Archive for the ‘Relationships’ Category

An Epic Two-Word Response to, “Why aren’t you married yet?”

by Rabbi Josh Yuter under JBloggers,JDate,Relationships,Single Life

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Nu? So why aren’t you married yet?

I’m guessing if you’re reading this blog you’ve probably gotten this question yourself. Maybe you were in your 20’s when all your friends were getting engaged and married (at least for the first time), or maybe you’re advanced in your 30’s, 40’s, or older. Even if you’ve been lucky enough to have friends and family who are too polite to say this to your face, you might have heard it said about others behind their backs. Even in dating, you might find someone who is more suspicious of someone who has never been married than someone who has been divorced or widowed. The implication is always the same regardless of context; if you haven’t gotten married yet, then there must be something wrong with you.

Singles often have to deal with condescending comments like “Im Yirtzeh Hashem (God willing) by You,” but given the confrontational tone, asking why someone isn’t married is less of a personal inquiry as it is an attack on one’s character. You’re too picky. You’re priorities in life are all wrong. You’re immature. Even if there are substantive emotional challenges with which one is struggling, these would probably not be something people would want to share, especially after being placed on the defensive. There’s virtually no way to answer this question without conceding the premise that, indeed, you should have been married by now, and you must now justify your flawed status in life.

I happen to be a firm believer in Hanlon’s Razor: “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.” I’d like to think that people aren’t trying to put others down as much as they are insensitive or ignorant as to the implications of what they’re saying (a recurrent problem in society). Counter-attacking people for their rudeness might feel good in the moment as a way to salvage your dignity, but not only can you come across as unhinged, but you do little to educate well-meaning people as to their insensitivity. On the other hand, not everyone is willing to engage in a detailed conversation, let alone mussar / rebuke, which means an effective response has to be as short as the other person’s attention span.

My suggestion is that the next time someone asks you (or about someone else), “Why aren’t you married yet?” simply respond by asking, “To whom?”

“To whom?”

Yep, and it makes perfect sense.

When someone asks, “why aren’t you married yet” they’re imposing a social stigma, that is the cultural expectation that people ought to get married, and by a certain point in their lives. The problem of course is that people don’t get married to ideas or expectations (excluding metaphors or new-age weddings), they get married to people. Meaning, if someone thinks you ought to have gotten married by now, then it follows there must have been some individual whom you could have married. The set of people anyone could have married can only include the smaller subset of people with whom one has had a relationship and where the other person wanted to get married. After all, in both Jewish and secular law, you cannot get married to people who aren’t interested. By definition, getting married is not an individual choice, but a joint decision.

It’s impossible to answer “to whom?” without knowing someone’s life or the details of every previous personal relationship. Only the most socially inept would respond by asking why you didn’t get married to a specific previous significant other, and at a point it would be completely socially acceptable to inform them that your previous relationships are none of their business, or ask them why they think your life would have been better had you married that person.

The main point is that by asking, “to whom?” you not only address the substance of the question directly, but you also reframe the concept of relationships from societal expectations to personal reality. Instead of being forced to defend your life choices or circumstances, you subtly remind people that you’re not just a statistic or nameless interchangeable single person, but that you’re an individual with specific unique experiences. This includes not just finding the right person, but doing so at the right time for both of you. Societal expectations dictate that “getting married” is more important than the quality of the marriage. But while it might not matter to society to whom one gets married, I would hope that to the individual in question it matters a great deal.

So, the next time you find yourself hearing someone ask why you or someone else isn’t married, try these two simple words. You might educate someone while simultaneously validating wherever you happen to be in life.


Yours, Mine, Ours

by Tamar Caspi under Relationships,Single Life

Dating, particularly in your mid-30’s and after, is difficult because you’ve gained so much independence that compromising becomes so much more complicated. People own homes, furniture, have savings, stocks, and so on that commingling isn’t as easy as it is in your 20’s. Even mixing your friends isn’t such an easy feat! After 30(ish), you have likely become possessive over things because you have worked hard for them, whether that be materialistic things or matters of the heart — such as good, loyal friends. You have a feeling of pride over those things or people, and don’t want to just hand them over to someone or risk losing them.

