Fearful Parents Promoting Young Marriage: Zionist Wedding Series #11

wedding ring in jewelry boxThis is the 11th post in a series on Marriage in the religious Zionist community in Israel.

I: Dating Readiness, II: Meeting the One, III: Genetic Testing, IV: Dating VenuesV: Shidduch Crisis?, VI: Internet Dating, VIII: Wedding Costs, IX: Planning Tips, XI: Diabetes,Genetics and Shidduchim.

A woman told me the following about a middle-aged couple in the community:

The couple have a daughter, age 20, who has been dating her boyfriend, also 20, for three years. The young people show no interest in moving the relationship to the next level. So the parents (both sides?) tell the children that they need to either get married, or break up. The young couple is now engaged.

They also have a son, 22. He was studying and working, but showed no interest in dating. They took him to a cafe and explained that he needs to get serious. The mother located eligible young women and passes on the phone numbers. The son is also about to get engaged.

The woman who told me about this family explained that parents today are petrified that their child will remain single, living hayyim umlalim, a miserable life, in the singles enclaves in Jerusalem or Givat Shmuel. Since their children aren’t showing much concern, they take matters into their own hands.

When I told this to a mother of several singles, she said, “I wish my children would let me do that!” But I wonder what will happen in a couple of years, if things get tough for the young couples. Will they resent their parents for pushing them into early marriage? Or perhaps they will be grateful for sparing them from a long singlehood.

Then, of course, there is a problem when this system doesn’t work, and the children don’t find someone in spite of (or because of?) the parents’ active involvement.

Do you see this happening in your community?Are parents frantic about their unmarried children, even at 20 and 22?

See Baila’s post on the subject: Preventing Pre-Marital Sex in Relgious Teens/Twenties


Is There a  Shidduch Crisis in the Religious Zionist Community?


  1. I dont know about the parents’ side of things, but in my husband’s yeshive (a top hesder yeshive) the guys only really started getting serious about shidduchim in shiur vav (though of course, some did get engaged before), so they were a little older than what you mentioned. This is a very Israeli yeshive, I don’t know if that makes a difference? Most guys do not want to get married before or during the army and the more serious lerners would ideally like a little time after the army to refocus.

    Maybe parents are just afraid of this growing crowd of older singles. They see how hard it is, for many different reasons and try to prevent this from happening to their kid.

  2. People should worry about whether their children are mature enough for marriage, not push them into it before they are ready. That’s a recipe for disaster.

  3. True story: My SIL got married quite late, around 30. Before that, she used to get very angry when her parents tried to “meddle” and set her up with potential dates. A few weeks ago, now married with a 1 year old, she declared that she blamed her parents for not helping her enough to get married earlier. I did a doubletake!

    You can’t win with some people.

  4. btw, I will add that the mother in the story sounds very domineering and while her kids seem very docile now, it could blow up in her face eventually.

  5. I know that there are many people who have close friends of 30, and even 40 and are very very concerned that their children will not find someone to marry and be left on the shelf.

    I know of at 2 least friends of my daughter, who related that their mother contacted the wife of a prominent Rosh Yeshiva and asked her to find a shidduch for their daughter (who must have been around 21). (i.e. parents do take an active part, but not in the way exactly as you described).

    Sometimes the parents actively help children who are intersted in meeting a potential partner but just did not find one.

    In this community(dati leumi), unlike the charedi community there are not rules of how you go about getting married, or meet men, or when. It is a type of paradox, on the one hand the young people are expected to meet their future partner by being introduced to them; on the other hand, this is all supposed to happen by chance, depending on the good will or friends and relatives. Who can blame frustrated parents for taking a hand?

  6. I am so full of questions:

    1. Who says it’s a miserable single life? The “kids” (young adults) or their parents?

    2. Why is it that mid-20s is so old? If the guys do hesder they’re not done until 24/25, right? And then university? What is the rush?

    3. Isn’t it better to wait for the right person? Even if they don’t show up when you are 19?

    4. Are the parents afraid of premarital sex? (I don’t know what the dati leumi sex education is like…I’m guessing before you’re engaged it’s pretty, uh, brief.) And if nobody’s talking about it, I would guess that it could make parents pretty hysterical….what COULD happen, etc.

