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Jewess » Guest Blogger: Joshua Henkin on the “Singles Crisis” in the Jewish Community

Guest Blogger: Joshua Henkin on the “Singles Crisis” in the Jewish Community


by Guest

by Joshua Henkin

I’ve been told there’s a dating crisis in the Jewish community. I say this as if I live on Mars, and in a way, when it comes to dating, I do. From the ages of 19 to 35, I lived in one college town or another, and whatever else one might say about college towns, the date as it is generally known is a near-non-existent phenomenon in them—so much so that I can count on one hand the number of dates I’ve been on in my life. In college towns, people don’t date; they hang out. And one things leads to another. Or, as the case may be, it doesn’t. But either way, it strikes me as a much healthier, more natural, less fraught way to meet someone, whereas the date too often approximates a job interview or a grad school application.

But not everyone lives in a college town, and particularly as you get older and the prospect of meeting people by just hanging out seems to get more difficult, dating seems to be a necessary evil. The problem is that as people get older they also get more desperate, and this seems to be particularly true of women, who are forever being reminded of their biological clocks ticking, forever being told that if they don’t get married soon, they never will. The pressures on women are considerable, perhaps especially on Jewish women, since Jews have long placed a particular premium on family. So I’m aware of how much is at stake when it comes to dating.

And yet. It’s worth noting that most studies suggest that married women are less happy than single women (married men, on the other hand, are happier than single men) and I know more than a few women who married men they probably shouldn’t have married because, at the time, they were sufficiently determined to get married that they were willing to compromise. And I’m not sitting in judgment on those who do compromise. I don’t think it’s an easy thing to buck that kind of pressure. And yet, the women I know who have waited until they found the person they are sure is right for them, the women who have not made finding a partner the be-all-and-end-all, the women who, explicitly or tacitly, have come to the conclusion that, though they would like to find a husband, their lives will be all right if they don’t find one—these are the women who have ended up happier.

I’m not knocking marriage. My new novel, Matrimony, is about the twenty-year history of a marriage. I myself am married, and very happily so. In fact, I consider meeting my wife the most fortunate thing that has ever happened to me. All that said, the crisis in dating as I see it is not the inability of people to find someone they love, but the pressure put on single people to couple off like everyone else. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been among a group of married people when it’s mentioned that so-and-so has gotten engaged, and without fail everyone, whether or not they know so-and-so, will exclaim how terrific that is. My feeling is that it may be terrific and it may not be terrific; it all depends on the particulars. And I’ve often noticed how eager married people are to marry their single friends off, as if doing so will confirm the wisdom of their own decision to get married.

So, without dismissing people’s wish to get married, and without discounting the loneliness a lot of single people feel, I would say that, to my mind, the real crisis in dating is a crisis brought about by others—the crisis of pressure exerted by the coupled on the uncoupled, the feeling experienced by single people, especially single women, that their lives are worthless unless they’re part of a couple, that with all their friends getting married the only way they can exist is to be married, too.

This, to my mind, leads to a lot of unhappiness and a lot of bad decisions. My wife and I talk about this frequently, particularly since we now have two young daughters. We want our daughters to grow up in a society that allows them to get married but doesn’t force them to do so. We want them to achieve happiness, but we’d like to believe that there is more than one model for it. If someday our daughters want to get married, they will certainly have our support. But we have resolved not to put pressure on them to do so.

4 Responses to “Guest Blogger: Joshua Henkin on the “Singles Crisis” in the Jewish Community”

  1. […] Read the rest of this great post here […]

  2. […] You can read the rest of this blog post by going to the original source, here […]

  3. This makes a lot of sense to me and also jibes with my experience. I think another part of the problem is an undercommitment to friends and friendship. For example:

    I have a very close friend. We’ve leaned on each other in tough times and both make an effort to spend time together, and enjoy each other and are enriched by each other. We were once talking about my lovelife (single) while her boyfriend was there. He told me, completely uncritically, that it would be good for me to get really serious about dating because once all my friends got married, I would be very lonely.

    It had not occurred to me that I would lose this good friend through marriage. They’re engaged now. I’m a bit concerned both about the future of our friendship and about the marriage of a person who believes that marriage is both the solution to and the only escape from friendlessness…

  4. […] Guest wrote an interesting post today on Guest Blogger: Joshua Henkin on the âSingles Crisisâ in the Jewish …Here’s a quick excerptIt’s worth noting that most studies suggest that married women are less happy than single women (married men, on the other hand, are happier than single men) and I know more than a few women who married men they probably shouldn’t have … […]

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