When you enter a serious relationship, however, you need to transition from yours and mine, to ours, while still keeping a sense of identity. You DID work hard to become the person you are today, inclusive of the people, places, and things you accumulated along the way. But, just because you are sharing those things doesn’t make those accomplishments any less fulfilling, important, or a part of you. It’s just that now your life is even richer because you are sharing it — and your heart — with someone you love, and that’s the most important thing you will ever share.


The Four Letter Word Every Single is Really Seeking. Hint: It’s Not “Love.”

by Rabbi Josh Yuter under JBloggers,Relationships,Single Life

In my introductory post I said that 1. people are too unique for any general theory or advice about dating to be universally applicable and 2. that I was going to break that rule immediately. I stand by both statements, though the rule breaking is more nuanced.

In one of the least-romantic descriptions of dating and marriage ever written, Nobel Laureate Gary Becker reduces the entire dating process to a simple cost/benefit analysis:

According to the economic approach, a person decides to marry when the utility expected from marriage exceeds that expected from remaining single or from additional search of a suitable mate. Similarly, a married person terminates his (or her) marriage when the utility anticipated from being single or marrying someone else exceeds the loss in utility from separation, including losses due to physical separation from one’s children, division of joint assets, legal fees, and so forth (Becker, 1976:10).

 

 

 

 

 

In plain English, Becker understands that people get married when there’s more to be gained by getting married than by staying single, and the same is true for divorce. This follows what some economists call the “rational choice theory,” in which every decision is based on someone deciding a course of action based on the “best” of all options. The problem of course is we have no idea how our decisions in the present will play out in the future. If anything, we’re heavily biased to project either our past experiences or our current emotional state onto the future such that our predictions are rarely accurate.

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So what really drives us to make the Big Decisions?

In a word, “hope.”

More specifically, it’s the hope that our lives will be better if we decide on a certain course of action than any alternative.

Following Becker’s approach, I suggest that dating is no different. The one thing everyone is looking for in a relationship is that somehow life will be better with a particular person than without. Exactly how life will be better will not only depend on the individual, but on the specific circumstances of that person. Some may find hope in a life of stability, while others appreciate the excitement of constant adventure. Maybe the hope for a better life includes having many children, or perhaps the greater hope is found in the potential freedom to pursue one’s interests. It’s why abstract concepts like “love” or “connections” may be a higher priority for some over others, or why everyone’s definition will be different. Normally, these sorts of questions are framed in the context of “life goals” or “checklists,” but essentially everyone is just trying to improve their lives, hoping for the best, and the criteria for doing so is often subject to change.

I also think this approach explains why dating seems harder for some people. Assuming that all relationships take effort and involve some “cost” of time, money, freedom, and emotional energy, the more someone has adjusted to living alone, the more “hope” that person would need to disrupt the status quo. If the people you happen to meet aren’t “worth” the cost – that is, the prospect of putting in all those resources outweighs any benefits one hopes to receive out of the relationship – you’re probably going to be disinterested in pursuing a relationship with that person. I’d further suggest this is particularly applicable to older singles, especially the emotionally healthier ones who have acclimated and adjusted to living life on their own. It’s not that singles get more “selective” as they get older as much as they’ve learned to live a satisfying life on their terms. In which case, older singles require a proportionally greater “hope” for a better future with any given person. It’s much easier to hope when you’re young because you can still dream of possibilities, even if they might never come true, but the longer someone experiences life, the less such dreams of a better life seem plausible.

It’s possible that viewing relationships from the perspective of “hope” may be helpful in the dating process in that we can ask ourselves when we find ourselves attracted to someone what we hope life with this person will bring us (and the same is true when we’re disinterested). If we’re finding ourselves equivocating or wondering why we fall into the same bad habits, then perhaps focusing on what we’re hoping for, and why, might produce some interesting and helpful answers.


Actions Speak Louder Than Words

by Tamar Caspi under Relationships

“You’re going to come across people in your life who will say all the right things at all the right times. But in the end, it’s always your actions you should judge them by. It’s actions, not words, that matter.”

