Finding Your Zivug (Mate)
Healthy & Compatible Mate Selection




















[Note 1: Rabbi Forsythe is sometimes asked about personal matchmaking. However, for the last few years, he has restricted matchmaking to people who he knows personally and knows well for a considerable period of time. He no longer does matchmaking for the public at-large. His current work with singles is primarily compatibility-profiling interviews, private counseling, public lecturing, shabatones, workshops and the like.]

[Note 2: In halacha, there is NO kibud av ve'aim in shidduchim. A single should marry the person who he gets along with and who is good for him/her. There is a world of difference in halacha between a parent giving mature advice or sharing life experience vs. making or killing a shidduch. The ultimate criteria for suitability of a shidduch is: what is good for the couple.]



When I give live presentations and workshops for singles, on subjects of relationships or finding one's mate, one of the recurring areas of intense interest from audiences is how to determine which person to choose for marriage.

For the purpose of this series, the next two installments will be dedicated to two facets of this question. This section will address factors which indicate whether your interest in a person is healthy and solid. The next section will address discerning (from the indications in the relationship) if the person is suitable for you. There are, of course, no guarantees (since there are many variables in oneself, the other and unforseen developments in life). However, we can strive to weed out serious and costly mistakes and to increase the chances for helpful judgement and for success.

1. You are consistently attracted to good-hearted people who have more psychological and relating positives, and less negatives. You do not focus on externals or material advantages. You would unconditionally take the person if (s)he did not have money or social status. Your focus and priorities emphasize good inner qualities and your objective prospects for "human compatibility."

2. Attraction to this person is relative calm, not intense or excited.

3. Attraction is to people who are well-liked by, who are respected by, and who get along well with, a good number of people who are mature, psychologically healthy, responsible and who have good midos and judgement.

4. Attraction is to people who you respect more than you like or love.

5. You think through relationship choices in advance for long-run prospects (reasonably and objectively, the best you can; so as to judge a fairly compatible, if not perfect, candidate) before emotional investment or involvement.

6. You are happier to give to the other person than to get from the person. You are attracted to people who, like you, are happier to give than to take. You allow the other to give also, so that the interchange is approximately even. Note: healthy giving is in order to please, benefit or complete the other person; not to "rescue" the other person, nor to obtain approval or pay-back; because these are giving to your own immature needs.

7. You are not attracted based on what others think of your choice. You are attracted on the basis of a solid and wholesome match for your life with productive, stable, positive and enduring prospects. You seek and heed prudent, objective and mature advice; but you do not respond to pressure (e.g. matchmaker, rabbi, parents, peers, offer of money to marry) and you do not seek approval (e.g. marry a kollel guy, professional or someone from a rich or esteemed family because it makes you look or feel good).

8. You consistently resolve differences with people peacefully, calmly, directly, gently and promptly. Any resolution contains heartfelt concern for fairness and consideration for the other's feelings and needs. If either of you hurts the other, the offender immediately (upon learning of the error) "runs" to sincerely and unhesitatingly communicate, apologize and do what it takes to make it right. You both understand each other reasonably well and both adapt to please or to get along with each other. Peace is always a top, non-compromisable priority. Whenever you cannot work out an acceptable resolution by yourselves, you both voluntarily go to da'as Torah and, regardless of the difficulty or discomfort involved, faithfully and totally obey the p'sak with a good attitude.

9. You are turned off by people who have bad or destructive midos: e.g. they are cruel, antagonistic, angry, arrogant, selfish, unhappy, dishonesty, grudge-bearing, jealous, critical, demanding, unstable, rigid or undisciplined; or are hungry for honor, approval, power, materialism or self-indulgence.

10. If you see any patterns which don't work, you fix them each time, so that you progressively are doing better and better as a relator and judge of prospective partners. You have the courage and integrity needed to steadily grow. You see marriage as a lifelong commitment to and mechanism for healthy ongoing growth.



In the previous installment we looked at the aspect of selecting one's mate pertaining to what healthy attraction is and prospects for one's general selection criteria in a partner for a durable marriage.

In this installment we will move on to the step of evaluating indications in the actual relationship for whether a person might be "the right one."

When I do live singles presentations and workshops, these are questions of considerable concern to audience members. In addition, they often express frustration with many of the common hardships experienced, especially by older singles. So, let me also add here a few words of encouragement and comfort. For example, many complain that they find many people out there who are not as nice as they should be. To this I say that you should concentrate on being the best and most marriageable person you can be. Increase your merit in both practical and spiritual terms so that G-d, the ultimate Maker of all matches, should see you as a ready "kailee (utensil)" for your soul-mate. One more example is people feeling ready to "give up." No - do not give up. The Talmud only refers to giving up in one kind of case. If your wallet falls into the ocean (i.e. if you lose property in a way that, in nature, you can expect to never get it back), then we say it is normal to give up. Otherwise keep plugging and strong!

1. The person behaves with fine midos (character traits, particularly the ones upon which a lasting, successful relationship depend; e.g. respect for self and others, responsibility, trustworthiness, humility, peacefulness, kindness, compassion, softness and good-heartedness) and behaves with derech eretz (decent, polite, thoughtful behavior).

2. You feel comfortable and secure with the other person. Neither of you needs to put on any phoney act, to lie about or hide your imperfections or feelings, to hesitate about expressing yourself nor to make unnatural effort to be impressive, acceptable or interesting.

3. The real (inner) you is able to relate to the real (inner) person in the other. The primary level of relating is heart-to-heart (not to wallet, talent, looks or other self-serving worldly benefits).

4. You enjoy the other's company, get along well and look forward to seeing each other when apart. Note: it is an unhealthy sign to miss the person when apart and to want to go apart when together!

5. You enjoy doing kind and thoughtful things for the other person, without asking for or expecting remuneration. You care for the other person as much as you do for yourself. You feel his/her pain or happiness and his/her feelings or will are as important as your own. Therefore, bending your will to please him/her, to save him/her from hurt, to give of yourself or to get along well is not a significant problem for you. You want the other to be happy and it makes you happy to make the other happy. If a thing is important to the other, that is enough to make it important to you. You are more interested in having a commitment relationship with this person than frightened or put-off by the demands or limitations imposed by commitment.

6. You communicate well, comfortably, effectively and honestly, without inhibition. You steadily achieve understanding which promotes the well-being and development of the relationship.

7. You have compatible religious ideals and life direction and goals.

8. You attribute importance and weight to the person. You respect the person very much - more than you love the person. You willingly and rapidly act to relate to and to respond to the will, feelings, needs and taste of the other person, without hesitation or feeling judgmental nor imposed upon - not only out of the emotion of love, but because you respect the person more than you respect yourself.

9. You care for and relate to the entire person. You accept or complete each other's (non-damaging) shortcomings. You voluntarily give from each other's strengths to make your partner and your "team" stronger, happier, better and more productive.

10. You want to bring each other to each one's goals and potential, and you both want to help each other to grow and to be happy.



One of the things I constantly study when I do counseling is where the root of problems lie. One common theme that I often see is: where mistakes are made in the courting and mate-selection process. Given the diverse minhagim among Torah Jews, there are at least two categories into which this must be divided. I must differentiate Chasidish from non-Chasidish, because the latter (e.g. Litvish, Sefardic, Modern) go on dates while the Chasidish use the "bashow" procedure. The approaches to dealing with mate-selection in the two groups are very different.

