“Just go on one date. What’s the harm of one date?”
This line is used to convince someone to go on a date with someone they don’t have much initial interest in.
One date, that’s all it is. A coffee, maybe a couple of hours with someone. How bad could it be?
So, one goes on the date. They don’t have a great time. Whatever they were disinterested in about this person has been proven to be true. It’s just not a match. They return home and tell whoever set them up that they are not interested in going out again.
“It was one date! How could you possibly know after one date?”
Sometimes that happens after two dates. Even three.
“Third dates are always bad. Just go on one more.”
And so it goes.
I remember before I began dating I was told that the first date was purely to determine if you could spend another evening with that person. It sounded fair to me.
In reality, when you found that you really had no interest in spending another evening with that person after a first date, nobody was ready to let you make that choice.
There are questions. There is cajoling. There are guilt-inducing reminders that nobody is perfect, the reminders that there is no such thing as love at first sight.
They begin sharing the anecdotal evidence about the friends and relatives who had the worst first date, and who are so happy today.
Every person that is in the shidduch system, in essence dating for marriage, should be an adult. Dating is not a simple process. It requires clear-headedness, mature thinking, honest self-awareness, and raw reflection. If someone is dating without these elements, then sure, they require intensive guidance, and perhaps should not yet be dating. If the person that is dating does have these elements and is trusted in other aspects of their life, then their opinions and feelings should be given the respect and trust that they deserve in this extraordinarily sensitive and important time in their lives.
The hurt and demeaning feeling that comes from being told that your feelings are not valid, are not real, or are ruining your chances of getting married, are painful at best, and are dangerous at worst.
* * *
Many of the people I know, myself included, have been through the wringer in shidduch dating. We have pushed ourselves to continue, pushing past personal hesitations, hoping and praying that something will feel right, that we ourselves will be surprised by what develops.
But nobody that is dating is coming across their very first relationship. Even if it is someone’s first dating experience, everyone has friends, everyone has met new people. A fact of life is that some people click and some people don’t. The same plays out in dating. When one feels like they are not clicking with the person they are dating, it is most difficult to imagine building a life with that person. Someone who is on date number 3 and really not looking forward to date number 4 deserves to stop dating that person, for the sake of both people that are wasting their time and energy.
Dating is not fun. It is most often exhausting, emotionally draining, and made infinitely worse when we are not trusted when we want to say no. When we are told that we cannot trust ourselves.
I know people who have laid in bed gripped with paralyzing anxiety while dating someone. These are people who otherwise have their lives together, are smart and educated, self-aware and focused. Why did they continue dating someone in that state? Because they no longer trusted themselves, because shadchanim or otherwise told them they could not trust themselves. They were told that anxiety was part of the experience, that it was just an unfortunate factor, and to get to marriage, they needed to push past that.
Perhaps nerves, perhaps anxious thoughts about a new future or what marriage will hold, are part of the experience and are healthy, normal, and expected. But anxiety that debilitates a dater and leaves them unable to function is anxiety that requires a mental health professional’s eye, not a shadchan’s gentle encouragement. I know that shadchanim are generously giving countless hours of their time to make shidduchim a priority. It is greatly appreciated, and it means so much. But, a request from the depths of my heart: please consider the idea that telling someone that their anxiety is normal when it may not be could be hurting that person in a very real, very long-lasting way.
* * *
After going through a rather rough experience, I made a firm resolve to never doubt myself when it comes to shidduchim. To trust my instincts, my gut, my mind, and my heart completely. It was not long before I found myself back in the place of being ridden with guilt about saying no to someone that I felt instinctively was not for me. When people make it hard for you to just say no, they create a space for guilt to blossom, for second-guessing and doubting oneself, and let me tell you from experience: that is the most dangerous place to put a dater.
I am not insinuating that everyone should say no to every suggestion that comes their way. There are times that an idea doesn’t seem so interesting, but it can still have potential. In most situations like that, often the wise choice would be to at least keep looking into it. But perhaps more people would be willing to go out with people they aren’t very excited about if the promise of one date held true and was respected. And if someone refuses to date someone, it’s time to let it go. At the end of the day, it is a matter that is up to G-d, not humans.
G-d willing, we will all find our true bashert at the right time. I don’t believe that any particular shadchan will bring mine to me sooner than G-d will. And I don’t think that there is anything that I, or the others that I know who have been at this for way too long, are doing wrong. We are simply mindful about who we date and about who we will one day marry. And we deserve to trust ourselves on this matter.
The shidduch crisis is a result of many people coming to the conclusion that they will not settle for something that doesn’t feel right.
And it hurts more than you know when you disregard our feelings and beg us to reconsider dating someone we already told you is not for us or to push us to continue dating someone we don’t see a future with.
At that moment, despite your most loving intentions, you are telling us that our feelings, opinions, and knowledge of ourselves do not matter, cannot be trusted, and have no place here, in the most intimate of spaces, in the most personal of choices.
Trust me when I say that suggestions are much appreciated.
But please, leave it at that. If you trust us when we say yes, please, trust us when we say no.