Is it okay to speak to my roommates or other friends about my dates? Sometimes, I feel like they just “get it” more than my parents do. Also, if they ever went out with the person I was redd to, they may be able to save me from a bad date. What do you feel?
Indeed, close friends can serve as a crucial support system when it comes to shidduchim, as compadres who are traversing an identical journey at a shared moment in time posses an enhanced capacity to aid one another through their trials and tribulations, and in a manner that all others simply cannot. Nevertheless, the topic of how exactly to involve friends in one’s dating episodes is not without notable intricacies, and there are boundaries which must be fully understood in order to avoid momentous, and often irrevocable, mistakes. Accordingly, there are three types of peer-to-peer communication that I would like to address.
1. Generic information. In this regard, friends can readily be relied upon for emotional fortitude when one is struggling; and in a certain respect, they are most sincerely suited to embody exuberance when a prospect appears promising. To be clear, though, even this peripheral level of participation demands great sensitivity and care.
On the one hand, when a person refrains from disclosing to close friends that they are dating seriously, all the way up to the night of the L’chaim, it is not uncommon for those friends to feel hurt when they come to realize how vastly out of touch they had been. And, on the other hand, there are times when one might feel the need for absolute privacy if they are to reach engagement. As such, for the sake of that unparalleled consideration, that one true goal of dating, a person may consciously keep their cards close to the vest, with the full knowledge that some degree of future ill-will may arise, and with hopes that their friend’s disappointment will prove fugacious, once it is appreciated why the unabated secrecy was called for.
Similarly, when a compatriot is enduring a dry spell, or is coming off a challenging break-up, it may be rather inopportune and insensitive to force upon that friend the jarring juxtaposition of how well things are progressing for others who are so near in proximity. And yet, one might also know that a particular friend will be more aggrieved as a result of feeling left out, and is of a constitution that hearing favorable news about another is not received painfully, despite that friend’s own hardship in the very same realm.
Of course, these are but two sides of only two examples of many, and there are often untold, extremely compelling reasons for why one does or does not disclose even non-specific information to friends. The point being, it is vital that one comprehends the import and impact of conveying tidbits to friends. One’s own needs must be judiciously evaluated, and the circumstances and temperaments of one’s friends must be thoughtfully taken into account, before deciding whether, which, and how friends are looped into the overall picture.
2. The particulars. In general, these dating aspects are best reserved for discussing with shadchanim, parents, teachers, rebbeim, and mentors. As to why this is the case, we must first appreciate the nuanced interplay of two realities of human nature. First, it is inarguable that each individual has unique needs, and especially so when it comes to finding a spouse. Second, it is without question that the opinions of contemporaries carry great weight, and sometimes, more so than the stance of anyone else in the world.
Consequently, when one is dating, it is nearly inevitable that the prism through which a shidduch-related tale is interpreted will be but a reflection of one’s own present preferences. In turn, this will most plausibly affect how one responds to chronicles that have been shared. And all the same, regardless of how comparable two friends perceive themselves as being, that feedback may be entirely irrelevant to the friend who receives it, as the totality of their dating needs are going to be different in one way or another.
Additionally, should one happen to make mention of a specific occurrence or character trait that was in no way perceived as troublesome, and their friend either overtly, or seemingly innocuously, responds adversely, it can have a devastating effect. For instance, harking back to the Shidduch Forum question about a young man removing his shoes mid-date, if such an anecdote was shared with a friend, and that friend subsequently made a snide comment, or displayed a disapproving facial expression, that may inadvertently sway one’s feelings towards the shidduch. One may suddenly begin to question how they view the person they are dating, start to see things in a negative light, and thus terminate a shidduch that was actually perfect for them, not recognizing the immateriality of the matter.
Regrettably, this has happened many a time. It could be done merely to look good in the eyes of a friend who has mistakenly thrown cold water on the shidduch, or it could be done because one has momentarily substituted their friend’s priorities with those of their own. In either case, it is not atypical for the mistake to go unnoticed until it is too late. Such is a cost that no one can afford.
That said, the age, maturity, and disposition of friends must also be appraised. There are settings where friends may be able to safely share the specifics of a date with one another, and for some, the counsel of a truly trusted confidant provides an irreplaceable vantage point. Hence, once again, one must devote due deliberation before precise elements are tendered to a friend, to be sure that the value exceeds the latent risk.
3. Revealing a name. All told, divulging to a friend the name of the person one is looking into dating, or is already dating, is categorically inexcusable. In fact, I have heard bifeh malei from a prominent rebbi who works extensively in shidduchim that such divulgences are an “avlah gedolah ad meod.” And with respect to the quixotic notion that this practice is ostensibly intended to avoid a calamitous date, friends are not the ones who are meant to make that “save.” That is what resume references and family research before saying yes are meant to accomplish. And if it turns out to be a dud anyway, so be it. Them’s the breaks, and it is to be expected that poor dates and one-and-done outings might be endured at some point in the process.
Contrastingly, if one’s friend had a bad date in the past, and chose to conclude that shidduch, or was summarily rejected, that is completely inapplicable to anyone else. It purely means that the person they had dated was not for them, but it does not mean that the person is for no one. Bad for me does not mean bad for another. Yet, it is highly likely that this friend will advise everyone in their social circle against dating the person with whom they clashed, despite the practical insignificance of the incident to others. And when that happens, an erroneous decision that may not be rectifiable can be the potential product. Parenthetically, if one should happen to be made aware of the name of the person that a friend is dating, and is convinced of there being a major issue, a shaila chamurah must be asked of a posek before even a word is uttered to anyone.
In short, the subject of speaking with friends about one’s dates is a decidedly and deceptively delicate discipline, and one must be abundantly clear as to what it is that they would like to share, and what it is that they are hoping to gain by doing so, before any such statements are made.
May the Boruch Umvorach Bifei Kol Haneshama ensure that we are all markedly measured and meticulous in what we say, in each and every area of our lives.