To the Shadchan,
I have brother-in-law who is a popular and outgoing person. Unfortunately, he is also a loudmouth, saying whatever happens to cross his mind without thinking. As you can tell, I am not fond of him. Lately, I’ve become aware that people doing shidduch research are calling him about me, even though he is not on my list of references. I am having trouble getting dates, and I have reason to believe that my brother-in-law is saying not nice things about me. I have asked my sister what he says, but she does not want to be in the middle.
I’m not necessarily accusing him of maliciousness. But he is not a refined person, and I can just imagine how he talks. Anyone who deals with shidduchim knows that when you give information, you need to emphasize the positive and present any negatives in a positive light. My brother-in-law just blurts things out.
I am in a quandary. I don’t want to cause shalom bayis problems for my sister, but I do want to get to the bottom of this. I don’t want to involve my parents, because they would never forgive him. So I decided to talk to my brother-in-law myself. My problem is what to say. I’m not going to be able to teach him how to speak or change his impulsive nature. I also don’t want to tell him not to say anything at all, as that, too, would sound suspicious to callers.
How would you address this problem?
The Shadchan Answers:
You are asking a very difficult question, I hope I can shed some light on the subject.
First of all, how do you know it is your brother-in-law who is giving the negative information? Maybe it’s one of your references, whom you trusted to furnish a positive, even enthusiastic, image but is instead saying negative things about you. That once happened to me. I called a reference and was astonished when she expressed negativity about her friend. I called the single and told her to immediately remove that reference, since she was not positive and was not working for her benefit.
Another possibility: You never know what questions the researcher is asking. If your references do not have that information, they might be telling the inquirer to call someone else, and so it continues. In addition, just as your brother-in-law gets calls, other individuals outside of your references are also being called. People looking into a shidduch will often think, “I know someone who has first-hand knowledge of the person involved, so I will call him/her.” Some people purposely call outsiders, because they believe that a reference on a resume is going to automatically give a good recommendation, whereas they will get a more honest assessment – and even find out any negatives – from others. Bottom line: You need to assume that any friend or family friend may, unbeknownst to you, be serving as a character reference. You must conduct yourself appropriately at all times, because you never know who that person may be. Unless you know for a fact that it is your brother-in-law, you need to be dan lekaf zechus (give the benefit of the doubt).
On the other hand, if it is your brother-in-law who is saying these things, think about why he would say negative, hurtful things about you. Is there anything in your past that you are hiding and that he, as a member of the family, knows about? How long has he been in the family, and how well does he really know you? Perhaps you have had discussions about other matters and don’t see eye to eye, so he might be using that against you. Or he may simply be careless. Remember, some people (males especially) don’t use filters. He may not realize that he is saying or doing anything wrong. If people know him and his personality, they will take what he says with a grain of salt.
Many years ago, someone called my husband, who was not home. The gentleman inquired whether he could ask me a few shidduch questions. Listening to him, I realized that it was in my power to make or break a shidduch, depending on how I answered. I thought highly of the young man but was still very careful with my answers. At the end of our conversation, I asked him who the shidduch was for, and he told me, his daughter. The shidduch went through, and they are now grandparents. I learned a very big lesson, and it has been my motto ever since – emphasize the positive, and if you have nothing good to say, don’t say anything. You never know if the wrong reply will be a shidduch breaker.
I agree with you that it is better not to get your parents or sister involved; that would cause more problems than it solves. (The fact that your sister will not intervene doesn’t mean too much, because perhaps he is not saying anything at all.) If you want to speak to your brother-in-law, I would go about it like this: Don’t accuse him of any wrongdoing. Just solicit his help and ask how he would “sell” you to a perspective shidduch. You will see if he hems and haws or if he gives you positive feedback. Listen to the way he answers and the type of language he uses. Above all, observe the manner in which he speaks to you. If it is positive, then express your feelings to him, explaining that you don’t know why you are not getting any calls. If his manner and speech are negative, ask him if he is trying to break up your suggested shidduchim before they even get off the ground. Request that he not take the calls or get involved but just refer the inquirer to his wife or to the references.
After taking these measures, just concentrate on your most important job – which is to put your best foot forward at all times. If you know you are doing your best, you will be able to take whatever else comes at you in stride. We know that Hashem is the Master Shadchan and will send the right one at the right time. While you are putting a lot of effort into finding out what is causing the delay, it could just be that this is not the right time for you. Hashem tests all of us with nisyonos, and He decides when and where. We can wonder, surmise, analyze, and rationalize – but the bottom line is that nothing will matter when your bashert comes along.
I hope I have given you some insight into your dilemma, and may your entire family – including your brother-in-law – be mesame’ach you as you walk to the chupa in the near future.