Dear Dating Coach,
A year ago, when I came home from seminary, I told my parents that I wasn’t ready to date, and they accepted my decision. But now a year has passed and they are pushing me to think about shidduchim. I am still not ready! How do I tell them to back off?
Have you ever noticed that roller-coasters are so divisive? You either love them or hate them. (And what’s with their names? Dueling Dragons? Sky Scream? If only they would call them something more inviting, like Kitten Coaster or Lollipop Loop!) Regardless of whether you run toward them or avoid them, we all know that the most terrifying part of any roller-coaster is that upward ascent into sweat-inducing second guesses. As the coaster makes that slow trek up those tracks, your heart begins to pound and your legs turn to jelly. You double check your harness, certain it feels loose, and squeeze the hand of the stranger sitting beside you.
Then comes that final moment of silence when you’ve reached the top and you know that there is no going back. Before you can take a breath, you soar through the sky, twisting and turning and flying at warp speed, a scream stuck in your throat. A minute later the ride is over, leaving you either exhilarated or annihilated – ready to go for another round or make a run for the nearest garbage can.
A new chapter can be scary when you are unsure of what to expect or when preconceived notions and previous negative experiences are holding you back. I commend you for expressing the way you feel and sharing your misgivings with your parents, but it’s probably time for you to examine why you feel this way.
You have already given yourself a year to indulge the fear inspired by the thought of dating. Don’t let apprehension determine whether you will miss another year of missed dating opportunities. Realistically, in shidduchim, timing counts, and age matters. Nobody wants to force you to do something that you don’t feel ready for, but at 20 years old, you have to agree that it’s time to focus on why you are determined not to date.
Make a list of the reasons you don’t want to date. Do you worry about taking on the responsibility of total self-reliance, financial security, or parenthood? Have you watched a family member struggle through a difficult marriage, and worry that you may have a similar experience? Do you still want to explore the world, honor your adventurous spirit, and not have to be accountable to anyone but yourself? Or is it the concepts of “commitment” and “forever” that fill you with anxiety?
These are all questions that you must acknowledge as you look for the reason(s) underlying any misgivings you have about dating. The answer to the “why” is everything. You can only move forward once you know what is holding you back.
Once you identify your concerns, you can work on processing and alleviating them. Every fear is valid and deserves credence and understanding, but the ability to recognize those doubts is truly half the battle.
Becoming an adult and accepting a life of responsibility can be daunting to even the bravest among us, and parenthood is an ongoing journey of learning and growth. A negative view of marriage can feel paralyzing, even when we know that so many have strong and loving relationships. The desire to travel and a hint of wanderlust can pull at us, even when we concede that a trip with a spouse can be even more special. And our worry about making a commitment and all that it entails might prevent us from seeing that nothing in the world is more precious and heartwarming than a spouse fully committed to our happiness.
Accept the fears that have been holding you back, acknowledge them, respect them, and then fight through them. Fear should never govern our lives, especially not in shidduchim. Instead, open up your heart to happiness and possibility with bravery and determination – because the park is open and it’s time to get on the ride!