In another section of this site, I plan to deal with the scenario of those Chasidim who do not date nor meet much in person [even non-Chasidim can benefit from the material there on investigating a shidduch, and you are duly referred there to the section on the "Bashow Minhag" for more on investigating a shidduch]. Chasidim rely heavily on investigation, instead. Now we move on to a different mate-selecting procedure, and obtaining signs in advance for a good and lasting marriage.

Singles who come to me for counseling (including divorced and widowed) are concerned about problematic dating, how to select, relating behavior, making or repeating mistakes, potential durability of a marriage, discovering a phoney, etc. I advise the non-Chasidish singles to examine the prospects with someone whom they date. When you go out, especially with a new person, find things to do that allow you to get to know each other, interact with each other, and that you both enjoy. Some examples along this line that people report to work well include bowling, miniature golf, a museum or botanical garden. Such activities are fun, they feel light and comfortable, you communicate (if you can't find what to say by yourself, you can talk about what you are seeing or doing to "break the ice"). Do not go to a movie or show or anything that precludes interacting with each other while you are doing it. It is a mathematics axiom that parallel lines never meet. If you and your date are parallel lines watching a stage or screen, you don't meet! Besides, there are serious halachic problems with the content of most movies or shows these days, so they are generally not suitable in Jewish law. Choose activities that allow you to interact. Enjoy your time together and spend a sufficient amount of time to get to know each other REASONABLY well (note: before marriage, you can't know any person PERFECTLY).

When you are getting to know each other more, after a few initial dates, I recommend that people go out for a full length day-trip (e.g. drive out-of-town to the country - making sure to keep the laws prohibiting Yichud/seclusion), perhaps more than once. By spending a prolonged period of time, people tend to become more and more themselves as a day stretches out. You more and more get to see the real person in greater depth. You get to see some of the foibles or inconsistencies and some of the ways the person interacts with relating partners or challenging life situations. As you get further into your day, more of the real person comes out. There's only so much that a person can act. Over time, the guard goes down more and more. You may, for example, see if the person is ever rude, vulgar, critical, mean, inconsiderate, impatient, selfish, dishonest or condescending. Even if the person is nice to you, is the person nasty to a waiter or gas station attendant? Does the person get angry or nasty in a traffic jam? You can better judge - and have more insight into - whether this is someone you can really relate to, trust and appreciate; whether the person's good qualities are sincere, stable and authentic. There is no guarantee that a person won't maintain an act. I've seen some really shrewd, troubled, insecure, manipulative people who consciously hide their faults well until a relationship is quite developed and another person is emotionally "hooked" or until after marriage. However, there can often be signs, if you know how to read them. For example, Chazal say that you can tell who a person is by who he praises. Does the person praise Pirkei Avos or Dow Jones, the Chofetz Chayim or the Super Bowl?

I am not suggesting that you ever "trap" a person. I am just saying to enter into situations in which the person is more likely to be his honest self. For example, go for a day trip or observe conduct with employees in a restaurant, or whether the person gets vulgar in a traffic jam. If a situation makes him/her angry or nasty, observe and learn about how the person handles provocation and about the person's temper or character weakness. Do not intentionally provoke the person yourself. That would be a sin and no shidduch can be blessed if it comes about through any sin, whether deceiving, instigating or any other sin.

IN DIRECT PROPORTION TO ANY CONCERN OR SUSPICION, 1. call more people for information than you would otherwise (the more concern, the more people), and 2. see more of the people you contact for information "in person" face-to-face (the more concern, the more people you must speak to get facial gestures or visual signs that may indicate invented, covered or incomplete information, or evasiveness; which would be hidden over the phone). In my counseling experience, some marriage trouble and break-up stems from untrue, rushed, undisclosed, vague, half-true or ignored information; so if something seems odd, inconsistent or worrisome; believe nothing more than the name and address of the boy or girl! EVERYTHING THAT YOU COULDN'T GET FROM ANY PHONE BOOK, CHECK OUT YOURSELF THOROUGHLY! Call a rov for what to discuss and to determine what is lashon hora vs. what is necessary to speak about in each case.

Do not merely infer something about a shidduch that needs to be actually verified and known. The gemora says that when witnesses came, if they said, "We did not see a moon," Sanhedrin CANNOT declare the day to NOT be Rosh Chodesh because WHAT YOU DO NOT SEE IS NOT TESTIMONY. If witnesses see the moon, bais din can declare the day to be Rosh Chodesh. ONLY WHAT YOU SEE IS TESTIMONY. THE SAME APPLIES IN SHIDDUCHIM. And, the same way you check out the boy/girl, check out the shadchan! Get references to couples and parents and inquire from them whether the shadchan's work and attitude were satisfactory, honest and helpful.

Is there instability, dishonesty or dysfunction in the family? Don't be fooled by those who act saintly in public and are beasts in their home. Even if the home has problems, HAS THE INDIVIDUAL BOY OR GIRL RISEN ABOVE ANY SHORTCOMINGS OF THE FAMILY (remember, we have our Jewish people specifically BECAUSE RIVKA LEFT EVIL BESUEL AND LOVON!). Does the boy or girl have good midos, straight hashkofos and loyalty to Torah? Is the boy or girl tocho kibaro (the same person inside and out), eidl (gentle) and temimi (uncomplicated, psychologically and religiously)? Is the person sensitive, considerate and responsive to other people? How does the person handle disagreement, provocation or pressure? Does the person have a good heart and do chesed, and take responsibility for other people in somewhat mature ways? Does (s)he keep his word? Does the youth have a rov for HALACHA AND LIFE QUESTIONS - who the person FAITHFULLY LISTENS TO (not just goes to!)? Warning: some manipulative people craft shaalos to get desired answers; find out if the person's questions also are honest! Does the boy or girl have good social skills, regular and healthy group interactions, and fine bain adam lechavairo (interpersonal) conduct? If you have any doubts, the inquiring set of parents and/or their child should spend more time with the prospect to see if any flaws, inconsistencies, "bad vibes" or arguing come to the surface. Have at least one, preferably several, QUALIFIED and caring advisors (rebitzen, rabbi, counselor) who know you reasonably well. One may catch something another missed, or have input the other did not have. Get OBJECTIVE input. Talk over impressions, events, reactions, behaviors (of the person you are dating and your own) and whether your various feelings are helpful and reliable or not. Don't be too hasty to either accept or reject a prospect for marriage. You don't want to get hurt for marrying or dumping someone you should not have. You must have BALANCE (as with all things in the Torah).

In any of these cases (Chasidish or not), all we can really do is increase chances for the good, not guarantee. The point for everybody is: 1. well-done Hishtadlus (practical effort); 2. each single truly being the best and most marriageable person (s)he can be; 3. and prayer to Hashem for mercy, help, success and blessing.



Every person is an individual, so I never like generalizations. From my counseling experience, it is very common for those who grow up exposed to dysfunction of any kind to be impacted by it. If the negative behavior was between the parents, the child can learn to relate to a relationship partner the way he saw his parents relate. If, as a young person, he saw dysfunction between parent and child, he can be trained that way too (learning distorted and destructive ideas and behavior about how to treat and raise one's children).

