by Devora Krasnianski, founder of Adai Ad Institute
In our frum communities, many shidduchim are set up with the assistance and advocacy of the young adult’s parents. The young man or woman is dependent on their parents to find them a potential match. Often that works out very well. But there are times when the parent and adult child are ‘not on the same page’; they have different qualities on their shidduch wish lists. And this causes much frustration, waste of time and efforts, and overall disillusionment with the shidduch system.
Young adults do have less life experience, and their parents, from love, concern and life experience, are looking for a particular type of person, from a particular type of family, of a certain social standing in the community, with plans for a precise path in life. Many times, these ideas are not what the young person wants for their lives, or even are realistic.
The young person will always be their child, their little boy or girl, for whom they want the absolutely best. Their child is now an adult who is old enough and responsible enough to be married and joining their life with another person. As such, the adult children’s thoughts should carry a lot of weight when looking for a spouse.
If you (or your friend) is in some variation of this dilemma, here are some ways you might discuss this with your parents. Respect and appreciation for your parents are crucial for such conversations to be effective.
Invite your parent (or advocate) to have an open discussion about what you are looking for in a spouse.
I know that you come from a place of wanting ONLY THE BEST for me. I so appreciate that from you. (genuine appreciation)
I’m younger and less experienced in life than you so I value your insights and perspectives. (recognition that their experiences are worth listening to)
At the same time, I am the one living my life and I have some thoughts on what I hope for my life. (acknowledging that the first half of the statement is just as true as the second, rather than using the word ‘but’ or ‘however’ which disqualifies the statement before)
I feel/think that we have different perspectives about what is most suitable for who I am and what I want for my life. (recognition that the different views are perspectives based on different positions in life)
I am hoping we can have an open and productive conversation about how I envision my life and what I consider important in a spouse for a successful life together. (an invitation for a conversation)
And then, together you and I can come up with a shortlist of ‘most important’ qualities. (including the parent in the process and stating that you want your opinions to be included)
I want to give this conversation the time and consideration it needs to really be productive. I’m thinking that we might each prepare our shortlist of qualities, and then we can review and reflect on them together. (a meta conversation; a conversation about how we want the next conversation to go)
I am hoping we can have the conversation in 3 days; what date/time should I put into my calendar, and where? (showing the importance of the preparation for the conversation, and dedicating exclusive time to it in the near future)
Be prepared to explain each quality on your shortlist and why you consider it important for your marriage.
I would like to marry someone who enjoys being around people. I love people – learning from different people, gaining new understandings and perspectives and ideas. That’s what really energizes and stimulates me. I really enjoy loud boisterous Shabbos meals and gatherings.
Listen carefully – with an open and curious mind – to what your parent presents. Allow them to finish their thought before you jump in. And confirm that you understand the message as it was intended; leave room for them to clarify or restate their position.
So as I understand what I just heard: [a solid intact family] is best because [the children have seen good models of healthy relationship]. Did I get that?
So as I understand: I’d feel most comfortable joining a family that is most similar to ours; one that has the same family background. Everything would be familiar, and I’d fit in quite easily. Did I understand it correctly?
If you have a different opinion on something your parent says, you can present it as your value, rather than a position.
Of course, I want a healthy relationship with my spouse. I think there are several ways a person might gain the tools and mindsets for a successful marriage. One way might be through growing up in a family of peace and love. There are other ways too; such as hanging out often in a functioning home, working with a therapist, working on middos, realizing the importance of consistently being in touch with a mashpia. The way I see it, I want a spouse who is committed to always keeping the relationship and family first.
I do agree that it would be ideal to marry into a family that has the same background for generations; there would be something comforting about that. At the same time, I am thinking that the person I marry would be most important, more so than his family’s background. If we respect each other’s families and the differences, and put our own family first, then the family’s background is less important.
Ask more questions to fully understand their thoughts. And be prepared to consider their opinions.
Hmm. That’s an interesting perspective. I have never thought of it from that angle. Can you please tell me more.
I can totally see where you are coming from. Please help me understand that even more. Can you please restate it in different words, or use a different example?
I get most of what you are saying. What I’m stuck on is [how does that really play out in real life?] Please help me to understand that point better.
Thanks for presenting that point. I had never seen it that way. I really will consider what you said.
End the conversation with a concrete conclusion.
I really thank you for the time and understanding; I am so grateful that you really listened to who I am. To pull everything we discussed together, this is how I would like for you to portray who I am and what I am looking for in a spouse. And then proceed to summarize what was discussed during the conversation.
IYH, through such conversations, you and your parents will be on the same page regarding your shidduchim, and your dating experience will be pleasant and successful. (BTW, these same conversation tips are valuable throughout your married life too.)