then I can finally have 90 minutes to relax today and just do whatever it is I want.

A perspective: 48 hours in a couple’s day.

2 people x 24 hours = 48 hours in a couple’s day to accomplish everything to run a family and keep healthy and sane.

For him:  8 hours – bedtime & sleep. 1 ½  hour – morning routine & davening. 9 hours – work. 1 ½ hours –  commute (45 minutes each way). 1 hour – decompressing after work & maariv.  1 hour – family and household chores.  That’s 22 hours of the day. That leaves 2 hours for wiggle room and random tasks like paying bills, exercise, catching up on emails.

For her: 8 hours – bedtime & sleep. ½ hour – her own morning routine. 1 hour – frantic morning rush. 5 hours – work. 1 hour – commute. ¾ hour – drop off & pick up baby from babysitter. 2 hours – housework and errands. 4 hours – evening rush (dinner, homework, family time, bedtime). That leaves less than 2 hours for wiggle room and random tasks like catching up with family and friends, exercise, fixing the inevitable mishap.

With such busy schedules, they are both exhausted. Of course, both look forward to those hours of Benny’s day off.

A possible discussion:

Shira: “I’m so happy – for both of us – that you have this day off. You so need the rest.  I am hoping that some of those hours can be used to make my day a little easier too.   What might be a reasonable schedule for that day so we can both have much deserved rest?”

Another possible discussion:

Benny: “I’m so happy – for both of us – that I have this day off.  I want to start my day a little later and sleep in a little. After that I want to give you a few hours for yourself.  What can I take off your daily load to make your day a bit easier?”

The outcome:

Both Benny and Shira get some time to recharge on that day. Perhaps, even more important, they approached the day off from a mindset of partnership, which deepened their relationship.

 

 

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How Much Truth to Share If Someone Calls You about a Shiduch?

by Devora Krasnianski, founder of Adai Ad Institute

lashon hara.jpg.png

(based on Chofetz Chaim and Be’er Mayim Chayim)

You get that shiduch research phone call. This time they are asking about your co-worker Shimon* who you know has a temper. Should you share about his anger management issue?  Another call might be about your neighbor Leah* who you think had a nervous breakdown in 12th grade. Again, what can you say?  Does sharing about these details violate some halachot of lashon hara?  Or do they fall under the commandment of giving useful advice and  לא תעמד על דם רעך  lo taamod al dam reacha, Do not stand by idly when your neighbor is endangered  (Vayikra 19:16)?

What information should not be shared?

First and foremost, anything that will not directly help someone determine if the potential shiduch is worth pursuing should not be shared.  Ask yourself: “Am I supplying information that they will use to decide whether to pursue this shiduch, or am I supplying negative information that has no purpose?”

If you know that the family is looking for a young man who will be a very hands-on spouse and father, and the potential young man has a business that includes frequent travel – then it is not a good match upfront, and they would never consider such a shiduch. There is no need to share about his dishonest dealings in business; that would be lashon hora with no purpose.

Regarding medical conditions, the Rabbis distinguish between two types: illness and weakness. The former should be shared, and the latter should not. See more about this aspect in this article.

How to get around saying lashon hara

As stated above, if you know that the shiduch is not suitable for whatever reason, you should not share any details that would fall under the category of lashon hara. Instead, you might be vague and say “I don’t think the shiduch will work”; you do not have to expound.

If the question is asked directly .  “I heard that this past summer that you spent together, he did [x], is that true?”, you should not lie.  Answer the question as it has been asked; you can also offer context or talk about how he has genuinely worked on himself since then.

In certain circumstances, it is best to evade a question by feigning ignorance. Sometimes, a person is asked a question where most people deem the answer to be insignificant for a prospective shiduch. For instance, the prospect’s mother wants to know if the girl is very thin or demands to know if the girl is under 27, where she is actually just three months over, and you know that a full answer may be a deal-breaker.  You can say “I don’t know.”  Yet, a claim to ignorance can only be effective when it is credible; if the person calling thinks you would know the answer and you say that you don’t know, the impression that you are hiding something can be worse than just telling the truth.

What should be shared

Details that would concern most people must be revealed, including bad middos, violent behaviors, anger issues, mental illness, inability to have children, and certain medical conditions. Additionally, if someone is not living a life as they show the public (ex: apikorsus and pritzus), this too must be disclosed. If you are unsure about what must be shared, ask your rav.

That said, it is important that the source of your information must be first-hand, not hearsay.   Ideally, you’d verify any secondhand information on your own. Where this is not possible (and this is often the case), and the conditions that permit relaying the information are otherwise met (see below), you should convey it but with a clearly expressed warning that it is based on hearsay, and that you do not know personally whether it is true. This is permitted in order to save the other party from potential damage, but only provided the other party will check the matter out, and not just assume it to be true.

How to share the negative details

First, determine that the information is totally accurate.   If it is the result of an interpretation, is this the only possible interpretation of the person’s actions?  Is it second-hand information?  Is it a suspicion or ‘connecting of the dots’?

Second, the sole intention must be only to help them determine if it is a suitable shiduch. Not as revenge, or venting about an annoying neighbor.  (Caveat: Even if your intentions are not pure, you must still tell this important information as this is a case where it is in order to help others from being harmed; however, you should try as much as possible to focus on doing it for positive purposes.)

It is very important to know who you are talking to. If you do not know that the caller will be discreet about the information, you should not reveal it. Let them find out some other way.

Say only what must be said to explain the situation. Be careful not to exaggerate.   Choose your words carefully, an extra ‘very’ can change the way your statement is understood.

In addition, you should only say the negatives if there is no other way to accomplish what you need to.   There is no reason to ‘volunteer’ information that has not been directly asked about.

