Causes for Delayed Marriage
In our generation, the number of people awaiting marriage is very large relative to the number of those in previous generations. Rabbi Zamir Cohen explains the main causes of delay, and provides both natural and spiritual solutions
In our generation, the number of people awaiting marriage is very large relative to the number of those in previous generations. More and more older singles feel stuck and cannot understand why finding their match is so difficult. And as more time goes by, stronger, more gnawing questions begin to emerge inside them: Is my situation in my control or is it a heavenly decree? Did I make a mistake and miss the boat? What am I to do? Should I seek out Kabbalistic remedies? Perhaps I should change my name? Or maybe I should simply wait and hope for the best.
According to the Torah, man was given the ability to hasten his match - though not by means of the various Kabbalistic remedies commonly seen today that have no basis in the teachings of our sages, rather, through proper ways that have the power to improve the situation, both through spiritual and natural efforts.
In most situations, (though this may not always be the case, as explained below) the delay is caused by the person himself, as he unknowingly chooses paths that are detrimental and incorrect for him. And when he starts to correct his ways, the roadblock is removed. It should be noted that some people, unaware that they are at fault for the delay, may blame G-d for deferring their marriage. Regarding this, said the wisest of all men: “A man’s foolishness corrupts his way, and his heart rages against Hashem”.
In the following paragraphs we will note the main causes of delay, explain their reasons, and provide both natural and spiritual solutions.
Body language that communicates sadness, restlessness, or dominance.
As we know, when inconsistencies exist between a speaker’s verbal and non-verbal statements, the message that’s normally perceived is the one communicated through the body and not through speech. For example, a man enters his friend’s office by surprise. If the friend says: “I’m happy to see you, please have a seat”, he will feel comfortable. But if the friend utters these inviting words while tapping nervously on the table, the perceptive visitor will understand that he is unwanted at that moment, even though the verbal message conveyed something completely different. This implies that the body transmits the inner truth while words are sometimes expressed out of discomfort.
This is also the case when two people go on a date. If a generally calm and content individual gives off a sense of impatience or even sadness during a date, resulting from some distress he may be feeling at that moment, he may mislead his date and give her the wrong impression. Therefore, despite the distress he may sometimes feel on dates, he must ensure that his body language is always proper. And if this individual is consistently depressed, irritable, or domineering in his daily life, he must use the time he has as an opportunity to hurry up and correct his character traits by following the guidelines offered in mussar (ethics) books, Torah lectures, and in the chapters dedicated to this topic contained in this book.
Overly critical of everyone and everything.
The average person likes to dwell among calm, optimistic people who see life in a pleasant light and emit an air of tranquil happiness. Therefore, a person who likes to complain about every personal hardship, or grumble over everybody’s shortcomings, creates an unpleasant atmosphere around him that distances his friends from him, and if he can manage to repel his friends, he will certainly have a difficult time finding a partner who is meant to live with him under one roof for many long years. A person like this must work on improving his trust in G-d and on being a happier human being.
Searching on the wrong floor.
A person who is seeking a lofty spiritual life on the inside, but is living a materialistic life on the outside (especially if his outward appearance seems spiritually low), he will have a very difficult time finding a match. The reason is simple. He (or she) is looking around and saying to himself: “Everyone is so spiritually superficial, it’s better for me to remain single than marry someone like that”. And he is right. He will never be happy with someone who does not match his spiritual level. What he does not realize however is that he is trapping himself; he is looking for his partner in a place where he or she can never be found. But on the other hand, girls who are on a higher spiritual plane, are not prepared, and rightly so, to marry a person who is on a lower level than they are. And since, realistically speaking, most young people today are on either spiritual extreme, that leaves a very small selection of good, quality people on the middle level to choose from.
The solution is: Climb up to a higher level. The person must exercise his inner spiritual drive by actively doing all that is proper according to the Torah of the Creator. And thus, besides for the substantial benefit associated with walking on the true path, he will also find himself standing on a higher floor with a larger selection of suitable candidates to choose from. And that is where he will find the most fitting one with whom he will share a good and happy life.
