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February 22, 2017 / 26 Shevat, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘Dating’

Jewish Dating Apps and the Downfall of Jewish Marriage

8 Tammuz 5775 – June 25, 2015

A handful of stars twinkle in the evening sky; it is motzei shabbos. Dovid (name changed for anonymity) has just finished extinguishing his havdalah candle and sipping wine from his becher. He throws his hat to the side, and rushes up the staircase. With the frantic hands of an addict, he fumbles through his room, searching through the mess of clothes on his dresser. He finally snatches up his smartphone, and his face instantly becomes aglow with the cool light of the dating app opening. The “Mazel Tov” animation indicates that he and Cindy have matched with each other. Cindy isn’t even remotely religious, but that doesn’t matter to Dovid, because he is not searching for a marriage partner. He is simply looking for someone pretty to hookup with, just like he does every other Saturday night.

This story is shocking to many Jewish people because it’s hard to believe that the American hookup culture has infiltrated our ranks. Unfortunately, this problem is a real one; dating apps have really changed the way many young Jews approach dating.

It wasn’t always like this. In the late nineties and early 2,000s, the newest technologies in the Jewish dating world were dating websites such as JDate, Frumster, and SawYouAtSinai. These were ultimately used (and still are used) to help Jewish singles find a serious partner for life. SawYouAtSinai uses live matchmakers to find dates for Jewish singles, and JDate lets users scroll through singles to find a potential match to chat with. These technological methods simplified the dating process, allowing Jewish singles to find partners who they may never have come in contact with otherwise.

In 2012, however, digital dating underwent a revolution. Sean Rad and Justin Mateen invented Tinder, a dating app which allowed people to meet singles in their area at the swipe of a finger. The basic premise is as follows: users receive pictures of singles who live nearby. The member examines the picture of the single, and can swipe right on the photo to show interest in the person, or left to reject them. If two people swipe right on each other’s profiles, they are informed that they have mutually accepted each other and are invited to chat with each other. This system has made dating quicker and easier than ever, thanks to the accessibility of the smartphone.

This trend was imitated in the Jewish world. JSwipe and JCrush, Jewish dating apps, have been dubbed by many “the Jewish Tinder.” David Yarus, founder of JSwipe, described in a New York Times article that “As soon as I touched Tinder, I was like, ‘Oh my God, this is the next step that needs to exist in the Jewish community.’”

However, there is also a dark side to the dating app. Since each profile is mostly represented by a single picture, the system encourages people to judge others almost solely by their looks. The speed and simplicity of the app leads singles to take an instant gratification approach in their love life. Instead of trying to find the one person they want to spend their entire life with, singles use the apps for short term hookups, and then move on to the next single, similar to the way they swipe through profiles on the app. Marissa Kabas wrote in an article about JCrush that “There have been so many marriages to come out of JDate, because being on it represents a certain level of commitment. Now (with JCrush) Jewish singles can be more easy breezy amongst their own people. Terrific.”  In a similar vein, an anonymous JSwipe user noted in a CJN article that, “No one seems to be that serious on Tinder or JSwipe. People have too many options on these apps. They’re flaky. They don’t know what they want.” Ironically, while making Jewish dating easier than ever before, Jewish dating apps suppress the development of Jewish marriages and families.

Ban on Interfaith Teen Dating Lifted by United Synagogue Youth

3 Tevet 5775 – December 25, 2014

Teen board members of United Synagogue Youth, apparently the last bastion of Jewish non-assimilation for the Conservative movement, were given a mixed message this week at best on the issue of interfaith dating. At worst, they were told it’s “important” to date within the Jewish community (wink wink).

USY’s board of directors voted Monday to relax its rules barring teen board members from dating non-Jews. (The issue has not been mentioned at all with regard to teens participating in USY programs.)

The USY board upheld the requirement for teen board members to be “Sabbath and holiday observant” with regard to travel, public functions and in connection with taking school exams.

The newly adopted amendment states teen board members should “model healthy Jewish dating choices.” It then continues: “These include recognizing the importance of dating within the Jewish community and treating each person with the recognition that they were created Betzelem Elohim (in the image of God).”

