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Dating Survival Guide

May 9, 2009 | by Rob Ernst

A brief guide on finding the right relationship, keeping a proper perspective and remaining optimistic throughout a sometimes grueling process.

The process of dating is similar to an economic theory called the law of diminishing return. The first date is often fun and exciting and filled with a tremendous sense of anticipation and hope. However, as this process begins to repeat itself ad nauseam, the feelings become less intense, less hopeful and sometimes even depressing. The following is a brief guide on finding the right relationship, keeping a proper perspective on dating and remaining optimistic throughout a sometimes grueling process.


Setting Priorities
Living in a physical and material world as we do, it is easy to get caught up in the things that we think are important today only to be disappointed with the realization they are not essential tomorrow. It is critically important for all prospective and current daters to compile a list of the ten most important things they are searching for in a partner. After deliberating over this list for at least one week, most will come to the realization that clothes, hair style, height, age, etc. are not in the top five or even top ten most critical factors one is seeking.

While looks are certainly important, they pale in comparison to the true essence of an individual. It would be unrealistic, as well as unwise, to expect anyone to completely overlook the external physical makeup of a potential mate. However, it cannot be overstated how crucial it is for one to be honest with himself about his physical characteristics and what he believes are realistic expectations of a potential mate. This is especially true for the observant crowd who are looking to build a home filled with Torah and mitzvot.

One's character traits, including sweetness, kindness, gentleness, caring and overall ability to communicate in a dignified and sophisticated fashion, should be the primary issue of focus. We have all seen people marrying for looks or money where after the 'honeymoon' period has ended there is limitless strife and heartache and eventually a separation. Although a gorgeous smile can certainly light up a room and a big diamond glitters, a beautiful soul outshines them, especially when one realizes that he needs to live with it every day.

Utilizing All Available Avenues
Imagine there were three different avenues that lead to the road one wants to go down. We will call these avenues A, B and C. Avenue A is a straight path that is easy to get down and generally the shortest of the three. Avenue B is winding and generally the second shortest of the three. Avenue C is full of bumps and is always the longest route one can take to get to the road.

If Avenues A and B were closed, would one prefer to choose Avenue C to get where he needed to be, or just forget about it and stay home? Depending on how important it was for him to get to his destination, he would most likely take Avenue C and be glad that he even had that option.

There are numerous ways to meet one's significant other. Perhaps they will meet in school, shul, or just out and about. This would certainly be the smoothest and easiest way to meet.

There might be a suggestion from a friend or a shadchan to meet someone who he knows. Although this is not as straight and direct, it is still a pleasant way to make somebody's acquaintance.

Online dating has become the modern day version of the Jewish dances our parents and grandparents met at.

Then we get to the least desirable route -- which in today's day and age is the internet. Online dating has become the modern day version of the Jewish dances our parents and grandparents met at. There are many pitfalls that exist for online daters including unscrupulous individuals who misrepresent themselves or their motives. However, if one is willing to do his due diligence and seriously take this process like a job, then going down this avenue can get one down the road he truly desires.

Bottom line for anyone who is disgruntled with the traditional methods of meeting is to look at every opportunity that exists and not to feel ashamed or embarrassed about the means. God gives us everything we need but He expects that we do our part in the process as opposed to sitting back and waiting for things to fall in our lap. If one wants to win the lottery, he has to buy the ticket. So don't be afraid to invest time, money and energy in order to potentially find your bashert.


Working on Yourself First
When searching for one's bashert [soul mate], one must first be completely comfortable with himself. He should be fully aware of his strengths and weaknesses and acknowledge all of the areas of improvement he needs to work on. This is generally a very hard process since we are quick to excuse our shortcomings and focus on our good qualities. But in order to be ready to start a new life with someone else, one need to be honest with oneself and start making the changes he believes are necessary for self improvement and growth.

Changing one's personality is an almost impossible task, but with the proper motivation -- in this case preparing oneself to meet his soul mate -- significant transformation can occur. The best way to go about recognizing areas for change and improvement, as well as implementing those changes, is by learning Torah and soul searching. Reading or hearing about our great rabbis and Jewish leaders and how they behaved should serve as an inspiration and a point of reflection for all. Additionally, spending a lot of our time around people we honor, respect and look up to will transform our feelings and attitudes.

It is imperative to continue growing and developing each day in order to reach one's full potential.

We may think that we are ready to meet our bashert but in reality, God knows whether we are or not. The right person may be here but one may not have reached his true potential and his bashert is waiting for him to do so. With this in mind, it is imperative to continue growing and developing each day in order to reach one's full potential. Furthermore, if one waits until after meeting his significant other to begin this process, he may find that they are not as compatible as he did before the development took place.

Never Get Depressed
It is quite easy to feel depressed after dating numerous prospects over a substantial period of time. These feelings become even more exaggerated when all of one's friends are getting engaged and married.

The most important thing one can do at the point of hopelessness is to fight the feelings of depression, remain optimistic and turn to God for help. He wants you to turn to Him and ask for help and guidance in the search. We all know that in marriage there are three partners, not two; man, woman and God. This partnership also exists in the process of dating, even before the introduction takes place.

Besides remaining committed to the idea that the right person will come along soon, one should look to help others find their bashert. Rabbi Paysach Krohn tells a story of a man who was very distraught because his daughter was unable to find a shidduch. The man knew how wonderful his daughter was and could not bear to see how his daughter suffered from failed date after failed date.

As a result, this man decided to start writing down all of the single men and women he knew in town and tried to start making matches. Within months of this undertaking, his daughter met her bashert. Rabbi Krohn explains that he knows this story is true because he is that father.

If one prays and works for others to be helped first, then his prayers will be answered. A caveat to this anecdote: one must sincerely work and pray to help others with no expectation of receiving anything in return.

There is probably nothing more unattractive to a person than seeing someone else depressed. So it is vital (and yes, this is really hard) to remain -- no matter what -- positive and optimistic, and not allow depression to get in the way.

It Takes Only One
One way to remain optimistic is to remind yourself that it only takes one to make everything right. We're not looking for ten great ones, only one. Before each meeting, say out loud, "This could be the one." Although one may be scared to do this for fear of disappointment, it is essential to keep faith and trust that God wants to give us all the help we need to reach our full potential. Any time one starts to get down, he can remember the countless stories of people meeting their mate when they least expected it and in the most unlikely of places.

Take Advantage of This Time
There are many opportunities available for personal growth and satisfaction for singles. Instead of looking at this time period as an unfortunate situation, one should grab it by the horns and run with it. Now is the time when one can go to any class he wants, travel, or do many other things that would not necessarily be possible if he were married.

There is a famous woman lecturer who was single for a long time. While she was single she spent countless hours learning and refining her speaking abilities so that eventually when she did get married and had a family, she was still able to teach and inspire thousands of individuals with her Torah knowledge and speaking style. Thank God for this time, and use it as efficiently and intelligently as possible.

May these few thoughts strengthen the resolve of all of those searching for their partner in life and marriage.


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