Lack of gentleness and tenderness.
This problem is prevalent in men and women over thirty, an age in which the person’s youthful energy usually begins to fade and his character becomes jaded. This is commonly seen among young, intelligent women who have a strong, assertive personality that can easily be mistaken for one that is controlling or domineering.
Even men who seem overly dominant or aggressive may find themselves being rejected by girls who want gentle and considerate husbands. However, when it comes to men, this kind of behavior may be misinterpreted by some women and seen as ‘normal’ or ‘typical’ for men, and therefore marry them anyway. For women however, the situation is more involved, as men usually expect their wives to be gentle, soft-natured and feminine in comparison to them, and are afraid to marry someone whose patterns of behavior are not delicate enough for their taste.
The solution: To carefully study the characteristic differences between men and women, and willingly meet the true emotional needs of each side as explained in the previous chapters. And if the person is aware of his rigid personality, and has a tendency to be controlling, he must work on becoming more respectful towards others. He must also improve his humility in the proper way. This self-cultivation must be done thoroughly and with determination. It must persist until everything is applied and internalized, and until the other side’s concerns are allayed.
Violating the laws of physical contact.
As we know, according to the Torah of Israel, every Jew is obligated to maintain his sanctity. Therefore, a male may not touch a female, and a female may not touch a male before they are married according to Jewish law. Most people are unaware of the added benefit that accompanies the wonderful virtues associated with this dating method. A couple that guards itself properly and takes care not to touch one another before marriage, is a couple that can objectively examine their compatibility level without being persuaded by physicality. And so, without losing valuable time, they reach a positive or negative conclusion about their relationship. Their conclusions are drawn from conversations that are pleasant, honest and to the point. If they both feel that they can live together happily, they do not wait too long before they set a date for the wedding. And if they do not feel that they are compatible, they respectfully part ways in search of a better suited partner. This way they do not waste valuable time and attain the goal of marriage more quickly.
But those who choose to adopt the culture of the gentiles regarding this critical matter, not only do they injure their esteemed positions as members of a “kingdom of priests and a holy nation”; a people that conduct themselves with the nobility and excellence appropriate for a life of sanctity, but they are also hurting themselves. The years go by and their wedding plans remain uncertain until one of the sides suddenly decides that after three or four valuable years (during which the allure of physical contact had prevented them from getting to know each other on a deeper level) they are simply “incompatible”. Now they’re back to square one. And again, the years go by, their youthful vigor and resilience begins to weaken, and the difficulty of finding the right partner becomes increasingly complex.
The solution: Resolving to observe the laws of physical contact. This will also facilitate Heaven’s assistance in hastening the marriage.
Deep emotional scars
In this troubled generation, in which the majority of Israel’s youth is educated according to the culture of the gentiles, many reach marriageable age with bad memories and emotional scars in their hearts from relationships that have previously failed. However, we must remember that G-d had created a pure heart for the man and a pure heart for the woman with the intention that one day they will get married and their two hearts will interlock and remain happily intertwined forever. But a person who was involved in serious relationships and constant break-ups when he was young, has unknowingly created scars in his heart that make it difficult for him to have the healthy and natural relationship required for marriage - especially if the emotional connection was also expressed in a physical way. And if the break-ups were painful and difficult - as they usually are, he may then lose faith in relationships altogether.
And at times, it only takes one severe break-up to cripple the person emotionally, or at the very least, make him resemble a person who has gone through a painful divorce.
The solution: Although it is not easy to mend a broken heart, and is even harder to repair a heart that is wilted and scarred, it is still possible to heal a large part of it. Through the power of daily Torah classes and a gradual change of lifestyle, the heart can be purified and renewed in a way where the difficult past will seem like a distant memory from a different lifetime, and this is all because the person has now been reborn.
The opportunity should be taken at this time, to warn against the overly lenient upbringing in Israel these days, which greatly damages the spiritual state of the Jewish nation, particularly the youth who are affected not only in their eternal life, but in this world as well. These negative effects may manifest before marriage, as we’ve explained, or after marriage, when the partners go through crises that are too difficult for them to bear, without realizing that many of these crises were caused by unhealthy memories and damaging emotional baggage.