Often, the impact can be in terms of "emotional association," so the relationship between the person's history and his behavior might be less seemingly direct or obvious, and it might require training to recognize. However, people grow up to understand reality according to their perception of their upbringing. Some people are deep enough to see that destructive behavior is not an option and they decide that they will not treat a spouse or child abusively BUT, they might manifest this in extreme or distorted ways that can be unhealthy in some other aspect. For example, they may go to another extreme; or turn off and be emotionally unavailable to a spouse or children because of fear of failure, insecurity, defense against inner trauma or as if "doing nothing means I do nothing wrong."

For example, a grown up can be a workaholic so he provides generously for his children - but is never there for them emotionally or is constantly not physically present when the child needs a parent there. He has not stopped his family's "tradition" of emotional starvation of its children. He has only switched its manifestation from emotional abuse to emotional deprivation. He hasn't escaped his history. He has just modified its expression. His children could grow up to pursue dysfunctional or futile relationships. I had a case in which a young woman sought dysfunctional men, one after the other, because she desperately needed to feel validated, since her "nice" but workaholic father was never there for her. Her father provided for her materially but she was starved for love and self-worth. All of her father's money didn't address this for her. By trying to "rescue" losers who were incapable of love or commitment, she hoped to earn or extract a man's love and recognition for her. It was unattainable and she ran from futile relationship to futile relationship. She emotionally associated dysfunctional men with her own intense and misguided quest for meaning and her intense need for fulfillment.

Often, it takes deep therapeutic counseling to heal and resolve such issues, and this only is possible in any real way when there is more motivation to change than to maintain one's habits and patterns. When this happens, it is often, unfortunately, after the person has had one or more seriously painful and disappointing relationship failures. If it is catastrophic enough, the person is forced to see that what they do and the partners they select don't work out, and they have to reconsider and explore what is going on within.

I find as a counselor that people from troubled backgrounds typically bring childhood trouble with them to their being a spouse or parent. But if a person is motivated, substantial, honest and courageous enough; they can fix their issues; learn what is wrong and unhealthy; and be satisfactory as spouse and parent.

But, generally it takes hard and painful work, and the percentage of people who actually complete and succeed their work in these areas is not very large, as a matter of making healthy and successful marriages. So you have to investigate very carefully and thoroughly.

When possible, ask your rabbis, rebitzens, mature friends to investigate by obtaining and contacting references. Cross-check information to detect half-truths, cover-ups, deceit and/or contradictions or other "red flag" signals to worry about and further investigate. It is legitimate to ask about a shidduch all that is reasonably needed, even if only for a vague but genuine suspicion.

Often people are attracted to dysfunctional relationships as if people have antennas for relating partners who feed into their issues, often with some kind of irrational and rigid co-dependence and unjustifiable defense of the relationship.

On the one hand, it is great to get out before marriage but it is better not to get in with someone dysfunctional, in the first place.

I do not believe that everyone is automatically entitled to marry. They must be basically free from harmfulness, irresponsibility, immaturity and other destructive or unfair characteristics; as each has no right to hurt or shortchange another. If one isn't ready for the obligations, responsibilities and duties of marriage; one should not be allowed to marry. Unfortunately, it is a status symbol and marriage does not always represent itself in its own right. People want the status, non-loneliness, someone to control or possess, or other irrelevant or neurotic things. As marriage partners, they are deadbeats.

If one finds him/herself attracted to dysfunctional people repeatedly, the person needs professional attention. If one is duped once, the person needs better investigative skills and techniques; and perhaps the help of others who can do some diligent investigation, looking for verification of or contradictions within information.

One must also have a balanced view: there are no perfect shidduchim so each must evaluate what (s)he can live with, who (s)he might be able to be supportive and accepting of and compatible with, and what another person's good points are. Some people have strengths or patience that enable them to widen the range of people they could manage with [as long as the other person is never damaging or neglectful]. Some people come out of dysfunctional homes alright and some people come out of functional homes "relational disasters." Some people are impacted intensely and other are impacted only slightly. You have to take people one by one.

If a person has very good midos, a strong striving for truth and to generally behave as a "mentsh" [decent, mature, honorable human being], considerable and authentic will to work on him/herself and the ability to do tshuva [lasting and reliable repentance] for wrong conduct; the person who had a rough history might be able to fulfill the role of spouse and parent satisfactorily. Do not make a decision about such a person or relationship alone nor hastily. Investigate thoroughly so you "go in with your eyes open," and obtain da'as Torah and the advice of wise, mature, objective and concerned people. The more that you have suspicion, the more you should obtain information and verification of that information.



Not all of my relationship counseling is restricted to married couples. A part of my practical counseling work is with single couples who are trying to evaluate whether they are right for marriage to each other. When single couples come for counseling, there are recurring issues which I see, and I believe writing about some of them will help couples who are confused, have mixed feelings about their prospects for marriage or a complex package of positives and negatives.

It is not unusual for couples to have differences. Mature people who can work through their differences can end up even closer and more attached than they were before. When there are differences, I am more concerned if their approach to differences is hostile (vicious, sabotaging, critical, malcontent, confrontational, unstable, explosive, punitive, etc.) or "resolution-oriented" (calm, peaceful, honest, compassionate, patient, supportive, compromising, respectful, etc.). Further, if differences appear which indicate to me that both partners want something from each other which will help them both grow, I take this as a good sign that the couple can be "basherte" because this means they each can bring each other to "shlaimus (completeness as a human being), which is an important component of healthy marriage.

One of the techniques I use to advise singles who find it difficult to decide who to marry is to make a thorough and brutally honest inventory of their positive and negative attributes as an individual. Starting with the positives (e.g. "I am kind, communicative, adaptive, caring, sensitive" etc.), consider these as a basis for relating standards. How does the person you are interested in compare? Is the person capable of appreciating you and exchanging on a compatible two-way basis? Would giving yourself to this person be a waste or a reasonable investment of your time, interest and qualities?

I want to caution the reader about the person who is "sensitive." Some people are sensitive about THEMSELVES while they can be sadistic or irresponsible to others. Such "sensitivity" is unhealthy and destructive. Sensitivity is only of value in a relationship when the person 1. is AT LEAST as sensitive, preferably more, on behalf of the other person than for self and 2. never uses the sensitivity to cost or hurt the other person!

Now list your negatives. Divide them into two categories. Are any of them destructive, neglectful or harmful to others? If so, I would not recommend proceeding because no relationship should harm either of its participants and these negatives must be worked on. Although it would be logical to put this question (of harmful negatives) first, some people get too defensive or closed about their faults. They may deny that they have faults or become angry. Mentioning their positives FIRST is more likely to put the mind at ease and convey that this is a fair and balanced exploration. People are often more PSYCHOlogical than logical!

