By Baila Sebrow

Question

People are always ruining shidduchim. Not just for me; it happens to my friends, too. One time I went out with a guy and somebody said that he had been in jail. People should know not to judge someone about his or her past. Get to know the person first. Don’t judge a book by its cover. It only takes one person to click with another to make the relationship work.

I think people ruin shidduchim because they are jealous or they want the person under discussion for themselves or for someone in their family. Basically, when people see someone else happy, they don’t want the person to be happy because they are not happy. Do you agree?

Response

You are bringing up a sore topic for those who have been in that position while seeking a shidduch, and one that is disconcerting for shadchanim who are actively involved in shidduchim. From my statistics as a shadchan, over 50 percent of prospective couples do not get the chance to even meet one another as a result of something they heard about the person, whether it’s true or not. Half of those who are already dating will break up not just because of incompatibility but because of something that somebody said about the one they are dating.

There are two types of circumstances involving those who wreck a shidduch’s potential. The first is where whatever is being said about the person is false. I consider that malice. You are correct when you say that there are people who will deliberately ruin an innocent person’s chance for happiness for no reason other than jealousy or because they want that person for themselves, which still falls under the same category of jealousy.

The jealousy could be based on dislike for that person and the justification that said person does not deserve the chance for happiness. The jealousy oftentimes also comes from wanting that shidduch for themselves or a member of their family, and by saying something negative, they hope to achieve their goal.

The ways one can ruin a shidduch range from harmless-sounding quips to major fabrications. For example, Mrs. A calls Mrs. B about a girl her son is interested in because Mrs. B is listed as a reference on the girl’s résumé. Or perhaps she calls Mrs. B. because she believes that she is acquainted with that girl who happens to live in the same community. Mrs. B may want Mrs. A’s son for her own daughter or somebody she knows and will cunningly dissuade the shidduch, while quickly adding that she has a shidduch idea that is even better.

Another example is that the person who does not want that shidduch to happen will relay info where he/she is mindful to say whatever needs to be said so as to discourage the shidduch from going further. It could be about finances, religiosity, the manner of dress style, or family circumstances.

I will say this. While there are people who believe that they never had the chance to get married because somebody always ruined it for them, in most cases where somebody damaged a shidduch just to be spiteful, it usually turns out to be a clear show of hashgachah pratis, and the person who was disparaged was ultimately saved from a catastrophic situation. One of the shidduchim I redd to somebody was ruined by the mother of a girl who wanted the guy for her own daughter. She explained to the guy that her own daughter is more compatible with him. Her daughter did end up marrying that guy, who eventually did not treat his wife respectfully, and the young lady who was a victim of lashon ha’ra was shielded from experiencing misery.

There was a case about a man who called somebody regarding a woman he was interested in, and that person told him that the shidduch is not for him because she is not a tzanuah. Seconds later, the person suggested a family member to this man. It was later proven that the disparaged victim was spared from a dangerous situation. There are tales told about men that are not financially well-off, have been in jail, as was said about a guy you were interested in, or that they are not gainfully employed. The list goes on, as there is no end to what some people are viciously capable of doing to another human being, male or female.

Then we have the other type of shidduch-wrecking situation where whatever is being reported is factually true. That is the trickiest and scariest kind, because, on one hand, some people are afraid to ruin a shidduch, yet, on the other hand, they also don’t want to see an innocent person fall into an unfortunate situation. However, in these types of circumstances what usually ends up happening is that no one says anything or they deny the truth, and nature takes an unlucky course where the good person falls in badly.

Here is what I advise. When a shidduch is being suggested, do not start making cold calls about the person in question, because in most cases all you will receive is somebody’s opinion. Please do not ever ask somebody if they “see it.” That is a common question when calling references. They will ask, “Do you see him/her with so-and-so?” You also shouldn’t allow anybody to tell you that they “don’t see it.” No person offering references should ever be given the power to determine whether they see the shidduch happening. If you look around and study the different relationships among married couples, there are plenty that make one wonder how such a shidduch ever took off to begin with. Shidduchim are not like shoes, where you can’t wear two shoes from different pairs at the same time.

Should you ask the rav of the shul the person and family belong to? That could be tricky, too. I once had a case where the parents of a young lady called the rav of the shul where the family of the guy davened. The rabbi spoke very highly about the family, but he said that the guy does not go to shul, and since it’s a small town, that is the only shul of that type of hashkafah he would want to attend. The parents of the girl became upset and immediately called me and demanded to know how I could redd such a shidduch to their daughter. I calmed them down, and insisted that there must be some sort of explanation. I then called the guy in question and matter-of-factly explained the entire situation to him. To be honest, I expected the boy to get all flustered. Instead, he started to laugh. The rabbi was right, he said. He definitely did not go to shul in that town on Shabbos, because for the past year he had rarely been home for Shabbos — he had volunteered to spend Shabbos with sick people in hospitals! In the rav’s defense, he felt he was doing the right thing for the family of the girl by disclosing what he assumed to be accurate details. On a happy note, the couple did get married and are zocheh to have a beautiful family, baruch Hashem.

Then there are cases where the rav has no clue what the person being inquired about is really like. He or she could be a tremendous ba’al/ba’alas tzedakah and chesed and be actively involved in communal affairs, yet the rav has no knowledge of any wrongdoing or he chooses not to disclose it. I definitely encourage people to reach out to da’as Torah for advice about important matters. But when it comes to sensitive subjects, do not accept everything you hear as though it is written in stone, whether good or bad. Investigate thoroughly!

I agree with you that you should meet the person first and figure things out for yourself. Yes, one should try not to judge a book by its cover, so to speak. There is more to a person than meets the eye. However, that could go in various ways. There are people who have a negative past yet are nice people today. There are those who come across as the perfect shidduch, but there are disturbing things about them. Then there are those who don’t look so good at first, for whatever reason, but may be wonderful people.

The most effective method one can utilize is to look at the person’s history. For the most part, people are creatures of habit. People are consistent when it comes to behavior. Yes, people can change, do teshuvah, and be nice … until they are not — until the day or time that somebody triggers them, and you see the full unattractive picture. By that time, the person could already be married to someone who fell in. Thoroughly investigate how the person lives his or her life. That’s all you really need to know. Forget the opinions of others. Just focus on how they behaved in previous relationships or marriages. Who did they date, and how or why did those relationships end? That’s where you will get a clear picture of the person in question. Find out about his or her health, especially emotionally. If the person is dealing with issues relating to mental health, you need full disclosure. Don’t completely buy into the assurance that he worked on himself or that his condition is under control. This is an area where you need information on how the person will react if he gets triggered.

Please keep in mind that no person in the world can ruin another person’s happiness for the long term, even if they ruin a few shidduchim. If one shidduch doesn’t work out, you have the right to feel pain, but move on to the next. There will always be jealous people out there. You cannot control the behavior of other people, only your own. If you hear something negative about a person you are dating, look into what you hear. Ask questions, and ask more questions. The main concern you or anyone in shidduchim should have is what type of spouse that person will be. That is all you need to know.

Baila Sebrow is president of Neshoma Advocates, communications and recruitment liaison for Sovri-Beth Israel, executive director of Teach Our Children, and a shadchanis and shidduch consultant. She can be reached at Bsebrow@aol.com. Questions and comments for the Dating Forum can be submitted to 5townsforum@gmail.com

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