Some people truly believe that they will find the most virtuous woman, who’s superbly perfect in every way. They paint a defined image in their imaginations of the person they think they should spend the rest of their lives with, and until they find him/her they refuse to get married. But they do not realize that regardless of who they choose to marry, compromise is inevitable. While it is true that some matters should never be compromised, there are others that must certainly be compromised or even relinquished completely.
These are the four areas that should never be compromised:
(refers to men and women alike)
Good character traits. (This refers to a person who is kind. Someone who knows how to control himself during a fit of anger and one who respects his fellow man. The character traits of the person in question should not be determined by the way he acts with the person he is dating. After all, a person who is interested in his date, will obviously be respectful to her, but his real personality will only be revealed after the wedding. Instead, his character traits should be examined based on the way he acts with his friends, acquaintances, parents and siblings, and with people he runs into by accident).
Fear of Heaven. (When a person is not G-d fearing, terrible downfalls may occur - especially during a crisis. The best way to gauge how G-d fearing a man is, is to see whether he sets aside times for the daily study of Torah, whether he guards the sanctity of his eyes, is careful not to utter forbidden words, or put something in his mouth with a questionable kashrut. And the best way to gauge how G-d fearing a woman is, is to see whether she participates in Torah classes, guards her dignity by dressing modestly according to Jewish law, and is careful not to utter forbidden words or put something in her mouth with a questionable kashrut.
Pleasant communication. (Meaning, the topics of conversation between the two partners are neither too shallow nor too lofty).
Physical appearance. (The person’s physical appearance must be comfortable and pleasant for his/her partner and he must not consider other people’s opinions in this matter, because there can often be a special virtue found in the person that is more important than looks that covers up or completely alters their seemingly unattractive physical appearance. Moreover, physical appearance is a matter of personal taste and each person has a different preference. Therefore, one should not pay attention to the negative opinions of others when it comes to physical attraction [this is in complete contrast to the opinions and warnings given about character traits. These must be taken into consideration, especially when they come from the mother. Mothers have a unique sense which usually turns out to be correct in matters concerning this area]. And another point to consider: For most people, even the most impressive appearance generally loses its glamor after the wedding. And the admiration of one’s beauty gives way to the person’s conduct, which is the most important quality in marriage. But there’s another problem: a very impressive appearance may invite unnecessary challenges, both inside and outside the home).
A large spiritual gap
The Holy Zohar, which deals with the mysteries of the Torah and creation, reveals the secret behind male/female relationships, and unmasks the main reason associated with delays in finding a match. And once the reason is known, the cause of the delay can be eliminated and the person can finally find his match. Here is a translated summary of the words of the Zohar:
When G-d brings souls into the world, they are made up of two parts - a male and a female, and are connected together. And while the souls are being delivered by the messenger in charge of gestation, the two parts of the soul separate into their male and female parts. It is possible for one part to descend to this world before the other part, and when the time comes for them to be matched, G-d knows how to pair them correctly, so He connects them to their original counterparts, marries them and declares them. Once they connect, they become one body and one soul, right and left (this is where the importance of the sanctity of marriage in accordance with Torah law and with Rabbinical enactments is derived from, as the wedding is a new reconnection of the roots of the souls. Once the betrothal ceremony is lawfully conducted before witnesses under the canopy, with all its accompanying blessings, then the spiritual reconnection of the souls properly occurs. The personal connection that follows is a physical manifestation of the spiritual bond). And if you shall say that people are matched based on their deeds and actions, and not based on that which was predetermined for them; This is certainly true. For if a person has the merit, and his deeds are proper, he earns the right to be connected to his other half the way they had previously been connected.
This concludes the words of the Zohar.
