I am a parent of a boy and a girl in shidduchim. My question is simple: When saying no to a shidduch, either before any dates or after my child has already gone out, must I provide a reason?
Sometimes, it would be much simpler if I were allowed to just say no and move on. When I have to explain why we are saying no, I find that I am either interrogated by the shadchan, who gives me a hard time, or I am forced to say negative things about the person my child just stated. And sometimes I am forced to say lashon hara in ways that are not leto’eles, and when I give the shadchan a hard time with this, they get frustrated and send me the unspoken message that they won’t bother redding my children shidduchim anymore. When I’ve tried to get away with, “It’s not for us,” the shadchanim are never happy with that. They always have to pry and dig and ask more questions, forcing me to say something.
What’s the eitzah?
Not only is your question an excellent one, it touches on what I have found to be one of the greatest challenges in today’s shidduch process: namely, the shadchan-dater-parent dynamic.
The long and short of it is, this dynamic is rather complex, there are valid frustrations on all sides, and, generally speaking, the majority of disconnects stem from each person involved lacking a comprehensive awareness of what is occurring for other parties. This lack is not rooted in malice, chas v’shalom, but is simply due to each individual involved observing matters from their own vantage point, and thus not being fully informed of what is transpiring for the other parties in the equation.
Although the overarching theme of disconnect, along with its many branches, is more than worthwhile to address, for the purposes of this discussion, I would like to concentrate only on the portion of the disconnect pertinent to daters and parents saying “no” to shadchanim.
As such, while it is true that all involved are trying their very best to succeed at the common goal of seeing an idea transform into a completed shidduch, the individual objectives are not always quite the same. The shadchan’s objective is to produce a sensible idea, while the objective of the dater and parent is to then look into the idea and discern if they indeed feel the idea is a good one, and one which they would like to pursue. Although the tasks are certainly related, they are not necessarily perfectly aligned, and the conclusions of the various individuals may not always be in lockstep.
In having the opportunity to work closely with all those involved in this triad – both together as a group and separately as individuals – I have been fortunate enough to observe and hear the vantage points of those on all sides of this dilemma. As I feel that all perspectives are understandable and rational, what I would like to present is an elucidation of the disparate vantage points, with the goal of reaching common ground.
Beginning with the side of the shadchan, because that is the starting point of this process, it is without question that shadchanim have ideas which are turned down – either from the get-go, or at some point during the ongoing dates – for reasons ranging from the insubstantial to the blatantly preposterous. Being that shadchanim have had such experiences not just once in a lifetime, but scores of times, it doesn’t take a great deal of mental exertion to grasp why they have commenced with the practice of digging and probing when a “no” is issued.
This probing is not a result of self-interest, or some misguided attempt at furthering ideas which ought to be retired. Rather, it is generally borne of genuine concern that either a dater or a parent is on the precipice of making a costly misstep in shidduchim. Hence, these inquests of “why” are meant to encourage people to rethink their decisions for a moment, or to engage in conversation and talk the matter over, before a decision to pass on a prospect is made final.
Segueing into the disconnect, from where the parents and daters stand, they might be seeing a vastly different image.
As the occupation of a shadchan is neither a lucrative nor an easy one, and is often expected to be carried out as an endeavor done by a tireless volunteer, rather than a respected professional, we are left with an insufficient number of shadchanim tasked with collectively working on numerous daters. As such, shadchanim often redd ideas based on 10-minute meetings with single men and women they have never met before, and sometimes based solely off a profile that has come their way. Shadchanim do not, and cannot, call references or conduct research before making their suggestions, and they are most definitely not joining on the actual dates themselves.
Consequently, any parent or dater may land upon new information carrying import, varying from a reasonable indication that the idea – while nice – isn’t really quite right for them, to concrete evidence of seriously disconcerting issues. Similarly, during the course of a few dates, one may realize that there is no connection between the two daters whatsoever; that they have dissimilar hashkafos, personalities, or life goals; or that there are significant red flags related to the person or their family. It is inevitable that critical pieces of information will escape shadchanim from time to time, as they cannot know everything about everyone.
Moreover, these resolutions to say ‘no’ often come after a great deal of reflection and extended conversations with experienced rabbonim, teachers, or mentors. And it is the summation of all that input that may eventually lead one to believe, using their best judgement, that the shidduch is not shayach.
When any or all of the above has taken place, it is fair and right for anyone to pass on an idea, or end a shidduch. Not every idea is the right idea, and when that happens, one must move on.
Given these mutually valid, yet many times contradictory, vantage points, and with an all-around appreciation for the experiences of those involved, it seems to me that the following allowances may be helpful in enhancing comfort between those intertwined in this dynamic.
Firstly, I believe that daters and parents should be open to the possibility that they are making a mistake. No human being is infallible, and despite our finest efforts, any one of us may be missing something.
Granted, no one thinks that they are that person, from that outrageous story, that turned down an idea for that most outlandish of reasons, but that doesn’t mean their assessment is correct. These errors are infinitely harder to distinguish when one is head-down with laser-focus, and right in the thick of it. Thinking we are doing what is best doesn’t inherently translate into actually doing what is best.
With that in mind, it may not be the worst thing to explain to the shadchan, at least a little bit, why one is saying “no”, and honestly consider the shadchan’s opinion if they happen to see it differently. Perhaps take the thoughts offered by the shadchan, discuss them with a rov or mentor, and see if the added dimension alters the picture. Maybe it will and maybe it won’t, but the risk of finding out is far less than the risk of losing a shidduch for the simple lack of going the extra mile.
Secondly, I believe shadchanim are best served by honestly considering that the person they are speaking with has made the right decision. While the reason given for the “no” may not resonate, and though the idea may still retain its shimmer, it may still be off-mark.
When a dater or parent says “no”, it’s fine to ask why, and even prod a little, but if the explanation is coherent enough, or if a repeatedly and plainly stated “it’s just not for us” is issued, it might be time to courteously ease-off.
To go one step further, even if the reason provided is wildly off the deep end, if there is a sense that there is no reasoning with the person, it probably isn’t worth the frustration of trying. People must be allowed to make their own mistakes, and sometimes all we can do is daven and hope they turn their franchise around, as hard as that is to watch.
Lastly, and if I may be so bold, although it is every shadchan’s right to decide that someone is simply too difficult for them to work with again, no different than in any other “vendor-client” relationship, such is a verdict that must remain internal, while maintaining a wholly diplomatic exterior, and without even the slightest of indications that this adjudication has been made. When a parent or dater picks up on such a termination, it is manifestly crushing, and only adds fuel to the fire. Even from a purely self-involved standpoint, it is quite disadvantageous to become saddled with a reputation – rightly or wrongly – as that shadchan who dismisses anyone that second-guesses their ideas.
Ultimately, the more understanding there is between all involved in the shidduch process, the smoother it becomes. Bridging this gap is no small undertaking, but I believe that dialogues such as these are the beginning of accomplishing the goal.
May the Atzaso Emunah see that all involved in the shidduch process approach one another with warmth, thoughtfulness, and appreciation.