I don’t have all the answers. Not even close. But 20 years of dealing with dating, marriage, and divorce have taught me a few lessons about what to do. And more importantly, what not to do.
Here are five little gems. Feel free to argue (even if you’re wrong):
Dating Wrong: Don’t Ooze Desperation
Don’t say yes to every date proposed for you. And don’t hang around with someone you’re pretty sure isn’t at all right for you, hanging on the hopes that maybe things will turn around.
And please don’t run around telling the world you’re looking to get married.
There are two reasons for all of this. First, it creates a lot of pressure on yourself. Nothing good comes from walking around stressed or unhappy. And pushing yourself too hard can result in hasty and/or bad decision making.
But just as important, desperation is unattractive. Confidence pulls people toward you. Knowing what you like, being comfortable with yourself, and standing for what you believe in pulls people toward you. When you ooze desperation, it’s like a nasty aroma that nobody wants to come close to.
Go on dates. But don’t make it the heart of your existence. Dating is something a whole person does with the hopes of sharing their fantastic life with another person. If it’s everything to you, then when it doesn’t work out, you have nothing.
Which leads to my next point.
Dating Wrong: Being Single is Amazing
Before I got married, I hated being single. I didn’t know how to do it well. Now I have a new problem. I love being single so much, I may have lost the capacity to join someone else into my life. But that’s for another post.
I believe learning how to love being single is a prerequisite for marriage. It might sound peculiar, or even counterintuitive. However, there are three main reasons for this:
a. Those leading a quality single life are more interesting and more desirable. No one wants to date someone dull, nor does anyone want to live a life that’s just about dating. It’s unfulfilling now and most certainly in the long run. You shouldn’t look back and worry about the lost time in your life.
b. A healthy marriage involves the intelligent fusion of two whole individuals. They are wonderful separately, and even more wonderful as a pair. It shouldn’t be that your only contribution to the unit is having agreed to be a part of it.
c. Most importantly: Happiness comes from within, not from a spouse. Fact is, no spouse, no matter how amazing, can determine whether or not you are happy. That is a personal decision. And if you mask true happiness with joy that solely emanates from another person, when you remove that person, you remove the happiness. Your true joy needs to come from you. Learn to love being single. Then open your heart to share your incredible self with another person.
Dating Wrong: Dating Should Be Fun
Jewish dating isn’t fun. As I’ve mentioned earlier, it’s pragmatic. It’s stressful. There is a tremendous amount of pressure, both external and internal.
It really, truly does not need to be this way.
You want to get married. I get it. That doesn’t mean dating is a chore on the road to accomplishing your goal. Let yourself go. Be loose. Be yourself. Enjoy the moment. Enjoy the other person. It doesn’t have to lead to marriage to be enjoyable. You may just have found a new person in your life. Who knows? Maybe they’ll become a good friend or a business connection. Or maybe you’ll just have had a pleasant, memorable evening.
Obviously it takes two people to make that happen. But all communal shifts in attitude begin with one person.
Dating Wrong: Go at the Same Pace
It’s very important to gauge the temperature of the person you’re with. Some of us have the tendency to go from 0-60 extremely quickly, and we miss the fact that the person we’re with is taking their time.
What happens when this occurs? At first it’s OK. Or at least it feels fine. One party is constantly calling and complimenting and giving small gifts. The other is enjoying the attention, but is not really moving toward any meaningful feelings.
After a certain amount of months, the slower party is either interested in continuing the slow pace, or wants to move on from the relationship; and their pursuer is just a drip away from proposing! With feelings galore, he is in for a rude awakening and about to have his heart severely broken.
Relationships are complex. There are lots of moving parts. And sometimes it’s easy to forget that whereas each and every one of your feelings are entirely valid, so are all of those of the other party. If you ignore them, the end results will not be good. The best way to know what another person is feeling is through open and honest communication. If it’s not there, the relationship is doomed to fail anyway. Get out.
Just make sure you’re on the same page, looking for the same things, and going at a similar pace.
Dating Wrong: Know when to say yes… and when to call it quits
When do you ask a person to marry you? There’s only one correct answer. No one knows! How great it would be if life were that simple. It would be amazing if we could predict the viability of a relationship with any level of certainty!
But we can’t. We only have what we have.
What’s that? Our hearts, our minds, and our trusted companions.
Problem is, most of us have a tendency to ignore one or more of these three elements, and they’re all essential. More often than not, the heart gets all the attention. We’re left with a brain mindlessly following emotions, without any shred of logic. Without any checks and balances. We can all fall into this trap. And the easiest way to protect ourselves is to be surrounded by people we love and trust, who can help us make thoughtful, intelligent decisions, without fear of consequence.
We might not have all or even anywhere near close to all the answers. But we were born with keen minds and a need for meaningful companionship. We need to use them all when it counts the most.
What did you learn from your journey?
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