According to the 2013 Pew Research Center survey of American Jewry, four out of ten Jews who define themselves as members of the Conservative movement, and who have married since 2000, have married out of the faith.

Rabbi David Levy, professional director of USY and director of teen learning at the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism told NJ Jewish News, “While we maintain the value that dating within the faith is key to a sustainable Jewish future, we want to be positive and welcoming to USYers, many of whom are from interfaith families.” He added the movement’s educational programs will continue to promote the importance of dating within the faith and committing to creating Jewish families.

Texting, Chatting, and that Thing We Used to Call a Relationship

24 Adar 5773 – March 6, 2013

Rachel’s matchmaker had given her the green light. Jacob was going to contact her that night (he was finally available!) and they would arrange a date. As Rachel awaited his call, she thought about what he would look like and wondered where they would go.

Her phone buzzed with an incoming text, interrupting her reverie. To her shock, it was Jacob, texting to schedule their date. “What chutzpah,” she thought (and later told her friends). “He doesn’t even have the courtesy to call and talk to me.”

If you ask someone who was in the dating scene only ten years ago what role texting and e-mailing played in his or her relationship, my guess is that he or she would say it was a moot point. No one I knew had texting (was it even around?), and while its absence may seem inconvenient now, it certainly made dating etiquette less complicated.

The world is a different place today and texting and e-mailing play far larger roles in our relationships. The benefits are obvious; the difficulties less blatant, more complex. Navigating the intricacies of chatting, texting, and e-mailing within the already-complicated world of dating can sometimes require Herculean efforts. When to chat? When to call? Is it rude to chat to confirm a pickup time? Will he think I’m too forward if I text him? The questions go on and on.

With so many uncertainties surrounding texting and e-mailing, why do singles rely on them so heavily? Wouldn’t it simply be easier to rule them out of the dating process?

Not always. Singles often use texting and e-mailing to progress a relationship. Sandy Weiner, dating coach and owner of Last First Date, explains that “you can stay in touch and let someone know you’re thinking of them by texting throughout the day without being intrusive.”

Michael Feldstein, a member of the Advisory Committee for YU Connects, agrees that these modes of communication at times do make things easier for singles – but not always better. “I think many singles are using e-mail and texting as a way to protect themselves from getting too close in a relationship or dealing with issues that they prefer to avoid in a face-to-face environment.”

Case in point? Break ups.

“I’ve heard stories about guys who have broken up with girls after being in a relationship through a text or an e-mail – there is no excuse for doing something like that,” says Feldstein.

As much as a text can help someone express a hard-to-say compliment, its potential to do significant damage to a relationship or allow for such rude behavior makes it a double-edged sword.

Moreover, there have been plenty of cases of mistaken identity associated with texting. “People sometimes text the wrong person, which can lead to pushing away a potential match,” relates Weiner. “For example, you’re set up with two women, and you’re going on first dates with both of them. You’re in communication with both, and by mistake you text Susan and call her Karen. Not a good move!”

At the root of many of these tech-related issues is a lack of protocol informing proper behavior. Many men and women in relationships are flat-out confused by the lack of protocol with texting and the like in dating. There are no set rules and what’s deemed appropriate by one person may be viewed as inappropriate by another.

“Women don’t know if it’s too forward to initiate texting a man,” says Weiner. “And men don’t know if they’re texting too much and possibly pushing a woman away.”

Facebook can also be detrimental to relationships. If people in a relationship post pictures of themselves with members of the opposite sex (who are not their significant others) it can cause jealousy or confusion. Some people go so far as to change their relationship status from “in a relationship” to “single” without informing the person they had been dating.

But more than simply making a dating faux pas, texting, e-mailing and Facebook use can hinder relationships. Gestures, body language, tone of voice, or facial expressions that convey emotions and attitude can never be translated into typed words. As a dating coach, Weiner understands just how vital that face-to-face communication is.

Is it True that ‘No One Really Frum Has a TV’?

2 Adar 5773 – February 11, 2013

I’m not going to comment on the substance of Rabbi Daniel Schneierson’s post on YWN, entitled, “Is Chemistry Important?” People can make their own judgments about the importance of chemistry between a dating couple. On that topic, I will just say that a lot of what he says has merit – but I reject the idea that chemistry is not important.

