Layers Platform Feedback: Top Ten Things A Shadchan Should Know
Many people in our Jewish communities date and find their spouses through the mechanism of “Shidduch Dating.” What that means, is that either a professional matchmaker or a thoughtful friend, family member or acquaintance connects two young single people who they think might be a good match. Matching up singles can be a super difficult job as there is a lot of time, effort, and juggling of people’s feelings in the job. To be a go-between between two people starting a romantic relationship is tricky, and even more so when also balancing communal and familial expectations.
It can be really hard to help people find the happiness they are looking for.
On the flip side, being single in the Jewish community can be a challenge. Balancing our own wants and needs and the expectations put upon us by the community or family we belong to, can be confusing. Sometimes people who are single feel like they don’t have a lot of control over the shidduch process. There is often a lot of waiting, wondering, and hurt feelings.
At the beginning of the month, we asked our group members of our Facebook group, The Layers Platform, to tell us what they wanted their Shadchanim to know when making matches for them. These are their responses based on their real experiences:
1.“Make Real Matches” – Just because two people are tall, or two people are overweight, does not mean they are a perfect match. Just because a man and a woman are both available, doesn’t necessitate that they would find happiness together.
Ask the people you want to set up specific questions. Ask them about where they are from, what they want and what their goals are. Use their answers as a guide when you envision who would be a good fit for them. They need a spouse that aligns with their hopes, dreams, and goals, just like we all do.
2. “Saying “No” doesn’t mean we are picky.”
Women shouldn’t be pressured into accepting matches that don’t fit what they are looking for. It’s appropriate for women to know what they are looking for and make choices to further those goals. It happens often, that well-meaning matchmakers push singles into dates that are not appropriate for them, because the matchmaker thinks it might be OK.
Women shouldn’t be made to feel desperate that they should take anyone and everyone, even if those people don’t align with what they are looking for. This pressure into feeling like they should accept anyone who would date them can lead to unfulfilling marriages and divorce.
3. “Be Careful When Commenting On Shidduch Photos.”
Single women think long and hard about the images they include when being set up. It is a highly personal and sensitive decision.
Before a shadchan comments on an image- consider: is what you are about to say negative or positive? Do you know the person well enough to comment on whether this is a flattering picture of them? Giving your opinion on how someone is presenting themselves is a very sensitive business. Singles go through enough struggles without having someone else’s personal opinion of beauty and attractiveness projected onto them, as well.
4. “Please, Don’t Judge.”
Sometimes being judged and rejected by a shadchan can be more painful than being rejected by a potential partner. If someone doesn’t want to go out with you again, perhaps you’re not the right fit. But if a shadchan rejects you because there are things about you that she doesn’t like or are not up to her personal standards, she’s saying that you are not fit for her to work with. Sometimes people who are single hear judgments about where they are from, the choices they have made, their family issues, or their external appearances.
When a matchmaker makes decisions about who someone can date based on their personal standards, that leaves no space for men who might potentially date that person to have other opinions. Everyone likes something different, and a shadchan should make space for that.
5. “Be Present.”
When you are sitting with someone, let them know you are listening to them. They are asking you to find someone who they can share a life with, someone who will make all their decisions with them, someone who they will share a home and family with. Ask many questions. Get into the details. Delve into each person’s personality, hashkafa, and needs as meaningfully as you can. It will make a huge difference and the person you are sitting with will feel the kindness that you intend to offer them by putting in effort on their behalf.
6. “Follow Up.”
Please do your best to be in touch with the people you are setting up. Let them know where you are in the process. Those minutes, hours and days can be agony waiting to hear back. Singles want to know where they stand with you, and with the people they are dating. Feeling like they need to chase down their matchmaker, or call them weekly to remind them that they exist and are waiting to hear back about the outcome of their date can be so stressful. This dynamic can make a person who is waiting feel awful. The more sensitive a matchmaker can be to that need, be the smoother the process will go.
7. “Know Your Power.”
The shadchan in the shidduch process has so much power. A simple call can let the person you want to set up or have set up, know that you are still thinking about them. That their happiness and feelings are important to you. Even in rejections, there are ways to be kind and ways to be cruel. A thoughtful message or comment from a shadchan can be so transformative and can make someone feel hopeful and eager to continue the often difficult process of dating. A compassionate matchmaker can help someone dating feel like they are not alone in the process. Honestly, that can make all the difference.
8. “Don’t ask people to change”
It is important to accept people for who they are. They shouldn’t be tweaking their personalities, looks,
It is a mistake to encourage people to lie about themselves. They are worthy as they are. There is someone out there who will love them and find them attractive as they are. Encourage people to be authentic, and not put on a mask just to get a date. Character, temperament, values,
9. “Don’t tell them to lose weight”
We all know that it’s simply not ok to tell someone who isn’t thin to your standards, that they need to lose weight in order to get married. Yet, this happens all the time.
Men out there are attracted to women of all sizes, including larger women. Also, the size that you are when you are single is very often not the size you stay. Human beings have weight fluctuations over their lifetimes. Do we really want to encourage women to marry men who will only be attracted to them when they are a certain size? Should men stop being attracted to their wives when they are pregnant, or post baby? We are setting everyone up for failure by encouraging that kind of attitude. Focusing on those externals are simply not Torah values.
10. “Let women navigate their own red flags”
Very often, women end up going on second and third dates with men they aren’t interested in or don’t feel good about because they are encouraged by other people to continue. We need to trust women’s intuition, red flags, and own gut feelings about their dating experiences. We don’t go on dates with them. We don’t feel their feelings. Isn’t what they feel the most important thing, more than what we think? What does it matter if we think they are wrong? It’s their life and it’s their decisions. We need to make space to accept what they want, instead of pushing what we want or think is best for them.
Shadchanim are so appreciated. The whole shidduch system functions because there are people who care and want to help singles find happiness and build a life with a wonderful partner. The more sensitivity we can develop, the more healthy experiences can be had. Healthy dating experiences can lead to healthy and happy marriages.
Shira Lankin Sheps grew up in New Jersey and went to Stern College for women. After graduating from Hunter College School of Social Work with her MSW in clinical social work, she worked in the clinical field, in marketing and photojournalism.
She decided to start The Layers Project to help break down stigma and promote healing within our Jewish community.
She feels strongly about presenting women, who are so often shown as shallow characters or fully removed from Jewish media spaces, as three-dimensional individuals whose lives are full and rich with resilience.
Shira made aliyah with her family two years ago to Jerusalem.
Headshot taken by Tzipora Lifchitz.