All people who are dating for shiduchim – no matter how many people they have dated – ought to have someone “outside” their usual circles with whom they can talk about this particular dating experience. Someone beyond their parents, siblings and friends. Someone who cares about you, but is not that close to you. (In this conversation, I will use the word ‘mashpia’ to describe the role.)
Dialogue with this “dating mashpia” should be taken much more seriously than the common opinion-seeking from a list of friends and family members. This person might be a former teacher, mashpia, coach, neighbor. Someone unbiased and objective.
Why not your parents?
Of course, your parents love you deeply and want the best for you. Therapists and mashpiim have told numerous stories of parents who had best intentions, but unfortunately it didn’t turn out that way.
And another thing to consider: Sometimes, the concerns of the adult children are related to their own parents’ marriage and they may feel uncomfortable talking about it.
Of course, it’s not all parents and all situations. However, sometimes the parents and children don’t even recognize these patterns in their conversations.
Why not close friends?
For starters, they don’t have much experience helping others in making lifetime decisions. And they too may be too biased.
Why not the shadchen?
Most shadchanim mean well. Yet, too many therapists and mashpiim tell stories of shadchanim pushing and pressuring a shiduch. Think about it: Shadchanim are human and may be influenced by the amount of work they put into this shiduch or the possibility of shadchanus gelt.
In addition to the input from the shadchen, also speak with an outside mashpia.
So then who?
Shiduchim is very personal. Talking around shiduchim can also get very personal and intimate. In conversations with the mashpia, you will probably end up talking about your thoughts, feelings and possibly some of your past and family. So it is important to find someone who :
- Has experience with shiduchim A key thing to look out for in a mashpia is their experience with helping with shiduchim. There are many well intentioned people, but assisting with shiduchim needs more than just good will and a listening ear and someone who ‘knows you well’. You wouldn’t go to a general practitioner for heart surgery, and you ought not go to a general mashpia for shiduchim.
- Trustworthy and will hold your story in confidence Someone who you can trust will not share your information with anyone. You have to feel comfortable to share what must be shared in order to work out your thoughts and feelings.
- Doesn’t tell you what to do, but rather through good questions helps you uncover the answers that are within yourself. And, you should feel comfortable saying: “I don’t think you understand it as I intend it; let me say it in other words.”
Speak with the prospective mashpia for at least 10 minutes to an hour to really get a feel for how and if you can work together.
What should you expect from your conversations with a shiduchim coach or mashpia?
- They will ask questions to help you uncover what is concerning you and holding you stuck.
- They might mirror back to you or summarize what you just said so you can hear your own thoughts. “So what I am hearing is that on one hand, you enjoy his company, but there is something about his trustworthiness that is niggling you.”
- They should help you come up with some next action steps, so you can tread the delicate steps of shiduchim. You may come up with some language together about how you might word a sensitive question.
- They might pass along some concerns to the other person, in a sensitive, delicate way. For example, your hesitation might be that you are concerned about what it might be like to join their family, with all their familial issues. Yet you are having a hard time asking the relevant questions without dredging up uncomfortable feelings for them.
The mashpia might speak with them, “As you might expect, anyone who is joining your family is concerned about your family’s situation. Did you speak about that yet?”
Where, when, how?
Some people feel that having these conversations in person is best.
For others, a phone conversation works just as well or even better. Many coaches and mashpiim have expressed that people tend to open up more quickly when they are on the phone.
Some people feel uncomfortable with the thought of bumping into their mashpia or coach at the supermarket and thus prefer a long distance mashpia.
Additionally, some people think better while standing or walking outside; the phone conversation allows for this.
Who to choose as mashpia?
- Someone you feel comfortable with You have to feel comfortable with him/ her so you can be open and honest about your thoughts, your feelings, and possibly some of your past, and not hold back important information.
- Someone you can relate to and who you feel can relate to you. Someone who makes you feel heard and understood.
- Someone who is nonjudgmental The more that you can let your guard down and just be your normal, natural self, the more your mashpia will be able to work with the “real you”.
Sometimes, you may need more than a mashpia
When the expectations and outcomes of each date are not clear, when the dater is “stuck” – indecisive, anxious, or may be quickly dismissing many potential dates or mates, a consultation with a professional is in order.
A mental health professional doesn’t simply consider the content of the date but considers the dater’s emotional life as it unfolds during each date and throughout the process.
The psychologist considers the broader issues – his or her expectations, family background and prior relationships, attachment needs, and so forth. To help, a therapist may teach skills and give specific tasks to utilize during any particular date.
The therapist can tease apart the issues and identify just what is going on and impeding a successful shidduch.
Talking to a mashpia is a very healthy way of thinking through your thoughts, feelings, hopes and concerns.
This practice is valuable throughout your life. Especially for a decision as lifelong as your marriage.