-Nicholas Sparks

Yes, the author of the above quote is the same man who has written a dozen sappy novels including The Notebook, and yet, it’s the truth regardless of who penned the sentences. Actions do speak louder than words. You can say “I love you” until you’re blue in the face, but it’s how you treat the person to whom you’re saying it that truly matters.  If you are not respectful, compassionate, and affectionate of the person you are saying “I love you” to, then you are not acting like a loving person.

Showing appreciation, expressing excitement or empathy for what is going on in your partner’s life, interlacing your fingers with theirs when they least expect it, buying them their favorite treat when you’re at the grocery store, or whatever else is meaningful to them —  just make the effort to express how you feel throughout the day in your behavior and attitude.


Date Night No-No

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

Last night I attended an event for young adults in my local Jewish community. There was a guy there that I referenced as a serial dater in my book, How to Woo a Jew: The Modern Jewish Guide to Dating and Mating. And guess what? He was there with a new girl he is dating. Shocker. He came over to say hi and I asked if she was his girlfriend and he told me they had only recently begun dating and had met at a Halloween party.

I spotted another guy across the room and pointed him out to a single girlfriend of mine. She rolled her eyes. I raised my eyebrows. Apparently they had already gone out and she had brought him to one of these functions only to have it be a major fail. She knew a lot of people and had helped organize the event, and he didn’t like having to share her attention.

So here’s my date night no-no: don’t bring a date to an event early on in your relationship. Too many people you know will be there inquiring, pulling your attention away from your date who is the one who should matter the most at that time. Early dating is not the time to try to impress, or prove to your date how popular you are. You are still in the getting to know you stage, so go somewhere you can get to know each other without any distractions!


Are You Accepting Every Date?

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

Michelle was in her mid-20’s and was tired of being pestered by her Mom, Janice, to find a nice, Jewish husband. So much so, in fact, that she told her mother that she was absolutely forbidden from setting her up on dates. Michelle needed boundaries with her Jewish mother (don’t we all?) and she was adamant about finding her Beshert on her own. So, when Janice was approached by her good friend Karin who wanted to set up her nephew with Michelle, Janice politely refused because she wanted to respect Michelle’s wishes. But those same boundaries didn’t automatically apply to Karin and so she called Michelle directly. Of course, Michelle called to yell at her mom, but Janice was just as surprised as Michelle was that Karin took it upon herself to call! Michelle went ahead and met Karin’s nephew… and 30 years later they’ve been married 28 years with 3 kids and 1 grandchild.

Michelle didn’t want her Mom to set her up, but at least she was still willing to allow someone else to play matchmaker! Are you accepting every date you’re asked out on?


Hello JDate World

by Rabbi Josh Yuter under JBloggers,Rabbi,Relationships,Single Life
“Those who can, do. Those who can’t, blog.”

 

Hello JDate Blog readers! My name is Josh Yuter and I’m thrilled be your guest blogger for the next few months. You might know me from such websites as YUTOPIA or JewishGuitarChords.com, or from such synagogues as The Stanton St. Shul.

You might be wondering why I have any business writing about dating or relationships, especially considering that I’ve never been married. On the other hand, I never claimed to be an expert on dating either. (Not that being married itself makes someone an expert in dating. If anything, people who got married to the first person they dated actually know very little about dating, let alone the struggles that other people may have).

What I do have is years of first-hand experience dating and the uncensored stories and perspectives shared with me by friends. I also have a unique way of looking at the dating world, in part due to a general tendency to overthink, and in part due to my own exasperation being subjected to other people’s pontifications.

The first thing to remember is that dating is not, nor has it ever been, one size fits all. I’ve personally referred to dating as chasing a “moving target,” for the very simple reason that what one person finds attractive another finds repellant. To assume that all men or all women are the same, such that generalizations are meaningful, is to deny that yes, we are all individuals.(Spoiler: I’m going to break this rule in my next post).

I’m also well aware that I’m limited by my own perceptions, so I’d alove to hear if you’ve got your own ideas or questions you’d like to share. Just drop me a line using this form and, while I can’t guarantee I’ll be able to answer everyone personally, I might address some issues in this space while maintaining everyone’s confidentiality.

