EmunaDating: Smart Dating Advice - re-post

By: Samantha Hulkower

We recently reviewed one of the many books on the market to help you get to the chuppah faster and with minimal heartache: Dating Smart. EmunaDate recently sat down with one of the authors, Sherry Zimmerman, to talk about the book, dating, and how her former career as a lawyer helped her develop her most useful dating advice.

EmunaDate: What advice can you give to people who have been dating for a long time? 

Sherry Zimmerman: It used to be that people had more patience for dating and expected it would take time to meet the right person. Today we are so scared that we'll never find the right person, especially because there are so many older single people, that people freak out after dating for only a year. So, the first thing to do is adjust your expectations. Then find ways to live a happy, full life while dating. Don't wait until you are married to start having fun or think 'I can't do this or that because I'm single'. At the same time, accept the fact it might take time to find the right person and make the most of this time.  Dating can be long and discouraging, but there are ways to make your life better in the process.

EmunaDate: How do you know what to look for in a potential date?
Sherry Zimmerman: Dating Smart has exercises that help you hone in on who you are and what's really important to you. What we really have to do is sit down and think about it. Make sure to limit yourself to the qualities that are most important to you; everyone wants someone who is nice, but we have to go deeper than that. I suggest narrowing it down to four things, for example someone who is  motivated, family oriented, kind, and inquisitive.
Once you've done this, develop an elevator pitch of what you are looking for in a partner - something that is very clear and can give a matchmaker or friend a quick but specific idea of what you want that should be enough to spark an idea in someone. I suggest working with a friend or dating mentor to refine it - it should be short! 
Also, don't go out just for the sake of going out - check people out and make sure they want the same things as you, so that even if the date doesn't work out, that you will still have had a good time with the person. One of the biggest things you should clarify as early as possible is how religious the other person is compared to what you are comfortable with.  Your criteria can't be too stringent, but at the same time the range shouldn't be too wide. This is very important because a marriage will be difficult if you observe Judaism too differently. Occupation shouldn't really matter - you have to respect a person in general, but don't get hung up on exterior qualities. I often hear people say 'I never thought I would have married someone who...' but everything else fell into place.

EmunaDate: What tips do you suggest each person takes to date most effectively (that is prevent dating forever to the best of their ability)?
Sherry Zimmerman: Don't date before you know who you are or you feel ready to be in a relationship- don't do it! You'll either spend years searching, because no one will be right for you since you don't really now what you want, or you'll end up in the wrong relationship. Date when you are ready. Know that you don't have to have a million dates - just dates with people who are right for you. Fewer dates with people who are more suitable for you are better than a million people who you have nothing in common with, even if at least you feel like you are doing something proactive.

I see today there are many people who want to get married but aren't really marriage material, such as having anger problems, hygiene issues, social anxiety, poor social skills, emotional problems, depression, all sorts of things. Don't date until you are marriageable, this will save you lots of rejection and heart ache. On the other side, don't get involved with someone that you can see early on that they haven't developed the qualities needed to be in an interdependent relationship. Your job as a married person isn't to fix your spouse - they should be fixed before they start dating. 

Lastly, there are normal people who may have unrealistic expectations and that is why they are having such a hard time. For these people I strongly suggest finding a dating mentor - such as a married person whose judgement you trust to bounce your ideas off of. They can help you whittle down your expectations to what is important. 

EmunaDate: Can you provide some ideas for how to identify when a person isn't really ready for marriage, or when it's worth giving them a shot?
Sherry Zimmerman: Look for motivation - what a person does and not what a person says. For example, you shouldn't dismiss someone just because they are unemployed. It could simply be because of the economy. If they don't have a full-time job but are blogging and volunteering and doing things to maximize their potential getting a job, that shows a lot about a person. Or say a person has some mild social awkwardness - their skills can improve. Talk to them about what bothers you about how they are living their life right now. A lot of times people are afraid to raise issues that bother them, hoping that something will magically work itself out - but it won't. And date long enough to get your questions answered. 
EmunaDate: What are some ways we can lay the foundation for a successful marriage while dating?
Sherry Zimmerman: A good marriage is something that people work at and you need to develop these tools. More often than not, people end up getting divorced because they didn't know how to start the marriage off right. You can do this from watching healthy couples and families. You need a desire to work together as a couple, and simultaneously on yourself, and humility. Sign up for marriage education workshops. You can avoid painful learning and get a jumpstart on your marriage - which is especially helpful for older couples. In South Africa, the Rabbinut won't marry anyone if they don't go through premarriage counseling. We really need to be taught how to be married. You have to know what are the right expectations, what's healthy in a relationship and even simply what you need to learn.  

The transition to marriage is hard at any age, but it can be harder when you are older and have been on your own longer. Marriage depends on a lot of give and take, and people who have been single for a long time may have forgotten what its like to have someone expect something of them. I suggest doing some chesed while single or dating to develop these selfless qualities.

EmunaDate: Can you provide us with a few important areas to discuss while dating to identify potential problems and avoid the issues you mentioned above?
Sherry Zimmerman: First, first break the ice and get comfortable with each other. Once you've ascertained that you both want to spend time getting to know each other share things about yourself then have one big topic that you discuss on each date. For example: who do you admire and why, where do you see yourself in 5 years, how do you handle frustration and anger, what are your biggest challenges - these are for when you are more serious as a couple. There is a list at my website jewishdatingandmarriage.com

Also, money is a huge source of conflict in marriage and needs to be talked about before you get married. The financial expectations you should discuss in the dating process include: what sort of lifestyle you expect to live? What are important expenses? What aren't important expenses? How will you come to agreements with money? These kind of questions also help to develop good problem solving techniques, so you have the tools in place to have a successful marriage.

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