Do the Matchmakers Think We Are Serious About Marriage?

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It’s no secret that women, at times, complain about the guys who can’t commit (ever heard of this?).

I’ve always felt that sure there are guys who can’t, but sometimes women make a mistake – in the diagnosis. They may know of a guy who has had a number of serious dating relationships and no committal each time. They assume a commitment problem, without grasping that it might be not a problem of commitment, but no desire to commit to the specific women in the relationships. Not every serious relationship ends in marriage. It’s an exploration. And even three or four repetitive extended-relationship-and-no-commitment occurrences can’t, in its own right, be an indication of commitment phobia. We need to look at other facts, even enlist professional input to help determine what we’re witnessing.

Five years ago I spoke with a matchmaker (a volunteer for many years with an organization outside of NYC that matches observant singles from their database) who said that she’s finding there are women that exit earlier than appropriate from a relationship that has potential (my wording).

The women she’s observed are in their 30s or even 40s, from observant backgrounds, put together and marriageable, working as social workers or in other professions that attract an abundance of religious women, and there are numbers of them that are not committing, she said.

I asked her why this would be. She said they have their friends, their jobs… perhaps they are scared…

Scared of what?

“Getting married.” They might go to therapy, more than once, she relates, but it might not be helping them in overcoming the problem. They seem, maybe, to be wanting the perfect guy.

I was a bit surprised, since the women I have met or know of, I’ve assumed (I believe correctly) want to marry, have kids and a family. With the right guy, only, of course. True, they may be complacent and satisfied with their jobs and friends, their pad (dwelling – nothing uniquely from Apple) and their life – and that sorry reality is a general singles challenge that impedes progress towards the next stage in life – but the matchmaker sensed a bigger issue. Not just lethargy, but a commitment fear.

I haven’t forgotten a time quite a few years ago when I spoke with a rabbi’s wife (she’s also a university professor) who’d occasionally suggest people I might go out with, former students or otherwise. She advised that for a single to get married they have to arrive at the point where they feel uncomfortable being single. It could be loneliness or another emotion. I accepted the point intellectually. It made sense, but I wasn’t sure if that was the only prod that would produce “new” suggestions of appropriate dating partners, or forge from fledgling or very initial relationships the permanent ones that last a lifetime. (In recent years, I have come to believe what she said a bit more.)

In my conversation with the matchmaker who was focusing on the women’s reluctance, and not the men, I heard her highlighting that same point. The felt desire to get married (more of an urge or yearning) enables the attempt to actually get married. She was mentioning a few people to me, and as she was suggesting a certain woman (later-30s) and describing her qualities and characteristics, she also stressed (I think more than once, or it felt like that) that “she really wants to get married.” The implication was that this was an added reason to consider her seriously, because she was serious – about finding someone – in contrast to the phenomenon that the matchmaker had mentioned before.

Certainly, most everyone who takes time to sign up with a matchmaking organization’s service or online dating site, or who makes the trip to an event to meet other singles and the available matchmakers who circulate, wants to get married, but the revelation here, even if subtle, is the married person’s perspective. Those singles that exhibit clearly that this is what they really want will be the ones more likely to get to marriage. These are the candidates that shadchanim feel they can work with more easily, more successfully. These are the singles who are less likely to “not commit” because of fear, complacency, or some unrealistic expectations about who their partner needs to be.

Showing a visible yearning to get married shouldn’t automatically be translated as desperation. In the right doses, it works to give certain indicators to the matchmaker (which includes neighbors, friends, co-workers) of seriousness, the ability to be flexible, and the commitment to date in an effective manner. Without delving too much into personal examples, I can say that I’ve found that when people have perceived my own seriousness, they have been more serious and active about helping facilitate introductions, and (in a gracious manner that impressed me) even emailed or phoned their own contacts and connections to network on my behalf. I’ve done the same – spent some of my time – when I have felt that a single person is interested and available, and wants outside help to meet people they can date. Not everyone wants the assistance; some prefer to just find someone on their own.

Regarding the perceived commitment problem of certain women that the matchmaker observed from her desk (she’s dealt with a lot of people and this is what she’s sensed), I don’t know fully what to make of it. What we do know is that singles probably have to work harder to convey to others who want to help them that they are sincere about dating, and have an immediate interest in marriage (even if they are not convinced they will be able to ultimately find the right person). Matchmakers, obviously, are not always spot on in their assessments. I have heard things from matchmakers that I can’t agree with. Everyone means well, but none of us wants to agree to something that is going to put us in a wrong place or upset us. We have to live with the decisions we’ll make – not the matchmaker. Still, we can listen to some of the ideas that they share (or preach) and try a little harder to understand what they perceive – about us.

“I don’t think I would relate,” I told a matchmaker in early-November, as she suggested an eligible woman, forwarding a short bio and a few photos. I didn’t think I would relate, on a number of counts. The matchmaker, who has mentioned to me suggestions here and there for at least a few years, was not impressed. “Well, if you can’t relate to these beautiful photos of a single woman nine years younger than you, I certainly can’t help you. Good luck, Judah.” She’d offered her advice before. I’ve listened. She is diligent and wants singles to get married. She says it as it is, has a stronger or direct style. That’s fine; leave diplomacy for other places. I incorporate what makes sense. I’ve made mistakes, but trust my judgement. We have to trust our judgement. “Thanks for all your help,” I responded, continuing to type with a bit of frustration and flair. “You can marry her. I can’t relate. Some or many other guys would love to have her. But it’s not right for me. And I have to live with the results.”

I believe we can stand our ground and still show flexibility and appreciation to the matchmakers who do judge us, and want us to have the best outcome. It’s our future and to get there we need to enlist and inspire others to assist us, because with the right partner the majority of us believe we’ll be in a better place.

JUDAH S. HARRIS

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