Thursday, January 10, 2008

Why are you dating?

Let's face it: New York is indisputably the largest market for Jewish singles. Period. That market breaks down, as does everything else here, into different flavours. The Upper West Side, the KGH singles, BP/Williamsburg, Flatbush, and of course, Passaic girls. To name but a few.

However, regardless of location, I have personally met scores of men and women who have evidenced a shared, blatant resistance to marrying. Blame it on the enormous pressure to marry, blame it on the seemingly endless pool of potential partners, blame it on the increasing numbers of divorced singles, or simply blame it on the burnout that accompanies the process of meeting people, meeting people yet not meeting "The One". But in New York, as elsewhere, there is a sizable percentage of singles who give ardent lip service to having dated nothing but a succession of dogs or superior divas during their desperate, valiant attempt to find someone. Which begs the question: Why are you dating?

I am probably in the minority, but I do believe that there is a very small percentage of people who perhaps should not marry; they simply do not possess and, for various reasons are incapable of learning, the skills that make a productive marriage. Most singles though do not fall in to this category. Why then, are there so many singles who cannot find someone suitable to share their lives with?

Many years ago, single and newly immigrated to this country, I was working out one afternoon next to an older woman who struck up a conversation with me. She proceeded to bemoan her history of dating louses, and listed her lengthy criteria for potential dates- tall, dark, handsome (and several other physical descriptions that I will not enumerate here), funny, rich, etc. To which I mentally responded, "But what do you have to offer"?

B'H', we all have something to offer a potential spouse, all have good qualities...but also shortcomings. I am painfully aware of my shortcomings, and see them as primary fodder for personal refinement. Regardless, while single I had the self-awareness to realize my strengths and weaknesses, and devoted mental energy to determining a few key qualities that my future mate should possess in order to complement me and push me to improve myself. By finding someone who could complement me, and vice versa, I figured we might have a chance of coming together and building a solid, productive future.

Many of us are either unable to identify or simply too afraid to identify what we really need. By afraid, I mean we would have to take stock of ourselves, which is an uncomfortable process, to say the least. Instead, we focus on what we want, which 99% of the time is the antithesis to what we need. The end result is frustration, because we do not find what deep down we know is what what we should want. Our shortcomings, in other words, write our laundry list of expectations for a potential shidduch when, if we focussed on one or two middot and determined how far we're willing to compromise in terms of hashkafah, we might actually find a pool of acceptable shidduchim.

There is nothing wrong with dating to date, if you:
  1. do so in order to determine what you need, i.e. create your list of desirable middot, etc.
  2. acknowledge that you are doing so to suitors so that they are not mislead
But please, be fair to everyone, yourself included, and admit whether you truly want to be married or not. Many people are mistrustful, having had bad experiences in the past, and shy away from taking another chance at happiness. If you fall into this group, then work on yourself so that you can move on. Because, like it or not, as a frum Jew, Hashem wants us to marry. The reasons for this are manifold, but it is important to remember that marriage offers the opportunity for tremendous spiritual and personal growth. It's difficult, and challenging, and yes, painful sometimes. But, and this is a big but, there is no justification for viewing marriage as a burdensome obligation that is optional. Such a viewpoint stems, to say it plainly, from a selfishness that runs counter to the essence of frumkeit.

So work on yourself. Learn to be less self-centred. Learn to contemplate the positives of opening yourself up to another person and putting them first. Because, as Hashem's people, we shouldn't live our lives any other way.

May all the singles currently seeking shidduchim find their bashert and their way to chuppah immediately.

1 comment:

  1. i hope you stay married and not divorce for a second time.