Recently, there a number of articles dealing with the difficulties singles are having getting married have appeared in various publications. Unfortunately, many young people in their 20’s (and some even in their 30’s) are struggling to find their bashert.
I know that many people call it the “shidduch crisis” and many singles I have talked with are disappointed with “the dating system.” No one feels good about not finding what he or she likes and many are frustrated by not meeting the one they dreamed about.
Although there are many challenges on the journey to finding one’s zivug, there has been significant research in the field of relationships and attachment that can successfully help singles navigate towards their desired relationship. For example, attachment theory, which scientifically describes how and why people connect-or disconnect- in their relationships has been used to help thousands of couples improve their marriages.
Psychologists have begun to apply attachment theory to the dating world as well. Let me begin by telling you what attachment theory says about how people relate to others. Attachment is an emotional bond to another person formed during early childhood, and has a tremendous impact that continues throughout life. The attachment theory posits that each of us maintains one of three distinct attachment styles: Secure, Anxious, Avoidant.
SECURE individuals feel comfortable with closeness and are usually warm and loving.
ANXIOUS individuals are often preoccupied with being rejected and tend to worry about their spouse’s/shidduch’s ability to love them back.
AVOIDANT individuals equate closeness with a loss of independence and will constantly try to minimize it.
The gist: people fall into one of three attachment styles: secure (generally able to feel close to others), anxious (scared of abandonment and emotionally needy), and avoidant (uncomfortable with getting too close).
The challenge in dating is to evaluate if you are experiencing avoidant or anxious feelings while going on shidduchim. For example, do you sometimes have anxious feelings like “I want to merge completely with another person, and this desire sometimes scares people away” (anxious) or “I am nervous when anyone gets too close” (avoidant)? If so, the goal is to learn how to tap into the secure mind-set and find secure role models to guide you in your search.
One of the goals of enhancing your ability to find and marry your zivug is to work towards more emotional security. This can be done by learning how to state your feelings and needs in a simple, non-threatening manner early on in the relationship. If the other person shows a sincere wish to understand your needs and put your well-being first, your future has promise.
Another step is to begin to learn about yourself. If you can identify yourself as someone who “keeps relationships at a distance” or views relationships as “anxiety producing” there are key strategies you can use to become more secure.
Take the Test
Here are a few questions that can help you evaluate your attachment style. For a complete list of questions visit my website: www.JewishMarriageSupport.com.
Put a check mark next to the statements that ring true to you. The category with the most marks indicates your attachment style. No one style is better or worse than another; they’re just indicative of how you perceive the world and how you operate emotionally.
1. I often worry that the person I am dating won’t be interested in me.
2. I fear that once someone gets to know the real me, s/he won’t like who I am.
3. When I show the person I am dating how I feel, I’m afraid s/he will not feel the same about me.
1. I have little difficulty expressing my needs and wants on a shidduch date.
2. It makes me nervous when the person I am dating is interested in me.
3. I hate feeling that other people depend on me.
About the Author: Rabbi Daniel Schonbuch, MA, is an expert in marriage, pre-marriage education, and working with teenagers at risk. He is the executive director of Shalom Task Force and maintains a private practice in Brooklyn. For an appointment or to watch his free video series on marriage and parenting, visit www.JewishMarriageSupport.com call 646-428-4723 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information visit www.shalomtaskforce.org or call the hotline at 1-888-883-2323.
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