Recently, one of the panelists stated the following: “I understand that you may have begun dating feeling somewhat tense. Now that you are feeling more comfortable with yourself, it doesn’t mean that you are a better dater. If you were, you wouldn’t be dating anymore. You’d be married. Feeling more comfortable simply means that you’ve learned to reduce your feelings of tension by being less anxious.”
I was struck by this line: “… It doesn’t mean you’re a better dater. If you were, you wouldn’t be dating.”
Is that a blanket statement? I consider myself a good dater and get very positive feedback from shadchanim and the boys I date. Does the above statement mean that I and all singles need to get a dating coach to get mentoring on the actual dates?
Our parents, as far as I know, never had dating coaches. Does everyone in 5778 need a dating coach? Can one not date effectively without one?
Unfamiliar as I am with regard to the specifics and details of your dating experiences, I feel hardly qualified to adjudicate on your skills as a dater, or your need for formal mentorship. What I do feel comfortable to note, however, is that I would not personally be so fast as to posit categorically that if you were a better dater, you would be married.
Yes, it is certainly true that there are poor daters, and their outcome is often sustained singlehood, but there is also no shortage of excellent daters who remain single for longer than expected, and entirely through no fault of their own. Sometimes, and for some people, it just takes a while, and I believe that this has always been the case.
As far as ascertaining for whom and when formal coaching or mentoring is compulsory, that is matter which requires honest introspections and evaluation. Much like marriage, there is an ebb and flow to dating. There will be good times and bad times, times when one is able to connect and express, and times when one cannot. No one operates at peak performance every waking moment of every day.
Rather, throughout the course of one’s time in shidduchim, one must take an honest inventory of the frequencies of their ebbs and flows. Whether one struggles with self-confidence, commitment, ability to open up, clarity of direction or purpose, or with any of the myriad potential pitfalls that arise while seeking out one’s spouse, there is always a spectrum that spans from normative and predictable all the way to deeply concerning and in need of attention.
As such, when looking at the past, one should be carefully appraising whether their areas of challenge are nimious and recurrent or ordinary and intermittent. If it is the former, there is a high percentage of likelihood that a mentor is indeed needed. Conversely, if it is the latter, it may only be a matter of waiting out the ebb for the flow. And if one is unsure of what would even be considered a conventional setback, a parent, a trusted rov, or a teacher may be the first stop in assisting one to define their level of need.
Which brings us to perhaps an even more crucial crossroad, and one that addresses the inquiry at hand. Does every dater in our day and age need coaching or mentoring, particularly as juxtaposed to the generation which preceded us, and that seemed to manage all right without being festooned with such a spread of support?
And as it appears to me, there are two vital points worthy of our attention with respect to this topic.
Firstly, and at an almost alarming rate, I have recently been made aware that more and more single men and women are turning to no one at all for guidance as they traverse the road of shidduchim. To put it lightly, this is simply unacceptable. As with all transformative and considerable life decisions, one should never come to a conclusion with a want of copious consultation.
Parents may be able to fill this role, as can rabbonim and educators, or an astute shadchan. It does not have to be a specific person, but it must be someone, and the primary requirement is that they are equipped with a keen understanding of relationships. To the best of my knowledge, such has been the longstanding and standard methodology, and by my estimation, it ought to continue to be so.
Secondly, it is without question that the very nature of the dating process itself has changed substantially and dramatically over the past two decades. The intensity with which shidduchim are suggested and researched has increased ten-fold, the pressure to make monumental determinations in an ever shrinking window of time has become almost laughable, and the degree to which we regularly get stuck in the weeds of extraneous minutiae is essentially preposterous. It has just become a vastly more complex and tedious proposition in nearly every aspect. In short, it isn’t our father’s Oldsmobile.
Consequently, that the routine paradigm of informal hadracha has become insufficient for many daters today, despite its prior effectiveness for those who lived in what is now a bygone era, should be of no great surprise to us. And thus, I believe that we are in need of an acute adjustment to the lens with which we view coaching and mentorship in general. Namely, there should be no shame if that is what one needs, and no one should have to feel as though it equates to their mental or emotional capacity having been called into question. It is but a result of the unfortunate and dastardly confluence of single men and women having to navigate the already and inherently prodigious sea of shidduchim, amidst an unheralded shift in procedural gears. Nothing more, and nothing less.
May the Peleh Yoeitz see that all those in shidduchim are supplied with a surfeit of steadfast succor and sapient counsel.