I know that this column deals with dating problems. But I am a shadchan who has dating problems. I am an older single girl who has never been married. There are many reasons why I did not get married when I was young, but I don’t want to go into that.
Years ago, someone told me that if I started making shidduchim it would be a z’chus for me to get married. So I became a professional shadchan. People I don’t know were calling me to help them find a shidduch. But this only worked against me.
People do not appreciate what a shadchan goes through. In all honesty, I used to hate shadchanim until I became one myself. There is no hakaras ha’tov whatsoever. When a shidduch is redt to someone the person is not interested in, the singles start spreading nasty rumors about the shadchan. Girls are by far the worst. If a guy says no to a girl, they blame the shadchan and start a lashon ha’ra campaign against her.
If I were a married shadchan, I wouldn’t care. But I am also looking for a shidduch, and now I have to deal with all the terrible things being said about me.
In my opinion, no one should be a shadchan anymore—let’s teach those ungrateful singles a lesson. Let them fend for themselves for one year, and see how that works out for them. I think all shadchanim should go on strike. How do you feel about this?
By Baila Sebrow
Your letter brings to mind the well-known adage “no good deed goes unpunished.” Although there are many complaints from shadchanim about the singles they work with, your letter speaks of a deeper disappointment and disillusionment with the system. Unlike shadchanim who are married, you see the complete picture from all sides. You are able to view the perspectives of the single person as well as that of a shadchan. You are therefore able to comprehend that there indeed exists a dark side to this mitzvah.
To be fair, there are those who can be called the “good” guys and the “bad” guys. That is referring to the good and bad in singles as well as the shadchanim. There is good and bad in every group. It’s as simple as that.
You are correct that there are singles who abuse shadchanim. But such people clearly demonstrate a large piece of their personality. If they abuse a shadchan who is only trying to help them, you can bet that they mistreat others in a similar fashion. Those singles who speak lashon ha’ra don’t just speak badly of shadchanim. They will also bad-mouth people they have dated. And it’s not just the singles. Some parents of young singles have no scruples when it comes to shooting off their mouths. If a date rejected their child, or they did not like the person their son or daughter went out with, they might say terrible things not only about the date, but the shadchan as well.
There are parents of children in shidduchim who will sit around in a coffee-klatch rating shadchanim and trashing the names of some of the people their sons or daughters have dated.
There are two types of shadchanim who work with singles. There are those who charge a flat fee or ask for paid installments for their time in assisting singles and their parents who are seeking a shidduch. Those who hold by such a practice feel that the time they spend meeting with a single guy or girl and reviewing their profile, in addition to the countless hours that go into every shidduch suggested, is worth a monetary reimbursement. That fee has nothing to do with the fee that one is halachically obligated to pay when a marriage results from the shadchan.
Then there are those shadchanim who perform the same service, with the exception that they do not charge one penny for the countless hours they put in on behalf of the singles they assist until it results in an engagement.
Both types of shadchanim can suffer similar consequences when it comes to lashon ha’ra. The shadchanim who charge a fee for their services still cannot realistically guarantee a compatible date for their client. There are so many variables involved in satisfying requirements that unless a shadchan is also a magician, he or she cannot promise success. However, the single guy or girl who shelled out well-earned money in the hopes that the shadchan will be their ultimate shaliach feels betrayed when results are not produced. And even if they are successful, the simple fact that they charge for their services makes them more susceptible to lashon ha’ra.
Not that the volunteer shadchanim are necessarily treated any better. There is no shadchan in the world who has not fallen victim to the lashon ha’ra perpetrated by those they have tried to help. If one wants to defend such behavior, it can be said that these singles are acting out of frustration with their seemingly unending status of being single. However, bad behavior, especially when it can potentially cause damage, must never be sanctioned.
A shadchan who was once frustrated with someone she was trying to help likened the shadchan’s job to that of an indentured servant. It can sometimes feel that way, but oftentimes the issue is one of boundaries. Just as a professional sets boundaries with regard to working hours, so too must a shadchan.
The loneliness that singles endure compels some to call a shadchan who has a family even on a busy erev Shabbos or yom tov requesting a shidduch search.The singles who call and are brushed off by the harried shadchan will then feel slighted by such an action. Or the shadchan, like anyone else, may have issues going on in his or her personal life and cannot return an e-mail or call. It can be quite agonizing to the single person waiting to hear back from the shadchan who does not respond. And of course if a date does not work out for whatever reason, the shadchan is oftentimes blamed.
At some point in their careers, many shadchanim have experienced a betrayal by those they have been devoting their time to assisting. There are countless “war stories” told by shadchanim of being taken advantage of in terms of shidduchim they suggested to singles who abruptly dropped them, only to find out later that their shidduch suggestion somehow resulted in an engagement. Others talk of various issues regarding proper respect and boundaries. For shadchanim, emotional stress can be an occupational hazard. For some it feels like a thankless job even in the best of circumstances.
The savvy shadchan understands the psyche of single guys and girls, and appreciates the vulnerable state they find themselves in, whether by choice or not. This type of shadchan possesses the ability to give the benefit of the doubt. In your case, while giving the benefit of the doubt is nice, you are enduring abuse that is hurting your personal life.
Shadchanim going on strike is not the answer. However, just as in any profession, when people feel burnt out, they go on sabbatical. Which is exactly what I am recommending you do. The job of being a shadchan is a holy one. After all, it is the partnering with Hashem in finding zivugim. That is huge. But one has to be in the correct state of mind to perform this mitzvah.
You have been hurt by those to whom you gave of your personal time to help—to such an extent that you feel your own chances in finding a shidduch are now in jeopardy. Under such circumstances, at this point your focus should be on your own search for a husband. I am not telling you not to suggest a shidduch to a friend if you happen to know of someone. However, just for a while don’t go listing yourself as a professional shadchan.
Your situation is not hopeless. The sooner you institute damage control, the sooner people will stop viewing you as a shadchan. In the z’chus of all that you have done, I am confident that your shidduch will come soon. At that point, I urge you to go back to this holy mission, as I sense that you are good at it.
Baila Sebrow is president of Neshoma Advocates, communications and recruitment liaison for Sovri-Beth Israel, executive director of Teach Our Children, and a shadchanis. She can be reached at Bsebrow@aol.com. v
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