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Dating Advice #20 - Conversational Concerns

May 8, 2009 | by Rosie Einhorn, L.C.S.W. and Sherry Zimmerman, J.D., M.Sc.

Some people have a way with words, and others... have no way. Here's how to have a great date either way!

Dear Rosie & Sherry,

I have started to date for marriage, and although I have been on a few dates I am a little at a loss about what to talk about. Since I never dated much before, I find that I am nervous and feel painfully inexperienced in conversation. What advice would you give?


Dear Julie,

Even people who are much more experienced at dating sometimes feel awkward about what to say when they start to get to know someone.

A good starting point for conversation is basic information about yourself and your date -- your background, favorite music, where you lived in the past, places you've traveled, hobbies, favorite friends and relatives, studies or career, friends you have in common. This gives you a basis for more in-depth discussion. Anticipate these topics and think ahead of how you will answer.

Even if you don't talk much, be a good listener. You can generate topics of conversation by focusing on something your date mentions and asking questions that will encourage him to describe his feelings. His grandmother was a lawyer? "What was it like to have a grandmother who was ahead of her time? How did she influence you?" He'd like to get his masters in journalism? "Why did you decide to apply to journalism school? How does it feel to see something you've written in print?" Try adding your own insight. "I always thought journalists should be objective. Lately, though, it seems that much of what I read in the newspaper is very one-sided or gives half the facts. Do you think there's a reason why journalistic standards are so low?"

If you're very nervous about conversation, practice talking about different topics and asking probative questions with a friend. This will help you become more adept at turning "small talk" into a conversation of substance when you're on your next date. Practice sessions will also make you more comfortable with the art of conversation, so that you can concentrate a little more on enjoying your date's company, instead of worrying what to say next. Good luck.

Rosie & Sherry

Dear Rosie & Sherry,

I have been dating a man for four months. I was not attracted to him when we first started dating, but I've become "accustomed to his face" over time. We have had issues, especially about spirituality and certain aspects of our personalities, but I can see that he's tried to balance these differences between us.

Now he wants to get married. Although he's very good to me and stable, I feel panic at the thought of getting married.

My question is: How do I know whether I'm feeling this way because he's the "wrong one" or because I am afraid of commitment. I'm in my 30's and have been involved twice before and pulled back at the last minute. So... is it me or is it him? How do I resolve these feelings of panic and anxiety and move on one way or the other? Please help. I have no one else to ask and I feel desperate.


Dear Barbara,

It's quite normal for a woman in her 30's who is involved in a promising relationship to feel panicky about the prospect of marriage. Part of you doesn't want to be alone and wants to share a close relationship, yet part of you is reluctant to trade in the secure life you've built for yourself for the unknown. Simply understanding that your ambivalence is not can help allay some of your fears.

The best way to evaluate your situation is to look at whether you and the man you are dating have certain qualities that are essential for an enduring, happy relationship. Is he a nice person? Are you fond of him? (You don't have to be "madly in love." If all of the other ingredients are present your fondness will mature into love as you adjust to life together.) Do most of your friends and family like him? Do the two of you have compatible long-term goals? Do you respect each other? Are there qualities that each of you admire in the other? Do you feel a degree of physical attraction? Are you emotionally intimate -- can you confide in each other, share information about your thoughts and concerns, chat about mundane matters and give each other emotional support? If all of these factors are present, then you have the basis for a healthy relationship and a good marriage.

If you answer "yes" to these questions, yet you're still afraid, it's likely that your fears are self-induced. To understand why you are so fearful, try writing down your thoughts about all of the reasons you may be worried about marriage. For example: "Three of my friends were divorced and I'm afraid I'll also be divorced." "I have a great apartment and a great set of friends -- all of that is going to change and I don't know what the future's going to hold." "My career requires so much emotional energy. How is marriage going to hurt my job, and my job going to hurt my marriage?" "I like him a lot, but I'm not walking on air. If I marry him, will I miss out on the 'real thing?'"

Wait a day or two and look at your list of "fears." Go through them one by one, and play out in your mind the best-case/worst case scenarios. Most people who do this exercise say that confronting their fears is very cathartic and helps them move on to the next stage of the relationship.

If you're still having trouble, consult with a rabbi, a happily-married friend, or a therapist who specializes in relationships. We hope you sort out your feelings and decide on a direction that's right for you.

Rosie & Sherry

Don't miss Sherry & Rosie's dynamic programs this summer in Jerusalem:

For friends and parents of singles - "How to Help Someone You Care About Meet and Marry Their Bashert," Tuesday, July 10 @ The Israel Center, 10 Strauss Street.

For singles - "How to Build a Great Relationship - A Step By Step Approach," Tuesday, July 25 @ The Israel Center, 10 Strauss Street.


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