Then, we can inventory the non-harmful negatives that make us human and I will ask what kind of a person can help you grow out of your faults, accept them or compensate for them with their strengths? Make a similar inventory of the person you are in the relationship with (as well as other past relationships, if a pattern or sabotage-

condition is indicated): list each person's 1. positives, 2. harmful negatives and 3. neutral "human negatives." Then we can compare the results of all this exploration with what the Torah, as well as helpful guidelines for psychological health, indicate; and we can consider what this indicates about the individual's readiness for marriage and prospects for a workable relationship with any other particular individual. The person or couple generally can have some useful tools for evaluating prospects in a committed, intimate and sustained relationship. Bear in mind that this is one tool and any given case may require others.

Another thing which I believe is vital for the marital success of the frum Jew is to only marry someone committed to halacha. Find out early on before marriage if the person has one or more rovs who (s)he goes to for halacha and life questions. Find out from the rov(s) if the person obeys faithfully; especially when doing so is a test of will, character or self-discipline. If you would only marry someone who has A CONSISTENT HISTORY of uncompromisingly and steadily obeying halacha and daas Torah, and of having derech eretz and refined midos; the chances are much greater that you will never be abused, abandoned, a moreddess, an agunah, emasculated, tormented or think that you need a prenuptial agreement; because the Torah tells the mature person truly devoted to the will of G-d what to do in every single situation of life.

HoRav Shimon Schwab ztz'l, former leader of the German Jewish community, once told me, if one wants a "segula" for success, let what (s)he does be completely leshaim Shomayim (for the sake of G-d).

One of the great keys to specialness in a match is giving what each has to offer in accordance with what would please and benefit the other. We only have our Jewish people because Rivka gave unhesitatingly to Eliezer. He asked for some water for himself and she gave to his entire entourage and animals, fulfilling what Shammai says (in Pirkei Avos), "Say little and do much;" which she RAN to do and which she did politely and with a good attitude! It is the trait of diligent, constant giving for the good of the other person which creates love for that other person (Tractate Derech Eretz Zuta); and only when this is practiced mutually between man and woman can their marriage have happiness and satisfaction (Michtav Me'Eliyahu]. And it was only after marriage that Yitzchok loved Rivka [Genesis 24:67]. We see that we do not love by taking nor by "trying" to give casually without marriage. The "system" only works when the two evaluate before marriage their ability to give to each other what they each individually need from the other, as well as what spouses are objectively responsible to give in marriage. DEMANDING KILLS RELATIONSHIPS. The time during dating must be used to concentrate on exploring the couple's ability to relate in serious domains such as these. Yitzchok could exchange love with Rivka by their making COMMITMENT to give to the other and to accept what the other gives. Only when this is applied steadily can the couple truly develop love for each other and be happy and satisfied. When a couple is able to establish and to trust that they are both willing to work together and "custom tailor" each one's giving to please and benefit the other ongoingly, theirs will be a marriage that will endure and be "special" every day for a lifetime.



"Take a step down and select a marriage partner [i.e. there will always be something(s) about a shidduch that you will have to give in on]. A woman would rather be married than live alone. Rabbi Hama Ben Chanina said, "When a man marries a wife, his sins are buried as it says [Proverbs 18:22], 'He who finds a wife finds good and obtains favor from Hashem.' [Yevamos 63b]"

Derech Eretz Raba (chapter 1) says, "Eliyahu Hanovie kisses the man who marries a woman who is fit for him and The Holy One Blessed Be He loves him."

A midrash (source not known) is cited in the famed and respected sefer, Menoras HaMeor, section "To Marry a Wife," part four, chapter two. "The sages said in a midrash that one wise woman directed her daughter when she was about to marry, saying to her, 'My daughter, stand before your husband like before a king and serve him. If you will be like a maid to him, he will be like a slave to you and he will honor you like his master. And if you will make yourself big upon him, he will be like a master over you against your will; and you will be, in his eyes, cheap like one of the maidservants.'"

Rabbi Elchonon Wasserman said that a shidduch should be attractive, good-natured and healthy. The Steipler said that you should not select someone without good midos - who will apply them in practical every day living (e.g. taking good care when the other is sick or taking out the garbage when needed). Are your criteria for choosing someone a true basis for a lasting relationship; backed up by realistic expectations, self-awareness and behavior patterns? What criteria for your mate-search should be negotiable or subject to re-evaluation? Think of your "track record," the consequences of your views and choices, and of long run.

[Excerpt of prayer from sefer "Avodas Hakodesh" for a Yoray Shomayim man who wishes to find his mate]. "Master of the universe, in Your kindness, You formed Your world and created man and made for him a help-mate, and You commanded us to marry a woman and have children and Your servants, our sages, were stringent to not delay this mitzva. And since the life of man in this world and the world to come are almost dependent upon the wife, and, due to our many sins we cannot know for sure who is fitting to marry and fulfill Your will, I come before You with a broken heart to plead before You, Merciful Father, to prepare for me the proper mate, who has fear of Heaven, who has all of the good midos; who has good fortune, good intellect, success in her endeavors and blessing; because through this I will be able to accomplish holy work without trouble; and may she be suitable for me. In Your great mercy, may you be compassionate to me and turn my heart to be able to complete my part and fulfill your commandments, and that it be good for me in this world and the eternal world. You are the only one Who is merciful, compassionate, generous, protector, supporter, rescuer, correct and redeemer. Answer me and hear my prayer, for You are the only One Who hears prayer of every mouth."

[Excerpt from prayer for Yoray Shomayim woman for her mate]. May it be Your will, my G-d and G-d of my fathers, that You should cause me to find, in your great mercy and kindness, the mate who will be proper for me who will provide all of my true needs and the repair of my soul. May he be proper and correct to bring kosher children who will be Torah scholars and tzadikim, people of truth and fear of sin. May this mate be a good man whose deeds are beautiful and who does good deeds steadily. May he be a scholar engaged in Torah for its own sake. May he have fear of Heaven, pursue justice and bestow kindness. May there be no trace of any invalid thing in him, nor blemish or defect. May he not have anger but, rather, may he have all of the good midos, be humble, healthy, capable. May he never cruel to anyone and never evil. May we merit to dwell together successfully."



A marriage should be composed of two people who: * get along for the most part compatibly and healthily, * are focused on pleasing and respecting each other, * communicate, * effectively and responsibly handle the practical functioning required by adulthood and * bring each other to eternal life through cooperatively and maturely achieving their potentials and meritorious goals during earthly life. They should be able to come to a clear and confident decision to marry each other within a few weeks or months.

Some couples have questions about their suitability for each other. Sometimes, they can work their issues out, with communicative cooperation or the help of a counselor; and they proceed to productive marriages. Often, these days, the picture painted by couples is not so simple or pretty.

When their are major, disruptive and unresolvable problems or concerns; don't marry on the basis of expecting major change (e.g. religiously or psychologically). Expecting change can lead to disaster. Marry or don't marry on the basis of the way the person NOW TRULY is. People often promise to change because they want something (to be married, to have security, benefits that you offer, etc.) and they * do not make the change, * make a partial or temporary unreliable change that does not really satisfy the promise - or the disappointed spouse, or * change into something else unexpected.

