Last week, as I relaxed in northern Israel on a family vacation, it was impossible to ignore the stunning scenery around me. Amid the serene beauty of Israel, with it’s Golan mountains, the Kinneret, and clear, unpolluted air, it was a most appropriate place to reflect on the role of beauty in shidduchim. I want to preface some thoughts on attraction and looks by saying that there are exceptions to the rule, but what you will read here comes from 25 years as a shadchan and significant psychological research at the Master’s and PhD levels.
Looks are subjective. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. We can all agree on one thing: people cannot marry unless they find the other person attractive. But many do not agree on another idea: Attraction grows. Now, that doesn’t mean that it ALWAYS grows. But instant attraction, “love at first sight” is not a Jewish concept, nor is it about love at all. That is a surface attraction without any regard for respect towards the other person. And respect is the most important aspect of a solid, good relationship.
Here’s what bothers me when someone demands a photo from the get-go to see if the person is “their look”:
- Don’t tell me you know what works for you, in terms of looks. Because nothing so far has worked for you. Or else you’d be married and not asking for my help.
- If you expect to choose a spouse from a photo, try a mail-order bride. I actually know a businessman who did that, and bought himself a beautiful woman from Odessa a number of years ago. He got his arm candy and she got herself a green card and a financially successful husband. They did not have true love and happiness. Because looks don’t last…and neither does a relationship based on looks.
- If a shadchan says she is pretty and you demand a photo anyways, then you do not trust the shadchan. That is a huge problem. A shadchan is investing time to help you find your spouse, and you have to be able to trust them. It’s like a doctor or a therapist – you wouldn’t continue to work with a professional that you don’t trust. You don’t know who will make your shidduch – it could be your next door neighbor or a colleague, an aunt or a childhood friend. But if you are being set up by a PROFESSIONAL shadchan, you need to work with someone you trust. And then you shouldn’t need to see a photo up front.
- On that note, if you are working with 20 matchmakers and expect them all to send you lots of photos so you can choose the most attractive offer, then you are not serious about dating and marriage. Because attraction grows when there is emotional intimacy. That’s when respect grows and a real relationship develops. And it’s not going to be on the first or second date! If you are relying on a photo for your life-choice rather than investing time, effort, and energy in finding the right person and building emotional intimacy with someone, then you don’t need a shadchan, you need a therapist.
In fact, Judaism supports this idea that finding a spouse is a process, not instantaneous. Check back in to read the next blog to learn more about this.