    • Kate: 1. the parents. 2. I gather this young man did not do hesder. 3. I don’t think there is a clear answer to that. You could wait in vain. 4. Yes.

      • Yeah, I figured on #4. It’s kind of the elephant in the room. Because in other contexts…20 year olds dating since age 16 = someone (or two someones) should be using birth control.

  7. I’m with Kate here. I got married when I was 28. Most of my friends got married before they hit 25, so I ended making new single friends. Although I wanted to be married, it was most definitely not a “miserable single life”, even if some of my married friends liked to think it was. And I think premarital sex is a definite factor in kids marrying young today–in the first case you bring forward, for sure. And call me a heretic but I don’t think that should be a reason at all for young people getting married.

    That being said, when the time comes, I do intend to offer help to my daughters. I know many people (some of you bloggers amongst them) who may be helpful. But I would never give them an ultimatum or tell them they HAVE to start “getting serious”. At least I don’t think I would–call me in a couple of years.

  8. KATE:

    “Who says it’s a miserable single life?”

    from my (non-single perspective), older singles generally are miserable about their marital status. some do fine with compartmentalizing it and otherwise have a happy life, and for others it affects their overall emotional health.

    i’m *not* saying this is a reason to encourage early marriage (and in general i don’t think it’s good for various reasons), but on the other hand i just don’t think it’s true that older singles in general are happy with their lot.

    • I think it depends on the person, and potentially why they are single.

      Single because focusing on career w/crazy hours, not financially secure enough to date/marry, etc. is different than unlikely to get married because of mental/physical health issues.

      I also think that unmarried at 25 and unmarried at 35 are completely different animals.

  9. I wish I was married (to my current husband) when I was that young! 20/22 doesn’t seem that young to me. Good for these parents!

    • I will disagree with Chava – 20/22 is very young. People are not yet fully mature then, and sometimes (often) their ideals and beliefs change as they get into their mid- to late-20s. Sometimes they grow together, and sometimes not. A person’s values and belief system at 25 or 28 is much less likely to shift than at 20 or 22.

      (Values and belief here can mean anything from religiosity to managing money to political views. And compatibility – or at least understanding what you are getting into – is very important to a happy marriage.)

      I rather agree with Kate. Unmarried at 25 and unmarried at 35 are completely different situations.

  10. I have to agree with Ms. Krieger. My husband was one of the founding members of the (now sorta defunct) Jerusalem Jugglers Club. I was invited to go to their “meeting” in 1995, when I was 17. I didn’t go.

    When we met ten years later, and I realized how close we had come to meeting ten years earlier, my first thought was “Thank G-d we didn’t meet then.”

    Other than his juggling and his eye color, nothing about him would have appealed to me, and he would have felt very much the same about me.

    If we’d met then, there is no way that we would have ever ended up married. If we’d been forced to get married (to each other)at any point in the interim up to about a year before we met, it would have been an absolute disaster. I went through some radical philosophical changes at 25-6 that made me receptive to a whole different type of man.

    Likewise, if I’d married any of the men I dated seriously before that, I am certain I would have also divorced them by now.

    Btw, my husband *did* meet someone in ’95, got married, had a child, got divorced.

  11. my oldest is 12, and I am ALREADY concerned about her and her siblings finding matches. In fact, I’ve been praying for each of my children every single day since they were born that they should find a good match!

    I live in nachlaot, a sort of “beetsa” for young singles, and my husband teaches young Israeli dati leumi women, so we see how hard it can be first hand to find a suitable spouse. It is terrifying to see all these wonderful people struggle for so many years to get married. I don’t know if I’d put as much pressure as the mother you describe when the time comes, but I can definitely identify with her concern.

    • Chana, I would try to let go of some of that anxiety. It’s not good for your children to associate finding a marriage partner with anxiety.

  12. The long term dating that is prevalent in the Dati Leumi community is different from other religious communities and because of that, I feel like a little parental tough love is reasonable.

    First example: 2 mid 20-somethings date for three years through army and into university. Parents of the young man finally said, with the blessings of the girl, is this it or isn’t this IT? If you’re still dragging your feet, it just not fair. The couple breaks up, sadly but thank goodness the girl wasn’t led on any longer to wait for a marriage that wasn’t happening.

