| Words Unspoken |

Dear Shadchan

Is this teaching healthy communication? What about when they get into an inevitable disagreement?


Dear Shadchan,

I know how invested you are in getting my son married. I know you spend hours upon hours of thought, effort, and phone calls, with hopes that this girl will be The One.

I also know how much my son trusts you. He’s unfortunately been burned by other shadchanim. Because of their “constructive criticism,” experiences have hardened him, made him cynical and suspicious.  He’s too often felt that their push is for selfish reasons only, another business scheme with him as the collateral damage.

So the fact that he not only believes you’re authentic and genuine, but also truly care about him, is an amazing testimony to who you are. And it’s not only gentle support; you also manage to offer truly constructive feedback, tips, and pointers. Your guidance and advice have been invaluable.

I’ve done my best to stay out of the picture. I trust that you’re the expert, and Heaven forfend that I be the meddling mother! If he’s ready to get married, he’s an adult; I’ll treat him that way. And there have been many things you’ve told him, in your warm yet straightforward approach, that he’s been mekabel, things he’d never accept from me as his mother.

For that, I’m forever grateful.

But last night I began to worry. You suggested that to help build emotional intimacy between dates, he begin texting the girl.

You probably know better than anyone else that feeling an emotional “click” is sometimes difficult when shidduch dating. Everything can match up on paper, hashkafos align, conversation flows, and yet an elusive “something” is lacking.

Back when I was dating, no one really expected this click to be in place before marriage. That was the stuff of Hollywood; if he’s a good guy, if you know he’ll make a good father, husband, provider, then veiter.

Maybe I’m outdated. Maybe I don’t “get” the kids of this generation. Maybe the gedarim that worked for us have evolved to match a new reality. Maybe rabbanim even agree with this, and you’ve consulted with daas Torah before dispensing your advice. Was this an emergency measure applied to my son’s case only because he was an older single with weaker social skills?

So enlighten me. Because when you encouraged my son to text the girl he’s dating in order to build emotional intimacy, I was at a loss.

You’re basically telling them, you’re right, it’s been a challenge face-to-face to create that spark you’re looking for. So let’s rely on the crutch you’ve grown accustomed to. Instead of learning tools to get past any social discomfort, let’s exacerbate the already weakening social ties in your generation.

Is this teaching healthy communication? What about when they get into an inevitable disagreement? Will they retreat into their corners and conduct their argument via text? Are you teaching them to sit through the discomfort, or just choose the easier route?

What emotional intimacy has been achieved if it’s all through words on a screen?

If that was all, I’d be concerned, but not enough to pen this letter.

At risk of sounding holier-than-thou, I do wonder: where does texting fit into the shidduch system hashkafically?

Tzniyus is a middah so valued in our circles. We’re incredibly careful with keeping men and women separate, because we know how much potential lies there.

These sensitivities are beautiful and necessary; why, suddenly, when a couple is dating, are those sensitivities not only ignored, but trampled? The walls we erect are crumbling… are you at ease with the fact that this may be due to your encouragement?  I understand that it’s become increasingly common for many engaged couples to text each other. Isn’t that walking into a tzniyus minefield?

I apologize if this sounds harsh; I worry for my child, and care about his ruchniyus. I care about his marriage. I want him to enter his new life with his kallah in the purest way possible.

When he shared the next “stage” of this dating process, I held my tongue and listened. He was excited about the prospect of this alternate means of communication. He hoped this would break that barrier — the ones we’d spent years building.

And I? I davened hard. I only hoped that his commitment to halachah would strengthen him during the nisayon he’s been placed in. And I hope they’ll learn the skills of emotional intimacy without needing a screen between them.

But I’ll give it to you: you were right again. The texting worked. They’re getting engaged.

And I’m left wondering if it wasn’t achieved all wrong.


A concerned mother


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 821)

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