While You’re Single
Making the most of the single stage
Some find their shidduch immediately; others may wait some years until they find their bashert. Each situation presents its own challenges. It's not a race. Getting married sooner is not the goal--marrying the right person is.
This post is most relevant for people in the earlier years of their search.
Note: The word shadchanim in this post includes anyone who might represent a shidduch prospect: formal and informal shadchanim, parents, relatives or friends of a single, or the single him/herself.
For the Parent
Maintain a Happy Home
While it may be highly stressful and worrying to have a child remain unmarried as younger peers are getting engaged, it is imperative to maintain a positive, supportive, and loving atmosphere in the home. Where parents display anxiety at their child being unmarried, it becomes demoralizing for the child, exacerbating feelings of being a failure or disappointment. Instead, parents may view this time as their opportunity to enjoy their adult child’s company and deepen the relationship. If this is very difficult, parents should seek support, whether through socializing with other parents in this situation, discussing with their Rav, or seeing a counselor.
Give the Single Space
As the single gets older, parents are well-advised to see their child as an independent adult making his/her own decisions and entitled to privacy. It gives perspective to realize that if a 25-year old child were married, it would be inappropriate to micro-manage his/her life; being single should not make a difference.
Once the single is earning a paycheck, parents may encourage him/her to take responsibility for his/her financial future, taking over financial assets held in trust when they were minors, opening an IRA, investing, and filing tax returns independently.
Keep Communication Open
When people share living quarters, there are formal or unspoken arrangements for sharing living costs and household chores. This applies also to singles living at home. In some families, everyone is naturally “on the same page” and these matters need not be discussed.
In other situations, it is better for parents to initiate a discussion with their single about who does or pays for what, especially where finances are tight. Where the parent/child relationship is delicate, it may be best to select a mutually trusted outsider, such as the family Rav or friend, who knows the family and is trusted by parents and single, to arbitrate disagreements. The parents and single may also see the need to involve a third party if they disagree on how shidduchim should be pursued.
For the Single
It is healthiest to see the period of singlehood as its own stage in life and a springboard for growth, rather waiting impatiently for the right shidduch to arrive. This entails the willingness to plan ahead regardless of the possibility that plans be disrupted by getting engaged.
Most important is to find a life balance that allows oneself to feel contented and connected, balancing obligations to family, community and self. Different singles find different routes to creating and maintaining this equilibrium.
This is a good time to address real or perceived deficiencies, whether social, emotional, or spiritual. This is a stage in which you are mature enough to work seriously on longstanding issues and young enough to be flexible to effect real change.
On the spiritual front, you may decide to try to keep learning and growing, refining your personal hashkafa, and pursuing goals in avodas Hashem. Browsing the bookshelves of a Judaica store is a good way to see different approaches that may speak to you now.
Some singles return to school to advance themselves in their career or to train for a new career.
The single years may also be an opportunity to get on track financially. If you are financially stable you might educate yourself about personal finance by reading a book or two on the subject and choosing short- and long-term financial goals.
Not everyone feels the need for change. Some women may be content to spend these years living at home and continuing with the same job for years; some men may enjoy continuing their studies in Bais Medrash. The object here is to find the life that keeps you happy.
A balanced life includes time off to relax and enjoy. This may include taking advantage of the freedom that comes with this stage in life by traveling, pursuing hobbies, taking courses to learn something interesting, or seeking out new experiences.
It is essential to develop strong peer friendships. Organizing social or chessed activities is a good way to bond.
The community needs the skills, talents, and time of the singles. And it is important for everyone to see themselves as part of a community. Volunteering is more likely to be fulfilling if you choose a cause that you believe in and enjoy, rather than doing what everyone else does.
Singles who are financially independent can decide where to give money to support the causes that appeal to their values.
Seeing a Counselor
Everyone, at any stage in life, should try to live with as much contentment as possible. If the pressures of being in shidduchim (including managing family relationships) become challenging, it may be helpful to see a therapist, both to provide an opportunity to vent and to help develop coping strategies.
As you become more independent in other areas of life, you may find it best to take over management of the shidduchim process, including screening resumes, checking references, and generally deciding the direction of the search.
Take breaks from dating if the pressure is overwhelming. Don’t let societal or family pressures panic you into a bad relationship.
Give the shadchan a chance. When a trusted shadchan offers a match, avoid letting friends who may not be experts in shidduchim discourage you from trying a date. It has happened that longtime singles were proposed the “winning” shidduch multiple times until they decided to try it.
Avoid flirtation or forming relationships with men/women outside dating. Aside from the halachic issues involved, such relationships dilute one’s drive for marriage.
Think about addressing possible fears or perceived incompetence related to marriage and raising a family. This could be done through self-education, seeking role models, and/or working with a therapist. Not everyone knows instinctively how to form and develop a relationship; it's normal to need support.
Keeping as happy as possible is an important shidduch strategy, since happy people are more attractive.
For more advice on the shidduch front, see Shidduch Strategies.
Challenging but Worthwhile
Working on these is beneficial for everyone’s spiritual and emotional health.
The period of being single is a trial in Emuna (faith). The very vast majority of singles get married sooner or later. Many singles realize, once they get engaged, that the shidduch came only when both parties were ready—it could not have happened any sooner.
In the meantime, the more that parents and single build a relationship of trust and humility with Hashem, the more pain they will avoid and the more they will all gain from this period. Moreover, Emuna builds the peace of mind which is important for projecting the positive personality that allows relationships to be formed.
Maintain a Positive Attitude
It is best to avoid bitterness and cynicism toward “the system”. Aside from the emotional damage these cause, they also put off potential shadchanim or shidduch prospects. If the standard shidduch system isn’t working for you, there are other approaches, described in Other Approaches.
It is healthiest to live with the assumption that the shidduch will eventually arrive, but not make marriage into the goal of life. A good underlying attitude is that marriage is a bracha, a blessing/gift from Hashem rather than an entitlement. Singles are able to live fulfilled lives contributing to the community.
Grow Before Marriage
Singles sometimes fall into a trap of deciding that they will fix certain weaknesses once they get married. For example, they might watch movies on the computer, since they have extra time now, planning to discontinue this once they are engaged. From a practical point of view, this is short-sighted, since when enquiries are made, such behaviors may come to light and put off a shidduch prospect.
On a deeper level, it is a good idea to try to develop now into the kind of person that one wants the bashert to desire to marry. One exercise is to think of the marriages one admires in the community and see where one differs from the couples involved. It may take time and effort to work on perceived deficits, but this is a constructive way to tell Hashem that one is ready for the bashert. And becoming the “right” person allows one to project the right image and vibe.