    Second: My own brother was a serial dater into his 30’s. The girls were also in their late 20’s and up. Each would finally come to the point where they’d demand, is this IT or not? My parents would step in and say the same thing. Luckily my brother was smart enough to not be bullied into a bad match and recently married his Besheret. When their isn’t a clear system, it can take some people longer to “Mensch out” (as my mother says).

    For Dati Leumi, there aren’t as many hard and fast rules so sometimes the freedom to date, live single and perhaps not marry is overwhelming. That doesn’t mean singles live in despair but waking up late in the game and realizing you don’t know how to rejoin your peers in the next step is difficult.

    Clear boundaries are good for families and relationships.

  13. I also got married pretty young (as did my parents) – just want to point out that not all young marriages end in disaster! So far, so good.

    Also, Leah said she may not have married her husband if they had met earlier. True. Perhaps if I had met my husband at a later point in time we would not have gotten married, either.

    I’m not so sure I believe in this “only one person out there for you” concept. I think who you end up with depends on many factors (age, location, friends), and maybe there are lots of “the ones” floating around out there.

    • Gila, I agree that often very young couples mature together. They don’t necessarily grow in different directions. And they have less baggage to start with, a big plus.

  14. I live in the capital of American singles the Upper West Side so I see and know lots of singles. I know this is crazy but I actually get nervous for women who are older than 25 and not yet married. I am more worried for the FFB’s, especially the ones that are more right wing. I have to say though, that almost everyone I know who I’ve worried would not find someone has eventually found someone and is now married.

    It will be interesting to see how I feel when my kids get older. I like to think that the fact that I have them in a mixed school (all the way through high school) will help them to have a better marriage and make it easier for them to meet appropriate spouses. All my kids have friends of and socialize with the opposite sex. I figure that it will give them good access to potential mates as they get older. I know of many couples who have met their significant other through this network of school and camp friends. I believe that Camp Moshava actually has a club of couple who met their as campers and counselors.

    • Beth, but these singles in mixed environments tend to stay single longer. Whether because they are more willing to delay marriage or some other reason, it doesn’t always help.

      • Ms. Krieger says

        These comments about singles in mixed environments are interesting. I believe that single-sex environments for schooling are very helpful from ages 12- 18 or so. We all remember what it was like being teenagers. And the competition and camaraderie found in same-sex environments seems much healthier at that age (I am comparing from personal experience…my public mixed-sex school with my single-sex rowing team. The all-girl environment on the rowing team was very conducive to camaraderie and we girls all pushed each other to excel. Girl-to-girl attitudes in the mixed-sex school were much more destructive, and I believe the presence of boys contributed to this. But this is the subject of an academic dissertation, eh.)

        However, in high school we are NOT looking for marriage partners!

        The situation was much different in university and beyond. Mixed-sex situations are the reality in the workplace, and it is important to cope. Also, friends/acquaintances of the opposite sex can be very helpful in suggesting appropriate marriage matches.

        It all depends on the cultural mindset. If you are submerged in a culture that values marriage and family life, and (young men in particular) are encouraged to “mensch up” by the time they are in their late 20s, this mingling of the sexes is a positive thing.

        It can be less positive in a culture that values financial and career achievement and personal freedom over marriage and family life (think upper West Side of NY, most of Washington, DC, etc.)

      • I agree that people in this environment stay single longer. It’s a fine line between getting married too early and not getting married soon enough. I wish unmarried 25 year old women didn’t make me nervous but I also think that there are a lot of kids that are getting married too young. I wish I knew the answer.

  15. I think another “elephant in the room,” beyond premarital sex, is if a young married couple will be granted a psak for birth control.

    (I don’t know–do other people not think about this? Do they not even ask?)

    A very well-respected rav in the YU community will NOT give a psak for birth control until a couple has one child. Doesn’t matter if the couple is 18 or 20 or 25. Obviously he’s not the only posek around, but I don’t think he’s an outlier.

    But how many 20 year olds–assuming dati leumi, not charedi–are “finished” with school or preparing for their careers/futures?