What troubled me about his essay is the following offhand comment which he puts into parentheses: Nowadays no one really frum has a TV…

With this comment he has just wiped out of Orthodoxy most of observant Jewry including many Haredim. (I don’t know him personally but if he is not Haredi – he sure sounds like it in this post.)

I am not going to debate the value of TV. I’ve discussed that issue many times. Suffice it to say that many of the criticisms of the right are true. But just like the internet, there is both good and bad in TV. And just like the internet, it ought not be banned or treated like hilul Shabbos to own one as Rabbi Schneierson does.

The problems with TV do not begin and end with Haredim. Nor even with Jews. There are many people who feel that TV is nothing more than a vast wasteland. And that one could spend their time much more productively without one. You don’t have to be a Haredi Jew to know that. Nor is it lost on decent people of all religions that there is way too much immorality on TV. I’m not going to argue any of that because it’s true.

But to make a blanket statement that nobody frum has a TV anymore (especially in a sort of humorous good natured tongue in cheek sort of way) proves just how isolated the fellow is… and how isolated he wants his community to be.Not because not owning a TV makes you isolated. But because identifying those who own one as not being frum. It is no secret that in his circles – not interacting with non frum Jews is an ideal they pursue. That’s why they try to isolate themselves from the rest of the world as much as possible. And it is why they reject some children from their schools. Children from homes that have a TV or the internet. They do not want to be ‘tainted’ by the ‘goyishe’ values children from those homes bring to the school.

This attitude is so arrogant and narrow minded that it boggles the mind that one can even make a statement like that let alone believe it… and by mentioning it in passing, he insinuates that we all already know that… he is just reminding us of it.

This man is a Rebbe (Shoel U’Meishiv) in a yeshiva. And he is teaching his students to think of any Jew with a TV as not frum. And he teaches it in the most insidious way – in a semi humorous post as a foregone conclusion, without any qualification.

This is the”my way or the highway” attitude of so many Haredim. And the mechanchim they produce make it very dangerous one. He is teaching intolerance whether he realizes it or not. Owning a TV makes one not frum and therefore a purposeful sinner. One must not intermingle with purposeful sinners because they will influence you to sin.

I know he means well. He thinks by insinuating that frum people don’t own TVs it will reinforce the idea of just how bad owning a TV is. He believes that owning a TV is so dangerous to your Frumkeit that he subliminally teaches you to consider TV owners as not observant. After all the definition of being Frum has historically been whether one keeps Shabbos. According to Rabbi Daniel Schneierson the new definition of being frum is not owning a TV. He subconsciously implants in the mind of those over which he has influence that owning a TV is like hilul Shabbos.

The fact that there are entire communities of Jews that own TVs and that there are not insignificant numbers of moderate Haredim among them – doesn’t phase him. He probably writes them off as not frum too.

Myths and Realities of the ‘Shidduch Crisis’

2 Adar 5773 – February 11, 2013

There are few topics in Jewish society which can simultaneously evoke rage, empathy, and unsolicited opinions and advice as Jewish dating. There are numerous books on the world of Jewish dating including “Shidduch Crisis: Causes and Cures,” which ironically can be added to your wedding registry.

To be sure, I’ve done my share of personal reflections as a single – after all it’s great blog fodder. I’ve written my own share of articles on the subject, including a “Guide to Jewish Dating.” But fast forward several years, countless women, forgettable dates, even more encouragement, criticism, and unsolicited advice, I am still single.

However in the past few years serving as a Rabbi I’ve also gained a much better perspective. While my community attracts young Jews, it is by no means a “scene” which means there is significantly less communal pressure for single’s to get married. Furthermore, I have personally adopted a “no dating congregants” policy, meaning my religious communal experience of synagogue attendance is uncharacteristically devoid of any pretense of trying to impress women.

Thus I write from the relatively unique perspective of being a single rabbi – aware of the struggles of others while experiencing the same challenges first hand. Consider it unintentional participant observation if you will. And with this dual perspective I have come to the following conclusion: the so-called “shidduch crisis” is a collection of myths which only exacerbate the social pressures and anxieties at the core of the Jewish single’s community, specifically the denial of individuation.

