June 1, The Five Towns Jewish Star
One of the questions I'm most often asked is if there has been any "success" with EndTheMadness and its events. Without exception what the inquirer really means is "Have you made any shidduchim?" This seemingly innocuous question is in fact indicative of a serious flaw in thinking that cuts to the very core of what continues to be wrong in the shidduch world.
When it comes to shidduchim, one typically gauges the success of a shadchan strictly by the number of shidduchim this person can take credit for. Little thought is given to the number of failed attempts by this same person or the methodology employed. If a particular shadchan can boast of having "made" 5 shidduchim, but has unsuccessfully introduced many hundreds of singles, resorted to unethical tactics, and been responsible for countless negative experiences, is this really someone you want involved in your personal life? It is more appropriate to say that 5 shidduchim occurred in spite of this shadchan being clueless and irresponsible. This is hardly a successful shadchan; a monkey could do just as well, and with fewer headaches.
On the flipside, some shadchanim cannot yet boast of having "made" any shidduchim. Despite putting their heart and soul into their noble endeavor and truly caring about the needs and sensitivities of those for whom they search, it just hasn't happened. The dates they have arranged have never been way off, and the singles haven't been subject to negative experiences, but for one reason or another the relationships never led to marriage. This shadchan would be considered by most to be a failure, but I submit that this shadchan is as successful as any shadchan can be.
The real truth is that no shadchan has ever made a shidduch. No organizer of an event has ever made a shidduch. The most we can do is facilitate an introduction and perhaps provide some guidance along the way. Beyond that is up to the singles themselves and the grace of God. This simple fact is completely neglected by those who should know better.
Shadchanim, parents, rabbis, and friends can at best play a supporting role in guiding a couple through the ups and downs of courtship. At worst they can interfere with a relationship that should continue or coerce the continuation of a relationship that should not.
Consequently, it is foolish to gauge success based even in part on something that is beyond our control. Since it is beyond the control of a shadchan or an event organizer to get people married, the number of marriages that may transpire through their agency should not be the measure of success. Rather, success should be defined as having performed the responsibility to the very best of one's ability.
In terms of shadchanus, this means facilitating an introduction that truly makes sense, regardless of whether it fizzles after one meeting or goes the distance. In terms of planning events, this means orchestrating a positive experience for the greatest number of people. If dozens of people leave an event frustrated, humiliated, and jaded, then the event is a failure, even if a shidduch occurred along the way as well; human sacrifice is never encouraged. If the vast majority of people have a positive experience meeting new people, but none of these positive relationships leads to marriage, the event organizer has nevertheless succeeded to the very highest of expectations.
Thinking of success in terms of a constructive process instead of a strict bottom line that is beyond our immediate control will radically change the way people are set up and organize events. Instead of trying to force the issue with more dates, our goal should be arranging better dates. Instead of herding singles into stale, awkward, contrived environments with the wistful hope that a small percentage might somehow get married at the expense of everyone else, our goal should be to organize pleasant experiences that will have an added potential for people to meet in a comfortable, unforced way.
Indeed, by focusing less on the endgame of marriage and more on the immediate goal of a positive experience, we lay the groundwork for greater positive developments down the road. Connections cannot be forced in ten minutes or less, and more blind dates don't necessarily translate to better odds. But happier experiences create happier people, and happier people are more likely to make the right kinds of connections.
So, to answer the original question, I've been fortunate to see a great deal of success through ETM events and other initiatives. Many dozens of singles have arranged dates on their own, which is the best way for dates to be arranged. Friendships have been formed. Spirits have been raised. The networking takes on a life of its own, and new channels are opened for all manner of good things to happen.
We have even heard of quite a few marriages, which is indescribably gratifying. Nevertheless, to me, the highest compliment is when people say they truly enjoyed themselves despite not meeting anyone to date. After all, if these are the kinds of experiences people are having, even better things are bound to follow, and no one has to get hurt along the way.