If the person is "worth waiting for":

* work with the person for a reasonable period of time to enable him/her to make enough change or to demonstrate that this change may be relied upon, or * separate, giving the person the option to present him/herself later in the changed condition, if you both still happen to be single then. For the sake of your sanity, DO NOT figure on the person making satisfactory changes; MOVE ON WITH YOUR LIFE. In actuality, it is rare to the point of insignificance, that the person actually makes those needed lasting and trustworthy changes, so it is healthiest to forget him/her.

I have seen relationships drag on a year, two, three years. There is generally something fundamental and essential missing, so it does not escalate to marriage. Both parties have some profound and unhealthy emotional need, dependency or lacking. The relationship often offers something that one or both parties would like to have received from one or both parents, an older sibling and/or some other significant adult who effected the single as a child with deep emotional and mental impact; or the relationship compensates for some trauma, deprivation, neglect or rejection. Either way, the relationship has a foundation in * something unhealthy that is there, or * something healthy that ISN'T there. In either event, the relationship has no healthy foundation. In time, it often can degenerate to rocky, adversarial, punitive behavior. Always, or often enough, such basics as warmth, respect, peace, tenderness, supportiveness, kindness, patience, responsiveness, adaptability, principle, humility, responsibility, maturity and consistency are gone. One of my sayings is, "If you have to fight for basics, there is no relationship."

The relationship provides comfort, is convenient (at least emotionally) and is difficult to break. One party tends to get frustrated or impatient, but can't seem to make the break. Instead of a straightforward, mature or responsible break, one party will provoke the other or sabotage the relationship often, so the fault and the blame for the break will be the other person's. The end of this pattern is generally unpleasant (if not downright vicious), and it seems surprising that something that was once so nice and valuable degenerated to something so low. But the trouble was there since "day one."

My marriage and "serious couple" counseling experience shows consistently that when there is a serious problem at the start, it does not get remedied in a workable time frame. One or both may need individual counseling on a deep and long term basis. As a rule of thumb, if you can work out within yourself to accept the shortcomings of the person; and you both basically get along, communicate and please each other; and you can handle as a couple the practical functioning required by adult life; and the relationship is stable; then you have a "candidate." If your discord, non-attraction or incompatibility does not get ironed out within the couple or few months designated for a Jewish dating relationship, then my experience says that chances are you are going to be ENGAGED IN FUTILITY - NOT ENGAGED TO BE MARRIED!

There is a Biblical verse that indicates that a relationship which drags on is going to end up a futility, "A wish that drags on sickens the heart (Mishlay 13:12)."



A painful part of the singles situation is being rejected, especially by a person you have hopes about. It can be an emotional blow. The best defense against your remaining single is being the best partner another could want. I've noticed in my counseling experience, after a relationship is ended, that often people can't "let go." Sometimes the singles blame the other * as having damaged the relationship, * as having faulty judgement about rejecting them or * as not seeing how wonderful a marriage the couple could have had. This is all fantasy. I have seen numerous men and women in tears over someone rejecting them. They, tragically, are "off the market" and unable to move forward with a realistic relationship. They are "stuck" and in pain, sometimes for months or years. It is as if the relationship aspect of their lives is suspended. One person grew clinically suicidal after being rejected. I was involved in setting up hospitalization, in conjunction with a psychiatrist. Sometime the singles grow bitter, jaded, or untrusting. Sometimes they bounce back after some time (and, if necessary, counseling) when the wound is healed.

To give a concrete example, a divorced 40-ish year old woman attended one of my lecture series. Afterwards, she complained to me that men want younger women. "What's wrong with men that they don't want women who are 'age appropriate' for them?" That is the wrong question.

There are couples who marry with a variety of age differences between them. The main thing is that the couple like each other and get along. The Pezishnitzer Rebbe (who lived in Poland at the time of World War Two) said if a couple with an age difference of 20 years is "basherte," they should marry and G-d will not leave the younger widowed at an early age. If sometimes men want women who are younger, that is their issue. Clearly, this woman was feeling hurt and upset that she was rejected several times, presumably for her age. She cannot do anything about her age. She cannot reform a population of men who want younger women. She cannot control the will - whether correct or mistaken - of other people.

There is a principle called, "tului al daas achairim (dependent upon the will of others)" which shows up in halacha. For example, when a Jew does a mitzva there is a blessing to say. Why is there no blessing on the mitzva of giving charity? Because it is "tului al daas achairim." You may take out money, make a blessing and offer the money to the poor person. If, for whatever reason, the poor person does not accept the donation at the last moment, you will have said a blessing in vain. The poor person may not like your looks, may die while you reach into your pocket, or may see someone offer him a bigger donation. Blessings contain G-d's name and we may not say G-d's name in vain. So strict is the prohibition of saying G-d's name in vain, we do not say a blessing for a mitzva when it's consummation requires the active participation of another - upon whose will we are dependent and over whom we have no control. When washing before bread I am dependent solely upon my own will so I am able - and obligated - to make a blessing for the mitzva. In the case of charity I am dependent upon the will of others and the other is not to be depended upon to accomplish the mitzva, so there is no blessing.

In shiduchim, when rejected by someone who you don't want to be rejected by, that is not within your control. All you can do is be the best possible catch in your power to be. You can be the best possible addition to someone else's life. You can develop your good potentials. That is in your control. Be great, as defined by the good you offer and the negative that you don't. Be valuable, in accordance with what the Torah says is true value in a human being and mate. You can't control someone else's decision about you. You can just know securely that the rejection was not your fault and that you are prepared to offer your best self to the right one.

Getting back to the woman who had been rejected because of age, what she can do is be the best possible mate any rational man could want. What she can do is work on her midos, virtues, qualities, goodness, habits, responsibilities and behaviors; so that any man who rejects her loses a great potential mate. What she can do is take full responsibility for her part of a marriage. What she can do is be her best self and be prepared to make the right guy happier than happy. If she would be her greatest, and be prepared to relate to the greatness in the right guy, wild horses wouldn't keep a good shidduch from her. As long as she condemns, resents and cries about how blameworthy guys are, all the men in the world who she will see as "age appropriate" will see her as "single appropriate." Her focus is on why "they're not good," instead of presenting to the world her genuine focus of "we both are truly very good." Two excellent people make a happier couple!



Network. Networking can bring a lot of results for the amount of effort put in. By getting people "on the lookout for you," you multiply the amount of activity done on your behalf. To the extent that you effectively network, you add effort to your mate-search that exceeds the limits of your personal effort.

Go to people for Shabos or Yom Tov. Circulate. Get a wider circle of people to know you. Choose people who:

1. have judgement,

2. know other single men and women or networking contacts,

3. can get to know you meaningfully,

so that you can find ways to widen your number of connections and use your finite time sensibly and productively.

If you go out with someone and it doesn't "click," but (s)he is basically a decent, normal person, go on the "lookout" for each other, perhaps using a matchmaker, rebitzen or friendly couple as a tasteful intermediary. Since you have gotten to know each other a little bit, you may have enough of a sense of each other to think of people, from among people you now know, who may constitute a reasonable set-up. Happy marriages have arisen out of such thoughtful action. The person who you go out with today may not be for you, but you may have a cousin, co-worker or neighbor who might "click" for the other. And, the other person may have "a someone" who they know who may "click" for you.

