By Baila Sebrow


I was recently told the following by a prominent individual: “Calling all references before deciding on a first date is the best way to protect a woman from ending up under the chuppah with a future get refuser, especially in all cases where the man is in his twenties and has never been married before.”

Do you agree or disagree with this statement?


That’s akin to asking a doctor or rav if a newborn baby will turn out to be a robber, murderer, or just not a nice person. The child has not yet been nurtured, and therefore has not been triggered to have demonstrated serious negative traits. He is also physically not mature enough to grant anyone the ability to evaluate his true nature.

Finding accurate information about a shidduch’s potential is even more challenging when the individual in question is in his twenties. The person has not had the opportunity to live life sufficiently enough to have substantial history. The average frum mainstreamed 20-something-year-old who has lived a conventional lifestyle, was raised in a frum home, attended yeshivas, and followed the customs of his community will have mostly unremarkable comments expressed by his references. And if there is something that stands out about the person, very often it is inconsequential.

I will take it one step further. If the young man possesses narcissistic traits, then he will have even better references than the average person. Such characters typically come across as polished, sophisticated, confident, and will always say the right things at the right time. To such an extent do they fool folks that they make sure to rub shoulders with important people in their community, school, and profession, in order to promote their good name. Not only that, but they tend to handpick their victims, whom they choose to abuse, while being perfectly appropriate with everyone else.

All that can also be said about a get refuser. The get refuser can be a good son to his parents, a helpful person in his shul who jumps up to get a Siddur or Chumash for anyone who walks in, volunteers to fill various roles, and is well-liked by his rav and other congregants in his shul. That he might have terrorized his wife at home is not usually known outside the four walls that he shared with his wife. The get refuser is generally not a nice person to the one he chooses not to be nice to. It is not until it becomes common knowledge that a man has refused to give his wife a get that you know he is a get refuser, and with such an inclination, he is likely to do it again and again.

The true and actual get refuser is typically a controlling, abusive individual who is withholding a get for no other reason than to punish and torture his wife. This type of man is also often guilty of domestic abuse. If he does eventually give his wife a get after many years, history always repeats itself in various forms of abuse in his future relationships with women. Your question, therefore, needs to be rephrased as: should one call all references of a divorced man before deciding on a first date as the best way to protect a woman from ending up under the chuppah with a future get refuser? Only if someone has been a get refuser can you know if he is capable of subjecting another person to the same victimization.

I get where you are coming from. You want to know how a young woman who is innocent and starry-eyed can avoid the pitfalls of becoming victim to a horrible man. The answer is that it’s not what the references will say about him. Talking to references, in many situations, is an absolute waste of time. Rather, it is how a young man conducts himself on dates with the young lady that can establish some red flags. So, let’s get into the psyche of a young man who has not had much well-known dating experience to ascertain his propensity for hurting a human being who may one day be his spouse.

The first thing to look for is how he presents on a shidduch interview with a shadchan. As a shadchan, my antennae go up when I interview a young man who is overly confident to the point of coming across as aggressive. By the same token, exaggeratingly sweet and too soft-spoken does not bode well either. I will share a story about a man I interviewed at a singles event where I facilitated.

He was newly divorced, according to what he said. He spoke so softly that I could barely hear him. He smiled a lot, displaying a friendly nature, and when I later went up to the front of the room to address the crowd, he, out of all people, ran to get me a glass of water. What I am describing here seems to be the quintessential gentleman. And to be honest, he had me fooled until much later, when several women I suggested him to declined him. These women were actually angry at me for suggesting him as a potential shidduch, after finding out that he had refused to give his wife a get for more than a decade, and that women who had been in relationships with him claimed he abused them.

That case was a major eye-opener for me, and I started to caution singles that a dangerous person can even be the one who appears safe. In other words, never take for granted that any person can easily be trusted.

If a young lady at any age comes home from her first date thinking that the guy she was with on a date is too good to be true, then in all probability that’s exactly what he is. If after another date or so, she feels that he is pushing to get engaged before she feels ready, what he is really doing is working to close the deal fast, because he is aware that his mask will fall off, and the young lady will find out who he is.

A woman disclosed to me that when she was on a first date in a restaurant with a former get refuser he proposed to her—even before the waiter had the chance to take their order! Though that’s an extreme case, people with a bad history will rush things along in the relationship as fast as possible when they meet up with a kind, vulnerable, unassuming person. This story did not end well, because instead of running away from him, she believed that he was a serious marriage-minded guy and his “love bombing” of her (in her mind) was his infatuation with her. She continued to date him and tragically became another one of his victims.

When it comes to reference checking, the mistake that most people make is their focus on what really does not matter. The shul the father attends, the sheitel the mother wears, the schools and camps that siblings attend, etc., have zero bearing on the shidduch candidate in question. Also ridiculous is that people rely on the references on the résumé. Realistically, the friends and relatives are people who are coached to say what they are instructed, unless it’s a back-stabbing betrayer. And, yes, there are plenty of those to go around, too!

It comes down to asking the right questions from the right people on behalf of the young lady. Ask whoever you speak to how they know the person you’re calling about, and what they think stands out most about the young man, particularly his strengths and weaknesses. Ask the reference to describe his personality and character and how he behaves when he is confronted with a challenge or stressful situation. Ask if they can share a story or anecdote about him. Find out how he treats random people from whom he doesn’t stand to gain anything. If there are other specific questions relating to hashkafah, that is a case-by-case situation as to whether you need to inquire about it.

You also want to verify facts that he claims. For example, his age, if he has been divorced and how many times, previous engagements, place of residence and employment or school, etc. Who should you call for references? If you can get your rav to call his rav that would be better than if you call his rav directly. Also contact current friends and acquaintances, neighbors, and people from the community. Never rely on just what one reference says. Verify that what you heard from one reference is true. Just as you would do major homework when making the investment of purchasing a house by getting an engineer and other surveyors, marriage is the biggest investment of one’s life. Do not skimp on authenticating everything you can about the person.


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 Baila also hosts The Definitive Rap podcast for, Israel News Talk Radio, WVIP 93.5 FM HD2, and Questions and comments for the Dating Forum can be submitted to Read more of Baila Sebrow’s articles at


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here