Let’s start with just one example of the alarmist rhetoric regarding Jewish singles. Rabbi Yoel Schonfeld writes on the Orthodox Union’s website:

Shidduchim – Singles 12. Treat the topic of singles like the crisis it is. This is a plague affecting all segments of Orthodoxy and threatens our very continuity. Synagogues and organizations must put this on the front burner. Singles themselves must change attitudes. Women must put marriage before career. Men must consider the woman as a valued helpmate not just as a means of advancing their own life goals, be it career or learning. There is more to a human beings worth other than their money or looks.

There are several assumptions embedded in this paragraph which I hope to dispell one at a time.

Myth: Marriage is a Communal Issue

One would think that getting married is merely a union between two individuals who make a lifelong commitment to each other – i.e. it is a personal decision. But for R. Schonfeld, the “plague” of the shidduch crisis “threatens our very continuity.” From a demographic perspective R. Schonfeld has a point; the later in life Jewish couples get married the fewer Jewish children will be born.

Procreation is certainly important in Judaism as evidenced by the rabbinic dictum, “the world was not created except for procreation” (M. Gittin 4:5. Though notably this statement is not particular to Jew). But there is no indication that the intent is simply to produce more biological Jews, and I would suspect R. Schonfeld and others would not promote premarital sex with the intent of producing babies.

Yes, there are demographic concerns when the average marriage age rises, but the implication is that people should get married “for the sake of the children” or alternatively, singles should “take one for the team” regardless of the implications for their own well-being.

The reality is that no one should get married to meet the approval of others and certainly not out of a sense of communal responsibility (see T. Sotah 5:1).

Myth: Getting Married is a Goal

Related to the previous point is the sentiment that getting married is an goal in and of itself. One example from an Aish column states, “Admitting that you’d like to get married does not signal an affliction; it’s merely a defensible life goal.”

Getting married may be a strong desire for many people, but by no means should marriage be treated as a goal. The dictionary definition of “goal” is, “the result or achievement toward which effort is directed; aim; end.” Following this definition, the “goal” of getting married can be accomplished simply by getting married disregarding any concern as to the quality of said marriage. If marriage is a goal then people should just marry the first consenting person who comes their way and as soon as the ring is taken mission accomplished.

Gila Manolson: A Response to Yitta Halberstam’s Plea to Mothers of Girls in Shidduchim

4 Nisan 5772 – March 26, 2012

Don’t worry, Yitta, I’m not going to crucify you, as you feared. I actually agreed with the gist of your article, which was obviously heartfelt and well-intended. I just want to point out where you crossed a line, a problem that you unwittingly reinforced, and something crucial that you overlooked—all of which I suspect pressed a lot of people’s buttons.

First of all, a confession that should make my endorsement of your basic idea more meaningful: I’m an unabashed proponent of the “natural look.” I wore (gasp) absolutely no makeup when dating my husband, and not even when I stood under the chuppah with him. (In fact, the only time he has seen me in makeup has been on Purim.) Miraculously, he managed to find me attractive enough to actually marry me. One reason I foreswore makeup (and have, in fact, since age 16) is that I have a distinct allergy to fake things—I dislike makeup for the same reason I dislike plastic plants. The other, more compelling, reason is that I needed to know that, beyond our spiritual connection, my future husband would be attracted to the real, unadorned, physical me.

Having said that, I realize I’m an anomaly, and don’t expect the majority of women to follow my lead. While I’m a big believer in inner beauty and how much it can transform one’s appearance, I’m also a big believer in living in reality, and the reality is that purely physical looks count for a lot in this world. So I will wholeheartedly agree that a girl should make the best of her looks, especially when meeting a prospective mother-in-law (or his son)—including wearing a flattering hairstyle, flattering clothes, and yes, even a tasteful amount of makeup (if she has no ideological objection). And if she needs a total makeover, I’d say go for it.

In principle, then, you could say we see eye to eye. So what bothered me about your article?

