Archive for the ‘Single Life’ Category

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.

The 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 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!


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.


Sending the Right Signals

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

This month (it’s December already!!!???) you will likely attend lots of holiday parties in addition to your local shindig on Christmas Eve where all the Jews go to celebrate nothing else being open (the Place2Be, the MatzoBall, the Mitzvah Ball, the Vodka Latke, etc). If you are single heading into the New Year then attending one of these events is a MUST.

But you also MUST send the right signals while you’re there.

  • Dress classy, not costume-y. You want to be taken seriously as a dating prospect, not just a fun one-nighter. So, dress sexy, but not trashy.
  • Make eye contact and smile. The best way to let someone know you’re interested is to catch their eye and hold it for a few seconds while you smile.
  • Stand tall and relaxed. Slumped posture with arms crossed over your chest gives off a closed vibe.
  • Laugh. Have fun and enjoy yourself. People want to be around other positive people.
  • Be forward, but polite. If you are talking to someone that you are not interested in, then warmly inform them that you want to find your friends and that you hope they have a nice evening. You don’t need to waste your time with people you don’t like, but having good manners is important. Your prospect could be close enough to overhear you excusing yourself.
  • Do a stink check. Nothing will turn someone off faster than body odor or bad breath.

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.