Cliffs Notes for the Jewish Dater
By Shira Hirschman Weiss
Many people have heard of and benefited from Rabbi Avigdor Miller's "Ten Commandments of Marriage." Rabbi Avigdor Miller's commandments focussed on loyalty to one's spouse, and making every effort to avoid cycles of hurt and resentment. Dating, however is a different story. After all, why be loyal to someone who you may not marry? Isn't it better to reject an unsuitable person before becoming married, than to learn to forgive and overlook flaws? The dilemma is how can you tell if you are being wise and prudent or picky and selfish? We therefore thought it might be helpful to suggest commandments for dating, and this chapter is our attempt to distill some of the concepts we have developed about relationships into useful guidelines.
Don’t you love it when a friend gets married and now believes that he/she now has all of the answers to the Jewish dating scene? No one can truly relate to your unique experiences: You are the only one who knows the limits and boundaries, the criteria, and the anti-criteria. You have devised the formula and are not being too rigid: It is this way because this is what works and this is what keeps you sane. And to seriously try to find a mate in the Jewish dating scene and not lose all wits about you, this is the way it will go.
the Jewish dater. There are no experts in the field of you. And I can only tell you what I know from my own personal experience having been in the Jewish dating scene from age 19 to 26, ultimately searching for a life partner. I am married now to a wonderful man and have an adorable child and it is not because I cracked an impossible Biblical code. If I had to break it down (which I honestly never did before), it just happened when G-D and I deemed the person, the emotions and the timing to be the right match.
This is your life. You will be waking up together, you will grow old together and you will see each other through the highest of highs and lowest of lows. These are all deep considerations. You have to love and respect this person and besides love, this person must be your best friend. It will not work if two people are not in sync on a zillion levels.
You must be able to argue with one another. ‘Come again,’ you say? You heard me correctly. Scratch the notion that a perfect marriage does not involve conflict or disagreement. The date you had the other night may have said “yes, certainly, I couldn’t agree more” a thousand times, but do you really think she’ll always be so compliant? That first squabble could determine how well you two interact and how compatible you truly are. My husband and I know how to argue with one another when we have to. We never go to bed angry because we communicate well to help us resolve any issues that arise. We have an understanding that we agree to disagree. We don’t live in fear or dread of the next time we won’t see eye to eye. We don’t mind being somewhat at variance because we will talk it through and neither one of us will ever shut the other one off, barring communication altogether. I’m not telling you to pick a fight for the purpose of experimentation, just be prepared for the inevitable speed bumps in Jewish dating and marriage and the road to a life shared.
The Basics: Friendship and Commonalities Love is not enough to sustain a marriage. The friendship element, which holds an implication of trust and the basic ability to have fun together, is essential. When you just want support, advice or another perspective, your spouse should be the confidante extraordinaire. They should be the best of all possible people to turn to on most matters (sometimes the accountant is better or the fitness trainer, but that is an entirely different essay topic…).
Friendship within the context of marriage also denotes basic commonalities, such as religious denomination, political views, principles on the appropriate decorum, and beliefs, whether it is in G-D or the necessity of daily exercise. You should feel that more than a common ground, you have a solid foundation. Once again, you won’t always agree on everything, but you should agree that you won’t always agree, and feel comfortable with the disparities.
As your heart rate slows momentarily between caffeinated meetings in the Jewish dating scene, you might conclude that no amount of advice is beneficial. Only you truly know yourself. It goes without saying that the same is true for the people you date. My single friends are all kind-hearted and benevolent people. They are all bright, articulate, interesting, funny and attractive. But they are all complex and find their complexities to be a hindrance in the Jewish dating scene. My husband and I are also complex individuals by our own estimations and were considered that way by the lucky people who dated us when we were single. Each person has their unique quirks and characteristics that make it challenging to jibe with just anyone. The Jewish dating jungle is a hard one to navigate, with a lot of twists and turns and branches that snag at your Brooks Brothers pullover.
It makes you think:
Wouldn’t it be great if there were Cliffs Notes for the Jewish Dater so you could ace dating?
Unfortunately, there are none. I do not profess to having ever figured out the Jewish dating scene either. Do not let your married friends try to convince you that they have the knowledge and foresight you are lacking. They will never get it, I will never get it and you won’t either, even long after you are married and encouraging your children to date. So just know that it’s a jungle, but it’s worth it.
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