I was involved in redding a shidduch. The boy is a very fine young man, though not what we would call a “learning boy.” The boy and girl went out five times and the girl was ready. At that point, the boy was asked where he’s holding, and he said that in his circles, people go out 10-12 times before they move forward. He said that this is “standard.” He wanted to keep going out, but wasn’t ready to commit.
As a shadchan, what do I do? And what do I tell the girl? Do I say he’s not ready? Do I say that he wants to go out another five times? That will likely turn her off. Please advise.
For the purposes of answering this question, I would like to disregard the notion that there is, or should be, any distinction between when a “learning boy” and when a “working boy” should be ready for engagement, based on how many dates they have been on with a young woman. Just as there are many fine young men and women whom one might categorize as “working” or “more modern,” that are ready for engagement after only a few dates, there are also many fine young men and women who might be categorized as “learning boys” or “more yeshivish,” respectively, who need a good deal more than five or six dates to be ready for engagement.
Many singles have come to realize this as they go through the shidduch parsha, and I applaud them for deciding how many dates to go on before making a commitment, according to how they felt, not according to how they were told to feel or act.
With that in mind, I would now like to address your specific dilemma.
It is fairly common for one party of the shidduch to be ready before the other, and I have experienced this firsthand; both with shidduchim I have redd and in talking with different singles who are in shidduchim. Furthermore, a young man or woman might state that they need any number of additional dates before they can decide one way or the other, and then after only one or two more dates they come to the conclusion that either they are ready for engagement or that this shidduch is not for them. No one can pin down in advance the exact number of dates they will need to reach a conclusion about a shidduch.
Therefore, my advice to you, or anyone who is experiencing this type of situation with a shidduch they are redding, would be two-fold.
Firstly, in this particular case, there is no need to mention to this young woman that the young man she is dating had referenced what is done “in his circles.” It would likely become an unnecessary additional matter of contention, and it is entirely besides the point, which is only that he is not yet ready for engagement.
Secondly, I would recommend employing tempered honesty in your conversation with this young woman, as not everything needs to be spelled out. Instead of telling her that the young man is not ready to commit to her or that he wants to go out five more times before making any decisions, you could plainly tell her, “He is very much enjoying going out with you and would like to go out again.” There is no need to mention where he is holding regarding engagement, as such a reply indicates that he wants to continue but is not ready to consider that step. If the young woman presses further, all that needs to be said is that the young man wants to go out again before having any conversations about engagement.
Subsequent to that, if they do decide to go out again, I would recommend continuing to use this approach after each ensuing date. This can go on until either a conclusion is reached by the young man, or until the young woman asserts that she has reached the point where she needs a clear and definitive answer about where he is holding regarding engagement, if they are to continue.
There are going to be times when a shidduch is going well and one party is ready and willing to get engaged, but the other is not. As long as no one involved is saying, or even insinuating, that engagement is around the corner, but rather, simply that the dates are going well, no one is being mislead. If the shidduch should end up not working, that is part of dating life. A shidduch may be going well for everyone, and one party may even be ready and willing to marry, but after some time the other party is not – and it happens to both young men and women. As long as no assurances are made, that is the nature of emotionally opening up for marriage, and no one has been treated unfairly.
As a final note, in your particular case, I believe that it would also be advisable to have a conversation with this young man in order to be sure that he is making his decisions based on how he personally feels about the shidduch. He does not need to be focusing on, or concerned with, any arbitrary number which he perceives to be the “standard in his circles.” His guide should be his own hashara of where he is holding and what steps he is, or isn’t, ready to take.
May Hashem Yisborach give you the strength and ability to continue your avodas hakodesh and the zechus to successfully redd many more shidduchim.