Calling Happily Married People (Or Not)

Wedding musician

Wedding Musician

I met BadforShidduchim at the Second Jewish Bloggers’ convention. She seemed mature and poised, and I wish I had had more time to talk to her.

In a recent post, she asked female singles to rate qualities sought in a marriage partner:

Please order the following characteristics according to their value to a girl from most important to least important: (feel free to add to the list or change it; there is no order to the list; if you don’t understand one of the descriptions feel free to substitute it with whatever you think it probably means)

  • Facial Structure
  • Body Build
  • Politeness
  • Social Grace
  • Cleanliness
  • Kindness
  • Attitude
  • Intelligence
  • Affluence
  • Worldliness
  • Bravado
  • Height

Many BadforShidduchim readers listed intelligence over kindness. I wrote in the comments that the longer I am married, the more I appreciate kindness. I think it was Rabbi Aviner who wrote that when you look at your date and see a person you trust and feel comfortable with, you realize the other qualifications don’t matter as much. I’m not saying one should ignore looks, intelligence and the rest. As my husband said, you don’t want to spend the rest of your life convincing yourself you don’t mind if your husband is short. But all of the intelligence or looks in the world won’t make up for a lack of consideration.

Since BadforShidduchim’s audience is mainly single, I thought they might appreciate wisdom from those of you who are more experienced. So take a break from the cooking and weigh in.


  1. it’s true – kindness wasn’t so important initially, now as life gets far more demanding and stressful, the very simple things, like knowing my husband will make me a cup of tea in the morning, or speak gently even when he’s annoyed – these are very important. Given of course that the other things which mattered initially don’t go away.

  2. When one of my daughters was dating (shidduch dates only) the big question whenever she returned home was: “Did he pass the intelligence test?” That was definitely the most important thing to her. In the end, she got that and the kindness and more. Some good, some not so good, as is usual, but she’s very tolerant.

  3. Very well said!

    May you and your family have a shanah tovah u’metukah and a ktivah v’chatimah tovah.

  4. Kindness, sensitivity, respect for other people (not just “chashuv” people, but everyone–children, elderly, neighbors, co-workers, strangers). The way my husband treated his grandparents, the fact that he and his best friend growing up “skipped” Shabbat afternoon learning to visit people in the local hospital and nursing home (although chastised by their school rabbonim for this), his respect for my background and family (not traditional)…these are the things that I remember so clearly being attracted to 10 years later.

    We are each “smart” in our own way. He is talented with numbers; I rely more on words. There are a lot of ways to be intelligent, but at the end of the day I think kindness and being able to comfort one another win out.

  5. I wonder what this would look like in the non-jewish world? We (frum jews) focus on intelligence over everything else. Intelligence is not more important than being a good person and being good in school is not more important than how you behave there.
    In all fairness I married very smart people (3 times, each one smarter than the last) but the last one and keeper he is kind, giving and considerate (ie changes diapers and deals wtih kids). I would hope that my daughter would pick a good person first and then worry about intelligence and looks next.

  6. Ability to connect to spouse as a person with needs separate from their own – “kindness” is too vague for me. If someone sees the poor or the physically ill as needy but can’t relate to their own spouse, that’s not a good situation.

    One needs a lot of emotional intelligence to do this. So perhaps I would say “emotionally intelligent” and “empathetic.”

  7. IMHO, conflict resolution abilities should rank very high on the list. I don’t know anyone who got divorced due to lack of intelligent conversation, but I know quite a few that parted ways because they couldn’t reach an agreement on whatever issues came up.

    Rav Aviner tells women to create artificial situations to ensure the prospective husband is not abusive (come late, change plans unexpectedly, etc). I think it might be a good idea to create a disagreement just to check how the other side goes about resolving it.

  8. Leah’s comment reminded me of the traditional Hassidic way of checking out the character of a girl your son’s considering marrying: hand her a hopelessly tangled ball of yarn and watch how she handles trying to untangle it. I like this artificial situation idea.

