Helping Boys Prepare for Shidduchim
Preparing for Shidduchim: discussion and orientation specific to boys.
Is He Ready for Marriage?
Unlike girls, boys are not automatically expected to start dating as soon as they reach a specific age. Parents may work out with their son the right time to begin, usually in their early twenties. A bochur, who is learning productively in Eretz Yisrael, may postpone shidduchim for a year or two as he develops his capabilities. It may not be wise for a boy to start shidduchim only because his friends are getting married. A sign that a boy is ready to date is when he is able to verbalize some of his future plans: where he wants to live or learn, what hashkafa he wants to have, or how he wants to earn a living.
Being married means being responsible for the welfare of another person. Parents may wish to discuss this with their son before he starts dating. Is he able to put someone else’s interests before his immediate wants? A wife may start feeling sick from the side effects of early pregnancy a few months into marriage. Is their son mature enough to help her?
It may be useful to sound out the son’s attitude towards women. Whatever he may have learned in the classroom or from his peers about the role of women, he needs to know that the husband’s duty is to respect his wife, accept her as she is, and to give priority to her needs. If the boy thinks otherwise, perhaps dating should be postponed while the boy spends time with an appropriate counselor or mentor.
Discussing What He Should Look For
The Appeal of “Looks”
Some boys may unabashedly put good looks on the top of their wish list for dates. This is one rationale for the Yeshivish system of having parents prescreen resumes before allowing their sons to go out with girls. Parents may try to explain to their sons that selecting a wife based on her attractiveness is like investing in a losing stock: good looks diminish with age. In truth, it is difficult to filter shidduch prospects based on looks since boys’ ideas of beauty vary so much.
One approach to creating the “wish list” for a wife is to look for the long term, realizing that the woman one marries will be the mother of one’s children. Traits such as patience, kindness, and tolerance may count for more in the long run than looks or money. Boys with longterm learning plans may need to look for girls with solid career prospects; other boys may prefer girls who see themselves more as a stay-at-home mothers.
Parents of boys need an accurate idea about the boy’s character and potential. Is he truly suited for long term learning? Does he really want a very serious girl who may have high expectations of him? When parents think too highly of their son, they may match him with girls who are beyond his league and unsuited for him. Either this delays the boy’s ability to get married or it sets him up for Sholom Bayis problems.
The Goal Oriented Boy
A boy who is ambitious and has the potential to rise to the top, whether it be in chinuch, the professions, or business, needs a wife who has the stamina to be the right partner for him. The wife of an important man needs to be able to run a beautiful home, host large numbers of guests graciously, while raising the children primarily on her own. Being a Rav, for example, is living in a political minefield; living out of town means you’re on your own. A daughter of someone with a similar career may be a good choice, since she knows what to expect.
Parents of an ambitious boy may find it useful to contact the teachers of a shidduch prospect to find out whether she “has what it takes” in terms of character, stability, and energy to play the role of wife of Rosh Yeshiva, prominent businessman, or top surgeon. The boy himself would need to ask the girl directly whether she visualizes herself in this role.
Many Yeshiva boys do not know how they will earn a living. Career plans may develop a few years into marriage. However, boys are expected to be able to tell shadchanim where they fit in the spectrum of “long term learner-no career plans” to “currently employed”. Some standard options are: “learn as long as possible, then pursue a degree/go into business”, “learn 1, 2, or 5 years and then pursue career plans”, “learning now and pursuing a degree”.
Whatever their learning/career plans, boys need to be able to live within a budget before they can get married. Fathers-in-law are not giving their married children access to an unlimited credit card account.
Finding a Mentor
A boy needs a mentor to guide him through the shidduchim process. The role of the mentor is to answer questions that tend to arise as one develops a relationship: when to exchange telephone numbers, to go out for dinner, etc. Some Shadchanim are willing and able to provide this guidance. Parents might not be useful in this role because they may be too emotionally involved to be objective.
In order to be effective, a mentor should be an experienced person, married at least five years. Typically, boys consult with a Rebbe or Rosh Yeshiva in the Yeshiva that he currently attends. However, some boys attend Yeshivas that are so large that they are unable to bond with any of the mechanchim. A Rebbe from an institution he attended earlier might serve in this case, especially if he maintained a connection over the years.
An older sister sometimes plays a major role with a boy’s shidduchim, especially if the parents are not familiar with the system. She may serve somewhere between parent and mentor to guide her younger brother through dating.
Girls are Different from Boys
Boys who have spent years in a Yeshiva environment may be used to expressing their opinions forcefully and arguing points with their chavrusas and peers. Before they start dating, it should be made clear that girls are usually more comfortable with a gentler, more conciliatory style.
Boys customarily do the driving on dates. Therefore, it is best if the boy gets practice driving and navigating before he starts dating. He should also familiarize himself with the basic geography of the area that he would most likely be dating in, and he should accustom himself to using a GPS. The boy also needs access to a clean, presentable car. However, not all boys learn to drive during their Yeshiva years. Dating may be conducted using public transportation, possibly with the girl driving to the dating locations. It is probably best to specify this limitation to the shadchan so that the girl (and her parents) are not taken by surprise.
Smokers should be strongly encouraged to quit, since many girls will not date a smoker.
Boys in shidduchim should have one or two “good” suits for dating. A boy, who is not clothing-conscious, is best advised to consult someone more savvy about mainstream dressing styles.
Since the boy is expected to lead the conversation, boys need to have some idea of what they will talk about on dates. Typically, boys and girls share their more interesting recent experiences, such as learning in Israel, college, and work. Family and friends are also topics of discussion.
While shmoozing may be a good way to break the ice and begin the relationship, it is essential for the couple to discuss the things that are important to them: hashkafa, plans for the future, etc. Boys' questionnaire on this website lists areas and topics worth exploring.
More information about dating is provided in The Dating Process .