In the above statement, the Zohar is revealing the fact that through the power of choice given to man, one half might risk losing his original half. Because if one half chooses to elevate himself spiritually by studying Torah, refining his character, and observing the mitzvoth, while the other half chooses to decline spiritually and deteriorate, it wouldn’t be feasible to connect the two of them. In this situation, G-d’s attribute of patience is initially exercised (this means that G-d designates a certain grace period that gives the person in question enough time to correct his ways before he loses out on his other half or is punished). And if the side that has descended spiritually corrects himself and climbs upwards, the two original halves earn the merit to reunite. But if the designated period of time passes, and the lower half remains unchanged, the higher half earns the merit to marry someone on the same lofty level as him - even though he is not his original half (this is ten times better than receiving the original, but lowly half). While the half that is spiritually lower receives a different half, just as spiritually low as him, causing himself double the damage in that he marries a person who does not belong to his root as well as someone who is spiritually inferior.
This explanation sheds light on the fact that sometimes a wonderful man or woman who is both G-d fearing and refined experiences delays in marriage. And everybody wonders: “How could it be that such a wonderful person hasn’t been snatched?” However, it is very possible that this person is being delayed by his other, spiritually inferior half who hasn’t yet completed the allotted time given to him or who hasn’t chosen to elevate himself spiritually. It is important to know that the status of the loftier half and his prayers, help elevate his lower half. After all, they are essentially one soul.
In conclusion, it is possible that the reason for the delay lies in the great spiritual gap that exists between the two halves of the original soul. Therefore, the delayed individual must examine his ways and see if perhaps his spiritual level is not high enough and that is the reason he may be delaying himself as well as his other half. And if indeed that is the reason, the solution is: a spiritual climb from the lower side coupled with prayer from the loftier side asking G-d to help the lower half and strengthen him/her through the Torah and its commandments.
Possible Factor #9
A lack of heartfelt prayer
Heartfelt prayer has a tremendous ability to improve and change the situation for the better, in all aspects of life (refer below to the words of the Talmudic sage Rabbi Yitzhak who says that crying [as in, prayer] is counted as one of the four actions that have the power to cancel a person’s decree). In the Talmud however, it says that one of the things that a person must always pray for is the merit to attain a good and suitable marriage partner. And this is the meaning of the verse: “For this let every devout one pray to You at a time when misfortune befalls…”
Especially when prayer connects man to his Creator, and serves as a conduit to draw down spiritual and material abundance. And the sages of Kabbalah have taught us that sometimes when a person does not pray properly and is not properly connected to G-d, he experiences difficulties for his own benefit including various hardships, delays, and even anguish that’s meant to urge him to pray and connect to the superior source of abundance.
In this context, we should note the Holy Zohar’s revelation: A half of a soul that was reincarnated by itself without the reincarnation of the other half, exists in the world without its natural match. But through heartfelt prayer, that person will be able to attain a good match that is spiritually lofty and whose lowly half had missed its match (refer to Cause #8 above and also the section in this book called “Conflicting Forces vs. Harmonious Duality” regarding the possibility of a person missing out on his wife because of failure to maintain the sanctity of the circumcision and the way he can correct that through repentance, as explained in the Zohar that is cited there).
A physical or psychological problem
A person with a physical defect, a serious health problem, or a psychological disorder that is concerning to most people, even if it is mild, may result in the reluctance and refusal of marriage. And even though he may feel that the rejection is unjustified, which it probably is in most cases, he still cannot ignore the unpleasant reality, as unfair as it may be, and wait around for a miracle.
The solution: If it turns out that after many unsuccessful dating attempts, this is the cause of the delay, he has to settle for a match with a problem of equal degree but who still has a reasonable level of functionality (oftentimes, when the handicap of each side is completely different than that of the other side, the house runs in an excellent manner, as each side complements the deficiency of the other). As mentioned above, there is no point in waiting around in these types of situations and hope for the perfectly healthy wife to come along, rather, he should recognize his handicap (which is certainly intended for his own good by the Divine Wisdom) and compromise.