Find couples who have successful marriages and who are successful relaters. Become friends with them, spend time with them, create as many opportunities as possible, as often as you can to be with them. Go to as many different couples as you can. Go to these couples for shabos, holidays, and on every occasion that you can. Watch how happily married couples treat each other, emote, respect each other, speak to each other, interact with each other. Observe and learn from these living examples what marriage - and successfully married people - are. Ask them to talk to you about what makes them happy and successful. Pick up their skills and their ways so that you too can become a successful relator. You can be very constructively effected and inspired by seeing successful marriages.

Try to make friends, or at least decent acquaintances, who you can get comfortable enough to describe what you are all about and what kind of mate you are looking for. They are real friends if they can constructively and caringly tell you things about yourself that you don't (or won't) see, and help you get more "on target" about who you are and need. A true friend will not merely say what you want to hear. You want people "on the lookout" as well as "on target."

Honestly introspect daily about your behavior, emotions, needs, "check list," goals, values, priorities, direction, success ratio, and whether you "are better off being 'yourself' or being 'effective'?"

Be careful and discriminating about the single events that you go to. Check on the hashkofa, the observance level of the expected crowd and sponsor, the shul, the koshruss of the food and the reliability of the administrators. You cannot put yourself in situations that risk any Torah compromise.

Have at least one, preferably several, QUALIFIED and caring advisors (e.g. rebitzen, rabbi, counselor, perceptive friends) who know you reasonably well. One may catch something another missed, or have input the other did not have, or several may note a fault so you'll stop evading it. Get OBJECTIVE input. Talk over impressions, events, reactions, behaviors (of the person you are dating and your own) and whether your various feelings are helpful and reliable or not. Don't be too hasty to either accept or reject a prospect for marriage. You don't want to get hurt for marrying or dumping someone you should not have. You must have BALANCE (as with all things in the Torah).

Remember, it is no trick to get married. Anyone can hire a hall. Going through with a ceremony DOES NOT PROVE you found your basherte. The trick is finding someone you can stay with for a lifetime. Regrettably, people marry (and even have children) and then break up. It was not basherte. The failed marriage may have been "preparation" for the "real one," to learn a needed lesson, for a kapora or any other reason deemed appropriate by G-d. When I counsel singles, I urge them to seek a compatible, trustworthy and stable mate; not one who "feels good to have" nor to "use in order to be married."

All we can do is increase chances for the good, not guarantee. Central points are: 1. do well-done "targeted" Hishtadlus; 2. each single truly being the best and most marriageable person (s)he can be; 3. and pray with all your heart to Hashem for mercy, help, blessing and success.



I have written extensively on criteria for healthy and durable shidduchim, emphasizing matters of good hashkafa and midos, a good heart, honesty, responsibility, communication, common goals, respect, humility and psychological normality. These criteria often vary from the those chosen by frum and supposedly knowledgeable people. The Torah gives each person free will, the bigger the person the bigger his yaitzer hora and everyone can either do good or bad things. I will bring two case histories, each showing how a "perfect shidduch" became a fiasco and was based on perverse criteria. Names are, of course, fictitious, to protect privacy.

Mr. Bernstein, a fabulously wealthy man, went into a yeshiva and asked to speak to the Rosh HaYeshiva (head dean). He said that he had a daughter of marriageable age and wanted the best-learning guy in the yeshiva for his daughter, Sora. He would give the couple a fortune of money so that the fellow could continue to learn Torah. The Rosh HaYeshiva said he had just the boy, who was excellent in learning. The boy, Shmerel, was called in and given the proposition and he agreed.

At the wedding, the rich father-in-law, true to his word, presented to the couple an enormous sum of money. Just when Sora gave birth to their SEVENTH CHILD, the money ran out. Shmerel said to his wife, "If I have to go work for someone, let me work for someone I love, not you," and he divorced Sora promptly. He had gone after the externals. Mr. Bernstein went after the fashion of judging a boy by his intellect, without regard for the important qualities. Sora was caught in the middle; together with seven perplexed, broken and abandoned children. And there never had been any heart. There was nothing of any substance there. We see from Shmerel that even if one is brilliant in the mind, if one isn't also brilliant in the heart, one can be very stupid in how one uses one's brilliance. In marriage, midos come before intelligence.

Getzel wanted a girl with personality. It would have to feel like "electricity," be fun and she would be his best friend. When he was set up with Genendel, it was like a dream, like Heaven. She was bouncy yet "cool," intelligent without airs. After they were married, he noticed some changes in Genendel. She became more demanding and rigid. Things had to be her way, to increasing and irrational degrees of detail and precision. She become more forceful and intense. Her approach to everything; money, intimacy, Yiddishkeit, pastimes; assumed a frantic quality with progressive blindness to Getzel and any impact her behaviors had on him. He was unable to communicate, never mind reason, with her. There was only her way. Getzel became incidental. She was closed to his existence as a distinct human being. Fights erupted more and more. They became very cruel, hurtful and hostile towards each other. The marriage was very destructive and the trouble escalated to the point where divorce had to be contemplated. This made Genendel aware that "something" was wrong, although it "probably was all his fault." They both went into counseling with me.

Genendel had been through a very troubled childhood, but since the emotional abuse was kept essentially within the privacy of the home, it was kept fairly secret and since she knew of no "normal" upbringing or home environment, she viewed her "reality" to be normal. She manifested her problems and inner restlessness by showing the world a bubbly personality, in her desperate desire for love and approval. To the world she seemed personable and positive. When she became secure with her marriage, the act could stop. The bitter, vicious, controlling, resentful and insecure inner person; who had been "psychologically buried" since childhood; progressively came out after marriage. Therefore, there was no indication or information before marriage that Genendel was seriously ill and destructive, and that what appeared to be "loads of personality" was really the outer phoney face of an emotional cripple carrying unmanageable pain, defense, anger, fright, instability and escapism.

Getzel had his "peckel" of problems too: spoiled, immature, emotionally neglected; passively, not actively, damaged like his wife. They each had "antennas" that sought the likes of each other out (which is why they each were so intensely attracted to each other) and their neuroses fed into each other's neuroses. Psychologically, they were a "team," co-dependent on each other.

Once we all started realizing the situation for what it was, we started working on each one's individual inner resolution and the marriage resolution. Genendel found out that she was pregnant and was smart enough to realize that she owed a normal, nurturing and healthy upbringing to her baby. There was enough love-bond and sense of responsibility (to their halachic obligation to do all that is humanly possible to bring peace) to motivate them to salvage their marriage. They were fortunate to have an unusually dedicated rov, who was very supportive and who they both respected. When he told them to keep working with me and to do all that they could and should to stay together, they obeyed loyally. They both are complex and troubled people. The work which they have to do WITHIN THEMSELVES AND BETWEEN THEMSELVES is considerable. They are motivated, have the support of their rov and a unified loyalty to him and Torah, and have become committed to giving their forthcoming child a normal life. They plan to overcome all the fighting and pain, make adaptations, heal themselves individually and resolve the marriage as "allies." It's a slow and gradual process but progress, so far, is significant. They are both learning to recognize each other as people and respond to each other as "mentshen." They have caused each other a lot of suffering, but they are reconciled to learn to be good to each other and grow so that they will be able to get along workably, as a steady and practical matter.



