I recently went out with a girl and we had excellent conversation, but for whatever reason it didn’t work out. More girls are being suggested, boruch Hashem, and the phone is ringing, so to speak.
What I’m wondering is whether I should allow the great conversations I had with the previous girl help me decide if the next girl could work or not. If the next time I go out, the conversations are good, or even great, but not as good as the ones with the previous girl, would that mean anything? Should I go ahead anyway?
In short, should I use the conversations I had with a prior girl to help me judge future dates?
When it comes to using past dates as a barometer for future ones in such a specific and quantitative fashion, it is my strong opinion that utilizing such a method is markedly fragile ground to travel, despite its being a seemingly intuitive and useful tool to employ. Doing so can easily lead one to a place where each successive date is, in at least some notable way, less impressive than a preceding date. And this, in turn, often leads to a cycle of indecision, and the bouleversement of perfectly worthy shidduchim, because in one way or another it is inevitable that each new candidate will fail to surpass an earlier prospect in at least one identifiable manner.
If it becomes a matter of creating concrete criteria, and holding each human being up to all those in whose wake they follow, there is no one person who will prove preeminent on all fronts. And indeed, that is no way to ascertain whether or not a shidduch should lead to a marriage. Instead, the totality of each person must be viewed as a unique entity with a distinctive essence, and one must then discern whether or not that person is right for them and their particular needs and longings; irrespective of how the person one is presently dating compares to others when appraising individual traits or abilities that are viewed independently and external to the scope of the complete person.
That said, if one would like to construct a metric based on past dates, it should be limited to understanding whether or not a given attribute is, in general, one of importance. Meaning to say, when commencing on the path towards shidduchim, one is charged with making educated assumptions regarding a panoply of characteristics and features. In fact, to some degree, one is expected to decide the significance of these qualities before even going on their first date, based solely on measures of self-conceptualization and without ever having had the benefit of testing these notions in practice. Of course, with experience, and through trial error, most of us will realize that some misevaluations have been made along the way.
For example, a new dater may believe that they are in need of someone who possesses a robust sense of humor, is patient, extroverted, and a conversationalist par excellence. Armed with this conviction, as one researches proposed shidduchim, they will likely attempt to draw out whether or not, and to what extent, each suggestion satisfies these suppositions of one’s primary needs in a husband or wife. There is nothing wrong with this. We all have to start somewhere.
Nonetheless, after going on a handful of dates with a few different people, one may come to an alternative conclusion. It may be discovered that patience and humor remain necessary to build a connection, while extroversion and deftness of dialogue turn out to be less central qualities than anticipated. Furthermore, one might also come to realize that deportments heretofore considered immaterial – such as empathy and confidence, perhaps – are actually of prime consequence.
Within such a framework of enhanced mastery of one’s true needs, as opposed to former conjectures of their needs, if one learns from a dating experience that a certain mannerism or virtue is meaningful, the overall value of pursuing someone who retains that asset can then be transferred to future dates. That would be a portion of healthy self-reflection and greater self-awareness, which is an outstanding achievement.
However, what one should not be doing is creating a mental yardstick, recording each person’s aptitudes on it, and then juxtaposing each respective person whom they date against erstwhile encounters in an attempt to see who is the best at facet A, who scores highest on aspect B, and who reigns supreme in area C. This type of human fragmentation neglects the multivalent whole of each person, and replaces it with inferior calculations of singular proficiencies that do not ultimately aid in the search for a suitable spouse.
May the Roeh Taalumos grant clarity to those in shidduchim, and illumine for them all the timeliest of routes to the chupah.