First of all, your big blooper, in my opinion, was advocating not only cosmetics but “surgical procedures” to improve a girl’s appearance. For once we start surgically “improving” our appearance, where’s the end? Is cosmetic surgery called for only to “fix” a glaringly unattractive feature (which is all you may have had in mind), or to “upgrade” and “recreate” every possible part of ourselves that doesn’t look like what we see in women’s magazines?

Let me share with you two emails I received from young women approaching shidduchim age. One was from a girl who was seriously distraught about her large, hooked nose and wanted to “fix” it, but worried that this made her “superficial.” I wrote back that if her nose was objectively unattractive and it really bothered her, then I did not believe having a “nose job” made her “superficial,” and she should do it.

But then there was the 17-year-old girl who was unhappy with her small chest and wanted my opinion on whether she should get implants. Here was a girl whose body failed to meet some “ideal” but was probably perfectly lovely in its own way. I told her I knew many small-busted women who’ve gotten married, and that she should work on appreciating her own body’s beauty rather than surgically alter it.

The difference should be clear. Anyone in their right mind would advocate, as did the Satmar rebbe, that a girl who has no teeth should get dentures. But once you get beyond fixing a flagrant physical fault and talk about achieving some purported physical ideal, we’re in dangerous waters.

This blunder contributed to another likely reaction on the part of many readers: the disturbing sense that shidduchim are becoming increasingly unnatural and artificial, and that pressing for more emphasis on externalities is not what we need. Definitely, a girl should put her best foot forward. But when she has to pay a professional makeup artist and hair stylist before each date as if she were going to her sister’s wedding, haven’t we gone way overboard?

Furthermore, as we all know, our appearance affects our feelings and behavior. On the one hand, looking good can make us feel and “behave” good. On the other hand, looking not like our real selves can also make us feel and behave not like our real selves—and it’s pretty important to feel and behave like your real self on a date with a potential marriage partner.

But the biggest mistake you made was overlooking male responsibility in viewing women. Yes, the male brain is hardwired to be visual, meaning that men will always be stuck on looks more than women are. But who’s teaching boys that real, enduring attraction results from a potent mix of looks plus character and personality, and that to see if it can exist, you have to get to know a girl? (I address myself to males on this topic at the end of my book Choosing to Love.)

Purim And The Tyranny Of Beauty: A Plea to Mothers of Girls in Shidduchim

26 Adar 5772 – March 19, 2012

I know I’m going to be crucified, but if the appeal I make below helps even one girl in shidduchim, then it will be worth all the fury and outrage that shall inevitably descend upon my soon-to-be beleaguered head.

The other night, I was invited to a fascinating new shidduch initiative. Endorsed by leading rabbonim and spearheaded by a few righteous women valiantly trying to transcend the spiraling “shidduch crisis” in some small but meaningful way, the concept was to bring mothers of eligible young men together with young women looking for shidduchim (members of both groups were pre-screened and issued personal and discreet invitations by the organizers) in both a balabatish setting and a dignified way.

Everybody knows that the experiences of boys in shidduchim–in contradistinction to their female counterparts–is vastly different. This is the harsh truth: The mothers of “good boys” are bombarded with shidduch suggestions on a daily basis – a veritable barrage of resumes either flooding their fax machines or pouring out of their e-mail inboxes– while those with similarly “top” daughters sit with pinched faces anxiously waiting for the phone to ring. The disparity is bare, bold-faced and veritably heartbreaking: In the shidduchparsha,” boys are constantly being courted and pursued, while the best girls’ resumes barely elicit a modicum of interest.

As a friend recently told me: “When my nephew was 19 and started shidduchim, he went out with 19-year-old girls. When he turned 20, he still went out with 19-year-old girls. He kept getting older, but the shidduchim that he was “redt” continued to be 19-year-old girls. Now he is 24 and baruch Hashem just got engaged –to a 19-year old girl.” Sadly, women do not have this same recourse.