When there are relationship problems, try to work them through. No one can wait for a perfect person. So, to simply just reject each person when there are problems isn't necessarily an answer, if there is enough of a healthy, livable foundation. But, a relationship cannot drag on interminably nor stagnate in an inadequate, deficient state either, even if a futile or destructive relationship gets you emotionally entangled.

Any relationship that is not escalating to marriage must be given a time limit. Analyze the nature of each problem, including what is its root. Set up concrete goals for addressing each problem, including definitions by which each goal would be considered achieved. This way you can plan a sensible course, create objective and actionable criteria for how to take action and how to measure success or failure. If the problems are unworkable in the appropriate time-frame, or are damaging, run.

If there are signs of trouble, even if trouble only starts out seeming a remote possibility, there is a fundamental need to accept that possible wrong or trouble exists within one person or the other the person (or, quite often on some level, both people). Always first look into - and accept responsibility for - yourself. Whereas one can't control another person, the diligent and honest person of character and maturity can diligently work on him/herself. If there must be fault in a relationship, the Torah requires that IT NOT BE YOURS.

Adaptability is a key to emotional health, on condition that there is a foundation in healthy principal and personality ("don't be so open minded your brains fall out!" - don't violate principle, halacha or morality). Rigidity is a trait that the Talmud says G-d hates, and psychologically it is very unhealthy, and it suggests that there is a need for professional counseling. There must be sincere effort. It is crucial to be able to communicate, empathize, be adaptive and resolve differences or disputes on behalf of the relationship. If any of these are missing, this indicates a serious flaw. If you can get professional help THAT IS EFFECTIVE IN A REASONABLE TIME-FRAME AND OFFERS PROSPECTS OF LASTING AND TRUSTWORTHY RESULTS, there is hope. In my counseling experience of married or "serious" couples, when a flaw such as one of these is rigid and impenetrable, it is often "a break-up waiting to happen." Such problems are not remedied without considerable therapeutic work, and mustering of ample will power can be difficult. If a person is not motivated sufficiently to change tough and destructive flaws, and to persevere with a serious therapeutic process, there is generally not enough there in the relationship to work with.

If the problems are not rectifiable to a functional and stable level, you have to establish that the goal was marriage, that marriage under prevailing circumstances is not realistic and that the relationship is over. Be firm about the issue; but soft, considerate and polite as a human being. If the person with the difficulties promises to change, make clear that enough time was given, the needed changes were not made to a trustworthy and practical extent. Say that you have to move forward with your life on your own. If the person can present him/herself in the future in satisfactory changed form, as can be verified by a rov or professional counselor, the person can THEN contact you in changed form IF YOU STILL ARE SINGLE AT THAT TIME. But, as for now, the relationship would be unhealthy, incompatible or unworkable, and it is over.

It is imperative to cultivate an honest, open relationship with an intelligent, articulate, learned person with whom the single can communicate. As Pirkei Avos says, "Make for yourself a Rav, acquire for yourself a friend." It is your responsibility to make a qualified rabbi YOUR ROV. He does not seek disciples, you have to seek out the rov. It is your job to create relationship with people who can advise or direct or guide you, give feedback or support or concern. It can take numerous times talking to people to achieve results. This can be a slow, arduous process. It is a vital process that rewards the investment in it. The word "acquire" (from the same root as "buy") used regarding friend tells us that any meaningful relationship requires investment and effort. This is not in a sense of bribing. One has to put in, invest, exert, to give of oneself to build a solid, meaningful, close and lasting relationship.

Generally, the more similar the two people's values, goals, attitudes and backgrounds are, the better the likelihood of working a relationship out, and understanding each other.



When I'm asked how to differentiate between infatuation and genuine love I answer that one has to care about the other as much as for oneself, and to relate to the entire person (including needs, problems and shortcomings - if the person has a problem, you are supportive, "there" for the person, concerned, connected and accepting, you look to justify and understand and exonerate and help and explain the negatives, and still accept the person and appreciate and enjoy the positives), and you want to give to the person of your own volition as would please the other without needing remuneration to motivate you. REAL LOVE SUPPORTS - IT DOES NOT MEANINGFULLY TAKE AWAY FROM - YOUR NORMAL LIFE. The time you must devote goes into a wholesome relationship, planning a wedding and into normal functioning. Pirkei Avos tells us that conditional love will not endure and only UNCONDITIONAL LOVE WILL ENDURE.

I must add a serious word of caution to this. This above definition of genuine love only applies when it is a healthy love between two reasonably healthy people. There are serious psychological disorders and emotional problems which can play out in a relationship. Love might, on the surface or at the start, look somewhat like the above description of healthy love. Various co-dependent, abusive, compulsive and dysfunctional relationships contain, as intrinsic symptoms, addictive clinging and giving to an unsuitable partner, and irrational defense or exoneration of the partner's faults. So, nowadays, it is crucial to differentiate between a normal manifestation of love (with such attributes as caring, benefit of doubt, loyalty, generosity, respect, adaptability, stability, two-sidedness and compassion) and the "unhealthy brand." Infatuation is typically all-possessing pie-in-the-sky love that can take a person's mind over. That love fills some emotional need but only remains while not challenging, threatening or taking away from what the love-object psychologically represents and provides.

When couples come to me for marriage counseling, they often tell me that they fear having differences. I tell them they should fear having fights but NOT to fear having differences. Differences are going to always be there. If handled in a fair, respectful, mature, two-sided and considerate fashion; RESOLVING DIFFERENCES WILL INCREASE THE LOVE, TRUST, RESPECT AND CLOSENESS OF A MARRIAGE (mature and mentshlach resolving of differences can make any relationship better: neighbors, business, family, etc.)

Healthy love is fairly consistent and is not diminished by the trials and stresses of "real life" or the loved person's requirements from you. It grows and deepens over the course of time with ongoing and mutual giving and maturation. In general, the closer, more vulnerable or more dependent people are, the greater the Torah's obligation upon you to be good to them. I heard in the name of a prominent Rabbi that marriage is life's most outstanding opportunity to do chesed (kindness) when doing so for a spouse and children. There is no one who is more close, more vulnerable or more dependent; and therefore the capacity to do good is the most meaningful and constructive.

Giving is the way G-d is to us. We are commanded to have His ways and midos. The rewards are in this world and the next. Ironically, by letting go of my preoccupation with my needs and my interests, on condition, of course that I have a partner with the same attitude and behavior, I can best get my needs met and satisfied, as much as is humanly possible. And with respect, kindness, compassion, humility, responsibility, honesty, flexibility, communication, giving and sacrifice; and all this from the heart to the heart and mutually; happy, healthy, beautiful, peaceful and successful love will follow and blossom continuously. The other's happiness, needs, fulfillment, security and well-being are the ticket to your own. Essence-relating is heart to heart. Qualities of the heart should furnish the highest value and weight. It is easy to fall into abstraction about this. Do you talk about midos, human qualities and virtues, practical and compassionate mitzvos? Is this what excites and energizes you? Is this what you talk about? Is this what attracts you to each other? Is this what endears a person to you? Is this what evokes your respect? Do you follow up in practical "real life" or is this empty "lip service?"