Try to ascertain if this information is an important consideration for that potential shiduch.  What is very bothersome to one family, may not matter at all to another family.   If someone asks “Is she tznius?”, it is important to find out what they consider tznius before answering the question.   Only once you clearly understand the question should you answer fully and correctly.  It is best to describe objective examples rather than your subjective opinion.  “I have seen her wearing x and y” rather than “I think her standards are not the highest.”

Similarly, if you are asked “Does he know how to learn?”, you should answer affirmatively. The rule here is: does he have enough learning background that someone would say that he “knows how to learn”? As long as he meets this minimal standard, you should answer affirmatively, until you know what the caller’s definition and frame of reference is.

If something is ‘public knowledge’, then you can share it, as long as your intention is to help the caller ascertain if this is indeed a possible shiduch. If someone does not wear a hat and jacket in the street, that is considered public knowledge. If someone frequently talks about their family background, then that is considered public knowledge.  If certain aspects of the family background are not public knowledge, then use your judgment if it needs to be shared if it not directly asked.

In summary, there are some details that must be disclosed. When doing so, it is important to:

  1. Know that the person you are talking to will not disclose the information indiscriminately.
  2. Ascertain that the information is accurate.
  3. Not exaggerate.
  4. Be honest with yourself that your intent in transmitting negative information is for the constructive purpose of aiding a shiduch inquiry.
  5. Ensure that the information is transmitted in the least harmful way possible.

 

As the Chofetz Chaim writes  in the conclusion of his sefer: the main idea is to think before you speak!!

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Letting your Spouse Know you Feel Enriched by Them

lovedby you.JPG

by Devora Krasnianski, founder of Adai Ad Institute

There are words of compliments, appreciation and gratitude. And then there is showing the other person how much your own life is enriched by having them in your life.  This really makes the other person feel good to be doing for you.

An expression of gratitude such as “Thank you for taking care of dinner”  is nice.  Yet, it reveals little of what’s going on for you.

A much richer statement is: “Thank you for taking care of dinner. Just knowing that I have warm food waiting for me when I come home made this long day seem so much more bearable.”

Another example: “I so appreciate your time and your insights. I feel much more hopeful now.”

And one more: “I love watching how you interact with the kids. Just knowing that they are with you when I’m out makes me feel relaxed that they are in good hands.”

One last one: “I know you really didn’t want to do it, and you did it anyway. So firstly, thank you for taking care of that. And more importantly, I feel loved that you did it just because I requested.”

Often, we are indeed grateful and appreciative, but we don’t express it. Or, we say a simple Thank You.  Sometimes it is hard to articulate exactly how your life was enriched by the other person’s actions or words.  Take the time to really think how that action makes you feel.  And share that with them.

Some emotions that you might be feeling: Relaxed. Happy. Taken care of. Secure. Moved. Energized. Uplifted my mood.  Made things easier. You really ‘get who I am’. Cared for.  ‘I really matter to you’.


Caveat: This should not be used as a form of manipulation or an attempt to get something from the other person.  Be assured, they will sense that very quickly.

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Some ways to improve your marriage — with little help from your spouse

gears

by Devora Krasnianski, founder of Adai Ad Institute

Systems Theory 101 states that a change in one part of the system leads to changes in other parts of the system.  In other words, change is like a chain reaction. One spouse tips over the first domino, then the other one changes. When a spouse who is dissatisfied in the relationship decides to change their method of getting through to their partner, they aren’t doing “all the work.” Assuming responsibility for creating positive change in life isn’t working harder, it’s working smarter.

You don’t have to mention to your spouse that you are working on yourself.  But the difference will be noticed and appreciated. Be patient, the process can take a while.

 

Accept that successful marriage takes work.

Anything worthwhile takes work. There is probably nothing wrong if you find yourself struggling. You may need some tools, but don’t give up just because you’re having a rough time.

Notice what you are contributing to the problem.

Notice your patterns.  Too often, we are fixated on what the other is doing wrong or not doing, that we forget about what we might be doing.   Maybe, just maybe, it is you who starts many of the fights.  Or you have unusually high expectations.

By becoming aware of these patterns, you will realize how much power you really do hold in the relationship’s well-being.  This will get you out of that feeling of discouragement that it won’t get any better until the other changes. It’s actually very empowering.

Fully accept your partner.

Let go.  Make peace with those traits that annoy you in your partner; it will reduce frictions and boost your overall happiness. Not everything will be perfect or go the way you think is best.

Sometimes, you have to put aside your pride. Or maybe even laugh about it, “that’s just who s/he is.”

Start by addressing one area.

A small one; so you can see improvements quickly.  And then another small one. The more small shifts you can appreciate and notice, the more encouraged you will feel and this alone will bring new energy and vitality to your relationship!

You fly off the handle too quickly? When you catch yourself getting angry, count until ten.  Do you tend to interrupt your spouse midsentence? Hone your listening skills.

Do more of what works and less of what doesn’t.  

Reflect about what is working well. What is it that you are doing when your spouse is acting  loving and considerate? Do more of that.

What are you doing that pushes his buttons. Or, what is it that you nag about? Just stop doing that. Either let it go, or experiment with other ways to address it.

Get vulnerable. Be the first to open up about the state of your marriage.

One of you has to go first. Apologize first. Be vulnerable first. Yield first. Forgive first. Why not let that person be you? It also shows your commitment to really improving the relationship.

“There’s been something on my mind for a while now.  I don’t want to live with all this fighting.   I’ve been thinking about what I have been contributing to the issue. Can we discuss this together?”

Have patience.

Trust the process. When you change, people notice. It may take a while for them to learn new responses. They might be used to always distrusting your words, it might take a while to see that you are genuine.  

 

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