  16. ChanaRachel says

    There are lots of elephants in the room. In addition to the two mentioned above, let me add two others:

    1- I have a friend who says that while she’s glad her daughters married young,early marriage can have life-long economic consequences for the young couple, especially if either spouse is unable to finish their education.

    2- The different situations of the boys versus the girls. The boys can wait ’till they are ready for marriage (let’s say at least to their mid to late 20’s if they are not ready sooner), and there will always be a pool of suitable single girls “out there”. The girls live in fear that if they wait too long (and “too long” has become ridiculously young), they will have a hard time finding a suitable and available guy. I think that is pushing many girls (and maybe the boys, as well) to get married earlier than they would otherwise prefer…and, yes, I’m sure the parents fuel that fire, at times..

  17. Avraham Saltoun says

    Parents MUST get involved, is in shabbos sacharis we ask for Zara shel Kaiama ( every nussach)… so that hints we should look, make an effort for. Great Post.

  18. If I can maybe answer Kate.

    I’m no authority but I can say as someone who was married relatively young by non-religious standards (21, mom by 22) that within Israel there is a different attitude surrounding family building. Socialized health is just the tip of the iceberg.

    Universities are well equipped to handle families. Technion in particular hosts its own Dati Leumi community that is thriving with daycare and preschools. Hebrew U has an amazing network of resources and babies on campus or even in lecture halls are pretty common.

    Plus, parenting needs of workers are big considerations in Israel and mothers have a surprising amount of rights beyond job security, maternity leave, breaks for breastfeeding or pumping, optional 1 year leave etc… there is even paternity leave available for families. All guaranteed by law.

    I haven’t encountered any young couples that attempt to not begin building a family once married. In the Israeli case, you’re a larger part of visible society as a young couple with small children and there are resources in place to make it work.

    Example: I worked for a Hesder for some time and the system was clear for babies of Shiur Hey or Vav dads. Mornings meant daycare, afternoons with mom on her breaks from University and late afternoon was in the Beit Midrash with dad. The whole family called it a day somewhere between 4-6 and spent the evenings together.

    • Ms. Krieger says

      Sara wrote: Example: I worked for a Hesder for some time and the system was clear for babies of Shiur Hey or Vav dads. Mornings meant daycare, afternoons with mom on her breaks from University and late afternoon was in the Beit Midrash with dad. The whole family called it a day somewhere between 4-6 and spent the evenings together.

      That is amazing and enviable.

  19. sylvia_rachel says

    Coming at marrying young — not parental involvement/meddling specifically, with which I have no real experience — from a non-frum perspective here.

    My husband and I met at university when I was 18 and he was 23, and married when I was 23 and he was 28. For a while we had a big group of similarly-aged married friends. Then, over a period of about 18 months, we suddenly had a big group of separated or divorced friends. Someone’s husband had an affair, someone else’s husband refused to get help for his mental-health issues and became abusive, another couple decided they had made a mistake in getting married, a fourth cracked under the stress of dealing with her infertility. Now, almost a decade later, we have lots of married friends again, all having kids — including almost all of those I mentioned in the last sentence, remarried to other people. (That is, the women are remarried. Their ex-husbands … we have not kept up with.)

    So, anyway, my husband and I looked at each other in a kind of bewilderment, thinking, what is going on here? Is it something in the water? All of these couples seemed so happy, so together, just like us, and now look! Married before 25, divorced before 30 … One theory we eventually came up with was that maybe because he and I had been through some really bad stuff early in our relationship (including my cancer diagnosis when we were dating and his mother’s death in the first year of our marriage), we had come to rely on each other and to have confidence that somehow or other we would make it through other bad things, too. But it’s only a theory. (We do also, by the way, have two sets of friends who have been couples even longer than we have and are still married and happily raising kids.)

    I do think, honestly, that if you are going to marry someone, you should probably know that by the time you’ve been dating for three or four years. But I also think the ability to figure that out develops with age. B”H I didn’t marry the boy I was madly in love with (from afar, mostly) when I was fifteen. Nice guy, nothing wrong with him at all, but it would have been a Bad Idea.

  20. Just thinking about how appropriate this post is in light of this week’s parsha…Lavan, the ultimate in “Oh my god my daughter’s old and she’s not married yet” anxiety.