If you are dating someone about whom you (or any of your trusted
advisors) have any suspicion may be dysfunctional, you have to investigate
very carefully and thoroughly.
When possible, ask your rabbis, rebitzens, mature friends and married
aquaintances to investigate by obtaining and contacting references.
Cross-check information to detect half-truths, cover-ups, deceit and/or
contradictions or other "red flag" signals to worry about and further
investigate. It is legitimate to ask about a shidduch all that is reasonably
needed, even if only for a vague but genuine suspicion.
Often people are attracted to dysfunctional relationships as if people
have antennas for relating partners who feed into their issues, often with
some kind of irrational and rigid co-dependence and unjustifiable defense of
the relationship or partner.
When one stumbles into a relationship with someone dysfunctional, it is
great to get out before marriage - but it is better not to get in with
someone dysfunctional, in the first place.
I do not believe that everyone is automatically entitled to marry. They
must be basically free from being harmful, irresponsible, immature, spoiled,
selfish, rigid and other destructive or unfair characteristics; as each has
no right to hurt or shortchange another. If one isn't ready for the
obligations, responsibilities and duties of marriage; one should not be
allowed to marry. Unfortunately, it is a status symbol and marriage does not
always represent itself in its own right. People want the status,
non-loneliness, someone to control or possess, social acceptance or other
irrelevant or neurotic things. As marriage partners, they are deadbeats.
Halacha prohibits - and makes everyone accountable for - harmful activity.
If one finds him/herself attracted to dysfunctional people repeatedly,
the person needs professional attention. If one is duped once, the person
needs better investigative skills and techniques; and perhaps the help of
others who can do some diligent investigation; to look for verification of,
or contradictions within, the information.
One must also have a balanced view: there are no perfect shidduchim so
each must evaluate what (s)he can live with, who (s)he might be able to be
supportive and accepting of and compatible with, and what another person's
good points are. Some people have strengths or patience that enable them to
widen the range of people they could manage with [as long as the other person
is never damaging or neglectful]. Some people come out of dysfunctional homes
alright and some people come out of functional homes "relationship
disasters." Some people are impacted intensely and others are impacted only
slightly. You have to take people one by one.
IN DIRECT PROPORTION TO ANY CONCERN OR SUSPICION, 1. call more people for
information than you would otherwise (the more concern, the more people), and
2. see more of the people you contact for information "in person"
face-to-face (the more concern, the more people you must speak to
in-person...to get facial gestures or visual signs that may indicate
invented, covered or incomplete information, or evasiveness; which would be
hidden over the phone). In my counseling experience, some marriage trouble
and break-up stems from untrue, rushed, undisclosed, vague, half-true or
ignored information; so if something seems odd, inconsistent or worrisome;
believe nothing more than the name and address of the boy or girl! EVERYTHING
THAT YOU COULDN'T GET FROM ANY PHONE BOOK, CHECK OUT YOURSELF THOROUGHLY!
Call a rov for what to discuss and to determine what is lashon hora vs. what
is necessary to speak about in each case.
Do not merely infer something about a shidduch that needs to be actually
verified and known. The gemora says that when witnesses came, if they said,
"We did not see a moon," Sanhedrin CANNOT declare the day to NOT be Rosh
Chodesh because WHAT YOU DO NOT SEE IS NOT TESTIMONY. If witnesses see the
moon, bais din can declare the day to be Rosh Chodesh. ONLY WHAT YOU SEE IS
TESTIMONY. THIS APPLIES IN ALL AREAS INCLUDING SHIDDUCHIM. And, the same way
you check out the boy/girl, check out the shadchan! Get references to couples
and parents and inquire from them whether the shadchan's work and attitude
were satisfactory, honest and helpful.
Is there instability, dishonesty or dysfunction in the family? Don't be
fooled by those who act saintly in public and are beasts in their home. Even
if the home has problems, HAS THE INDIVIDUAL BOY OR GIRL RISEN ABOVE ANY
SHORTCOMINGS OF THE FAMILY (remember, we have our Jewish people specifically
BECAUSE RIVKA LEFT EVIL BESUEL AND LOVON!). Does the boy or girl have good
midos, straight hashkofos and loyalty to Torah? Is the boy or girl tocho
kibaro (the same person inside and out), eidl (gentle) and temimi
(uncomplicated, psychologically and religiously)? Is the person sensitive,
considerate and responsive to other people? How does the person handle
disagreement, provocation or pressure? Does the person have a good heart and
do chesed, and take responsibility for other people in somewhat mature ways?
Does (s)he keep his word? Does the youth have a rov for HALACHA AND LIFE
QUESTIONS - who the person FAITHFULLY LISTENS TO (not just goes to!)?
Warning: some manipulative people craft shaalos to get desired answers; find
out if the person's questions are honest! Does the boy or girl have good
social and communicating skills, regular and healthy group interactions, and
fine bain adam lechavairo (interpersonal) conduct? If you have any doubts,
the inquiring set of parents and/or their child should spend more time with
the prospect to see if any flaws, inconsistencies, "bad vibes" or arguing
come to the surface. To be continued.