By a bochur
The shidduch system and dating is complicated.
While there are basic standards that presumably all follow, there are many practices and rules which are subjective. For example, what is the requisite amount of meetings that is considered appropriate by which one must have either decided or otherwise ought to bring things to an end? Some will say as few as 3-4, others many more, and then there are those who will argue that no number is to be put down when it comes to dating.
Of course many will comment and cry out, how could you suggest that this is subjective? Our standard is clearly this-and-that! My point is not to suggest what the standard is or should be. I’m talking about facts and reality.
The hard fact is that there is major diversity on what our standards are, and what is and isn’t okay to do changes from one person to the next, in both opinion and in practise. (Worth noting the Gemara: Just as our appearances are not the same, so too with our opinions or the way we think). We should respect each other and agree to disagree, respectfully.
With that in mind, I’d like to discuss mentchlichkeit.
Needles to say, treating another person with dignity is a very important Torah value, otherwise known as ‘kovoid habrios’. In fact this carries so much weight in halacha to the extent that it overrides many halachos; a number of prohibitions may be violated if needed for the sake of preserving dignity. (Ask your Rov for more details).
While it is likely that you will find yourself in a situation where you and your date have different values (even after all the prior research) and questions or even awkward situations may arise, it is surely worth taking into account the other person’s dignity and the aforementioned Torah value.
Even as this will inevitably lead to ending the particular potential shidduch, basic mentchlichkeit necessitates a direct ending in person.
Consider the following: A shiddach is proposed through a shadchan and the subsequent dates are typically arranged through that shadchan; when and where to meet, requests, and any other information etc. This is done primarily because of tznius.
Often, however, the potential couple will “take over” from the shadchan, and with phone numbers exchanged they start making their own arrangements (the standards are subjective). In such situations, if the shidduch comes to an end, it’ll (almost certainly) end between themselves. Mentchlichkeit necessitates that they should bid farewell to one another and ensure no hard feelings.
But even when the shadchan is the one who is facilitating the dating process throughout, doesn’t mentchlichkeit dictate that any ending should be done in person, even if only to preserve the other’s dignity? Is that not basic kovod habriois?
Even as one has reached a clarity that they are not suitable for the other, the other party may not have reached that clarity yet, he/she may be ’emotionally involved’ (sometimes this is not obvious) and may be caught off guard and get hurt by things coming to an end (obviously this, like everything else, happens for a reason – hashgocho prototis, as the Rebbe writes in Igros Kodesh. That which is decreed to happen will happen, it’s just a matter of ‘how’ – but this does not pardon the ‘messenger.’ Sometimes it is to ‘test’ a person, the Rebbe writes).
Even as the one who has reached the clarity may well be advised to end the shidduch (ASAP), shouldn’t he/she at least not express (or offer to express) recognition to the other person whom they may have been dating for a while – and indeed to do so in person? Would that not be the courteous thing to do? It is not a secret that rejection hurts (and if you’ve experienced it before then you know). Beyond the obvious heartbreak, rejection in itself strike at the other’s dignity. Is it then not selfish, where one’s thoughts are entirely about themselves, such that they just leave a message with a middleman? Is that mentchlich?
So instead of passing on a message to a shadchan to say that you no longer wish to continue dating, perhaps consider telling/offering to tell this to the other person directly, thus preserving dignity.
וגדול כבוד הבריות.
What do you think?