For marriage to be able to work, or to prepare yourself to be a person capable of a workable marriage, when two people are ready to give up each one's own needs, the orientation becomes the other's needs. To paraphrase Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler in his Kuntrus HaChesed, in the section on marriage, * only if YOUR NEEDS are MY job and MY NEEDS are YOUR job, * only if we orient our attitudes and behavior in the relationship to giving and to pleasing THE OTHER, an ongoing happy and satisfying marriage can be built and, in like manner, maintained with genuine love for a lifetime.



[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, compatible marriage.

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 are unjustifiable.

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.



It is one thing when shadchanim set people up on dates that do not lead to marriage. It is another when the date has no basis in fact and is silly, frustrating and a pointless waste of time, money and hope. No shadchanim can guarantee a match but they should be able to assure due consideration before proposing any match. It is an insult to singles to set them up and torture them with a meeting that has no basis and makes no sense from start to finish. The reasons can vary: laziness, inadequate deliberation, erroneous criteria, misleading by either the shadchan or one or both of the singles, arbitrariness and plain stupidity. Those familiar with the "Frus-Dating" segment of this site may have seen the true "horror stories" in dating and matchmaking, often due to an inept or self-serving shadchan.


The Torah, in Shma Yisroel (Deut. 6:5), says that G-d commands us to love Him with all our laiv (heart), nefesh (personality) and mi'ode (externals). Since it is good enough for G-d to tell us to love Him with these three elements in this sequence, I hold it to be fundamental for every form of true love. Therefore, the first criteria for considering (never mind conducting) a relationship is that the first priority must be the issues of the heart (midos, character and values). Here is the innermost essence of the person and the foundation of who and how good the person truly is. The personality comes second. Here are the individual "kochos hanefesh" which express the qualities of the heart and create linkage between the inner-person and outside world; the personality, emotions and talent. The externals come last (looks, wealth, status). EACH LEVEL BUILDS ON THE NEXT IN SEQUENTIAL AND PRIORITY ORDER.

The first and foremost consideration MUST be the qualities and issues of heart. Unless you can ascertain that the person has a good heart and excellent midos, is kind and honorable, has correct values and hashkofos; you don't even go on because there is nothing "relational" to work with or rely on. Better to leave someone single than to impose his/her destructive, disturbed or immature treatment on an unsuspecting and innocent spouse who deserves a real mate.

The second level can be more subtle and confusing because nefesh is also in the person, but it is not at the core, as the heart is. A person can have great nefesh elements (e.g. professional, personable, humorous, artistic) but can still be a two-legged animal without a fine and cultivated heart. In fact, a talented and capable bad-hearted person can be down-right dangerous, even if the person, in public, is attractive and cute to the opposite gender. Nefesh provides a means of externalizing and characterizing the heart with your individuality and strengths; but focus on how good a heart is under that fun, witty and interesting musical genius. Is the person an irresponsible, unprincipled and cruel deadbeat or a "lomed-vov-nik (angel)" - in the heart?

Mi'ode, the third level in shidduchim, must be the least priority. Wealth, status and looks are good if they are there, but these are not what a marriage depends on. These are not the actual person, and we know that Avos tells us that any love which is dependent upon something will not endure. If a shadchan asks you what furniture or eye color you want, or whether your mother shops with a shopping cart [which is "proof" your family lacks class] or if the shadchan is ever rude or pushy, politely and promptly conclude the interview.

In Evven Ha'Ezzer 2:2, the Shulchan Aruch discusses what is suitable to look for in a marriage partner. All Jewish families [without a halachic basis to think otherwise] are considered kosher and it is permitted to marry among them without reservation. If a family or person is alienated from another, is continually fighting with others, or delegitimizes others, or is very brazen, or is cruel, or hates people, or does not bestow kindness, then we suspect that they may not be kosher and we distance ourselves from them.

Tell each shadchan clearly that you are makpid (stringent) on emmess (truth) and that you are not at all open to misrepresentation by omission or commission, nor exaggerations and vague generalities.

You must also be scrupulously honest in all matters. For example, do not lie about your age (not even a little bit), physical conditions (especially internal ones which are covered and cannot be seen) or family (e.g. congenital conditions such as retardation, epilepsy or heart trouble); and do not dye your hair to look younger than you are. If you have any concerns or questions, speak them over with a rov. There may be some things that you are permitted to not mention about yourself or your family, or you may be allowed to delay saying them till after a first meeting. Generally, if a thing must be revealed, and you have permission from a rov to delay revealing it, you must reveal it before the shidduch becomes too developed [this can mean to tell before the other person becomes emotionally involved in or seriously interested in the shidduch, or would be hurt or would hate you or would talk lashon hora or richillus (about you, your family or the shadchan) for not being told sooner]. The midrash says that one's true "basherte" [destined mate] will accept his/her defects. If a person does not accept your non-harmful shortcomings, that person is NOT your "basherte." On the other hand, no one has any right to impose shortcomings that harm, offend, short-change or sadden a partner; whether by active injuring or by passive neglect.

I advise only accepting shidduchim that the shadchan demonstrates reasonable and first-hand knowledge of. Discuss what you want a couple to value, respect, understand, appreciate, care for in and give to one another. Life goals and mission are crucial. What "turns you off?" Rabbi Elchonon Wasserman said that a shidduch should be attractive, good-natured and healthy. The Steipler said that you should not select someone without good midos - who will apply them in practical every day living (e.g. taking good care when the other is sick, refraining from anger, taking out the garbage without delay or argument). Are your criteria for choosing someone a true basis for a lasting relationship; backed up by realistic expectations, self-awareness and behavior patterns? What criteria for your mate-search should be negotiable or subject to re-evaluation? Think of your "track record," the consequences of your views and choices, and of long run.

It is significant to ask what may be unrealistic about one's idealized mate or check-list, that it has not worked out yet. On what can you be flexible, adaptive or compromising? What are non-negotiables (highest priorities), preferences (secondary priorities) and frills (dispensable)? What do you value, respect, understand, appreciate and care for in another? What do you want to be valued, respected, understood, appreciated and cared for by another? What potential and mission do you want marriage to actualize for yourself and a mate? What makes you want to give to another? What attracts you, turns you off, what needs do you have, to what needs can you give? Are your expectations, self-awareness and behavior patterns realistic? How well do they do when tested in the "real world?" Are they the basis for a relationship that can last? How can you be a gain for another person's life...and be happy about it?

To the single, I urge you to make sure the shadchan is one who can find out enough of the "true you" and of prospective matches. I recommend that you think twice about matchings in which one party knows the man and a separate party knows the woman. This, to my mind, is insultingly arbitrary. How can anyone validate such a matching (with someone totally unknown and "undefined" to either of these two "shadchanim")? If such a possible set-up sounds good, the shadchan with the best judgement should meet the other, as-yet-unknown, single.

The standards for shadchanim matching singles - and singles accepting matches - can be upgraded significantly by shadchanim and singles who are prepared to make the effort to start with the heart - in the relationship between the shadchan and the single - so that more singles find the relationship that starts with the heart...for we can see TOV come alive with "gomail chasadim TOVim" [doing good kindnesses] and "sha'a TOVah umutzlachas [finding one's mate at the good and successful time].