2020 What Makes Someone a Good Shadchan?
Chananya Weissman
Written December 2020, posted June 22, 2021

There is a prevailing belief in the Orthodox establishment that shadchanim [matchmakers] are heroes who deserve nothing but appreciation and rewards. In reality, most shadchanim are incompetent, unreliable, full of themselves, have poor character, do not respect singles, and cause more harm than good. The best way most of these people can help singles is to stay far away from them and their personal lives.

Here are some basic criteria to determine whether a shadchan is good, or whether you should keep them out of your personal life.

1. Relationship “experts” love to lecture people on “communication”, but many shadchanim get away with forgoing even rudimentary communication. Over the years many complete strangers have emailed me a shidduch résumé (a loathsome device) without so much as introducing themselves or including a note. They might have been singles hoping I could help them, or a shadchan forwarding résumés around like a Nigerian spammer, or they assumed I was single and would be giddy with excitement to receive such an email. Sometimes I can only speculate, because they made zero effort to introduce themselves and communicate like normal people.

If someone forwards you a shidduch résumé without so much as a note, they are a bad shadchan, period. They are barging into your personal life without any tact or grace; they are displaying a total lack of respect for you as an adult and as a person; and they are assuming that you are so desperate for any attempt to “help” you – no matter how primitive and thoughtless – that they are doing you a chesed worthy of gushing praise, cash payment, and everlasting heavenly reward. No need to bother with any formalities.

Even worse, they are presuming that they can find you a soul mate and life partner without so much as communicating with you. This is the ultimate slap in the face. They don't need to know you, they don't want to know you, and they want to spend as little time as possible interacting with you. They want an easy yes and gushing gratitude. If you fail to give them what they want, and if you dare insist on a higher standard of decency, you can expect some ugly rejoinders in return. For that they always have time.

A good shadchan introduces herself, communicates like a normal person, and displays basic respect for the person they are contacting, especially considering the sensitive nature of shidduchim and the vulnerability of many singles. A bad shadchan just barges in and walks all over them.

2. The Torah distinguishes between Avraham and Efron. Avraham is a paragon of the dictum to speak little and do much, while Efron is known for making big promises and not delivering at all. A good shadchan doesn't boast about how many shidduchim she “made” – particularly when she doesn't accept any responsibility for all the times it didn't work out. A good shadchan doesn't claim to have found your future husband or wife, as if it's their decision, or as if God proclaimed it to them. A good shadchan promises to make an earnest effort to help you in an appropriate way and does just that. A bad shadchan is a big talker like Efron who doesn't deliver.

3. It's common for a shadchan to place someone on the front burner when they first meet them, make a haphazard attempt or two to fix them up, and then give up on them when it doesn't work out. They admonish singles to never give up, yet they give up if they don't get satisfying results from their initial attempt. They seem to think it's supposed to be easy to find a soul mate for someone, and they don't want to “waste their time” rolling up their sleeves and really helping people. A single who doesn't give them instant gratification, like an addict receiving a dopamine rush, isn't worth any more of their time.

A good shadchan doesn't give up so fast. It's more about you than it is about them.

4. Even shadchanim who don't ghost on singles after a haphazard attempt often fail to learn and give more targeted suggestions in the future. Even worse, they tend to make increasingly desperate, wild suggestions as time goes on, as if throwing a bunch of stuff at a wall and hoping something sticks.

A good shadchan makes better suggestions as time goes on. They learn what works for you and doesn't work for you, they understand you better, and they never veer wildly off track.

5. It is not the place of a shadchan to admonish people to settle for something that they don't want. There is a fine line between offering advice and trying to control people, and many shadchanim trample over that line like they own the place. Just because a shadchan doesn't know the right person for someone doesn't mean that person doesn't exist and the single should give up. The shadchan's job is not to sell singles on merchandise they have in their possession, but to help them if they can and cause no harm if they can't.

It is true that many singles have “unreasonable expectations” and engage in self-defeating behavior. I wrote an entire book on the subject. At the same time, for shadchanim to tell older singles to give up on having children, or to be “open” to someone whose values and lifestyle are diametrically opposed to their own, otherwise they will never get married, is also unreasonable. Who is some petty matchmaker to decide when a person must give up on their hopes and dreams? How dare they?

A good shadchan offers encouragement. A bad shadchan offers despair.

6. A good shadchan doesn't have a superiority complex. It's incredible that someone who is ostensibly trying to help singles get married would look down on them, yet that is typically the case with shadchanim. In fact, many shadchanim display contempt for the very people they are trying to match. I cannot imagine why singles would continue to entrust themselves to such people; only someone lacking any semblance of self-esteem and bitachon would do that.

It is also hard for me to understand why singles would expect a shadchan who thinks poorly of them to introduce them to “a great catch” (whatever that is supposed to mean). If a shadchan thinks bad things about you, you're getting the clearance rack. Why continue to subject yourself to that?

A good shadchan is humble, honest, and caring. A good shadchan realizes that every disappointing experience takes something out of a person, makes them a little more jaded, a little less trusting, a little more apprehensive about becoming vulnerable and risking getting burned again. A good shadchan understands that they can easily be responsible for damaging a person and inhibiting them from getting married. This terrifies them and keeps them in check.

They would never tell a single to just give it a try, that it's just a cup of coffee, and they have nothing better to do that evening, anyway. That's something bad shadchanim do, people who don't get it, don't care, and don't believe they are responsible for causing other people to suffer so long as they can claim they were “trying to help”.

A good shadchan knows they are nothing more than one person trying to help another person, who is no worse than they are. A good shadchan genuinely cares and feels bad if they put a single through a needlessly frustrating experience. A bad shadchan just blames the single that it didn't work out.

There's more, much more, but if a shadchan already gets this right, they probably get the rest.

How many of them do?