EmunaDating re-post: Don't Offer Bread to a Ceiliac and Other sensitivities

By Samantha Hulkower

I was talking to a mentor of mine recently, recounting a story of how a friend of mine and I recently sat down to work through some communication problems that were hurting our long-term friendship. I told my mentor, I couldn't have done it without the help of a mutual acquaintance of ours, Sarah. "You know, Sarah really has amazing emotional intelligence," my mentor said, "It allows her to really hear what people are saying and respond in an appropriate way. It's just too bad that she probably developed it from having a hard life." 

Sensitivity really comes down to putting yourself in the other person's shoes and thinking about how the situations they are in feel to them. It's about not making everything about you. It relates also to the mitzvah of dan l'kuf zechut - judging a person's actions favorably. 

Sensitivity in dating can be big or small. One friend was ready to pull her hair out because she was gluten intolerant and her boyfriend always was trying to take her out for falafel or buy her cake. He wasn't doing it to be mean, he was just more focused on what he wanted to eat and therefore ignored the fact that it makes her sick. Another friend was going out with a guy who had lived in Israel for a decade and was fluent in conversational Hebrew. She had been in the country for 6 months and hadn't taken any ulpan yet. Whenever they would go out together, he would speak in Hebrew to the people around them and not bother to translate it for her. It made her feel left-out and not important. Ultimately both relationships ended because one partner was insensitive to how their behavior was impacting the other. However, both of my friends have become more sensitive for it - the one with the gluten problem was eventually cured and now she pays special attention when people say they have different food allergies or intolerances around her. The other can speak Hebrew now, and is sure to make sure that everyone feels included in conversations, no matter what the language. They both think they are better people because of the situations they had to go through, although they don't know that the person they broke up with took away anything.

Sensitivity is one of those middot that is very important to be successful in the dating world, not to mention in every other aspect of life. I dated a guy a long time ago who's mom had just died. We actually met shortly after he got a phone call with the news. Of course now I realize it was probably not the best time to try and start a relationship. It was so easy for me to forget that he had just experienced an unimaginable tragedy because he seemed in good spirits and we had fun together. But, that was my problem. I was young and pretty naive and figured since he acted like he was fine, why wouldn't he be? Eventually, he started to exhibit signs of having a hard time with his mom's passing. In hindsight, he was probably saying and doing things the whole time that, if I was more sensitive to his situation, I would have picked up on. I hadn't had much experience with someone around my age dealing with a loss of this magnitude, and didn't know how to be there for him. Things started to go south pretty quickly after that. I was focused on me and the relationship, rather than considering what he was going through and how he must be feeling. I don't think if I was more sensitive it would have saved the relationship, but I am certain though it could have spared everyone a lot of heartache. 

How do we develop sensitivity? Unfortunately, as we've seen above, the easiest way is to go through a painful experience ourselves, thereby making us more aware of how another person in that situation feels. But who wants that? I think there is a better way. Last time, we gave the example of the unruly children on the subway, but it's very easy to think about how this is important in dating. Next time someone's behavior irritates you in some way, stop and think what could really be going on. Your boyfriend not interested in stories of your happy family gatherings? Maybe you forgot his parents got divorced when he was young and these kind of stories are painful for him. Your girlfriend gets mad when you comment how good an acquaintance of yours looks after having lost a lot of weight? Maybe she also is trying to lose weight and feels self-conscious about it. Just stopping to think about the possible reasons for people's behaviors is the first step to making us a more sensitive person, which can pay off in ways we might not even realize. 

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