I am involved in a shidduch where the couple has met five times. The dates are going well, and the conversation seems to flow naturally, but the couple has not yet connected on an emotional level. What pointers can I give the boy–or the girl– to take it to the next level?
Creating and sustaining an emotional connection is one of the most important elements in dating and marriage. And yet, it not unusual for two people in a shidduch to enjoy the dates, find each other interesting and easy to talk to, share similar hashkafos and life goals, and still feel that the emotional connection is lacking, or even non-existent.
Can an emotional connection actually be discovered or created, given more time or through the use of targeted tips and tactics, after being missing in action for five full dates? Or should the couple accept or assume that it will never happen and move on from an otherwise highly positive shidduch opportunity?
There are those who might suggest some combination of lightening up the conversation, relaxing more, and/or choosing a more interesting activity to do on a date. Or, conversely, sitting down without an activity and talking about more serious and meaningful topics. Each tactic depending on the nature of the conversations and activities thus far – which have not effectively produced an emotional connection. Additionally, some might offer specific conversation topics which they believe engender connection, or any number of creative ways to help further one.
While I do believe there can be merit to all of these strategies – and they have been proven very effective for some – sometimes, it really has nothing to do with what the couple has or has not been doing and/or discussing on their previous dates. At that point, it usually becomes a matter which is really best handled by those who know the personalities of the young man and woman in question and can intelligently help them make a decision about how to proceed.
Given that reality, the appropriate steps to take in the situation you describe could vary widely, all depending on the specifics of the situation and the nature of the individuals in question. Consequently, what I would like to offer you are some considerations as to why the connection may be lacking and provide some points of reflection for the singles, and for you, as one of their guides.
1. It should be noted that although five shidduch dates could mean upwards of 10-15 hours spent together, with much of that time spent in intense and tachlis-oriented conversation, five dates are still not really all that much exposure. Outside the frum world, or that of arranged marriages, expecting a marriage-ready emotional connection after five dates is thought to be laughable.
To be clear, I am not endorsing young men and women dating for months on end for no good reason. However, many people just need more time, and I know a great many very frum young men and women who dated far more than five times for this very reason. The dates were going well, they knew they liked each other and did not want to stop dating, but they also felt they could not in good conscience get engaged, knowing that the emotional connection was not where they needed it to be.
As such, they continued dating, sometimes going on ten dates or more before engagement, and they are now very happily married. Sometimes it just takes time to establish that connection, and couples should not be disheartened when after only five dates they are not ready to commit to each other for life. Many would argue that premature engagement and marriage, due to certain pressures and expectations for couples to reach that point after only a relatively short amount of time spent together, is the major factor in our skyrocketing broken engagement and divorce rate (especially in couples who get divorced within months or in just a year a two). And I think there is a lot of truth to that position.
2. On the flip side, I also know of couples who found themselves in this position after five or six dates, and therefore decided to call it off. The sentiment was, if no emotional connection was felt by that time, no amount of additional dates and no implementation of new and unique tactics were going change that, so it would be best to move on.
Personally, in some of those cases, I would have preferred them to have continued for a little longer. Based on how well everything else was going, and because of the specifics in some of those cases, I felt there was nothing to lose by going on a few more dates. But that was not what the couple wanted, and, ultimately, it is their decision. And in truth, they may very well have been right.
There is no way to know for sure what would have resulted from any more dates, and each person has to make what they feel is the best decision for them, considering all the facets of their circumstance. Sometimes it is just a no-go, and it is time to move on, despite all the positives of the shidduch at hand.
3. There are some who feel that for certain people – often those who are more on the introverted side – marriage, shared life experiences and responsibilities, and living life together in general, is what most meaningfully creates an emotional connection between two people. As such, the approach would be to establish that based on hashkafos, life goals, and personality, that the shidduch has long term potential, and to get married with the belief that the emotional connection will follow.
Now, I am fully aware that getting married based on the above can be a risky proposition, especially following what was just stated about broken engagements and divorce, and that must not be overlooked. Nonetheless, for some, it does work. I know a number of couples who made this exact decision and went on to lead very successful marriages and raise beautiful families together, and they have outstanding emotional connections. This is a decision which much be made with exceeding care, great forethought, and true self-knowledge, coupled with the guidance of parents and mentors.
Overall, the matter of emotional connection and assessing whether or not it can be developed is of great importance. Each couple must keep in mind all of the above considerations, along with any other factors specific to them, before making any kind of final decision in such a case.
May HaKadosh Boruch Hu help you to guide this couple in the derech ha’yashar so that they may be able to best decide the next steps to take in this shidduch.