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The Cruel Dating Game

October 13, 2009 | by Sylvia Miner

As a community, our dating attitudes need to change.

I recently read on the article by Rachel Davids, "Another Break Up." Finally after so many years of dating so many people, she thought she was on the verge of settling down and starting her own home. Then came the rejection. And now with this latest break-up, she is "trying to understand what God wants from me."

That is, of course, the question everyone has to keep asking. But it seems to me that other questions need to be asked: Why is this happening to so many people? Must it happen? Is the community doing all it can to stop it?

Unable to face the prospect of further rejections, I simply blocked off that area of my life.

Here's where I am coming from. I am a woman for whom Rachel Davids' worst fears came true. I am 68 years old, never married, and while people still urge me to keep trying, no one has any actual prospects for me. Actually I stopped trying at about 30. Unable to face the prospect of further rejections, I simply blocked off that area of my life.

As a young woman I hated the dating game, which was cruel and phony. Sometimes I used to wish that my father, who was a professor, would just bring home a nice graduate student for me. But no one did things that way in our circles. Unfortunately, during my 20s I also experienced a number of short-term relationships where physical intimacy was involved. The memory of these affairs is bitter. I know now that it resembled nothing of what people in a committed relationship experience. One doesn't learn about marriage from promiscuity, any more than one learns about Mozart from Muzak.

And in today's fast and shallow Facebook world, so many relationships -- even without physical intimacy -- are coming to resemble this emptiness more and more. There can be a kind of promiscuity without physical contact. It occurs wherever people "get to know" one another without coming to care for one another. In response to a friendship that did not develop, I expressed the resulting pain as follows:

I felt
fingers feeling
the fabric of my soul,
hesitating, deciding not
to buy.

People should not be subjected to this. Those who are subjected to it have to try to face it with courage and faith. But we should all do some introspection about why this is happening.

Obviously there are many reasons. But I suspect that it is one manifestation of an underlying attitude about what makes for happiness -- the idea that I will be happy if I get just what is perfectly suited to Me. Our society constantly promotes the idea that, among the available options, I owe it to Myself to obtain the optimal option.

This plays out at its ugliest in dating. Since, especially for young men, there are a dizzying number of options available, this makes it very difficult to be certain at any point when one has found "the best person for Me."

The traditional belief that for every person there is a match who is "bashert" for them, has somehow uncannily morphed into this quest for the optimal mate. People forget that there is such a thing as destiny, that your ideal match may not be the person you fantasize about, but may become attached to your soul through any set of circumstances. A few lines from Goethe come to mind:

Small things depend upon our wish and whim,
But what is great arrives from who knows where.

Looking for perfection is futile, because you will not find it. Nobody is perfect. The only way is to go for percentages, and with commitment you will find true happiness.

Being happy and getting what you want are not synonymous.

Being happy and getting what you want are not synonymous. Rather, happiness comes from taking what comes to you and making the best of it. It means recognizing external constraints as expressions of the will of God, and trying to live well within them. And external constraints include the wishes and needs of others. A young man who dates a young woman, gets to know her, enjoys her company, raises her hopes, and then shears off because he thinks he might be able to do a little better, is surely living in a selfish-filled illusion.

I hope Rachel Davids finds out what God wants from her. Better still, I hope she finds a good man soon. But I would ask the community: Are young men being taught emphatically enough to ask what God wants from them? The sense that every human being is precious? Are young people sufficiently educated with the tools to counteract the exploitive attitudes of the Western dating system?

People are suffering in varying degrees, both in the dating world and in all types of interpersonal relationships. I pray that a way may be found to armor the community against these attitudes, which threaten the Jewish people and the Jewish soul.

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