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Those Little Gestures

by Tamar Caspi under Judaism,Relationships

You can buy a bouquet of roses from the market, or you can purchase the seeds of your girlfriend’s favorite flower along with soil and a pot so that she has an ongoing reminder of your thoughtfulness.

You can suggest a local brewery for date night, or you can get your boyfriend that online deal to learn how to make craft beer at home.

Oftentimes we overlook those subtle hints which could really help make your significant other feel special, loved, and appreciated. Listen for the things that your partner won’t ask for, but you know they like — whether that be a specific food or drink, an outfit (A man in a suit? Always hot!), a location (The peak of a mountain at sunset? So romantic!), and of course there’s also gift-giving.

This holiday season, make the effort to give the special someone in your life a gift that’s just as special. It doesn’t have to be expensive, or even store-bought, just something to let the person know that you are listening.


Make a List, But Check it Twice

by Rabbi Josh Yuter under Date Night,JDate,Online Dating,Relationships,Single Life

Ah, the checklist. That necessary evil of dating where you’re forced to reduce the totality of the human experience into artificial and contrived parameters. Anyone who has ever been asked, “so what are you looking for?” has had to have their list memorized to deliver an elevator-pitch like succinct response. Dating sites like JDate force you to literally check off boxes to describe yourself and search for others. Naturally, people resist being placed into such boxes to the point where saying you “don’t fit in a box” is such a cliché that JDate could probably add that option to their profiles.

CRTV-1337-thumb-RJYThe trouble of course is that while websites, singles, and even shadchanim recognize both the utility and limitations of checklists, few people consider what these checklists really mean. Take the popular example of a checklist gone wrong is the “white tablecloth” requirement, where potential mates are rejected based on the content of their linen closet. I’d like to give the benefit of the doubt and assume that the absurdity correlating tablecloths with maintaining a successful relationship, and instead suggest that the tablecloth symbolizes a personally important religious aesthetic. Anyone who could appreciate someone saying that Hannukah just isn’t Hannukah without Bubbe’s Famous Latkes can understand the value of religious sentimentality.

Remember what I wrote a few weeks ago about dating and hope I think what applies there also applies to checklists. Every item represents a possibility, or based on one’s experience, probability. A PhD usually indicates a person is reasonably intelligent or values knowledge, which yeshivot one attended can be indicative of religious upbringing, etc. It doesn’t matter if any of these sorts of assumptions are true, or if they’re relevant to the essence of the person in the present. What matters isn’t even what people think about the checkboxes, but how they imagine what the relationship would be.

Unless you automatically accept every single dating possibility which comes your way, you’re going to have some standards about the people you date. And if you’re in any way serious about having a relationship, you’re going to want to maximize the potential of the date being “good” however you want to define it. Checklists aren’t about separating the naughty from the nice (it might be, but since this is a Jewish dating website, we’re keeping things clean), but playing the odds to have the best chance of having a decent date.

The question is less about the checklists, but how much of them are dogmatic deal breakers. If you happened to hit it off with someone who didn’t have the right box checked, would you call it off or would you give it a shot? Obviously this is up to you, but every now and again, it’s worth checking in on our checklists.


Wine and Whiskey

by Tamar Caspi under Relationships,Single Life

What do wine and whiskey have in common? They both get better with age… and so should you.

There is no time in life when you should stop trying to evolve and improve. Some people call it “change,” which has a negative connotation (“you changed!” or “why won’t you change for me?” or “I’m never going to change.”), but finding something — or things — you don’t like about yourself and working to fix them is not a bad thing in the slightest.

Therapy is a great tool to work with a professional to talk things out. They will make you think about things in ways you never would. Allowing near-and-dear family members or friends to be brutally honest is also a great way to learn how you’re perceived. And if you find yourself going after the same type of prospects and never getting past a certain point in a relationship, then it might be time for you to take a look at yourself and see why you are pursuing those who aren’t the right fit.


Flirtation Confusion

by Tamar Caspi under Date Night,JDate,Single Life

My friend Brian is a friendly and outgoing guy, and as such, he often gets accused of flirting when he’s just being nice. The problem here is that he’s in a committed relationship, so things can get confusing when the women believe he is flirting with them and leading them on.

On JDate it’s clear when someone is interested because they will contact you, but in person, it can be less obvious. Someone who is chatting with you, asking questions about you, making you laugh, making eye contact, and smiling at you does not necessarily mean they are flirting with you.

So how can you tell when it’s more?

There will likely be some physical aspect when there’s romantic interest, such as touching your arm. There will also be questions about your relationship status, which you should reciprocate. Finally, the conversation will lead in the direction of a future — going on a date or at least exchanging numbers.

