First Impressions in Shidduchim

Q: I have two older children who are not yet married and, as I’m sure you can guess, this puts great pressure on my husband and me. I know there is a right time for everything, but I also feel that my son and daughter are not doing enough to “make things happen.” I have called several shadchanim, but we often get rejections, and this is beginning to really affect us. I don’t think that we’re searching beyond our social and financial status. Rather, I feel that both my son and daughter are viewing the shidduch situation from an unrealistic perspective.

My daughter’s appearance is generally tzniusdig, but sometimes — such as during a recent hotel stay — she allows her standards to drop. Additionally, when she speaks to older adults, she gives off vibes of not being interested in the conversation. I’ve explained to her that adults are the ones who often recommend shidduchim and who are called as shidduch references. They might not go out of their way to come up with ideas or give positive feedback if they perceive someone as being self-absorbed and unfriendly.

My son, on the other hand, is more outgoing and talkative but, unfortunately, is frequently too blunt and comes across as being “cooler” than he actually is. The parents of the “sweet girl” that he hopes to marry will most likely not be interested in having their daughter meet him, if this is how he appears to others. We have spoken to him about this a number of times, but he always responds with: “The right girl won’t mind.”

I understand that everyone needs to do their hishtadlus, and I try to do what I can by making phone calls and talking to people. But what should I do when my children can do simple things to help themselves but are not doing them?

A: The question you pose is one that all parents ask at times: How should we respond when our children need to help themselves improve their own lives by making simple changes or taking appropriate action — yet are not doing so? This is perhaps one of the most frustrating parenting challenges. It’s so clear to the parent what is needed, but it’s just not happening.

The initial step is to speak to the child directly, as you have done. Stress the reality that, like it or not, people judge by what they see. Though we are obligated to give others the benefit of the doubt, when we see something we deem “inappropriate,” being understanding is clearly not our first response. Thus, your children can’t simply be “annoyed” by the judgmental attitude that others display; after all, we are all judgmental to some extent. Parents of children “in the parashah” allow themselves a certain amount of time to do research on a possible shidduch; they may not have the time and patience to check into each possible suggestion thoroughly enough to dispel the first impressions of others.

However, although modifying your children’s behavior seems simple to you, perhaps it is not so simple for them. Perhaps your son’s somewhat cynical behavior mirrors how he has related to peers in recent years, and it’s difficult for him to modify this. Perhaps your daughter’s lack of sociability towards older adults is the result of her unsuccessful attempts to find suitable shidduch possibilities and reflects a generally despondent attitude. I cannot pinpoint the source of their social behavior patterns, but what they need from you is compassion, not irritability. A parent’s unconditional love is an eternal and necessary commodity.

Sometimes others (an older sibling, a respected relative) can intervene and diplomatically suggest ideas in a non-confrontational manner. The idea of seeking professional help can more easily be suggested by someone other than a parent when that path seems to be the right way to go.

As we all know, the road to finding one’s shidduch is often difficult. May Hashem make this journey easier for you, and may you have siyatta diShmaya to make the right decisions along the way.