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Dating: Five Spiritual Stages

January 22, 2020 | by David Lester

The road from being single to standing under the chuppah follows similar stages depicted in the Exodus narrative.

Getting married is not only about finding the right person, it is also about getting a relationship off on the right footing. As a relationship becomes serious it progresses through different spiritual stages. In addition to having a checklist for a mature partner, we also need a checklist for a mature relationship. While each relationship is unique, there are five spiritual stages that lead towards intimacy and partnership.

Stage One: Noticing My Partner

The first stage of building a relationship is noticing something special in the person we are dating and feeling drawn towards them. Often, on one of the first dates there is a moment when we look at our partner and notice something that stands out about them and impresses us. At this stage we often look at our partner with a feeling of awe. Something about this person is amazing and inspiring. We feel attracted to our partner, intrigued by them, and have to admit feeling excited.

Stage Two: Investing in My Partner

The second stage of a relationship is when we choose to go out of our way in order to invest in this budding relationship. At this stage we find ourselves willing to change our plans in order to further explore what we have just seen. In order to meet this special person, we often choose to leave our comfort zone and meet the unexpected. Sometimes, we may find it surprisingly easy to go out of our way for our partner while at other times, we may feel that making sacrifices is more of a conscious decision, more of a risk. There is often a sense of choosing to pursue something mysterious and unknown.

Stage Three: Being Noticed by My Partner

Stage three occurs when we are met by our partner. At this stage we discover that not only are we seeing our partner and feeling enthusiastic about them, we are also being seen and noticed by our partner. At this stage a feeling of reciprocity develops and we feel that our sacrifices and efforts and movement toward our partner are being met. When we are met, we feel that we are investing in a relationship that can hold the emotional energy we are pouring into it. While we are gradually filled with new kinds of emotion, we also feel safe. In these moments, two people look at each other and feel their partner to be a gift that has miraculously entered their lives. They know that they have had to go out of their way in order to make their relationship possible, and they know that their feelings are mutual.

Stage Four: Being Present

After feeling drawn toward someone and discovering that the feeling is mutual, we can move to the next level where the relationship becomes more obligating and more mature. The fourth stage of dating is the choice to be emotionally present for my partner and for our relationship. While dating often begins with feelings and emotions, a serious relationship develops when we choose to show up.

When we are "present" in each other's lives we bring a certain level of concentration and focus to the relationship. We are not daydreaming and we are not on the defensive. We listen to each other, share our needs and thoughts with honesty and we are open to growing as the relationship develops. When we are present we don’t run when conflict arises, rather we say "I am present and open for the unfolding of this relationship and for the new and challenging directions in which this relationship will take me."

Stage Five: Vulnerability and Pain

One of the deepest parts of any long-term relationship is a stage when we reveal our areas of vulnerability and pain to one another. It is the security that is created through the reciprocity and the seriousness of the previous stages that allows these vulnerable revelations. In this fifth stage we trust our partner enough to share with them the places where we are not at our best, the places that are raw and less developed. Courage is required for us to agree to be vulnerable and share our suffering with our partner. In these moments we hope that our partner responds with an empathy that holds and embraces our vulnerability. Soft and accepting love, not judgment, allow us to share moments of human closeness. This is the stage that binds two souls together and leads towards the creation of intimacy.

These five stages of forging a deep bond rest upon the Jewish archetype of redemption.

These stages of redemption unfold when Moses embarks on the journey of bringing the Children of Israel out of Egypt. This journey begins when Moses notices the burning bush and goes out of his way to approach and see this unique bush.

After Moses notices the bush, God notices that Moshe notices the bush. This is when Moses and God share an encounter.

Following their encounter God calls out to Moses, and Moses states that he is present – “Hineni – Here I am” – mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

At the final stage of Moses' encounter with God, God tells Moses that he sees and notices the suffering of the people of Israel, hears their cries and knows their pain. The Exodus from Egypt begins with these five stages: noticing, going out of one's way, reciprocity, being present and having empathy for suffering.

The road from being single to standing under the chuppah follows similar stages and runs parallel to this narrative of redemption. When, as a couple, we are able to show up and be present for one another during difficult times, we are not only strengthening our relationship, we are also bringing redemption into our lives.

Click here to purchase David Lester's book "Jewish Marriage: The Ceremony, the First Year, and the Journey That Follows."

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