Not every conversation between two singles has to have romantic intent. Sometimes you’re just going to meet a nice person. Continue to be friendly and approachable and open regardless of who is standing across from you.


Attention Grabber

by Tamar Caspi under Date Night,JDate,Online Dating,Relationships,Single Life

With all the holiday parties coming up, what should you do to stand out — and what tactics should you not employ?

The best way to attract others is to be happy, to enjoy yourself, and to laugh. Dress to impress — look good, feel good. Show your confidence and exert yourself. But don’t go overboard trying to get attention.

A woman I saw last night, who was being loud, had clearly been drinking too much, and was dressed provocatively, showing way too much skin. Unfortunately, she was only attracting the type of guys who were looking for a hookup. Her tamer girlfriends, meanwhile, were on the edge of the scene and enjoying the company of some great guys.

On the same note, a guy I noticed last night who was commanding the room with his lewd jokes, cussing a lot, and flirting with girls he clearly wasn’t interested in as a joke, was turning off all the women in the room. Even his guy friends were slowly putting distance between themselves because they wanted to meet quality women, and those women were not drawn to their friend’s spotlight.

Be respectful of yourself and others. Be positive, put out positive energy, and you will attract positive people — both friends and more.


Missing the Mitzvah of Marriage

by Rabbi Josh Yuter under Judaism,Relationships,Single Life,Weddings

Every now again I reserve the right to play the “Rabbi” card and interject some religion in my dating posts. Today, I’d like to talk about the religious pressures one faces in dating, particularly pertaining to marriage and family life, which has been on my mind since this past week in Daf Yomi, we actually covered some of the Rabbinic sources stressing the importance of the Jewish family, getting married and having children (B. Yevamot 61bB. Yevamot 64a). For two examples, “R. Tanhum stated in the name of R. Hanilai: Any man who has no wife lives without joy, without blessing, and without goodness. ‘Without joy,’ for it is written. And thou shalt rejoice, thou and thy house” (B. Yevamot 62b) and, “R. Eleazar said: Any man who has no wife is no proper man; for it is said, Male and female created He them, and called their name Adam” (B. Yevamot 63a). Later on in the same trachtate we find, “More than the man desires to marry does the woman desire to be taken in marriage” (B. Yevamot 113a) and “It is preferable to live in grief [in a bad marriage] than to dwell in widowhood” (B. Yevamot 118b).

On top of these sorts of homiletic statements, there’s a debate as to whether or not there is a mitzvah to get married (Rambam), or if marriage is only a prerequisite for properly performing the obligation of having procreation (Ramban) (See this class by R. Aharon Lichtenstein).

It’s bad enough when we have to deal with pressure from family and annoying friends, but how do we deal with letting down our Creator?

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You… me… marriage?

One approach could be to simply get married to the first willing person, regardless of your feelings, but this is not always particularly healthy, and other Rabbinic teachings admonish those who marry people unsuitable for them. As an alternative, I’d like to suggest my own approach, with full awareness of my own bias as someone who has never been married.

By tradition, Jewish law has 613 commandments, 248 of which are “positive” commandments which we must perform, and innumerable Rabbinic laws and enactments on top of those. The reality is that not everyone will be able to perform all of those commandments, sometimes not by their own choice. For example, not every Jew lives in Israel or makes aliyah, which I should note may affect dating prospects. I know few people who have the skill to write a Torah scroll, and fewer who have actually done so (Deut. 31:19).

Not everyone has the same opportunity to perform the same commandments, and the Talmud also teaches that one is religiously exempt when forced into a situation (B. Avoda Zara 54a). Unless someone’s parents pre-arranged their marriage, we’re born into this world single… and single we stay until we find a willing partner with whom we can change our status. This is not always a matter of our choice, but even if it were, I do not believe that one ought to get married to someone inappropriate just for the sake of checking off a religious achievement. After all, the Torah also commands that when a man wishes to divorce his wife, he must give her a get; and we do not encourage men to find fault with their spouses just so that they can fulfill this religious obligation.

I would frequently tell my congregation that I’m just a Rabbi, I’m not the Judge. I’m only qualified to teach what I think Jewish law dictates and what civil penalties there may be for violations. What I cannot do is tell you with any certainty what “spiritual consequences” your actions may have or how God will judge your actions against any mitigating factors (I would also suggest ignoring anyone who claims to do so).

As Jews we have obligations which we must fulfill. Though we can try our best, we’re never going to be perfect (Ecc. 7:20). Maybe God is a vengeful deity who will smite you for your indolence,l or maybe God is a forgiving one who understands your collective experience. There’s enough uncertainty in dating and marriage, we don’t need to add theological questions to our anxieties.


