A Shidduch Lesson from the Bank, Chananya Weissman

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As I’ve written previously, shidduch resumes have only been a thing for the last fifteen years or so. Singles over the age of forty remember when there was no such thing; younger singles can’t imagine shidduchim without them.

But unlike advances in technology, which would have benefited previous generations, shidduch resumes were not an ingenious discovery. They had pens and paper back then, too, and it’s hard to believe shidduch resumes weren’t used until very recently only because no one thought of this brilliant idea. They weren’t used precisely because they aren’t a good idea.

Most shadchanim now ask for a resume immediately, and will refuse to work with a single who doesn’t have one. Shadchanim are the driving force behind shidduch resumes, because it makes life a lot easier for them. They don’t have to meet singles any more, or even speak with them if they don’t want to (and why would they?). They can simply shuffle the shidduch resumes, trade them like baseball cards, and suggest matches based on parve, lifeless criteria and their “hunches”. Once in a rare while this even leads to a wedding, which reinforces the system, despite the countless occasions when this leads absolutely nowhere. It’s not as if the shadchanim have to go through the time, expense, and frustration of pointless dates. They used to complain about all the phone calls they had to make. Now they often get by just with WhatsApp messages.

Singles are expected to play along and keep a happy face on, because in the frum community this is about their only chance for getting a date. They have even been trained like obedient puppies to scrutinize the shidduch resumes of other singles before considering a date, despite knowing from their own resumes what a farce the whole thing is. They must ascertain that it “makes sense on paper”, even though the paper tells them little of consequence and leaves out what really matters in relationships and marriage. If they are fortunate they will at least discover that prior to the wedding. Thanks to the pressure to move things along, they often don’t, and the Batei Din are doing record business as a result.

The previous three paragraphs synopsize much of what’s wrong with the shidduch world in about 250 words; the rest is commentary.

Consider this: if you ask your bank for a loan, they will want to know a lot about you. They will dig into your financial history, your credit score, your assets, your earnings, and much more. Once they analyze this information they will have a very good idea whether or not you qualify, if the loan “makes sense on paper”.

Yet, despite knowing your complete financial history, the bank is unlikely to lend you money without one more thing. They have to meet you.

The bank understands something most shadchanim do not. There is no comparison between dry facts on a piece of paper – no matter how detailed and comprehensive they might be – and spending time with a person in the flesh. When they meet you for real, they get a sense of who you really are, which cannot be described on paper. They might notice a red flag that won’t appear in your data, and, conversely, they might see something in you that transcends the numbers. We all get this.

Yet, somehow, singles have universally come to accept that a shadchan can get away without this personal connection. The bank won’t lend you money without meeting you, but you think a shadchan can competently search for your life partner without even talking to you? How absurd! Yet this passes not only for normal in today’s shidduch world, but just about the only way.

I can’t help it, you say. You have to play the game. If I complain they won’t work with me and I will never get another date.

How pathetic that singles have allowed themselves to be convinced of this, to be controlled like this, to be completely subjugated like this, stripped of any self-determination or self-respect.

Take charge of your personal life! If you choose to work with a shadchan – and it’s a choice – insist that they get to know you and anyone they might want to suggest as a potential match. This is a pre-requisite for fixing you up, and it’s entirely reasonable. If the shadchan reacts with hostility, I cannot for the life of me understand why you would trust this person or want her involved in your personal life.

If the shadchan hears this from one person, they will likely conclude that you are foolish or mentally ill, since you aren’t playing the game. If the shadchan hears this from five or ten people, they will realize that the rules of the game are changing. They will then have to decide if they are willing to do better work to actually stay in business – regardless of whether their expected salary is money or heavenly reward.

If yes, the singles they work with will go on better dates, with a better chance of success, and the process will be more pleasant and rewarding for everyone. If not, so long and good riddance. The shidduch world will be better off without them.

So the first thing I want you to do is contact your shadchan and tell her that she needs to get to know you better for this working relationship to be successful. Don’t shake with fear. She is not God, and does not hold the key to your destiny in her hands. She is simply someone you hired to do a job for you. If her job performance is not satisfactory, she needs to improve it, or you can fire her. Unless you’ve been going out with highly targeted matches, it’s time for a shake-up.

The second thing I want you to do is to rely less on shadchanim altogether. It is inconceivable that singles should be sitting around helplessly, waiting for someone to call them and offer a suggestion. Unless you live in a remote area, there are many singles similar to you who are also in the same boat. Get out there and meet each other. The organizations aren’t making many events, and the ones they are making aren’t very enjoyable – so make your own events. Get some friends together, have them invite their friends, and go do something together. It doesn’t have to be complicated, and it doesn’t have to be painful.

You might find that when you meet people in real life, without the resumes, references, and drama of shidduch dating, that they are actually pretty cool. Shidduch dating and singles events don’t bring out the best sides of people – yourself included – so it’s no wonder they usually don’t lead anywhere. If, on the other hand, you meet others naturally, doing things you enjoy, it’s far easier for there to be attraction and mutual interest.

I can’t promise anyone that any particular method of meeting people will help them get married. But I can promise that insisting that shadchanim get to know you and taking charge of your personal life will lead to a greater sense of self-worth and make the shidduch process more pleasant. If a critical mass of people decides enough is enough, the rules of the game will change, and the game will actually be worth playing.

You can take that to the bank.

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Rabbi Chananya Weissman is the founder of EndTheMadness and the author of seven books, including “How to Not Get Married: Break these rules and you have a chance” and “EndTheMadness Guide to the Shidduch World” (available on Amazon). Many of his writings are available at www.chananyaweissman.com. He is also the director and producer of a documentary on the shidduch world, Single Jewish Male, and The Shidduch Chronicles, available on YouTube. He can be contacted at admin@endthemadness.org.

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