||HUMAN DYNAMICS OF COMPATIBILITY
- Thursday, October 5, '00 - Parshas Ha'azinu 5761
[Several years ago American and
Israeli psychologists, rabbis and computer experts teamed up to study what goes into a
compatible shidduch. This installment is a small sample of their discoveries.]
Two maxims are commonly believed: 1. opposites attract and 2. "birds of a feather
flock together." Human personality is far too subtle and complex to pigeon-hole into
simplistic sayings. A shidduch is composed of two people. If one person alone is subtle
and complex, how much moreso is putting two people together subtle and complex! Generally
BOTH maxims are false and meaningless. For example, neither is true for the attribute of
"practicality." Two people may be deeply in love but if they both end up on the
street because neither remembered to pay the rent, that's no marriage! At least one must
be practical. If both are not practical, the couple won't be able to function. You don't
NEED one to be impractical (opposites attract). You don't need BOTH to be practical (birds
of a feather). What counts? The marriage must contain practicality.
Some traits, because of the dynamics, must fit one of the two maxims. When you witness
a couple who are opposites or the same, you assume, respectively, that opposites attract
or likes attract likes (just the fact that two mutually existing maxims exist shows you
that both are suspect). You are witnessing and FOCUSING ON ONE OF THE TRAITS whose
dynamics are mutually exclusive or whose dynamics require similarity for a functional,
A couple SHOULD be at opposite points on the spectrum between domineering and passive.
Two strong-willed people will repeatedly clash and two passive people may sleep through
life. The more one is controlling, the more the other should be passive. If you see two
who are opposites on the spectrum between passive and domineering, you haven't proved that
opposites attract. You've proven that there's more to life than banging heads together.
Intellectual level must be similar. Otherwise, they may never be able to talk to each
other. Humaneness and sensitivity level must be somewhat similar. Otherwise, they may
never be able to relate, understand or fulfill each other.
Let me give an example of a complex case. If a woman has a domineering nature and (in
her family) her father was the decision maker, she will expect the man to make decisions.
But, she won't accept a husband's authority. This will undermine compatibility. She will
be in a dilemma. She won't accept or respect a man who won't be a strong decision maker,
while if she marries a strong decision-maker, she won't accept or respect his strong
decisions. She is going to have to work hard to reconcile strongly contradictory and
mutually exclusive elements within, in order to have a compatible and stable marriage.
The spectrum between stinginess and generosity presents another complex condition. If
both are generous, or to a lesser degree, if the man is generous and the woman stingy, the
match is OK. But if the man is stingy and the woman is generous, the marriage can be
explosive. The Talmud says "women's minds are close to money." In practical
married life, women tend more to spend and make most purchases for the household. Since
she understands spending in her nature, a stingy woman has some "margin" to
understand a spending husband. The stingy man is further away from spending, so he is the
opposite. A stingy man will get angry and fight when his wife spends in ways that he feels
You can't match two introverts because neither will talk to the other. One or both must
be extrovert. It's not a case of opposites nor likes. Extroversion must be in the
relationship, as practicality must be in the relationship. Each personality trait must be
analyzed for compatibility; for whether each trait requires - on its own unique merits -
that which is similar, opposite or otherwise between the man and the woman. Never push a
single into a marriage in which compatibility is suspect. Get orthodox rabbinical guidance
from a rov with expertise in this area, when you have questions. Compatibility is subtle
and complex, and depends on a multiplicity of factors. Singles sense compatibility, so
advice to them can be wrong. Respect the single's own decision and intuitive feel. To be
continued with an article on how to investigate a single during the dating experience.