I was talking to several wonderful women about shidduch dating and online dating, when one of them blurted out that her shadchan hadn't set her up in months. Another one chimed in, and soon there was a chorus of complaints about how both shidduch dating and online dating is imbalanced and unfair.
I grant that, as a man, I have been privileged and have more dating opportunity by nature of the system and (perceived) crisis. I am willing to accept that has certainly been part of my dating experience, though there are parts of me that would like to vehemently argue that I've got my own merits and work hard on cultivating my character and honing my dating/relationship skills.
Then an idea struck me, one that seemed intuitive to me but perhaps didn't seem very common. When I was more involved in shidduch dating, and even online dating with websites that used shadchanim, I often made contact with the shadchan. Whenever possible I walked into her office (I chose a shadchan who was as local as possible for this reason specifically) and sat down to chat about her work and passions, to talk about my values, and genuinely cultivated a connection. My impulse was to generate a connection and to listen to the shadchan's thoughts about issues in dating, issues in her work, and even sometimes talk about our personal lives (gasp!) outside of dating.
So I asked two of the women when they had last called and had a conversation with their shadchan, and how often they just got together to talk about their respective lives. When I encouraged them to do so at least once or twice a week, perhaps even setting time aside to get together with their shadchan, one of them immediately replied, "I'm in medical school, I don't have time for that!"
My reply was immediate: "well, then you probably don't have much time to date guys either." At first, she was very taken aback.
"What?" She snapped at me. "Of course I would make time for that."
Then I had to backtrack and explain. The time she would spend dating someone and talking to a date she really likes may be spent developing a deeper connection with the shadchan. It has the benefit and consequence of being on the shadchan's mind more, who will in turn be more personally invested in her dating life and motivated to find a shidduch. Someone else added that the shadchan will also learn more about our values and what we are looking for, so she would be able to offer better suggestions.
A lot of shadchanim have so many people to set up it is hard to be so invested in them all. Make yourself the one she's most invested in. Give her a ring. Ask about her family. Take her out to dinner if that's what it takes.
Some things I have done and would consider doing include:
* Texting to find a time to talk, perhaps even a regular weekly time.
* Asking about her interests, hobbies, and family. Especially children and/or grandchildren.
* Listen and pay attention to her feelings. Sometimes a shadchan feels harried, pestered, or stressed by myself, other daters, or other aspects of her life like work, family, or community issues. Sometimes just listening or letting a shadchan vent is a small but important way to reciprocate and show we care about them too.
* Be aware and sensitive not to make every moment of each conversation all about myself. It is exhausting to think about having to constantly take care of someone else every time we hear from them, and shadchanim may somteimes feel this way about the singles they set up. We are a lot of work and can be a handful!
* Writing a letter or thank-you card. In a pinch, an email will do, but it is really important to feel and share my gratitude and appreciation for the time that is spent thinking about me and other singles. The more personal the touch, the better it conveys how I feel. It can make quite an impression!
* Treat her to a thank-you dinner sometime.
I know that it's probably a bit awkward for a guy to take his shadchan to dinner (especially if the shadchan is a married female), and that a lot of guys just take it for granted that we get handed more suggestions. But guys aren't the only ones who should be asking their shadchanim out for dinner. The best way to stand out is to develop a closer connection with the shadchan.
If everyone put in the work in connecting more deeply with their shadchan there would be a lot more overwhelmed shadchanim. That being said, I also believe that cultivating a deeper connection results in more investment and more thought about those we are connected to, leading to both better quality and more frequent suggestions, resulting in better opportunity overall.