I’ve gotten a whole bunch of responses to my Shidduch Crisis post, some complaining that it didn’t include solutions. My whole freaking point of course was that Shidduchim are themselves the problem, creating a crisis in function, so there is no solution, just ways to make things a tiny bit better. But since people want solutions, let’s bring on the solutions.
I said that the Shidduch Crisis is a problem in function that takes place when American values of compatibility and love and all the fluffy stuff meet good old fashioned East European, she’s available, went to a good Sem and her father has money, style of matchmaking.
So the obvious solution is to jettison either the Shidduch system or the American values and do it Chassidish style, (No, not once a month or when there’s a lunar eclipse), and get married while hardly knowing anything about the other person, except who his or her grandparents were. As you’ve probably heard by now, such a system has lower divorce rates, of course Musical Chairs Marriage probably only produces lower divorce rates when divorce is a severe social stigma and when you can’t function outside your own community.
Since we’re not going to really do either one of those and this is a crisis in function, let’s see how we can improve the efficiency of the function. So now let’s try something really wacky like a more Intelligent Matching System that takes into account personal values, likes and dislikes. Non-Jewish sites like e-Harmony have already been playing around with that sort of thing. I’ve never actually been on there or on Jdate, so I have no idea to what degree that works, but it might be a more reliable means of matching couples that have some chance of actually liking each other than a 3×5 set of index cards.
Then there’s the possiblity of exploring Problem Solving Compatibility, one of the interesting things we study is just how people address problems, and since marriage is in many ways a big giant excercise in constant problem solving, matching people based on their problem solving styles. This would require a software based test, it would not test for similar problem solving approaches, as that would create conflict, but compatible ones. Think of it as Astrology, except real and non-idol worshiping (Yes I know what some Rishonim say, Bite me!) and actually useful, except no one is using it.
Finally there’s the good old fashioned Self-selecting Compatibility Test, which involves placing a bunch of people in the same room, giving them the chance to interact and seeing who ends up with who. It’s far from perfect since most people are stupid and given half a chance will choose the wrong person for them. Especially if those people are 19-22 year olds with limited experience of the opposite sex. But it might be better for them than having someone else choose the wrong person for them.
But as you can see the limits of more intelligent matching are HUMAN LIMITS. And that’s where it gets fun, because it forces us to ask what the real purpose of Shidduchim is.
The Shidduch system is schizophrenic because on the one hand it has to fulfill its Communal Function, which is to perpetuate the social and religious values of the community through marriage and on the other hand it has to address the need of two young people for personal fulfillment.
In the Frum world, marriage is the initiation ceremony into becoming a full fledged member of the community, which is one reason singles find life in the frum world so stressfull. Balancing communal and personal needs would drive anyone crazy.
But the first step to actually talking about Shidduch Crisis Solutions is to realize that there is no solution. That’s right, Human Limits. If we jettisoned the Shidduch System, we would no longer have a Shidduch Crisis and singles would no longer have a system to blame for not being married. And they might have to recognize that the major reason they’re not married is themselves. Human limits.
The Shidduch System is a deaf, dumb and blind system for meeting a mate, but when left up to individuals, things are no better. Girls and many boys go into dates conditioned by the Western Cult of Love into believing in love at first sight, in meeting your soullmate or bashert, which means they go in counting on their short term subjective emotions to tell them who to be with for the rest of their lives. And that is about as flawed a meter as you can get. But that’s really all we have to go on, because marriage itself is subject to the same human limits as choosing a mate. It’s an emotional roll of the dice that assumes that short term chemistry, fascination or seeming compatibility will work out in the long run. It might, it might not.
Human limitations. There is no solution to any problem that involves a problem as old as time, boy and girl living happily ever after. There are just small human techniques for making things a little more manageable. Sorry.