Who’s Off Limits?

by Tamar Caspi under Date Night,JDate,Judaism,Relationships,Single Life

Jewish Geography can become an issue when you’re single and seemingly connected to nearly every other single Jew that you know in some way — either you hooked up with their friend, or your friend dated them seriously, or your cousin broke their friend’s heart — and suddenly you feel like there’s no one left to date! But really, very few single Jews are truly “off-limits,” and even then, someone can usually become fair game with a simple conversation.

Ex-spouses of your friends are off-limits… unless it’s been years and they’re now friendly and your friend, in fact, set you two up. If it’s an acquaintance’s ex-spouse then it’s perhaps a good idea to run the idea past your acquaintance before pursuing a relationship. For example: my fiance and I were set-up by a mutual friend who is also good friends with his ex-wife. Our shadchan asked the ex-wife’s permission before making the shidduch.

If one of your friends has never recovered from getting dumped by someone, then that person is probably off-limits. If one of your friends contracted an STD from someone, then that person is, well, need I say more? But if your friend simply casually dated the person, then a simple phone call asking for your friend’s blessing should suffice. And if there was no drama and yet your friend won’t give you permission, then perhaps you need to take a deeper look at both the prospect as well as the friendship.


Writing the Right Words

by Tamar Caspi under Date Night,JDate,Online Dating,Single Life

The “About Me” paragraph in your JDate profile is crucial. You could have the best photos, but if you write the wrong thing, you’re going to attract the wrong prospects. Sure, you’ll likely still get lots of attention, but it may be for the wrong (ie. superficial) reasons.

Writing the right words is not easy. First and foremost you want to sound like an educated, coherent, charming, trustworthy person. That doesn’t mean you say that you “are educated, coherent, charming, and trustworthy.” The key word in that sentence was to “sound” like all those things, not just say that you are them. That also doesn’t mean that you write multiple paragraphs explaining why you are all of these things in detail either. Rather, make sure that you proofread, be consistent throughout your profile, don’t be too serious or too flippant about the process, and allow your personality to shine through.

Secondly, you don’t want to spend all the space talking about what you have to offer or what you are looking for. Talk about who you are and what’s important to you in life and you will attract the right type of people. Don’t get into your relationship history except to briefly state if you are divorced, widowed, and/or a single parent.

Don’t forget: your online dating profile is already providing a lot of typical first-date conversation information, so don’t over-share any more than you have to and keep some interesting tidbits about yourself for the date itself!


Live, Laugh, Love

by Tamar Caspi under Date Night,Relationships

Having a sense of humor in a relationship is important. You have to be willing to laugh at yourself and to laugh at your significant other’s jokes (even if, and especially when, they’re not funny). The first time you let a fart fly in front of your S.O. is a time when you need to laugh at yourself. And when your S.O. teases you about that fart the next day, you need to laugh again. If your S.O. is one of those people that has the running joke “what do you want to eat?” and answers “food” every time, then laugh every time.

What’s the worst that can happen? Your S.O. will feel good that they made you laugh, and you will get an increase in endorphins because you laughed, which will then make you happy. It’s a win-win.


Managing Online Dating Expectations

by Rabbi Josh Yuter under Date Night,JDate,Online Dating,Single Life

I’d like to take a moment to talk about managing expectations. I don’t mean so much in terms of “dating” in the sense of finding a desirable — if not optimal — person with whom to share your life, but of dating sites in general. To get this out of the way right up front, yes, I’m fully aware I’m writing this for the largest Jewish dating site in the world.

I’m going to assume that if you’re on a dating site, and especially if you’re paying for one, you’re looking for “something.” You might be looking for a serious dating relationship or even have a laser-focus on getting married. Others might be interested in just meeting people with minimal strings or expectations, perhaps just wanting a fun night out with a potentially interesting person. The wide range of possibilities makes it difficult to define the “success” of a dating site, at least for any particular person. I would also guess that those who have higher expectations, such as those focusing on marriage or serious relationships, will also have a greater likelyhood of being disappointed or having a sense that a given website just isn’t “working” for you.

CRTV-1271-thumb-RJYPart of the problem is in assuming what a dating site can actually do for you. A dating site cannot get you a relationship, let alone get you married (not the legal ones, anyway). It cannot even guarantee any of your messages will get responses. The absolute best any dating site can do is get you a first date or meeting. Even if you get to that point, if for whatever reasons one of you isn’t interested, it’s not going to go anywhere. That’s not a flaw in the dating site, that’s life.

Dating sites are tools to meet people you otherwise would not. And like any tool, some will be more effective depending on the problem at hand, if at all. At the same time, this means that the effectiveness can also change over time with a particular individual or the dating pool.

What’s important to remember is that like any consumer, you have the power to patronize a service at your leisure, to move on when things don’t work well or to come back when you have a change of heart.