After our daughter had been in the parsha of shidduchim for almost a year, it has gotten back to us that a close family friend on our daughter’s résumé, when called as a reference, gives nice and appropriate information, but on numerous occasions has volunteered her own opinion, saying, “I can’t see it,” when she knew who the boy is. We were very interested in getting a yes from some of those shidduchim, but she obviously killed the opportunities for us. We know that she means well and has no idea that she’s doing something wrong. How do we put a stop to this without causing any friction between the two families?
Before addressing the actual inquiry presented, there are two items which I believe have greater overall import, and I would like to take a moment to discuss them.
The first matter is that of the phrase, “I can’t see it”.
Once a shidduch is redd, the investigation that ensues, and the brief conversations asking friends and family what they think of the idea, become the locus at which almost every shidduch either blossoms or withers. As it is at that seemingly innocuous juncture that every shidduch lies in its most vulnerable and precarious position, it is vital that we are all fully prepared with the tools and knowledge necessary to handle these situations.
The four most dangerous words in the world of shidduchim just may be: “I can’t see it.” While almost everyone has uttered these words at some time as a knee-jerk reaction to a shidduch, they remain innately vapid and hazardous. Although they are ostensibly insignificant to the one who pronounces them, in the mind of someone at the precipice of saying yes or no to a shidduch, hearing those words immediately plants a negative seed, and has left countless shidduchim dead in the water for no substantive reason whatsoever.
Not too long ago, a shadchan who had successfully completed a shidduch shared with me the following story: The young man whom she had just set up related to her that he had actually asked a different shadchan to redd the same shidduch for him some time before, and the first shadchan’s response was, “I don’t see it.” The young man thus left the shidduch alone until the second shadchan independently redd him to that same young woman, and, after some persuasion, he agreed to give it a try. And now they are married.
A common response to such scenarios is that, “obviously,” the shidduch wasn’t meant to be at the earlier time, and it was bashert that the shidduch did not happen until later. Such replies are nothing more than an easy out for missing an opportunity due to poor decision-making, and any modicum of bashert accomplished would be despite those decisions, not thanks to them. Bashert and hashgacha are G-d’s business and His alone; it is our business to do what is right and exercise proper and thoughtful hishtadlus along the way.
Now, this is not to say that every time one is asked about a shidduch, the response must be, “Yes, awesome idea, get married right away.” However, just because any one person does not personally see the idea does not mean that he or she must share that tidbit. It is rather difficult in most cases to “see” a man and woman living together harmoniously as husband and wife, and I would imagine that we all know of happily married couples about whom we would have laughed at the idea of their ever coexisting had we been asked for our thoughts before they started dating. Conjecturing about which singles are truly best for each other is a capricious endeavor at best. We are all but emissaries for Hashem; He is the true mezaveig zivugim.
Now, if one has an actual concern about a shidduch, one with substance and with an actual understanding of the two people involved, and the information one wishes to convey is halachically acceptable to share, that is fine, and it is perfectly apropos to have that conversation. But blurting out an unqualified statement of “I can’t see it,” even if one, in fact, really doesn’t see the shidduch, is an empty utterance that very often carries heavy consequences.
Accordingly, for those on the receiving end, whoever offers those nebulous words, “I don’t see it” – be it an acquaintance at the grocery store, one’s tenth-grade sibling who only peripherally knows the the person being redd to their brother or sister, or even one’s best friend in the world – please do not let that be the guide to saying yes or no. Set those words aside with the understanding that they are almost entirely meaningless in the scope of deciding whom to marry. Instead, allow real information, real knowledge, and ideas with substance, to lead one’s determinations.
The second matter is that of presuming why a shidduch that was redd did not materialize. Even when it is quite clear that the revelations of references are hardly helping things along, unless it has been expressed by the other family themselves, bifeh malei, that the sole reason a no was issued was due to a reference’s discouraging attitude, one must consider that perhaps the no was issued owing to that family feeling that the shidduch lacked optimal potential for their son or daughter.
Obvious does equal factual reality, and as lucid a picture as one may feel has been painted, absent irrefutable confirmation, one is best served by acquiescing that there may have been unknown, yet meaningful reasons, for which the shidduch was passed upon.
As far as a practical recommendation with respect to the question presented, if there is anything obvious about this scenario, it would be the need to promptly remove this friend from the list of family references.
Concerning potential friction as a result, unless there is strong evidence showing that she will find out on her own, I see little value in making a call to notify this friend of the adjudication. If, however, the call is made, it would seem that the most shalomdik strategy would be to say something along the lines of, “We were told that we have too many references listed, so we are going to limit it to our rov, and teachers and friends who know our daughter from school”, or anything else that would soften the blow, and doesn’t call for her indictment.
It is also possible that she could be made aware of the issue, and be entreated to refrain from using that phrase going forward, but that would almost surely leave her feeling guilty about past behavior. Furthermore, there is really no assurance that she will be able to resist the urge to offer her opinion in the same old detrimental fashion when a future call comes in.
Whether or not she should be told, and how that should be conveyed, is a purely personal decision, and one that must be made based on an understanding of the nature of the relationship with this friend, a knowledge of her personality, and an estimation of how she will most plausibly take the news. In any case, for the sake of future shidduchim that are redd, I feel that there is little value in keeping her on as a reference.
May the Borei Niv Sfasayim give us all the ability to control what we say, how it is said, and to whom we say it.