Recently I heard about a divorced man in his late twenties, a father of three, who insists that any woman who herself has been divorced—especially if she has children—would not be suitable for him in marriage. Not only does he express this as his personal preference, but he also faults “the shidduch system” for presenting him as a divorced man. He has been trying to get shadchanim to find women that he can date without first telling them that he was previously married and has children. Despite his desire to know the woman’s marriage history, and to base his decisions on that information, he claims that divulging his own history at the outset of a shidduch will only serve to devalue and obscure his true qualities (as proclaimed by himself) as a wonderful and loving husband, father, and provider.
My concern is that he is actively looking to promote his agenda of changing the shidduch system to accommodate his preferences, and it seems that there are quite a few other men who have the same attitude. Is it becoming an acceptable practice when suggesting a shidduch to tell one side but not the other (or even to tell neither side) that a previous marriage and children are involved? Are shadchanim aware of and cooperating with this agenda as a means of “doing whatever it takes” to get their clients married?
By Baila Sebrow
People reading your letter will likely gasp in offense at the audacity of a guy who believes that the refusal of shadchanim to misrepresent him to potential shidduchim is a fault in the system. However, this guy’s background and situation need to be taken into consideration. Such atypical expectations do not necessarily originate from arrogance; rather, deep disappointment has established the groundwork of such an asymmetrical thought process.
We know nothing about any pain this young father experienced throughout his marriage and divorce, or the battles he may currently be facing as a second-time single. What we do know is that he is seeking to rebuild his life, although he is misguided in his philosophy.
Like most systems, “the shidduch system” is far from perfect. Shadchanim do not go through a training process in order to enter this profession, and some shadchanim attempt to make shidduchim based solely on a brief meeting or a résumé in much the same manner as a young child connects the dots in a picture book, rather than drawing the full picture.
Those in the shidduch parashah are painfully aware that any discrepancy in their background automatically places them in a specific category. So, when working on behalf of a divorced guy with children, the shadchan will routinely seek out divorced women with children—without considering the possibility that there are never-married girls who are open to marrying a divorced guy with kids. And there are also a number of never-married guys who are open to marrying previously divorced women with children. It is the approach and methods employed by the shadchan that make all the difference in whether a shidduch is carried to fruition.
A shidduch is a personal decision, and so anyone has the right to tell shadchanim that he prefers, for whatever reason, to not date those who have been divorced, especially if they have children. How you or anyone else feels about it is not anyone’s business.
And there is nothing wrong with the concept of a never-married person marrying someone who is divorced with kids—as long as it is for the right reasons. As a shadchan I have made a few such shidduchim. Those marriages happened because the people were right for each other, not because the divorced person was specifically seeking to make a public statement.
Probably, this guy prefers that his qualifications as a future husband be the most prominent feature displayed, rather than him being presented simply as “a divorced guy with kids.” I am stating this from my experience of hearing such complaints from numerous men in similar predicaments.
A shadchan representing a client needs to be like a real-estate broker representing the seller of a home. Whether positive or negative, the location and condition of the house is visible and cannot be concealed. But an astute and clever broker will broadly point out the wonderful attributes that this particular house possesses more than others, so that a sale will eventually be made. There is nothing wrong with a shadchan suggesting to a never-married girl the option of dating a divorced guy with kids, keeping strong focus on and verbalizing the positive attributes that he may possess. A shadchan who practices this method is acting in admirable professional form.
No one is perfect, and most people have a skeleton or two in their closet—even those who have never been married. But in the case of a person who is divorced, this fact usually cannot be hidden away. The frustrations expressed by second-time singles is some shadchanim are drawing robotic conclusions as to which type of person they should marry, regardless of compatibility, based only on the fact that they are divorced. Worse, when these singles refuse to date whom the shadchan suggested, oftentimes the shadchan takes offense, and this results in some sort of verbal altercation.
It is possible that this guy you heard about endured many disappointments in his quest to remarry. Thus, in retaliation for the “system” having failed him—and in the hopes of beating the system—he now requests that shadchanim not divulge his history at the outset. Such behavior should not be condoned.
However, your concern that this guy and others out there share an agenda of changing the system through deception is baseless. Furthermore, it is preposterous to think that it has become an acceptable practice for shadchanim to purposely withhold a previous marriage and children from either side. No normal, ethical shadchan would intentionally withhold major information about the parties involved. Any shadchan who suggests a shidduch without revealing that the person being redt has previously been married with kids is practicing quackery, and should be ousted immediately from shadchanus.
Anyone who takes upon himself the title of “shadchan” is obligated to fulfill this mission, and do “whatever it takes” to get their clients married within the realms of honesty, well-placed ethics, and the knowledge that making a shidduch is a unique privilege in partnering with Hashem—the ultimate Shadchan.
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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