Dear Dr. Yael:
Regarding your February 14 column, “The Frustrating Search For A Shidduch,” here are my observations of the frustrations of singles and their mothers. I hope this letter
serves as a catalyst to lessen the pain of single men, women and their families, as they continue to bravely search for the bashert that is satisfactory to all.
Having been in the shidduch parshah for over a decade before meeting my bashert, I can definitely relate to the many challenges and hardships singles experience.
Over the years my mother and I were the recipients of many hurtful comments. Some shadchanim feel they are experienced psychologists when relating to singles because they and their children were fortunate enough to get married. They offer unsolicited advice at the most inconvenient times based on their strong desire to “help.” But believe me, when I was at a relative’s bar mitzvah trying to enjoy the occasion, I did not feel that the shadchan who would approach me was being helpful.
She would first ask if I was ever involved in a serious relationship. That’s another way of asking if I was afraid of commitment. Then she’d proceed to “educate” me that all humans have imperfections and thus, when I date a woman who may be less than perfect, I need to “look away” because nobody is perfect. I wanted to respond by asking her to identify who had been kind enough to give her this advice before she got married. After all, since she is married I can assume someone had told this to her.
Then there are the many less-than-perfect shadchanim that singles must constantly deal with (i.e., tolerate). There are shadchanim who mention a hundred names to one person and others who mention one name to a hundred people. I guess if you throw enough darts at a target, you might eventually hit the bull’s eye. But they’re not as difficult as the light-bulb shadchanim. They think that their idea is so perfect that they feel the need to constantly badger you – which may lead to harassment. Often, a shadchan may not even know the person he or she is suggesting; yet that does not stop the pressure. These shadchanim assume that you lack the ability to identify what is good for you and/or you simply don’t want to get married as badly as the shadchan wants to make a shidduch. Then, if you are lucky enough to fend off their onslaught, they may tell everyone – behind your back – how picky and confused you are.
Being that the path to finding one’s bashert is challenging enough, there is no need for additional external pressures from shadchanim and gossipers who lack common sense and kavod habriyos. They also lack hakaras hatov, considering that they and/or their children were, baruch Hashem, fortunate enough to find their basherts. It is noteworthy that singles will not get too many hurtful comments leveled at them from people with children in the dating parshah. It’s usually right after their son or daughter gets engaged that they start asking you why it’s taking so long for you to find your bashert or suggesting that you shouldn’t be so picky (my personal favorite).
The lack of common sense and/or hakaras hatov exists among singles and shadchanim alike. This strengthens my point. This is not a “singles” issue or “shadchan” issue. It is a “people” issue because, unfortunately, there are those who lack common sense. I, for one, have dealt with so many wonderful professional and non-professional shadchanim who sincerely want to help singles get married without feeling the need to judge them. And I’m sure that shadchanim have dealt with appreciative and thoughtful singles as well.
Despite my comments thus far, I feel that writing a column lamenting the situation does not really help. Those deficient in common sense will read this article and, due to their lack of self-awareness, miss the fact that it pertains to them. It is usually the one lacking a certain trait who is more oblivious than the one who possesses that trait. For example, after my engagement I complained to someone that it is hurtful to singles when people are pushy. Without any hesitation, this person responded, “Some people need to be pushed.” A seeming case of judge, jury and executioner!
So what is the solution? In all situations, people should always think before they speak. People should ask themselves: Will my words be hurtful to the listener? Will my actions be misinterpreted? Are my opinions helpful or harmful?
This is not an earth-shattering idea. Perhaps a simple “what not-to-do list” would be helpful for both singles and shadchanim. I hope it would help them determine whether their actions are making things easier or harder for others.
Here’s the list:
Don’t hesitate: People sometimes feel that they should not mention a shidduch because they are not a professional shadchan and thus will not be taken seriously. They may also fear that the person will look down at them if the shidduch is seemingly misguided. The reality is that the guys and girls are responsible to diligently research shidduch prospects and should be thankful that someone took the time to think of them. And there is no correlation between a professional shadchan or an amateur one in the success rate of shidduchim.
Don’t judge: Just because someone is single (for however long), do not draw conclusions as to the reason why. Hashem has many reasons for His actions, reasons unbeknownst to us. So if you have an idea for a single and want to mention it, please find it in your heart to remove your preconceived judgments. Then pick up the phone and make the call.
Don’t harass: If someone says “no” to your suggested shidduch, it’s okay to gently offer more clarification about your idea, but leave it at that. Trust the person’s judgment and accept his or her answer.
Don’t offer unsolicited advice: The single needs you to be a matchmaker, not a therapist. Unsought advice comes across as demeaning and condescending. Think of the mother of a single who, while trying to enjoy someone else’s simcha, is subjected to hurtful questions as to why her child is still single.
Don’t sit still: If you have an idea that may help someone, call or e-mail him or her. Do not approach singles when you happen to bump into them at a wedding or in shul.
Don’t ignore: If someone was kind enough to mention a name to a single, it is his or her obligation to get back to the person with an answer. This rule – a basic courtesy – also applies to shadchanim.
Don’t assume: Please listen to what a single desires in a mate. Do not assume that the single requires a certain type of partner based on your assessment of the single and/or the single’s family.
Don’t elaborate: If a match you’ve arranged is running it’s course and one party is uninterested, do not convey that fact to the other party if it was told to you in confidence.
I urge Jewish Press readers to take this list to heart. In the zechus of exhibiting greater sensitivity toward others, may Hashem reward us kindly and may the shidduch crisis be a thing of the past.
Thank you for your amazing letter. I wish you hatzlachah in your new marriage, and may your letter bring more sensitivity to others regarding this issue.Dr. Yael Respler
About the Author: Dr. Yael Respler is a psychotherapist in private practice who provides marital, dating and family counseling. Dr. Respler also deals with problems relating to marital intimacy. Letters may be emailed to email@example.com. To schedule an appointment, please call 917-751-4887. Dr. Orit Respler-Herman, a child psychologist, co-authors this column and is now in private practice providing complete pychological evaluations as well as child and adolescent therapy. She can be reached at 917-679-1612. Previous columns can be viewed at www.jewishpress.com and archives of Dr. Respler’s radio shows can be found at www.dryaelrespler.com.
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