Love, Lies, and Shidduchim

 I don't know i the shidduchim / dating / preparing for marriage classes that young women attend today makes a point about the phrase "falling in love."  However, I do recall mention of it when I was in seminary.  The philosophy teacher said what does it mean "'to fall in'; you fall in a pit!"  Other instructors would go so far as to say that the whole concept, invented by writers of fiction and popularized by Hollywood is a lie with no basis in reality.  In real life, they would say, there is no such thing as an instantaneous, magical connection; people do not fall in love with someone they have just met.Beware of sweeping generalities, I (nearly) always say. In truth, not everyone falls in love in Hollywood style, but some people actually do.

Click: The Magic of Instant Connections, the latest book from the team of Israeli-born brothers, Ori and Rom Brafman, touches on couples who have instantly connected, married, and stayed together down the road. (see their earlier book, Sway, mentioned in  The book opens with the story of such a couple.  They were not impetuous  teenagers like Romeo and Juliet but educated professionals in their thirties when they met.  They clicked from the first conversation, talked for hours, and decided to marry very soon. While there is a "magical" connection, and that book does use the term throughout, the connection is not one born of the magnetism of opposing forces but of similarities.
Click  reveals that a key component of relationships that click -- both romantic and platonic -- is the similar basis of the people involved.  They share values, beliefs, tastes, or, even,  names.  It is the sameness that draws people together. The shidduch system is designed to achieve matches by bringing like people together. The assumption is that those of similar backgrounds, hashkafa [outlook, usually as indicated by school attended], and similar socio-economic circles have better odds of clicking than those of divergent backgrounds.  So why doesn't it always work out? Well, there is more to clicking than matching on externals or being able to engage in small talk while sitting for hours in a hotel lobby. In fact, if people remain in the realm of small talk, which include "phatic statements" like "'How are you?'"  and "factual" ones that merely offer bits of information like where one lives or attends school.  Even "evaluative statements," which offer opinions, the conversation will not lead to a click between the people conversing.  They have to progress to to "gut-level" statements" which reveal our feeling-based perspective" and, finally,  "peak statements, where we share our innermost feelings, feelings that are deeply revealing and carry the most risk in terms of how the other person might respond." (pp. 38-39).  Now how many shidduch dates progress to the point at which there are revelations of feeling that lets down one's guard to the point of vulnerability?  Without it, though, the click is likely to elude the couple.  However, revealing one's vulnerable side to another is a necessary step in creating a deep connection.  As  it says on page 44:
When we allow ourselves to be vulnerable in engaging with another person, the emotional intensity of the conversation escalates as the other person responds in kind.  He or she recognizes our willingness to be open as an invitation to take the relationship to a deeper level.  Of course, the person may back away -- that is the risk we take in being open.  But when someone responds in kind, then we both are acknowledging that we would like to take the relationship to a deeper level. 

It is not necessary for a couple to arrive at this level on the first date, as those who instantly click do; it is possible to build up to that point without the  instant connection. In a study recounted in Click  married couples fall into 3 groups: those who clicked right away, those who decided to marry after dating in a typical courtship situation, and those who transitioned from friendship to a romantic relationship after a while.  Marriages in any of the 3 categories can prove successful, as they do in the study covered in the book, though there are differences in how the spouses think of each other and their relationship.  Ultimately, one size does not fit all when it comes to individuals' happily ever after.  Whether one falls into it or descends slowly, the components of a successful relationship are the same.   

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Whilst this is entirely logical, the elephant in the room is still that people are marrying each other after a few meetings.

The shidduch system creates a framework in which similar people meet, but why is the Shidduch system necessary? One need only learn the Gemaras about Tu b'Av to see they didn't use such a system.
Ariella said…
Thanks for the comment, Nosson. I have written about Tu B'Av a number of times on this blog. You have to realize, though, that the way those vineyard meetings worked, people were meeting those from their own neighborhoods. So they already did have at least some common background due to proximity. People were not meeting others from across the country but only from a couple of miles away at most. Interestingly, those meetings are not described in at all romantic terms of "magical" connections; rather the girls spoke openly of what they had to offer. In fact, the ugly girls' case was built on building up connection after marriage . . . and with the right jewelry.
yatmom said…
I think if you look in the Chumash you will find both models of marriage. The example of Yaakov Avinu and Rocheil Imeinu is the example "par excellence" of the 'click' phenomenon. Perhaps his marriage with Leah Imeinu was more the other. Both have benefits and risks, but the first type is just less common.
Ariella said…
That's an excellent observation, yatmom. I once wrote about each of the immahos offering a different model of marriage in light of of John Gottman's explanation of varying balances for successful marriages.

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