To rectify this inequity, a few concerned mothers brain stormed together and concluded that “shidduch resumes” (which never even existed as a concept when I was dating 35 years ago) fail to accurately capture the essence of the person being “summed up” and often–especially in the case of the girls– get lost in the shuffle. One organizer told me: “The boys’ mothers barely give the girls’ resumes a passing glance–they are so overwhelmed by the sheer numbers coming their way–and it becomes a daunting task to sift through them. And the resumes themselves are severely limiting. Can you really get a genuine sense of who the girl is from the resume? What does it tell you about her personality, her character, her intellect, her neshoma? It is demeaning to reduce a girl to a few sentences.”

The rationale underlying the new shidduch initiative was this: If eligible girls would be given personal and meaningful “face time” with prospective mother-in-laws, they would be able to present their qualities far more efficaciously than a cold and lifeless curriculum vitae.

Now for my full disclosure: I am the mother (baruch Hashem) of a great boy. He is continuously sought out, “in perpetual demand” (kinehora). I should be grateful that in shidduchim, he “wields the upper hand.” But as a woman who identifies with and feels great compassion for the throngs of girls in a parallel universe who are not being chased, I feel a little sad each time the fax machine cranks out yet another resume for my son. I know full well that there are fantastic girls out there who are his equals–perhaps even his superiors–who are NOT receiving comparable treatment. They are neither being hounded nor pursued half as vigorously as he, and they are denied the latitude of choices that he receives every day. I ache for their mothers who repeatedly call the shadchanim who never call back, but are visibly more responsive if you are the mother of a boy. Inwardly, I rail against the unfairness of it all (although the shadchanim are completely innocent of any wrongdoing, whatsoever; it is the system that is at fault– not they—the stark realities of supply and demand). Thinking of the mothers who do not have the privilege to wade through as many resumes as me, I try consciously not to revel in the continuous stream that cascade over my desk. I know how fortunate my son is, and I feel for those who aren’t.

So, when one of the extraordinary women who organized this event invited me to participate, I was actually reluctant to attend. Quite simply, there was no need. But because I like and respect this woman so much, and wanted to validate her efforts, I RSVP’d “Yes.”

“How are you going to work this?” I asked. “How are you going to ensure that all the girls get equal time? Are they not going to feel degraded? Is this process not going to end up even more demeaning than a resume?”

The organizer assured me that there would be facilitators on site who would introduce each girl to every mother. The facilitator would escort the mother to the tables where the girls sat, and be hyper-vigilant that no girl gets bypassed. I wondered how many girls would feel comfortable with this arrangement and actually show up, but as I said before, I wanted to support my acquaintance’s endeavor with my physical presence, so I went.

Say Goodbye to Painfully Shy: The Rationale for Shidduch Coaching

14 Tishri 5771 – September 21, 2010

Lately, Yocheved has been waking up at night worrying about her daughter, Shevi. Shevi is pursuing a degree in speech therapy. Yocheved knows that Shevi has always been an A student and that she will succeed in all academic areas. She is already doing great work with stroke victims as they attempt to gain back their speech. Shevi’s teachers report to Yocheved that all of the people she works with immediately take to her, pushing themselves to work harder because they want to impress her. So, why does Shevi have so much trouble on dates?

At first, Yocheved thought that Shevi was simply going out with the wrong boys – boys who couldn’t understand how special her daughter is. But, as date after date ends in rejection, she has begun to worry if there isn’t something more going on. Her conversations with Shevi on the topic typically end in frustration and anger.

“Mommy, I told you. I don’t want to talk about it.”

“I know what the shadchan said. I can’t hear that I just didn’t seem ‘right’ again.”

“No, there is really nothing to discuss. I know, you think I am perfect and that if I would only try harder to show who I am, I would wow any boy. But, that does not seem to be working.”

“Mommy, please, please don’t make me talk about it. It’s too painful.”

Because shadchanim continued to set Shevi up with eligible boys, Yocheved chose to ignore the problems she knew existed under the surface. Until last week when she found a poem Shevi had scribbled onto the back of her notebook.

Endless disappointment
Endless shame
Just can’t figure out how
To show how I am

Somehow it seems
That the harder I try
The worse I feel
When they say goodbye

Ringing phones
Knocks on doors
Hiding, disappearing
I can’t take it anymore

Tears filled Yocheved’s eyes as she thought about the pain that Shevi experienced every time another boy rejected her. Why did Shevi have such a hard time on dates when she was so wonderful with new clients?

