Forget Tinder — Try Looking to Tradition to Find a Mate

The rules are different in observant Judaism, and more young people could learn from them

My 16-year-old daughter told me that last week she was sharing an Uber pool with a couple in their 20s. As soon as the woman got out of the vehicle, the man pulled out his phone and started swiping on Tinder.

My daughter thought that was outrageous.

“Living together before marriage gives you all the information except the information you need.”

The guy’s girlfriend probably would have felt the same way.

My daughter has not yet been on a date. And frankly, she has no interest in going on dates. She’s as social as any other girl. It’s just that in her world — the world of observant Judaism — people don’t go on dates until they’re ready to get married.

It’s a radically different approach from what goes on in secular society, and that’s exactly how my daughter and her friends like it.

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Here’s how it works. When those around you — your teachers, your rabbi and rebbetzin (rabbi’s wife), and other adults — sense that you are emotionally prepared for marriage, they’ll let you know.

At that point, you’ll start going out on what are called “shidduch” dates. You might find a guy or gal to date on your own. Maybe it’s a friend’s sibling, or perhaps it’s someone you encounter at a wedding or religious service. The two of you will go out — but most likely not for dinner or a movie.

Instead, you’ll go to a conspicuously public place, like a hotel lobby, where you will engage in a couple of hours of just getting to know each other. You will most likely discuss serious topics, like: How many kids do you want to have? What is your religious direction?

It’s a lot easier for couples to have marriages that work out when their values match. And healthier.

It’s small talk about big issues. There is no touching, let alone kissing — or anything more than that. Instead, both parties report back to their respective supervising adults as to how the evening went, and whether there’s an interest in pursuing things.

Typically, after three or four such successful evenings, the couple gets engaged. And since there is no sex before marriage, the couple typically gets married within a few months of the engagement.

There is no living together prior to marriage, either.

As a law professor of mine once said, “Living together before marriage gives you all the information except the information you need.”

In fact, the first time the couple may have any kind of physical or sexual contact will be after the wedding ceremony, and before the reception.

Related: Seven Secrets of Lasting Marriage

They will experience a private half-hour or 40 minutes in a hotel room or other location where they get to be alone — no guests allowed — most likely for the first time.

Then and only then does the new couple come down to the wedding reception, where they are introduced to the world for the first time as husband and wife.

It’s not quite “Sadie, Sadie, married lady,” or old-school matchmaking where the couple doesn’t know each other prior to the wedding, but many may think it’s pretty close. And yet, the system works for a number of reasons.

First, individuals aren’t investing months, or even years, in a relationship. An initial desire to determine compatibility often turns into inertia — especially if one party has moved in with the other.

Also, it eliminates the possibility of humiliation that comes along with sleeping with someone on the first date, and having that person never call again.

Third, if you’re going to engage in this sort of dating, it means that you buy into the value system and approach to religion and spirituality that your dating partners also accept.

It’s a lot easier for couples to have marriages that work out when their values match. And healthier.

“Marry someone of your own background,” family authority John Bradshaw once told an audience. “Ultimately, it’s easier on your colon.”

Another positive: These marriages typically take place before the bride and groom are out of their early 20s. The longer you wait, the longer your checklist grows. Would this work for everyone? Of course not. You’ve got to be willing to live your life in accordance with the principles of observant Judaism, and that’s obviously not for everyone.

Related: Your Daughter’s Dating the Wrong Guy

A downside to this way of choosing a life partner is that those men and women who reach their mid-to-late 20s — prime marriage time in secular society — without finding someone often feel as though they have missed out on the chance at a solid marriage.

No system is perfect. Given the alternatives, however, I’m delighted that my oldest daughter and her three siblings are likely to find their mates in this manner — rather than looking for love in all of today’s wrong places.

Frat parties. Tinder. Bars.

In a crazy world, it’s nice to know that some traditions still exist, and those traditions make for a much more humane method of finding a mate.

Is my daughter dismayed that she’s 16 and has never gone on a date?

What do you think?

Twelve-time national bestseller Michael Levin runs Business Ghost, America’s leading provider of ghostwritten memoirs and business books. He is based in Massachusetts and has four children.

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