Dear Dating Coach,
My parents are I have recently discussed my introduction to dating. I am interested in dating and marriage, but feel unprepared to navigate the shidduch process. Having gone to frum yeshivos my whole life, I have little experience in interacting with girls other than my family members and close family friends. I certainly don’t have any prior dating experience and I don’t want to look foolish. I am confident in my general social skills but dating is a whole new world! Any tips for a newbie entering shidduchim?
Dating for Dummies
We have a red dresser from Ikea. We have had it for many years. We may never part with it. Not because of its function or style; simply because it took forever to assemble. I am positive (I know you are nodding you heads now) that there are scheming little elves in some perfectly designed Scandinavian cave creating their instruction manuals. Cackling at their own cunning they plot; a language that no one understands? Check. Extra parts? Check. Pieces that all look the same? Check. They huddle together with their devious designs weaving together their pictures and diagrams. They calculate the exact moment when you will throw up your hands and chuckle as they envision your frustration when there is an extra piece left. What fun they have as they outline those seemingly simplistic instructions with their drunken hieroglyphics. We’ve all been there. That red dresser is ours forever.
You are certainly no dummy. Clever is the name of your game. Reaching out for help is always the right thing to do. It can feel daunting to enter shidduchim without some form of guidance. No one expects you to have dating “down pat” when you are new to the process. Arguably, no one really ever has dating fully decoded (hence the column!). There are definitely ways you can prepare yourself to be a better dater and better focused toward making a meaningful connection. The goal is always to meet someone with whom you can create a successful marriage and future with- and getting there requires dating with intention.
It’s always smart to have a P.L.A.N. when you a starting something new. This acronym will help you as you navigate shidduchim and your approach to dating in general.
Prepare: Plan your dates with clarity. Pick a spot that is comfortable and allows for conversation. Make sure you know how to get there before to avoid getting lost. I even encourage scouting a place before to increase your comfort level once you arrive. Do not get into a car and ask, “So, where do you want to go?” This must be done before you pick her up so she knows that you have given your time and attention to the date.
Listen: Listen to those that have successful marriages as they tell you what qualities are important in building a life together. Hear the advice that they offer and internalize the lessons that they impart. They have information that you need. Be open to what they say.
Appearance: How you look matters. Take care in picking a freshly ironed shirt and shoes that have been shined. Take time to check your appearance before the date to see that you look fresh and clean. This attention to detail shows her that you value yourself and your date and want to present well. (No matter how long this takes, she will certainly have taken more time to look nice for you!)
Narrative: Before the date, take the time to think of talking points, interesting bits of information, and thoughtful discussions that you can have. Don’t allow a lack of experience with girls be your excuse. Prepare conversations that you would like to have and then engage fully when you are with her with eye contact and clear interest in her responses. This will tell her that you are committed to getting to know her.
Having a PLAN can ease the stress of shidduchim as you look for your bashert and can help you “decode” your way to success.