Archive for the ‘Relationships’ Category

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.


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.