If, after carefully examining the causes mentioned above, the person feels that he does not belong to any of the categories, then he might have reason to suspect that a harsh decree is looming from above (either decreed for this person’s unique correction, as unfinished business from a previous lifetime, or for a grave sin committed in this lifetime). And he must implement the four avenues for removing a harsh decree enumerated in the Talmud:
“These are the four actions that cancel a person’s decree: Charity, crying (heartfelt prayer), changing of the name (under the guidance of a G-d fearing Torah scholar)◆ and changing of the deed (changing for the good according to the commandments of the Creator)”.
And regardless of the situation, the person must always try to boost his morale and gain encouragement from the numerous cases of people who have hopelessly experienced similar delays until their fortunes suddenly took a turn for the better and have merited to establish a loyal home within the nation of Israel. But until that happens, it can be difficult, as it says: “Matching couples together is as difficult as the splitting of the Red Sea”. Yet it also says: Kol D’avid Rachmana - L’tav Avid. Everything G-d does is for the best.
Changing the Name
A person’s name involves an entire network of spiritual channels of abundance based on the different letters of his name which are all there to serve him. When you alter a person’s name, you alter his channels of abundance. Therefore, when Sarah could not conceive, the following was said to Avraham: “As for Sarai your wife, do not call her name Sarai - for Sarah is her name. I will bless her indeed, I will give you a son through her”. However, since the name-changing process tampers with the person’s spirituality, one should not attempt to alter a name without consulting a great Torah scholar who is proficient in this area.
It should be noted that there are certain names that can keep the person from finding his match, such as: ‘Meytal’, ‘Limor’, ‘Natali’, and more. But since many women with these names have found their match without delay, one does not need to worry unless she is delayed for many years. If that is the case, she can consider doing something about her name, but only after speaking to a competent Torah scholar proficient in names. By the way, the name ‘Natali’ also has some issues with regard to eating etc. This name, which is not of Hebrew origin, should be changed to ‘Talya’ (meaning, dew of G-d) or to another name that has a good connotation. Refer to the book, Hatzofen for more on this topic in the section entitled: “A Person’s Name”.
Notes and Sources
 Mishlei 19:3
 Refer to the section in this book entitled: “Character Refinement”
 These topics are discussed at length in the chapters on “Character Refinement”
 Tips on acquiring the attribute of humility can be found in the section entitled: “Character Refinement”
 Shemot 19:6
 Refer to the chapter entitled: “Breaking the Routine”
 We might add that there are some disadvantages to a highly attractive woman. Her appearance may lead to excessive jealousy on the part of the husband, vanity, and wasted time on her physical appearance - this can negatively affect the children who see their mother standing in front of the mirror for hours, indirectly teaching them that outward appearance is the center of life. And this is besides for other challenges that she will be forced to deal with. This is a well-known idea. However, if she is a G-d fearing person, her beauty becomes an additional virtue, as it is written: “Grace is false, and beauty vain; a woman who fears Hashem she should be praised” (Mishlei 31:30). This means that a woman who fears G-d should be praised by her beauty. Because it is only in those who lack a fear of Heaven that grace and beauty become problematic, as a person like that will use these qualities in a negative way.
 Zohar Parshat Lech Lecha 91b
 It should be noted that even when a person does not marry the original half that belongs to his soul (which could also be due to divorce and secondary partners) there will always be a certain spiritual connection between the two parts. This can be compared to a tree with branches and leaves. Each leaf, likened to the soul, is made up of two parts. Even when the person is not married to his ‘leaf’ he is still married to a half of a leaf from the same branch that his leaf belongs to. In any case, when the couple gets married under the bridal canopy according to Jewish law, the two parts of the soul connect and become two parts of a single soul - regardless of whether the two halves are the original ones or not.
 Brachot 8a
 Tehillim 32:6
 Refer to the words of Rabbi Chaim of Volozhin in his book, “Nefesh HaChaim” shaar 2, on the power of prayer and the meaning of the statement: “G-d yearns for the prayers of the righteous” (Yevamot 64a)
 Zohar Parshat Lech Lecha 91b
 Rosh Hashana 16b
 Sanhedrin 22a; Midrash Rabbah Bereishit, Parsha 68
 Brachot 60b
 Bereishit 17:15-16
Adapted from "The Keys to Life" by Rabbi Zamir Cohen