Can the Shidduch System Change to Accommodate a Sick World?

Brief shidduch system summary, traditional religious Jewish matchmaking system – boy and girl make a dating resume describing themselves on paper, boy and girl meet with matchmaker or give their resume to matchmakers or tell all their parents’ friends and relatives they’re in the game or a combination of the above.  Boy and girl ideally, hopefully, start getting “suggestions” – resumes or names of the opposite sex.  Their trusted ones, parent, mentor, friend, checks out the names by calling their references and asking a lot of questions.

Bottom line, a lot of screening has happened before the boy and girl ever make it to the date.  Then they date for a couple months (in more strict circles, I’ve heard of the boy and girl only getting one date) and they get engaged.  They get married like 3 months later.  No one wants a long engagement.

However, I’m seeing the system fail, and I heard the other day another failure story. References don’t reveal “minor details” about a person – like she had 2 broken engagements before, like he takes pain meds a little too often, like he doesn’t pay child support.

I’m wondering…  in today’s world, with increasing trauma, mental illness, abuse, and dysfunction… Stop. Is it really increasing?  I don’t know; I definitely don’t have any statistics; however, my perception and hypothesis is that the Jewish community can’t be so trusting any more.

The shidduch system from ages gone by, more innocent ages before the yuck crept into religious circles, seems to be based on a fundamental level of trust.  A trust maybe we shouldn’t assume any more.  We have to be cynical .

Will cynicism add to the alleged shidduch crisis?  (The problem that boys and girls, and men and women are having a hard time finding their matches.)  Maybe.  But can it hurt the rising divorce crisis?  I don’t think so.  And which is worse… marrying a little later or divorcing?

What am I actually suggesting?

I’m really making an appeal for references to tell the G-d’s-green truth.  It’s halacha (Jewish law) you know.  You’re supposed to tell the truth; it’s not loshon hara in this case, because the potential spouse deserves to have as much info as possible before getting under that chuppah.

Most references have the best intentions.  They want to make him look good, because they want you to be happy, him to be happy, you both to be married already!  Because won’t that make everyone happy!!?  They have wishful thinking that it will “all be for the best.”   They want to do their part to solve the shidduch crisis, so they build up the good in a person and sweep away the bad, hoping that a marriage will be able to survive the person’s bad points, hoping that maybe he won’t be that way when he’s married.  But that potential spouse has a right to know.

Other suggestions?  Criminal background checks. Longer courtships (I understand the drawbacks of this.)  Less pressure to marry.  Less fear.  More exposure to family members and friends during courtship/engagement (I understand the drawbacks of this), who can smell out red flags.  Counseling programs for young men and women to help them understand healthy relationships and be able to spot red flags themselves.

Most of those in the system are young, clueless, sheltered young people.  They’re trusting THE SYSTEM to make a good life for them.  If the world has gotten a little darker (again, no statistics, just a vibe); shouldn’t the shidduch system adjust for that?

Do you have any other ideas for how the system could change for the better to protect those dating in a not-so-innocent world?

first date