Archive for the ‘Relationships’ Category

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.


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.


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.


Live Your Lie

by Tamar Caspi under Relationships

“Do what you did in the beginning of a relationship and there won’t be an end.” -unknown

“And we then are obligated to live up to the lies we told each other about who we are. We are then forced to be better people than we actually are, because it’s expected of us by each other.” – sex columnist Dan Savage

This morning I read two different quotes about continuing to be the person you are portraying in the beginning of a relationship in order to make the relationship last and, at the same time, make you a better person. In the beginning of a relationship we are on our best behavior, with impeccable manners, making sure our appearance is put together, keeping a clean house, trying to enjoy life and laugh often, trying not to talk badly about people or be judgmental, planning special dates, being romantic and affectionate, and so on. Some people will say that you are living a lie. I, however, think you are being the perfect version of you, and the version you know that is most attractive to others. And then once we get comfortable… that stops. Why?

Keep making the effort to be that best version of you and you will eventually become a better you. Make the commitment as a couple to be the person that each of you fell in love with.


Hide and Seek

by Tamar Caspi under Date Night,Relationships

If you have to snoop through your significant other’s things then you shouldn’t be with that person. It’s as simple as that. If you can’t trust them, then why are you with them?

My friend Gina called me in a tizzy because she found a bar receipt for nearly $100 in her boyfriend’s jeans when he said he was working late. Of course, he shouldn’t have lied to her about where he was, but she also shouldn’t be going through his pockets. He very well could have gone out for drinks with his coworkers after they finished their project to celebrate the completion, but that’s not the point. Her snooping was clearly founded because she doesn’t trust him and he obviously gave her reason not to. They both need to save each other the grief that will occur when she confronts him because then she will end up looking like the bad guy — the untrusting snoop — not him — the untrustworthy liar.

A relationship without trust will not succeed.


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.