I am a 29-year-old frum, educated guy from a choshuva family, and in a current horrible dilemma. Last year I agreed to go out with a girl whose parents daven in the same shul as my parents. The parents of this girl have tried for a few years to get me to say “yes” to her, but because I knew that this girl is not shayach for me, I always refused. My parents would always give the excuse that I am busy with someone. So last year, when the girl’s parents investigated and found out that I was, in fact, not busy at the time, they told my parents that they know I am free and would like for me to go out with their daughter. My parents convinced me that being that we all daven in the same shul, and to avoid any uncomfortable situation, I must go out with her at least once.
The date confirmed what I knew all along—that this girl was definitely not for me. I treated her well on the date, and even took her to a nice restaurant. After the date, I told my parents that I wouldn’t go out with her again, and the message was passed on.
Soon after that date, terrible false rumors began to circulate about me, and not only did girls start saying “no” to me, but shadchanim refused to even speak to my parents. We traced the root of these rumors back to the same family of the girl I went out with last year.
My parents spoke to our rav, but even he seems convinced that the rumors are true. My parents can’t stop crying and I am very depressed about it.
What can I do about this situation? How can I get shadchanim to feel about me as they did before? I was known as a much-sought-after guy. And I want things to go back to the way they were before all this happened.
The Panelists Respond
Sounds like you are describing a classic bullying situation. Many people associate the trauma of bullying with childhood. Unfortunately, bullies also operate their tyranny outside of school playgrounds. Bullies exist and function as neighbors, acquaintances, shul members, and pillars of their communities. They may even be known as great philanthropists who open their doors to anyone in need. But, for whatever reason they may have, bullies will pick their one vulnerable victim and torture them to no end.
Adult bullies are successful when their chosen victims are in the shidduch parashah. In our frum society, where people do not accept dates for themselves or their children until those suggested pass the scrutiny of friends and strangers alike, the adult bully has his or her field day.
Boys and girls in the shidduch parashah are terrified about what people will say about them—and rightfully so. Adult bullies have damaged shidduchim since the beginning of time. They will fabricate tales about the person they seek to socially annihilate from shidduchim to such an extent that very few would consider the maligned person for marriage. The frum world being as small as it is, with people somehow always coming full circle, news such as that perpetuated by a bully may travel far and wide, even overseas.
Based on the sequence of events you are relating, it seems to me that the parents of the girl, rather than the girl herself, initiated the rumors. They seemed to be aggressive for your acceptance of a date with their daughter, going so far as to investigate whether you were in actuality dating someone or not. Not surprising that your parents felt coerced in convincing you to go out with this girl. They felt pressured as fellow members of their shul with these people. Unbeknown to your parents, the decision to give in to the demands of these people was a grave mistake. Their aggressiveness was a clear indication that these people do not take no for an answer lightly.
The reason your rav seems to believe the rumors circulating about you is that the parents of this girl were cruelly clever in making sure they would be successful. In the typical behavior of bullies, these parents recruited and instigated other people, and ensnared them to join in their smear campaign against you. Since a number of people and possibly seemingly virtuous people are repeating the same rumors, your rav feels convinced that it must somehow be true.
At this point, you and your parents need to strongly activate damage control. The methods that need to be orchestrated in this case are exactly those used in dealing with child bullies. “Zero tolerance” must be expedited without delay.
Your parents need to reach out to their friends and to those in high positions who know you well to activate an emergency meeting with your rav. The situation must be clearly explained, so that your rav understands that the parents of the girl felt scorned by your rejection and retaliated by slandering you. After which point, these people need to be brought to task and forced to publicly retract their rumors.
The most effective antidote to bullies in the shidduch world is to continue living your life in the positive manner you always have, and progress in all aspects—which in turn will bring your achievements in finding your zivug to fruition.
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.
Your predicament is truly a difficult one. False rumors are always a source of pain and aggravation, how much more so when dating and marriage are involved.
The only solution I can see is for your family and the girl’s family to sit down together and deal with the situation directly. If you are correct in assuming that the rumors originated from them, then speaking with the family themselves is the only way to get to the root of the problem. I would suggest that the meeting be with a rav or mediator to make sure the conversation stays civil and productive.
Before having this meeting, you should think back to your interaction with this family and see if in any way you have harmed or insulted them. For example, perhaps they feel slighted that you misrepresented your dating status to them in the past. Hopefully, once this situation is talked over and understood, your shadchanim, rav, and community will see your true nature and your prospects will improve.
Tzipi Altmann has led seminars for women on successful conflict-resolution and has provided personal counseling while residing in northern Israel. Tzipi currently teaches at Bnot Chaya Academy and its seminary college program. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. v
In each installment of the Five Towns Jewish Times Dating Forum, a question pertaining to contemporary dating issues will be addressed by our diverse and experienced forum panelists. Questions and comments can be submitted to email@example.com.