By Baila Sebrow

Question

I’m a woman in my late twenties, and I would love to meet my bashert. To say that I have not met my equal is an understatement. I’m in medical school, and I don’t necessarily need a man who is also in medical school, but he at least needs to be educated.

My background is modern-yeshivish, and the men I dated who never went to college just did not work out for me. Now I refuse to date uneducated men. People think I’m stuck-up when I say that. They don’t understand that I tried dating a few men who never went to college and it was a disaster. I had nothing in common with them. I agreed to go out because everyone made me feel guilty that I first said no, and they insisted that a man can be a great husband without a college education.

I don’t know what to do, because this is what’s out there. My parents tell me that I should marry a man who will be good to me because that’s what matters. Am I wrong to want to marry my equal? I want to marry a man who has a profession and also makes time to learn. Is that too much to ask for?

Response

I agree with those who say that a man can be a great husband without a college education. There is no college degree that gives one the credentials for becoming a selfless, loving, devoted spouse. However, you are not a snob for refusing to date somebody with whom you do not feel compatibility or even just anything in common. Nor are you wrong for wanting to marry somebody who is your intellectual or academic equal. There is no difference between that and a man who refuses to date a woman who is in medical school. Anyone has the right to refuse a date with somebody they don’t want to be with.

I have said this many times before, and I will say it again: a shidduch is a personal decision. It is not a one-size-fits-all transaction. People who have not experienced challenges with dating will never get it. In their mind, if there is a single available male with a beating pulse, and a single available female with a beating pulse, there is no reason (from their perspective) why the two can’t marry each other. Not only that, but as a shadchan I have had situations where people insisted on dating those who refused them, to the extent that they made a big deal about it by complaining bitterly and going as far as disparaging the person.

Recently, there was a case where a young man who never went to college was interested in a young lady who did. He is a polite and refined person. The young lady in question appears to be just as polite and refined. The mother of the young man became so enraged that her son was declined that she started spreading false rumors that the mother of the young lady refuses to allow her daughter to date her son because she insists on a wealthy family, and if somebody isn’t wealthy they have no chance in dating her daughter. Yes, it can get that bad (and even worse) when one feels insulted that they were declined a date.

In general, nobody wants to be declined. And when somebody is declined because they are less educated than the person they want to date, it feels hurtful to them. That’s understandable. However, what they don’t get is that in the long run it is not beneficial to them to marry a person who won’t respect them. For a marriage to be successful, each spouse must respect and admire the other. With respect to your mother, I do not agree with her that you should “look away” if it means that you will ultimately not end up feeling respect, pride, and admiration for the man you marry.

Compatibility is not overrated unless one is referring to likes and dislikes regarding food, sports, music, or any other recreational activity. And believe me, there are bizarre stories about relationships that have ended because of variances in music choices between the couple, such that his playlist is different than hers, and it became a deal-breaker. Even where it relates to personality types, one can be introverted and the other extroverted, and the relationship can work.

However, where intellect is concerned, it is not wrong to draw the line. When I say intellect, I am not necessarily referring to a college degree. I am sure you know people who are formally educated but not capable of carrying on a mature, intelligent conversation. Conversely, there are people who never even graduated high school, yet they are well-read and sophisticated and a pleasure to socialize with. What you are likely finding is that the men you have thus far been introduced to lack more than just an academic background.

Due to your hashkafic leanings, your challenges are probably that much greater. Years ago, almost every young man would attend college. They didn’t culminate their education with a bachelor’s degree. It is not uncommon to find middle-aged “yeshivish” type of men who are doctors, lawyers, and other professionals and yet make plenty of time to learn, too. That’s because back then higher education was encouraged, whereas nowadays men in yeshivish circles are encouraged to learn in kollel. Many such men will seek women who go into professions that bring in a hefty paycheck. Somebody has to pay the bills! Secular literature is frowned-upon in those circles, so what could you possibly have in common with such men?

In addition, there could be something else going on behind the scenes that you may not be aware of. It is possible (unbeknownst to you) that you are being declined specifically because you are so educated. There are men who feel intimidated to date a woman who is in higher education. Such men feel more comfortable with a woman who will look up to her husband, as they assume that a woman more educated than them may not. On the other hand, there are men who never went to college, yet they insist on dating a young lady who is more educated. It can go either way.

The question is: how can you find your equal? The first and most important aspect that can never be overlooked is his character. There are many learned and highly educated people who possess very little respect for others. How a person treats his fellow man is telling about who he is inside. Look for a man who has a kind heart and gentle demeanor, yet who is also capable of asserting himself when it is appropriately called for. Why am I telling you all this when you didn’t even ask me? Because a man might have all the smarts in the world, but if his heart is not soft then you will not even want to have a conversation with such a person. And if you do, it won’t be long before you will be turned off.

Where can you find a good man who is educated and learns Torah, too? Try exploring other venues outside your daled amos. I don’t know where you live, but it sounds like you may need to look into communities that do not refer to themselves as yeshivish or modern-yeshivish. Rather, you might find more success in communities where the families are Modern Orthodox, yet their children have moved to the right. The benefit of doing so is that such young men are brought up with the encouragement to pursue higher education, with some having graduated from Ivy League universities. And if they turned hashkafically to the right, then you can be sure that they find a way to make time for learning, too. There are plenty of educated rabbanim in our day and age who hold prestigious degrees as well. So what you are seeking is not farfetched and most certainly does exist.

Finding a shidduch is a journey in one’s life. And like a journey, some roads one travels might be smooth, and other roads might be rough. But if one is traveling on a road where it seems that he or she is not reaching his destination, an intelligent traveler will try to change his route so that he may reach that final point of the destination he so very much longs for. The estimated time of arrival depends on many factors. My final piece of advice is to open your heart and mind to other ideas and channels, and you will eventually get to where you want to be in your life.

Baila Sebrow is president of Neshoma Advocates, communications and recruitment liaison for Sovri-Beth Israel, executive director of Teach Our Children, and a shadchanis and shidduch consultant. She can be reached at Bsebrow@aol.com.

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