The Challenge of “One Size Fits All” in Dating

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The importance of creating a good Jewish home has been drilled into most members of the Orthodox Jewish community from birth. While this emphasis is commendable, some have taken this notion, and in my opinion, extended it too far. Not only do we “have to create a good Jewish home,” which is laudable, but many of us also feel the pressure to marry someone who comes from a home that contains certain “external trappings” (dressing a certain way, doing certain things, going to certain schools).

Dating is difficult for most of us. It is so painful to be searching for love for so long and simply not connecting with that special someone. Many of us want so badly to be in love and to share our lives with a partner. Below are a few things we do as a community with regards to dating that we need to reconsider if we want to make dating easier for this and future generations.

My date must measure up to everyone else’s expectations

Above and beyond knowing yourself, happiness and creating a successful Jewish home often is seen as following someone else’s expectations rather than your own. In reality, because of 70 Panim LaTorah – that is, the large number of possible models of Yiddishkeit – we already have many different wonderful ways in which to create a model Jewish home. By constantly measuring and judging ourselves against other people’s yardsticks, we run the risk of setting ourselves up to create a home which may well work for someone else, but which doesn’t work for us.

I challenge us to consider how we can take our impressions of a beautiful Jewish home, and really make the idea our own. Sharing this vision on our dates can only be inspiring because it shows a potential spouse that we are a thinking and growing person. It shows that we want to create a thriving Jewish atmosphere.

My future family must appear perfect

Feeling like the family you were born into must have the appearance of perfection, and the family you are marrying into must be perfect, puts tremendous pressure on everyone involved. Perfection is rigid and limiting. It assumes that there is one right and true way of existing and invalidates anyone and anything that doesn’t fit this mold.

I challenge us to think about how we can be true to who we are and be the best version of ourselves. Rather than saying things others want to hear, we should share some of our authentic experiences with an eye towards improving upon them.  Rather than just portraying ourselves as a model of all that is good and right in the world, acknowledge that we, like everyone, have room to improve.

Knowing that there are different approaches to life is liberating and leads to creativity. Feeling free and creative reduces a lot of the pressure we unnecessarily put on ourselves.  Knowing that there are many viable and possible ways of living a life of Torah and halacha can reduce many of the unnecessary pressures under which we often live.

The two of us must have the exact same hashkafa

While I do believe it’s important for couples to share similar core beliefs, being the same in every single way is a bit of a tall order. It implies that in order to be together, you must be the same. The problem with this belief is if a couple is completely the same, what will they really have to talk about? Agreeing about everything is a recipe for boredom, which is another problem that plagues too many couples. Also, if you agree about everything, how do you grow? Growth requires tension. Without it, there’s no recognition that something needs to change.

Having different ideas and opinions adds color and luster to our lives. Rather than being a problem, the tension that’s created by having different ideas about the world creates excitement and stimulation.

But there’s another, bigger problem with insisting on having the exact same hashkafa: namely, what happens if someone changes their mind? Does that mean the marriage has to end? Is all lost? If identical thinking is considered a sine qua non for a strong marriage, then a partner’s personal growth should logically lead to divorce.

Is this what we really want? Inflexibility, rigidity, a lack of alternative options, and boredom – or excitement, creativity, growth, and intellectual stimulation?

He wasn’t “good enough” for my friend, so there’s no way he’ll be good enough for me

You and your friends are different people. Just because someone wasn’t right for them, doesn’t mean that person isn’t right for you. In fact, on the contrary; if the main problem was a lack of chemistry, perhaps your chemistry will be better. Chemistry in relationships isn’t exactly determined through a mathematical formula.

We need to think along the lines of, “Nice guy, nice girl, not for me; how about for you?” The more we all put our heads together and try to think of good dates for others, the more dating options we will create. That means more happy couples, and fewer people who have lost hope in dating altogether.

As a community, we need to encourage people to think of creating more dating possibilities and suggesting dates to others.

One size fit all

This, of course, is the catchall for everything I’ve shared above. We are all different. We need to work on seeing this as a good thing. Difference offers new perspectives and opportunities to create a more wholesome and better world. If we all try to fit into the same shoes, we’ll spend our whole lives trying to achieve something we were never meant to do in the first place.

Embracing our differences, loving ourselves despite our failures, acknowledging that we are all just trying our best, might lead to more satisfying relationships.

Keys to a successful marriage include feeling safe enough to be vulnerable and sharing your feelings.

Once we accept that one size does not fit all, we open ourselves up to more possibilities, and reduce our stress levels about dating and finding the right person for us.

Micki Lavin-Pell, MS, MA is a Marriage and Family Therapist and Relationship Coach, since 2002.
After spending the early part of her career helping toxic couples who’ve been married so long
they can’t remember why they ever loved their spouse climb out of their relationship holes,

Micki decided to help people achieve successful relationships from the start. She helps couples get proactive, learn about the science of love and know what keeps them connected and
growing.

In addition to her work as a therapist, Micki also has a podcast called “The Dating Zone” which
can be found on www.jewishcoffeehouse.com. and her website at www.mickilavinpell.co.il.