As shadchanim, it seems that singles confide in us. Perhaps you can share some ideas of how we can display our care for them. Are there things they want to hear or specific things they don’t want to hear? What can we do to show that we really care?
As basic as this may sound, if there is one achievement which stands above all others in my mind, and that I wholeheartedly believe will exhibit impactful sensitivity to the single men and women of Klal Yisroel, it is treating them with the respect they deserve as young adults approaching the passageway to matrimony. Not lip service, not artificial approbations, and not patronizing smiles and nods. Rather, unveiling the very manifestation of real, authentic, and unambiguous respect. And in this vein, there are two distinct areas where it appears to me that one can be exceptionally demonstrative with their regard for our singles as mature people who have inherent value, and who maintain opinions which merit our attention.
1. Responsiveness. When one receives an inquiry from a single man or woman, a response to their attempt at communication goes miles towards highlighting an actual appreciation of their feelings and needs. To elaborate, in our current shidduch system, there are very few avenues or outlets for daters to employ self-agency, and consequently, there is a great deal of sitting around and waiting. Accordingly, along with tefilah, the most notable and accessible escape from this often sluggish reality, and perhaps the primary realm of proactive hishtadlus, is connecting and conversing with shadchanim. Hence, when daters reach out, leaving themselves vulnerable to disappointment in yet another realm, and receive nothing back in return, it is awfully disheartening.
Even a brief reply, as long as it is gentle and polite, can immeasurably uplift someone who is struggling in shidduchim. Thus, when receiving a request to meet, if one is too busy to do so, they may say nothing at all, and let the person on the other end interpret the ensuing radio silence. Clearly, this does not typically lead daters to feeling very much cared for. Alternatively, one can take a moment to reply, quickly stating, “Thanks for reaching out! I am sorry, but I am unable to meet now. I would be happy to meet at ‘X’ time, please try me again then.” Or, if one is unlikely to be available at all, they may respond saying, “I am sorry, but I am not taking meetings at this time. Hatzlacha!” These are but a few short and easy sentences which carry the power to bring untold chizuk to a dater.
The same goes for follow-ups. Provided a dater is checking in at normative intervals (i.e., not more than approximately once a month), one can swiftly issue a kind and buoyant reply that notes, “Nice to hear from you, thanks so much for the reminder. I will certainly continue to keep you in mind!” Doing so provides remarkable menuchas hanefesh to the person on the other end who has just swallowed their pride for the umpteenth time, releasing yet another dispatch into a vast and voiceless electronic universe, seeking some attention, and maybe even hoping to get a date. Granted, on a practical level, whether one says nothing, or empathetically verbalizes that they have nothing to offer right now, either way, it equates to not having anything tangible to provide. However, on an internal level, the chasm between these two courses of action is infinite.
Now, to be sure, there are numerous shadchanim who are beyond overburdened with correspondence, and feel that their time is best spent working on getting new dates off the ground, and guiding their couples who are already in the midst of a shidduch. For some, it is not even remotely feasible to answer each and every missive that comes their way, as any reply comes at the expense of another critical obligation that cannot be ignored. That is perfectly fair and understandable.
Nonetheless, to whatever degree one is able to show responsiveness, I would encourage it greatly. It may mean more that one will ever know. Indeed, I cannot begin to count how many single men and women, as well as parents with sons or daughters in shidduchim, have expressed sheer elation and overflowing gratitude in response to obtaining a 15-word reply that is essentially nothing more than fundamental acknowledgement. If one is truly interested in imparting genuine care and concern for another person, the very first step is overtly recognizing and respecting that person’s existence.
2. Acceptance. As single men and women navigate the sea of shidduchim, and endeavor to make astute decisions whenever possible, it is inevitable that there will be times when they are in disagreement with shadchanim. It could be a dater who declines a suggestion which the shadchan feels is a wonderful opportunity now lost, or a couple that is fixed on ending a shidduch for an apparently incomprehensible reason. In both cases, we are left standing at an impasse. And when this happens, it is crucial to remain considerate of the dater’s point of view, regardless of how it may sound to the listener.
Lamentably, all too often, daters are talked down to, badgered, ridiculed, and overall made to feel foolish and childish when they reveal even the slightest hint of having a backbone. Is there really any reason to explicitly or implicitly convey the notion that a dater is undoubtedly making a huge a mistake which they will regret forever? Is there any great gain in asserting to a single man or woman that since they are not married, they have no idea what relationships are all about? Of course, this is not to say that daters are naturally infallible since it is their life on the line, or that their gut reactions must always be left unquestioned and unchecked. If it is one’s perception that a dater is encroaching upon bad decision-making, it is vital to initiate that discourse. Every dater needs someone who can give them a little push-back, and keep them honest about their assessments and impulses. It is only a question of how to go about the task.
As such, when daters are given stiff orders which relegate their cognitions and emotions as meaningless due to age or inexperience, it does nothing more than to underscore how wholly insignificant that single person is in the eyes of the person with whom they are consulting. Conversely, exchanges that flow commensurately in both directions produce a tacit approval of the dater’s capacity to have a unique and indispensable position on the matter. And, in turn, this allows for the message to be heard and absorbed with the dater’s self-esteem remaining firmly in-tact.
Pragmatically speaking, as above, the result of both options is that of the dater being asked to step back and ponder the possibility that they are erring somehow in the manner which they are going about dating. And again, nevertheless, there is a gargantuan difference between obstinate or authoritarian value statements which disregard anything and everything which exits the dater’s mouth, and an open dialogue which evinces courtesy, and makes it abundantly plain to the dater that their impressions are worthy of deliberation. Akin to the sincere validation of someone’s very existence as a person, giving earnest credence and respect to their thoughts and feelings lies at the very foundation of bona fide care and concern for another human being.
All told, it does not appear to me that our many outstanding single men and women ask for very much of us when it comes to substantiating our collective warmth, support, and compassion as they aspire to attain their goal of marriage. They merely want to experience reciprocal interactions which confer them with credibility and caliber consistent in magnitude to that which is so freely granted to their peers who don sheitels and are enveloped in talleism.
May the Tzadik V’Yashar shower us all with His graciousness and benevolence, and may we, too, follow in His ways.