    My first husband was highly intelligent and became abusive early on. That lasted 10 painful years. My present husband listens to me with respect and likes me as I am. We were married 15 years ago and I plan to keep it going till death do us part.

  9. I think if couples had a little more time to date longer and get to know each other, the criteria and their rankings would be less important.

    But couples are encouraged to make up their minds about their dating partners as soon as possible. No one is encouraged to date the same person for several months. But taking the time to get to know someone ensures that you look beyond the criteria and really get to know him or her.

  10. If you are checking out a prospective date in the circumstances in which I live, they say, “as what he was like in the army” or in Yeshiva, “ask what he was like in the dorms”
    These are intense situations where people live very close together and can give a good starting point for seeing their character (e.g. if they would grab the food first at breakfast!).

    In our ulpena high school the Rabbis and others who talked to us emphasised that the most important characteristic to look for is was “Tuv lev” which I guess is kindhearted.

    But all in all each person has their own partner waiting out there for them and people tolerate different bahaviour.

  11. M

  12. Whoops, I didn’t get to type my comment when it just went in. So here goes: there is not necessarily a stira between intelligence and kindness. My husband certainly ranks high in both areas, though probably “intelligent” would be the first word to come to mind for someone asked to describe him.

    If you pay attention to that list, you would notice that no less than 3 are devoted to superficial physical characteristics. 2 are highly questionable: Is it really good for a Ben Torah to consider himself worldly or to carry himself with bravado? I don’t know what is meant by attitude in this context. Politeness, I would consider a subcategory of social graces. Cleanliness, I take as a given and wouldn’t deign to mention it.

    Honestly, looks were never something on my “list” which was not something ever written down and circulated as an official shidduch classification. Though my husband is not bad to look at and can pass for the older brother of our children; his looks do not define him for me. I recall my grandmother (considered a beautiful woman BTW) A”H telling me that she wanted to marry an ugly man. I said, “But you didn’t!” She admitted that her husband had been a handsome man, but he, nevertheless, had the qualities she wanted (which, I am certain, included intelligence) without the negatives sometimes to be found in people conscious of good looks.

  13. Well of course kindness! Also honesty. Good financial values. Good attitude — able to deal with things not going his way. Very committed to marriage. Marriage is *hard* — you want someone who is not only willing to stick with it, but will work hard to make it good.

  14. The most important ones on this list are:
    * Kindness
    * Attitude
    * Intelligence
    * Politeness

    Of secondary importance are:
    * Social Grace
    * Cleanliness
    * Worldliness

    Most important of all, is the amalgam of everything listed, and a lot more, that we call “compatibility”.

    During dating, a most important “test” (not in the sense of “exam”, but in the sense of observation) is how a person treats those that serve him/her (“politeness”). Do they treat people with kindness and respect? How do they behave to a waiter/ress? How do they behave when something goes wrong (“attitude”)?

    One thing I could never understand about dating for very short periods of time before getting married is the inability to observe the potential spouse in a period of stress. I mean, with 8 or 10 dates, there isn’t much chance for a waiter/ress to drop an entire plate of something into your lap destroying your new outfit that cost $200, or spill an entire bowl of liquid onto your new suit jacket hanging on an empty chair. And with so few dates, you can’t observe stressed behavior, say, after c”v a car accident.

    Shanah Tovah to you and your family. Ktiva VeChatimah Tovah. May we all be blessed with a year of health, prosperity, and peace!

  15. Mark, neither of those things has ever happened to me!

  16. Ariella mentioned cleanliness as a given.
    i have heard of instructions given to Yeshiva boys such as to change your shirt and use deoderant.
    Som eyoung men are not aware enough of these things and being not tidied enough can make a bad impression on a girl.
    I imagine that these girls have met enough problems with men not dresses tidily, or cleanly, or with a bad smell on dates to make this an issue

  17. While I agree that kindness is important, it must be used properly just like every other midah. There is such a thing as being too kind – the spouse that will never discipline a child leaving the parent to pick up all the slack is a good idea.

