Date Smarter, Not Harder

By: Samantha Hulkower

When I worked in the corporate world, there was a common refrain thrown around at brainstorming sessions, "How do we work smarter and not harder?" The idea was, that we could be getting better results by putting in less hours of work, if we had a plan, rather than the status quo which was just dealing with whatever catastrophe had the most pressing deadline. I was recently thinking that this principle can be applied to dating.

The first mistake people often make is that when we date we're motivated initially by: how attracted we are to a person physically and how much fun we have with them. Shared life goals are rarely brought up in the beginning, much to our detriment. We all know couples who broke up after months, or years, together because of issues like one wanted kids and the other didn't, or religious differences. These are things that if at the outset the couple had been honest with each other about, they would have seen that they had irreconcilable views on huge lifestyle issues, and that the relationship was ultimately doomed. The Jewish approach to dating emphasizes looking for shared life goals before you even go out, to cut down on time spent with the wrong person.

Another common mistake is going out with anyone. I've told the story here before, of a friend of mine who would go out with almost anyone suggested to her. Five nights a week sometimes, she was out on a date, but they never went anywhere. She ultimately met her husband randomly on the street. It just goes to show that putting in a lot of footwork isn't always going to guarantee results. While it's important to be open-minded in terms of who you are willing to date, on the other hand, you don't want to fill your evenings going out with just anyone. Without and discernment of who you date, you are ultimately just wasting your time (and theirs), and might be involved in a dead-end relationship when someone actually mateem (suitable) for you appears.

A friend of mine who had realized that she was making poor decisions on who to date (she admitted that her main criteria for going out was how cute the guy was, with bonus points if he was a musician) decided she wanted to date more seriously. Someone had suggested a singles event in her city that was highly structured: there would be half a dozen matchmakers facilitating conversations between guys and girls, and at the end of the night, anyone who was interested in someone could tell the matchmaker, and if that person fit in with what the other person was looking for, the matchmaker would set up a date. My friend liked the idea that anyone that wanted to go out with her would have to go through a matchmaker first, so she wouldn't be tempted to go out with the wrong person. While on a break from the event, a guy came up to her and asked for her number. This was completely contrary to what the whole event was about, but she thought he was really cute - and to make matters worse he was a musician. She was so flattered by his interest that she said yes. She very quickly regretted her decision once she realized that she was making the very same mistake she was trying to correct. The realization that you are repeating the same mistakes is the first step in breaking that habit. She told him that she would prefer if they went through a matchmaker. He never contacted her, nor any of the matchmakers, again, which reinforced to her that she made the right decision and probably saved herself more time wasted with the wrong guy.

Finally, the last example of common mistakes we make is discounting people that we really should give a chance. I know a couple that is quite happily married now, but it almost ended before it started. He was 25 and she was 29 and they met at a Shabbos lunch. He was quickly smitten, but she would not even consider him because of the age difference. He was determined to get a date with her, and ultimately proved that age doesn't have to be such a factor - especially with the current trend of guys dating girls older than them. It doesn't make you a cougar, ladies, so be open! Another friend of mine had a friendship with a guy who was significantly overweight. Most girls wouldn't give him the time of day when he tried to strike up a conversation, but she had just moved to New York City and was more open to talking to people. They quickly developed a friendship, although it was more platonic on her part. He knew she would go running along the Hudson and offered that if she ever wanted to go jogging in Central Park, which he lived a few blocks away from, she could always use his place to change (not so scandalous considering he lived there with his parents). He was even interested in jogging with her. During their bi-weekly jogs their friendship deepened. Fast forward a few months, and he dropped a lot of weight. Suddenly, more girls were interested in him, but he only had eyes for the one person who cared about him before his transformation. Because she had taken the time to really get to know him, she already knew that they had similar values and goals, and when he finally worked up the courage to ask her out, she was all to happy to say 'yes'.

Before you accept or reject your next date offer - think about what is really motivating your decision: is it something superficial? Are you wasting your time going after the wrong type of person? If we develop a plan - and then stick with it - we're setting ourselves up for successful dating, which even if it doesn't lead right to the chuppah, brings us closer and closer to the right one. 

Samantha Hulkower is an Olah Chadasha, living in Jerusalem. She enjoys trying to speak Hebrew, finding the humor in every situation (especially dating), and is looking forward to the day she can successfully argue b'Ivrit. You can also view her blog Curls of Wisdom on life in Israel.   

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