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Life Lessons Learned From My Research on Jewish Dating
Understanding how things work has been a passion of mine ever since I can remember.
For sure I was one of those potentially annoying children who had to ask “but why?”
about everything. And I was definitely always intrigued with understanding relationships.
My fascination growing up led me to read every romance novel in the library and
I never watched a romantic movie without crying. I just felt something for the individuals
in their very real desire to be loved.
Maybe in hindsight it was my fascination with love which led me to channel my profession
as a Social Worker to develop an expertise in, you guessed it, relationships!
I have been fortunate that over the past number of years I have been able to indulge
myself in asking – and answering- the whys of relationships, most specifically of
those having to do with dating. In fact, after I finished my Masters thesis, I was
certain that I had actually earned the first ever Masters of Relationships with
an emphasis in Matchmaking studies!
Life Lessons Learned From my Research in Jewish Dating
1. Beneath Every Dating Jewish Single Are Their Values
This lesson is important, I believe, as a prerequisite in framing the rest of my
My take on doing research with Jewish singles that were living in North America
(or were in Israel but were raised in a Western culture) was to appreciate that
people are, in fact, products of their societies. When I studied emotions in this
context, such as love, it became understood that emotions were mediated and shaped
by a set of distinct societal institutions and cultural values. Therefore, an individual’s
expectations regarding love, mate selection and marriage are deeply ingrained by
their socialization and the subsequent values they hold.
2. Having a “Dual Identity” Can Be Confusing!
So this lesson was an eye opener for me. Namely, that our identities are constructed
in a large part out of the cultural things we consume. And most of the Jewish singles
I know who are dating, enjoy a cultural palette of both Jewish and Western culture.
Whether intentional or not, let’s face it; In this modern age of technology, Western
culture seeps into our lives as Jews no matter how much we try and shelter ourselves.
I’m not immune, and chances are neither are you!
When it came to making a choice about who would be the right mate for them, all
Jewish daters had values from their dual identity’s influencing their decision (namely
their identity as a Jew and as an American/Canadian/Brit, etc). If someone is not
sure who they are, it makes sense that they would have a hard time knowing exactly
who to date! “Do I choose as my Jewish affiliation Modern Orthodox Machmir or Modern
Orthodox Liberal?” becomes a die hard decision.
3. Looking For Connection
I guess if you asked me if I was surprised, my answer would have to be no. After
all, it does make sense to me that we are all looking for some kind of ‘connection’
with another human being. What was surprising to me was that the relationship ingredient
of ‘connection’ was mentioned by every single individual I interviewed without exception!
Call it what you want, a ‘click’, ‘bond’, a ‘spark’, or ‘chemistry’. Every single
who is dating for marriage includes connection as a must have before deciding to
make a commitment.
4. Commitment Often Remains Elusive
It’s clear that part of the process of Shidduch dating is the expectation to make
a decision as to whether a current dating partner could potentially be one’s mate.
And it also seems to be a given that in the Jewish community most singles still
want to get married (as opposed to the Western secular population which no longer
values marriage the same way that they did just 30 short years ago). Yet, reaching
the commitment stage in dating that would lead to marriage often remains elusive.
And here’s the irony. The research in relationship development clearly illustrates
that in order for safety to be established, to give a relationship the opportunity
to develop to the next stage, the relationship requires that a, let’s call it “cognitive
commitment”, be made by both daters. This unspoken commitment would enable both
parties to stick with the program (getting to know each other through subsequent
dates) long enough to reach the finale.
5. Having Guidance Would Help Singles Reach the Commitment Stage
Guidance really needs to be qualified in this context. Some of the individuals I
interviewed had no guidance at all, especially if they were Balei Teshuva and had
left the Yeshiva or Seminary environment. Others expressed a type of involvement
from a friend, mentor or Shadchan, who very much wanted to see them get married
and therefore offered advice. However, to quote a quote I once heard, advice is
much like a wedding cake…it’s appealing to take but isn’t as good as you thought
it would be.
The identified lack that became clear to me is that the majority of Jewish daters
receive little or no guidance in areas like how to choose a mate, understanding
the relationship development process, or factors to consider before making a commitment.
Singles feel, and understandably so, that receiving proper guidance would serve
as an important tool in navigating the potentially rocky terrain of Shidduch dating.
In my experience as a professional relationship “guide”, I know that it is often
only after giving guidance tools from my relationship facilitation expertise, that
daters were able to stay dating one person long enough to recognize that they were
actually a very good match for them.
Staying in the game long enough…now that’s another whole story.
To contact Aliza with inquiries or to benefit from the work she does with singles
in person or by phone, please contact her at
firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 416-225-0224. You can also
visit her website at www.guidingconnection.com.