Getting Ready for Marriage

Q: We have a 24-year-old daughter who is the oldest of our six children. She is an admirable frum girl who works four hours a day as a cashier in a ladies’ accessories shop. She would like to work longer hours but the store is not busy enough to extend her hours. As she has so much free time during the day, she often becomes bored at home. This leads to her becoming irritable and sometimes even demanding. We encourage her to call friends when she is bored but she rarely does, as it seems to be difficult for her to initiate contact with others, even her friends.

While she has not spoken to us about getting married, we were thinking that she may be at the right age and stage for marriage. Before we launch into shidduchim, however, we wanted to hear what you think about her current situation and her readiness for marriage.

A: Marriage is a wonderful institution. As Yeshayah Hanavi declared, “Hashem did not create the world to be desolate, [rather] He formed [the world] to be inhabited.” (Yeshayah 45:18) And citing this passuk as proof, the Gemara teaches, “The world was created only for [the purpose of] procreation.” (Gittin 41b)

While marriage is important, the timing of marriage is extremely critical. As Shlomo Hamelech taught, “How good it is when something comes at the right time.” (Mishlei 15:23) One may ask, therefore, when is the proper time for marriage?

The Torah gives us some guidelines for assessing the readiness of any young person for marriage. As it states, “Therefore, a man shall separate from his father and mother and cling to his wife.” (Bereishis 2:24) We see from here that some part of the separation process must precede marriage. And I believe that the first step indicating a readiness for marriage is the ability to establish and maintain close, solid peer relationships.

From your letter, however, it does not sound as if your daughter has any truly close friends. If she does not feel confident enough to initiate contact with her peers, then they cannot be considered anything more than acquaintances. If your daughter is not comfortable with her friends and cannot call them when she feels bored, she will not fare well in marriage. In fact, there is even good reason to suspect that she will encounter more challenges as she attempts to navigate the more complicated waters of a marital relationship.

In considering whether a child is ready for marriage, parents need to take into account not only the child’s chronological age but also the child’s emotional maturity. From your description, it sounds as if your daughter is too dependent on you and your spouse right now. In addition, if she is becoming irritable when bored and needing you to make suggestions, she has not displayed the level of independence necessary for success in marriage.

What I would recommend, therefore, is that you work on helping your daughter to achieve greater independence through building and maintaining more and closer friendships. In order to achieve that goal, it may be necessary for your daughter to receive some coaching from a trained professional. The professional, in turn, may want to meet with you and your spouse, so that all three of you are working in tandem.

Once your daughter has succeeded to make and keep good friends, then she will be ready to move on to the greater challenge of shidduchim. And she will have developed the increased independence, greater emotional maturity and advanced social skills so necessary for success in marriage.