By Baila Sebrow

Question

I met this cool gal on one of those Facebook groups for singles. I commented on something in a thread, she responded, and before we knew it, we had hit it off. We continued talking on the phone, texting, and FaceTiming for weeks. As COVID-19 became less of an issue, we made plans to meet in person, and we were so excited that we couldn’t wait. We literally counted the days and hours until we would finally meet in person.

I never checked her out officially, because we have so many mutual friends (off Facebook) and I heard great things about her. She is not some random woman. Plus, we have so much in common, shared goals, etc. But a few days ago I happened to mention her name to a colleague whom I trust with my life, and he told me to stay away from her. I asked him if he knows her and he said no, but he heard bad things about her from somebody he is close to.

I never felt so connected to anyone else before and I don’t want to miss out on a good try. What if she is “the one?” I have been burned before, and I can’t take the chance of going through the messes I had with other women. On the other hand, I am scared to miss out on the opportunity that maybe she is my shidduch. What if the thing my colleague was talking about is just a misunderstanding or somebody making trouble? What is your opinion?

Response

Your dilemma is not uncommon. Before I advise you on how to deal with your specific circumstances, I need to address your fears. Contrary to what many people have been led to believe, no human being in this world has the power to permanently ruin a shidduch. Hashem is the only one who is mezaveg zevugim. If it appears that a shidduch was ruined due to lashon ha’ra and rechilus being spoken for malicious reasons, and a decision to end it was made because the person listening accepted it as fact, it is important to have faith that it was Hashem in action. It is He who allows a shidduch to slip away or to happen — even against all odds.

Why a shidduch that seemed right on the outset sometimes does not come to fruition can be baffling. There are times when people do not understand why the couple that could have been perfect together never came to be. Sometimes it is Hashem’s gift to prevent future unhappiness for either party. Other times, there is no rhyme or reason that we know of. Based on what I have seen and been privy to in my shadchanus, I am convinced that Hashem always plays the major role in the ultimate outcome.

Reading this you might think, “So, why do I need to even bother dating and making decisions if Hashem has the last say?” For the same reason that a person seeks professional help when sick or looks for a job — one must make some endeavor to attain his goal. However, it is also important to never lose sight that at the end of the day, if Hashem wills it that the person gets cured, finds a job, or gets married to “the one” he or she truly wants, it will happen. Your mission right now is to deal with the challenge that was dropped on you.

You have been enjoying a relationship where you both felt compatibility. It does not matter whether your initial meeting was the result of a spontaneous Facebook comment, shadchan’s introduction, or waiting in line to pay for groceries at your local supermarket. You made it a point to state that this woman was not random, which means she was not a fictitious character catfishing, nor was she somebody whose roots cannot be traced. She is real and it sounds like you did your homework in finding out enough about her to allow yourself to be drawn into the type of relationship where you cannot wait to meet one another in person. So, what went so wrong that you are contemplating throwing away the possibility of meeting the woman who might turn out to be your bashert?

The person you “trust with your life” and spoke to is not the person who had an issue with her. Rather, this gentleman’s information is based on third or fourth parties. How do you know if what he heard about her is true? Or even if it is, perhaps it might not be something that would bother you as much as it would another person. People have different tolerance levels, and what may seem serious to one is trivial to another. That is sometimes why a shidduch everyone else declined is acceptable to another. Allowing this relationship to go away without delving deeper is inadvisable.

Not to take away from your tight spot, but I am also concerned about the impact this disparagement can have on the woman in the long run. There is not a person alive who does not have enemies. However, a person can create enemies by his own misdeeds, or because he is misunderstood. There are even situations where a person can do everything right, go above and beyond to be kind, and the people who are backstabbing are enemies disguised as friends, which is mainly brought on by jealousy.

As a shadchan, sadly, I have seen the worst things people have done to try to ruin the happiness of another. I’ve seen singles who have been so disparaged by individuals who were assumed to be friends that they had to use incredible willpower not to lose faith in humanity. I will share with you that when COVID-19 was at its peak, and people were dying by the hundreds each day, there were those who became frightened about their own mortality and began contacting others to ask mechilah for anything they might have done to slight them in any way, specifically in matters of shidduchim. Moreover, they reached out to various parties to intervene so that they will be forgiven.

It was beautiful to witness the turnaround of behaviors, and especially the chesed (including helping to make shidduchim) that people did for one another during those days. The amount of tefillos that poured out from all over and the shemiras ha’lashon that was observed reinstated my belief that at least where shidduchim are concerned, people would do right by others. As time went on and this pandemic seemed to slow its progression, baruch Hashem, unfortunately, some people went back to their old ways.

Here is what you need to do. Go back to your colleague and demand to know in factual detail what exactly this woman is being accused of. If he refuses to share any more information with you, or if he does not wish to reveal the source so that you can interrogate that person, then you need to question the validity of any claims. When a person has done something bad or is involved in questionable activities, there should be indisputable proof to support the rumors, or else it is hearsay. Since we are dealing with a lifetime decision, even gossip needs to be investigated to ascertain its accuracy. I hope you will do your due diligence to uncover the truth in order to decide whether this is something you can accept.

The other tip I will offer you is based on the viewpoint that relationships can only thrive when there is honesty. Do not hold back from the woman the information you have been given, even if you are certain that it is true. While something might be true or partially true, there may be an explanation that can potentially alter the effect.

Be upfront with this woman. Tell her exactly what you heard and listen to her reaction. It might not come as any surprise to her. It is possible that she had an issue with someone, and she is aware that this is their payback. Hear what she has to say before you make any decisions. More importantly — and this is what I urge singles grappling with similar circumstances  — investigate how the woman in question has lived her life. You do not give any inkling about her age, so, for example if she is 30 years old, how has she lived her life for the past 10 years? If she is 40, then scrutinize the last 20 years of her life, and so on and so forth. That is how you find out the truth about anybody. Additionally, speak to people who know her for a long time and have seen her through various stages in her life. Ask the right questions to identify patterns of behavior. Patterns in one’s life always return, and what you see with a clear lens is what you can expect to get. May you be guided with clarity and self-awareness to make the right choice. 

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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