Part 5 of a Plea to Singles
In part four, we explained in general how personal holiness is a necessary requirement for success in dating. Now, with G-d’s help, we will explain how to apply this understanding to dating specifically.
In addition to all the general laws of personal holiness, the main application of personal holiness with regards to dating is that you only want to have interactions with the opposite sex that are appropriate. Remember, you only have permission to talk to someone because they are a prospective marriage partner – otherwise, why are you talking with a member of the opposite sex at all? This concept has two practical applications in dating:
1. Do thorough research and don’t agree to date anyone without it.
Although it’s true that you can't rely on research alone, you also can't do without it. What I call the “pants and skirt” theory is downright dangerous. That is: He wears pants, and she wears a skirt, and it’s only a first date! What’s the harm?
This is a surefire way to get yourself burnt out in no time, and even more scary, to get desperate and then burned. This is your heart on the line (especially for women). It is oh so easy to get emotionally involved in something that later turns out to be simply not appropriate in the first place. Why add all the wear and tear? Dating is hard enough!
I also repeat what I mentioned above: If you don’t know for sure that the person at the other end of the table is truly potential, then again, what are you doing talking to them? How can you possibly know that the conversation is appropriate in the first place if you haven’t done research?
Finally, if you date without research, you’ll end up wasting an incredible amount of time. Instead of spending most of your time being available and open to the right guy at the right time, you waste time being “busy” trying to figure out what you should know already, without being tied down.
One practical note is that since men are supposed to be courting women, and not the other way around, it is important that the man approve the woman first, and only then is the match proposed to her, and she has the opportunity to do her research and decide whether to date him or not. Besides the fact that this keeps men and women in their proper roles, it is also important since women get much more emotional about every idea that comes her way then men do. There is no point in putting her through that, only to be rejected – which is incredibly painful for her to boot. Therefore, make sure your shadchanim know that you want to date in this fashion. As a woman, my first question was always “Has the guy approved me yet?” and if the answer was in the negative, I wouldn’t hear one more word until they called back after he had approved me.
Also, make sure that if preliminary research looks promising, you find someone as a reference who has more of a connection to you, or the person who is calling on your behalf, than they do to the potential date. I can't stress how crucial this is, because it’s the only way to get an unbiased opinion –hopefully that person will care more about you marrying the right person, than the other person getting married. As always, you’ll need Hashem’s help to achieve this, so don’t forget to ask for it!
2. When talking with a prospective partner, talk tachlis – meaningful conversation about important topics.
Really, there is a preamble to this one: Date in person. Talking on the phone is yet another opportunity for the heart to come up with wild fantasies about what the other person is, before having hard and fast evidence of such. It’s very hard to keep the heart in check on the phone, and much easier to keep the head in control in person. Unless the distance is so great that a single phone conversation is really needed to make sure the time and expense of meeting in person is worthwhile, make sure you’ve been on at least one date before you talk on the phone. If a shadchan doesn’t have the time to set up the first date for you, and wants you to make all the arrangements together on the phone, find another shadchan! At minimum, make sure that phone conversation includes only the necessary words to plan a first date in person, and not one word more!
So now that you're on a date in person, guiding the conversation is a key aspect of making sure that you give your head a chance to make rational decisions before the heart throws all reason out the window. It’s important that conversation be normal, to the extent that dates should not be interrogation sessions. But small talk and chatting burns time that should be spent covering important topics, while engaging the emotions and not the brain. I can't stress this enough: Guarding your personal holiness does not include hanging out with someone just because you're “on a date.” Make sure you're in a place conducive to a real conversation that adheres to all the laws of yichud, and then stick to topics that you need to cover in order to know if this is really the one with whom you can build a family and a life.
Personally, I came into every date with three things I wanted to know by the time I walked away from the table, and I made sure that I covered at least one at minimum. These three things were based on research, previous dates if applicable, and my pre-date preparations and conversations with my Rebbetzin (see Rule #1). They could range from things I wanted to clarify based on the research on a first date, to important topics that were appropriate for the stage of dating, such as discussing kashrus in the home.
Anecdote– When I walked into a later date with my list of the three most important and serious topics that I still needed to cover and I had saved for last, and within 20 minutes the guy had practically quoted verbatim everything I had been thinking in preparation for the date on each of the three subjects, I knew I had met the right one! I had to run to the bathroom to breathe and figure out what else I was going to discuss in the hour that remained of the date…we ended up discussing the band we wanted at the wedding.
To be continued