EmunaDating: Are you available?

By Shayna Hulkower

One Shabbat afternoon I was sitting around after an exceptionally delicious lunch with a bunch of friends. We were all a little too full, so just sat quietly, enjoying each other's company and not really in such a hurry to go anywhere. Someone who had been laying on the couch against a friend shot up. She looked around the room, surveyed us suspiciously with her eyes, and finally spoke.
"Why are we all single? We are all normal people, attractive, and want good things in life. We all know a lot of people. Let's get each other married!" One of the group who had been dating longer than any of us raised his eyebrows skeptically and asked, "How do you propose doing that?"

"Simple!" our new shadchan smiled, "We'll all go around and tell the group what we are looking for, then if one of us meets someone that meets their needs we'll set them up!"

"Great, I'll go first," the doubter said with a smile, although his eyes told another story."Ok...pretty, employed, and emotionally available." There were a few snorts of laughter around the room. "I'm serious," he said angrily. "You know how many girls I've gone out with seem great at first, and then I slowly realize they have no interest in really opening up and letting me get to know them. I always feel like I'm on an interview, talking about myself without the other party really saying anything substantial about what they think or feel."

The room became still as we all sat and thought about people we've gone out with that left us unsatisfied, wanting more from the relationship. We began to share our stories. One had dated a charming European. He took her to sophisticated places and always had a funny story anecdote related to whatever was around them. But, whenever she would ask him questions about his life, he only had vague responses, often subtly shifting the topic. Or, when he did share information it was at really awkward times. She related that towards the end of one date, they had been discussing a popular website as they walked to his motorcycle before he returned home. She remarked on how much she enjoyed one of the site's features. "I dated the girl who wrote that program, trust me, it's not that good." And then he smiled, wished her a good night, and hopped on his bike. She was left disoriented, like she had just been spun around. Why would he only open up about his past when it was impossible for her to ask any questions? Another related how a girl he had taken out a number of times abruptly ended things. When pressed for why she explained that she didn't think they had enough in common. "It doesn't make any sense, she never even mentioned the things that she said were so important to her. I like those things too, but they just never came up in conversation. It was like she wasn't even trying to show me who she was."  

In none of the cases had my friends done anything wrong. Of course not every date is going to lead to marriage, but we can try our best to avoid people with red flags. The best way is to go out with people suggested to you by mutual acquaintances that know you both well. Ideally, these people won't set you up with someone unless they really think it's a good idea. Life isn't always so simple, so we need a checklist for how to ascertain the behaviors of people we go out with. The following are common symptoms emotionally unavailable people exhibit: 

-Addicted. The most obvious addictions are to drugs or alcohol. There can be slier addictions like to food or to escapism such as movies or video games. Then there are the ones masquerading as healthy behavior - such as to work or friends or family. Sure, he might seem like a go-getter putting 60 or 70 hours in at the office every week, but is he doing that to build his career or because he's scared to invest in a relationship? That's nice that she speaks to her mom so often, but if she's constantly calling to get advice for things she could just as easily ask you for input on, maybe she hasn't really left the nest. 

-Inflexible. Relationships are about two people coming together, ideally in partnership. If one half of the couple refuses to change anything to meet their partner halfway, that is a sign they aren't really interested in having anything more than an accessory in their life. If every time the two of you disagree on something and the problem doesn't get solved unless you acquiesce, then your partner isn't so much of a partner, but a dictator, and not serious about making compromises that are so important in healthy marriages.

-Unpredictable or Evasive. Every relationship is different, but within a reasonable amount of time there should be some stability and predictability in a relationship. Such as, knowing he's going to call you every week before Shabbat, or that you guys won't be going out Wednesday nights because of her book club. If after going out for a month or so you still don't know when you are going to hear from them again, or haven't met any of their friends, this is a bad sign. If they are unwilling to share details about their routine, such as when their pickup basketball team meets or where they go with coworkers for happy hour, it could be that they are trying to keep you in the dark because they aren't really interested in having a committed relationship.

Some of these traits won't be apparent on the first date, and we don't need to scrutinize every action for signs of deeper emotional problems. If something strikes you as odd or makes you uncomfortable, seek out a dating mentor to make heads or tails of it all. Part of being available for dating means making yourself vulnerable to being hurt, a less than tantalizing prospect for many of us. But, as anyone who has been in love before knows, definitely worth the risk. 

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