Dating is Torture

While Shevi might feel confident as a speech therapist, her lack of self-esteem when it comes to dating leads to disastrous results. She freezes up and her mind goes blank. Shevi is experiencing social anxiety which inhibits her from doing little more than responding to questions in barely audible monosyllables, never meeting the other person’s eyes.

This causes her to come away from almost every date feeling deflated, dispirited, and ashamed. Repeated experiences of this sort shatter self-esteem, giving rise to feelings of being unwanted, unworthy and out-of-sync with society. As Shevi’s poem intimates, the shadchan calling only makes it worse.

Raising Your Social Intelligence

Many people believe that practice and a positive role model will solve all social issues. What they do not understand is that sometimes people simply lack “social intelligence” when it comes to finding favor with others. Often girls who lack the proper social skills find dating to be excruciatingly painful. They miss social cues and have difficulty connecting with a new acquaintance.

However, research has shown that social skills training along with shidduch coaching can help girls like Shevi overcome their discomfort and fear in new social situations. One of the main goals of social skills training is working on self-esteem. Because Shevi has been rejected so many times, she no longer believes that she can go on a successful date. In addition, she begins to think that there is “something wrong” with her. Social skills training and shidduch coaching are not a miracle cure, but with consistent training and practice, Shevi, and others like her, can gain confidence and poise.

Nonverbal communication

One of the first skills we work on is non-verbal communication. We continuously give messages to others without words. For instance, when someone is telling you unfortunate news, they might look down to avoid seeing you in pain. Alternatively, if you enter a new situation and stand with your arms crossed, you are signaling your discomfort, indicating that you feel you need to protect yourself.

Eye Contact: Perhaps the most important way that we communicate without words is through eye contact. When someone is speaking and you are glancing at your water glass, your hands or your plate, you are intimating that you are not interested in what they are saying. When I work with young men and women, one of the first skills we work on is eye contact. We conduct regular conversations and then analyze other people’s facial expressions. Was he looking at me when I was speaking? Did she appear interested? Where was his gaze focused when he spoke? Here are some tips for successful eye contact:

Start small. If you are not comfortable looking directly in the eyes, focus on the areas around the eyes.
Don’t stare. Eye contact is important, but do not stare directly into your date’s eyes with no interruption. This can often be interpreted as combative and threatening.
Respond to eye contact with eye contact. Because of the intimacy and openness conveyed with eye contact, shy people often have trouble not only giving it, but being on the receiving end of it. If someone is looking in your eyes, respond positively by returning their gaze.

Body Language: Aside from eye contact, there are many subtle messages that people send through non-verbal communication:

Avoid restlessness: Restlessness can be tapping your foot incessantly, moving around silverware or checking your watch multiple times. Restlessness indicates that you are not interested in what the person in front of you is saying. Therefore, when Racheli fiddled with her napkin, the young man with her might have thought that he was boring her and stopped talking.

Steer clear of closed-in body posture: Crossing your arms, turning your body on an angle away from the person you are speaking to or leaning away from the table are all signals that you are not comfortable in the situation. Instead, face the other person directly and keep your posture relaxed and at ease.

Don’t people-watch: Instead of watching everybody else in the lobby of the hotel, stay focused on the person you are there with. Aside from leading to lashon hara, people watching is distracting and again indicates a lack of interest in your date.

Smile: While smiling seems like a no-brainer when trying to communicate in a positive way, many people forget to smile when they are nervous and in new situations. Ironically, research in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that smiling can actually make you less anxious. When you use the muscles in your face to smile, those muscles trigger hormones in your brain that make you more relaxed and happy.

Verbal Communication

I have worked with several young men and women like Shevi who are charming and intelligent in regular circumstance, but who cannot seem to get past a first date when set up. There are several ways to combat the anxiety associated with meeting a new person. Many people think that the ability to make conversation is something people are born with. In reality, though it is not always easy, you can learn how to be more comfortable when meeting new people. Dr. Donna Sollie and Dr. Jean Pearson Scott of Texas Tech University, in an article entitled, “Teaching Communication Skills” explain that it is possible to coach people to better connect with others.

