Our twenty-four-year-old son has gone out with a girl three times. The first date went really well. The second date was pretty good and the third date was so-so. The shadchan asked permission to speak directly to our son to get a better sense of what is taking place on the dates, with the goal of hopefully helping the boy and girl have more productive dates and see if this is really a shidduch.
We are unsure if this is “done,” and we certainly wouldn’t want the shadchan pushing a shidduch along when it really should be ended. We are thinking to perhaps say yes to one more date, and if it doesn’t pick up, we’d be inclined to drop this shidduch and move on.
What would you recommend in such a situation?
As it appears to me, there are two distinct and disparate questions at hand.
1. Should shadchanim be granted direct access to daters whom they are in the midst of setting up?
2. How should one handle a shidduch that began with great promise when progress has since dwindled, but it is still not blatantly a no-go?
Although I would very much like to fully address both, there is not space in this venue to do so. Accordingly, inasmuch as the former question strikes me as the more prominent of the two, in this narrative, that is what I would like to address here, and perhaps we will have the chance to address the latter question in an upcoming issue.
When it comes to shadchanim speaking with daters, it is my opinion that permission needn’t be specially bestowed; it should be standard operating procedure – from the outset, and until the shidduch is concluded, or such time as the daters no longer require an emissary. Granted, there are exceptions, such as an abjectly abysmal shidduch where there will categorically be no second date. And even then, it deprives shadchanim of the opportunity to fully understand what went wrong, so that their next suggestion will hopefully be more on target.
However, before launching into any elaboration of the salient reasons for direct shadchan-to-dater communication, I would like to be perfectly clear that the following is not to say, in any way whatsoever, that parents should be excluded from the equation. They absolutely must be involved, but in the proper fashion, and not in a manner which preempts shadchanim from doing their job to the fullest extent of their abilities, or leaves daters devoid of an invaluable asset.
a. Parents and shadchanim serve notably different purposes and often occupy contrastive, though complementary, positions; both of which are pivotal. Correspondingly, dater-parent dialogue is simply not the same as with a non-parent, and this is true even within the healthiest, most highly functioning parent-child dyads.
Furthermore, for virtually all people, it can be quite disconcerting to disagree with one’s parents. Whether a byproduct of the innate desire to please one’s parents, deference to their authority, or fear of repercussion – and although the Rama states mefurash in Yoreh Deah that one is not obligated to adhere to their parent’s demands when it comes to choosing a spouse – it remains difficult to take a strong stance against one’s parents. Especially so when it comes to transformative life decisions.
Consequently, it is crucial for daters to have the opportunity to share their dating concerns with someone with whom they feel greater latitude to disagree, throughout the course of their deliberations.
b. Being that a shadchan is the primary liaison for the two daters, it is vital that the information they are given is not second-hand news. Absent direct contact with the daters, the shadchan becomes a mediator to another mediator. And it is simply impossible to successfully guide any shidduch, or transfer lucid feedback after dates, operating with nebulous messages that have been distilled, diluted, and paraphrased; no matter how well-intentioned a parent may be, and irrespective of their confidence in the precision of that which they are relaying,
Employing mathematical analysis, when it is parents on both sides who are speaking to shadchanim, all responses must go from dater to parent, parent to shadchan, shadchan to parent, and finally, from parent to the other dater. And then back again. That would be eight transmissions total to give over one message from each dater. In such a construct, it becomes akin to a child’s game of telephone, and it is inevitable that some, if not all, of the integral material delivered will be misconstrued, misinterpreted, or misunderstood.
And this is assuming best case scenario, wherein daters are fully honest with their parents in all post-date reports, sensing no compunction to withhold, nor state any feelings inaccurately. The likelihood of which I believe to be relatively diminutive.
For the duration that two daters are not conversing directly, all they have to go on when it comes to knowing how the other person is feeling; what concerns they may have; what matters need greater exploration; and what they believe needs to be seen on an upcoming date – namely, information that ultimately determines whether another date will take place at all – is that which is shared with them via an intermediary. And if that intercessor lacks a thoroughly unblemished picture of what exactly is going on in the hearts and minds of those they are purportedly representing, they stand little to no chance of conveying the actual realties of each dater to one another.
c. Parents are inherently biased when it comes to their children’s shidduchim. Of course, they want what is best, and it is rare for parents to intentionally undermine their child’s shidduch, but biased they remain.
This is not to say shadchanim don’t have biases of their own, they most definitely do. But I have yet to see shadchanim give counsel based on difficulties in their own marriage; interfere with and cavil at a fine shidduch due to their personal dislike of a dater or their families; or push the continuance of a shidduch that ought to end due to prestige that may be bestowed upon one family joining another. Conversely, I have witnessed such behaviors in parents, far too many times. Again, not because parents want to railroad their children, but rather, owing to their own inextricable biases, many times subconscious ones, which so easily cloud judgment and preclude doing what’s right.
Through the vehicle of shadchanim, daters can better avoid the potential for matters which really have no bearing on the shidduch from obfuscating prudent and authentic decision-making.
d. Shadchanim generally have more practice when it comes to shidduchim. As we all know, the particularly specialized process we presently use to bring about a marriage is quite complex. Not to mention the natural intricacies that accompany a man and woman figuring out if they want to spend the rest of their lives together. And having someone with a vast array of experiences speaking with the daters, and offering direction, provides tremendous benefit to all involved.
As far as concerns that shadchanim may exert undue pressure if given unfettered access, I think we should be giving our single men and women a little more credit than to think they cannot handle themselves under pressure. We are talking about young adults, not toddlers who lack the capacity to defend themselves, and by and large, I have found daters extremely capable of fending off shadchanim when needed. Indeed, I have heard single men and women express the discomfort of this pressure, but I can’t say I have ever witnessed someone get married or engaged when they truly didn’t want to, solely as a result of a shadchan’s obstinacy.
Moreover, a little pressure is not necessarily a terrible thing, and I would much rather see daters get a little heated over manageable degrees of pressure, than see a potential engagement collapse due to inaccessibility of instrumental perspective, merely for the sake of being spared from a discussion that may be disquieting. Marriage is full of pressure, as is raising children, making a living, and maintaining the myriad relationships that encompass us. Real adult life is full of pressure. The goal is not avoidance, but learning how to navigate it. And as far as relatively non-threating starting-points go, having to hold one’s ground with shadchanim is a fine place to begin developing that skill.
Besides, if one finds that their shadchan has become positively and unrepentantly pertinacious, they can secure an alternate shadchan who is more open to divergent opinions.
Transferring a shidduch from one shadchan to another is not uncommon (shadchanus in such a case should be brought to a posek), and it is the right of each man and woman to see that whoever is occupying the space of shadchan is someone they are comfortable with, believe can afford them the proper guidance, and have faith in the sincerity with which that person will transport communique between themselves and the person they are dating.
In short, there is much to be gained, and very little to be lost, in having shadchanim, and the men and women they are striving to aid, speak to each other openly and directly.
As we approach zman cheiruseinu, may the Goel Tzedek see that all which is needed for those in shidduchim to reach the chupah is resolutely planted within their grasp.