    Intelligence is certainly important. Having been in the singles situation recently I vividly recall dating a boy who was very kind but not very intelligent. This meant that he was apt to be the type of character that got taken advantage of all the time or left me to handle all the difficult situations that arose in the relationship. You cannot go through life thinking you married someone of inferior intelligence.

    Compatibility is probably the all inclusive term. You are not selecting kindness over intelligence or vice versa. Instead you are selecting someone whose blend of the two match your personality and compliment it. The above mentioned boy married a great girl who was very different from me. Right for her was wrong for me.

    Kindness or intelligence in a vacuum is not such a great thing.

  18. I don’t feel kind has as much to do with being taken advantage as having low self-esteem and/or fear of loss. I believe kindness goes hand in hand with just. A kind father will deliver a just punishment out of love, not anger. A kind and just father will not allow a child to get away with unacceptable behavior. A kind and just father does not fear the loss of his child’s love because he knows he is doing the right thing for him. For me I would add gentleness as a measure of desirability. Gentleness needs to come with bravado as a balance. There is an innate feeling of strength when in the presence of a gentle man with a bravado. Very attractive qualities to be sure. However,without discernment, none of the above could happen. My prayer is to find a man with discernment as his number one quality. He is the one to whom I would yoke to my future.

  19. Very interesting comments. My point was that “kindness,” or one of the other suggested replacements like empathy, maturity, and a desire to resolve conflicts should be a given. Something like intelligence will be more or less important to different people. (Obviously this blog attracts highly intelligent people.)

  20. It was not for me the characteristics listed per se but what a man did with those characteristics, how they were publicly visible. Yes, I wanted intelligence, but not a know it all who felt himself above everyone else. Yes, I wanted kindness, but not a person who would let himself be walked all over because he was “too” kind.

    Re the looks–and the attributes that go with the looks, like cleanliness–who is anybody kidding? On that first date, when the boy first walks in, the looks is all you have to go on. And yeah, someone who doesn’t appeal, whether for height, weight, cleanliness or other looks reasons, is going to have to work a lot harder to show you what else there is. If you’re having trouble looking that man in the face sitting across from him at a restaurant table, just how well do you suppose the greater intimacies of marriage are going to go? Women, no less than men, DO consider looks, even if they say they don’t. Is looks the number one attribute? Perhaps not, but it’s the first hurdle to have to get over.

  21. It’s interesting, because I ranked intelligence as an extremely important trait when I dated, even being willing to trade a degree of it for kindness or niceness. I always thought I would end up with a guy who most people considered an intellectual. While my husband is not at all dumb, he wouldn’t be considered and intellectual either. And it doesn’t bother me one bit.

    What I have found goes so much farther in our relationship is his maturity and ability to talk difficult matters out rather than place blame and shutting down. Our high levels of communication keep us extremely happy and very healthy, I believe.

  22. “(Obviously this blog attracts highly intelligent people.)” worth quoting, Mother in Israel. I just picked up one of the latest Jewish publications and was wondering if perhaps assuming intelligence is the wrong way to go with an ad-based publication. Thea articles are so lame that they I find them insulting to my intelligence. But it seems that dumb sells.

  23. Interesting….

    I think I agree with you, that kindness is the most important attribute.

    Everything comes afterthat….

    The story I share most often of my husband is a story of kindness. It is that story that made me aware of how very lucky I am to have this man as my husband.

  24. Rivka–Are you going to share with us, or not? A link is acceptable too.

  25. @Ariella

    It’s not easy to fill a magazine with intelligent articles. It’s not so much that dumb sells, but that dumb is much easier, less expensive, and less time consuming to produce. Would you care to share the name of this publication?


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