I don’t know who will be reading this column so it would be irresponsible for me to dispense any specific advice. The best I can do is share some of my experience and thoughts; you might find some of what I say helpful, or you might disagree based on your own experiences. At the end of the day it’s up to you to figure out what’s best for your own life. Whether or not you agree with anything I have to say, if I can get someone to think about the world just a little differently – even for a moment – I’m going to call that a “win.”


When No News Isn’t Good News

by Tamar Caspi under Date Night,Online Dating,Relationships

There are a few times that no news is not good news when dating or in a relationship:

  1. After your first date: if you haven’t heard from a date within two days, then chances are you never will. And, if you hear after a week or two, then chances are your date isn’t really interested, but is bored and lonely. Don’t fall into this trap and think this date suddenly changed their mind about how great you are a few weeks later, they are simply looking for a hook-up.
  2. After dating for a couple months: if you suddenly don’t hear from someone you’ve been dating regularly, then chances are they are too chicken to break things off with you and are playing the disappearing act instead. You can move on or send a voicemail/text to let them know that you are sad they couldn’t just tell you it’s off, but that you wish them luck in the future. Be the better person and don’t throw barbs about how immature they are acting.
  3. After going through a tough time while being in a monogamous relationship: if your significant other doesn’t ask follow-up questions when you make a statement about having a stressful day at work, or getting into a fight with a loved one, or not feeling well, then chances are your S.O. is likely checking out of the relationship. If your S.O. isn’t interested in what’s going on in your life… then it’s time to have a talk.

Regardless of your situation, when you aren’t getting the response or communication you need, then speak up… you have nothing to lose!


De-Clutter… Everything!

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

Once, while going to the bathroom at a date’s house, I watched a slug inch its way out of the shower drain. I was totally grossed out and was about to turn on the shower to wash it down the drain, but only then realized there was just a square left on the toilet paper roll. Luckily, I had tissues in my purse (which I had brought in with me to freshen up my makeup). When I went to dry my hands though, I couldn’t find a hand towel. And when I went to turn on the water to drown this slimy thing, there was no showerhead! The water just burst straight out of the pipe from the wall! I decided to forget about the slug and returned to kitchen where I found an empty fridge, except for some random cans of beer and a dingy-looking box of baking soda.

Repulsed, I decided to concentrate on what I considered to be the cleaner, nicer areas of the house. Except I had overlooked the spider webs in the ceiling corners, the threadbare carpet, and the foot-high pile of mail… because I liked the guy. But now? Now I had an entirely new perspective on both his home as well as him. If he couldn’t keep his home clean, in even the most hygienic of ways at minimum, then what else in his life was lacking?

A recent study continues to make the rounds on social media connecting creative people with being messy. As if people needed another excuse to be untidy! But when you’re dating, you need to de-clutter… and that goes for your house and your life.

First things first, if you’re going to bring a prospect home then you need to clean up. You can do it in an hour or less and with a pack of disinfectant wipes. Make your home presentable because a date will judge you by the state of your home. Your furniture doesn’t have to be expensive, but it does have to be clean and neat, even it means throwing things in drawers and closets for the day.

Next, make it a priority to de-clutter your life. Your personal Facebook page doesn’t need more than 1000 “friends” and neither do you. Get rid of those people who cause drama in your life and while you’re at it, unfriend the people who you don’t really know.

Another study I like better shows how simplifying your life will help you make important decisions.

That guy who’s house was totally gross? He’s still single six years later. And no, he’s not a creative type. And yes, his closet was packed to the brim with clothes!


I Moustache You a Question

by Tamar Caspi under Date Night,News,Relationships

Between the facial hair trend and “Movember” starting back up again, guy’s faces are looking scruffier than ever.

The Movember movement was created to raise awareness for men’s health issues, and it’s awesome that so many men are participating by growing their moustaches, beards, and goatees. But, women really don’t want their man’s facial hair to get in their mouth during a kiss… nor do they want to have chapped lips and chafed cheeks after a lengthy make-out session.

Unless you’re raising money for Movember, then either shave or keep your trimmer ready and waiting for a daily grooming session. Some men look great with a moustache or beard, but if you are hearing from your family and friends that you should shave, then perhaps you should listen and break out the shaving cream and razor.