The key to knowing where to start is to understand the four levels of communication. First, there is small talk. Small talk is the safest place to start when you meet someone for the first time. You can talk about surface issues such as current events, the weather and your surrounding. The purpose of small talk is to determine the “comfort zone” between you and the other person.

The next level is fact disclosure. Fact disclosure is like small talk, except that you reveal small details about yourself. Refrain from sharing overly emotional details at this point, such as problems at home, work or school.

Once you reveal facts to one another, if you feel that you have things in common, the next step of communication is sharing viewpoints and opinions. This stage allows you to build a rapport by becoming slightly vulnerable when talking to the person about more intimate topics. Such topics might include politics or religion. Make sure you do not use this as an opportunity to speak negatively about other people because that will simply paint you in a damaging light.

The last level of communication is sharing personal feelings. After building trust, finding commonalities and sharing viewpoints, you may feel comfortable sharing your genuine feelings. At this point, you are forming an emotional bond with the other person by creating an environment of empathy and compassion.

Like Shevi, a lot of people have trouble getting past small talk and fact disclosure. This is natural and should not be alarming. However, before heading out for a date, Shevi should consider what viewpoints and opinions she might be willing to share if they come up. Then, discussing them will not be as stressful or intimidating. Of course, sharing personal feelings might not be comfortable when meeting someone for the first time. In that case, save those personal feelings for future dates.

Teaching Empathy – Responding Appropriately To Others

Perhaps one of the most important social skills that people can learn is empathy. Empathy means being able to put yourself into someone else’s shoes and recognize their feelings. This is not the same as sympathy or feeling sorry for someone; rather, empathy is responding in an understanding and caring way to what others are feeling.

Gwen Dewar, PhD, suggests multiple ways to foster empathy in adolescents and young adults. First, she argues that people need to know how to regulate their own emotions. To that end, in my shidduch coaching we work on different responses to disappointing or painful situations. Once my client is self-confident enough to respond well to their own disappointments, we work on their responses to others. Often, this requires explaining the hot-cold empathy gap.

Have you ever noticed how hard it is to appreciate the power of a food craving when you aren’t hungry? This is what researchers call the “hot-cold empathy gap,” and it appears to be a universal problem. When people are feeling cool and collected, they underestimate how compelling emotionally or physiologically “hot” states—like hunger—can be.

Conversely, people in the grip of “hot” states often underestimate how much their current perceptions are influenced by their situation. The hot-cold empathy gap leads to mistakes in judgment and failures of empathy. But once we understand how the hot-cold empathy gap works, we can use it to teach empathy.

Understanding the hot-cold empathy gap can help Shevi comprehend how her actions might influence her date. She can learn to recognize that if she does not respond positively to certain questions, she could potentially embarrass him. Gaining empathy for other people’s emotions will allow Shevi to react appropriately during future dates.

Transforming Shame Into Success

Over the course of several months of shidduch coaching, Shevi began to believe in herself. She gained confidence and no longer dreaded hearing that the shadchan had called to set up another date. After a while, both Shevi and I believed that she had rid herself of social anxiety and could happily and successfully meet new young men. A few months later, Shevi sent me a wedding invitation with a new poem clipped to it:

Endless fulfillment
Endless pride
Finally figured out how to
Show how I can be a bride!
Thanks for teaching me how to display my true colors! – Shevi

Needless to say, when Shevi walked down the aisle, there were very few dry eyes in the audience.

An acclaimed educator and education consultant, Mrs. Rifka Schonfeld has served the Jewish community for close to thirty years. She founded and directs the widely acclaimed educational program, SOS, servicing all grade levels in secular as well as Hebrew studies. A kriah and reading specialist, she has given dynamic workshops and has set up reading labs in many schools. In addition, she offers evaluations, social skills training and shidduch coaching, focusing on building self-esteem and self-awareness. She can be reached at 718-382-5437 or at rifkaschonfeld@verizon.net.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/family/parenting-our-children/say-goodbye-to-painfully-shy-the-rationale-for-shidduch-coaching/2010/09/21/

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