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You don't have the luxury of saying "no" to dates if you're serious about getting married.
Give everyone at least one date, and, unless you had a miserable time and the person acted unacceptibly, give it a second date, even if you don't feel like it after the first. This is where a shadchan can be very helpful, since you aren't in it alone and can have someone else help broach the idea.
Although it's instinctive, given all the time, energy and emotional investment we place into a shidduch, to be judicious in whom we date, it's too easy to accidentally screen out someone important.
Likewise, don't rule out someone you already know but haven't dated, based on what you think you know about them, or what you've heard about them. Just because you've met them in a non-date environment, doesn't meet that you might not see another side of them in a dating environment. Likewise, don't let someone else's prejudices jaundice your eye.
Nothing is more attractive than a positive attitude! If you want to get married, you MUST learn to adopt one. A positive attitude is essential!
Negative attitudes are counter-production to successful dating on a number of levels.
Firstly, having a negative attitude colors people's perceptions of you, and is especially deadly when making a first impression. It is off-putting. After all, who wants to marry someone who seems perpetually depressed, moody or angry? Dates will not want to meet you again and even shadchanim will think twice about suggesting you as a shidduch, afraid of matching up a nice person with someone so dark and unhappy.
Secondly, having a negative attitude prevents you from being receptive to a proper shidduch. Just as a negative attitude colors other's perception of you, so too does a negative attitude color your perceptions of your world and of others. In shidduchim especially, it's critical for success to fight our inner tendencies towards criticism and have a positive eye. A negative attitude prevents us from doing this and deceives us into missing good possibilities.
Being positive minded is not an accident of personality, or a matter of fate. It is a choice one makes and anyone can choose to view the world positively, with a little self-training. After all, will being negative make the situation any better or make you tackle life's challenges any better? Quite the contrary! You will actually worsen the situation.
Before a date - prepare yourself by thinking positive things. Do something you like. Remind yourself of the good things about you! (You know what they are!). Go into each date with the thought "I'm going now to meet my basherte." - for it's true that every married person had at least one date before which this true - and how do you know this isn't the one to which this applies, hmmm?
Most importantly - practice speaking positively. This will help you maintain a positive mood. For example, pay attention to when you're tempted to talk about what you don't like or don't want or can't stand. Hold it right there. If you're about to say something like that - you're entering negative territory. Instead, talk about the things you do like or prefer. Don't talk about what you aren't or your shortcomings, instead focus on who you are and your strengths. When answering questions, just answer simply - don't fall into the traps of "advertising" your insecurities or weaknesses. Just tell the simple truth, and leave it at that - don't worry about someone thinking you're a talmid chacham, when you really feel more like Tevye the Dairyman. If you dilligently practice this technique and learn to recognize when you're slipping into negativity, you'll find your dating life vastly improved. Don't be afraid to as a friend for help!
Remember - the future will happen, whether you choose to be positive or not. So why not choose to be happy?
Another key to shidduch success is to be proactive and take an assertive part in seeking your spouse. In other words, don't sit around waiting for shadachnim to keep you in mind and suggest a shidduch - rather, you need to actively participate in finding your shidduch and advocating for your interests. This takes several forms.
Firstly, make an effort to seek out and meet with shachanim, and then *follow up*. Don't simply wait for the shadchan to remember you and hope he or she calls. Rather, think of finding a spouse as being like any other job you might peform - it takes regular attention, effort and time. For example, call each of the shadchanim you know on a regualr basis, perhaps bi-weekly, just to chat, say hello, and see if the shadchan might know of anyone for you. Don't be afraid to ask questions and suggest things, since it's possible that the shadchan may have ruled our something for you based on a misperception or miscommunication. (It happens. Really.). If nothing else, this keeps you on the shadchan's mind and helps strengthen your working relationship. Remember - you're a team!
Regular contact is especially important if that shadchan is not local (such as New York-based). When a shadchan doesn't see your face or live in your community, it's especially easy for you to slip from his or her mind. So, it's important to keep in touch and follow up regularly. Also - keep the shadchanim updated on your status. For example - a shadchan may mistakenly think you're still busy dating someone long gone and fail to suggest you as a shidduch, if you neglect to update the shadchan. (Indeed, there are even cases where a single had gotten married and failed to notify other shadchanim, who were still suggesting them as a shidduch! :-))
This also applies to other avenues of shidduch dating. For example, if you have profiles on any on-line shidduch sites, be sure to log onto them regularly to check for mail, update your profile with any changes, and look for any new faces who might have joined the site since your last visit. By the same token, it's also very important to remove your profile once married (there are some tales regarding that as well!).
Secondly, don't miss an opportunity to network and advocate for yourself through other, less obvious avenues. While you don't have to tell everyone you meet that you're looking for a shidduch, it couldn't hurt and stranger things have happened. You never know! The more people you have keeping an eye out for you, the wider and deeper you can search. You can't be everywhere, so why not take advantage of the networking opportunity available through others?
Likewise, don't be timid about striking up a conversation with a complete stranger of the opposite sex. You aren't a child any more - you're an adult seeking a shidduch! If you don't speak with members of the other sex, you're going to deprive yourself of a critical avenue of networking. After all - single men are far more likely to know other single men, and the same is true for women. Indeed, it's not an aveirah if your goal is to find a shidduch; rather, it's a mitzvah. There are several prominant rabbis who have emphasized as much in recent years. So - the next time you're at a kiddush or a Shabbos table - don't be afraid to communicate. If you meet someone you'd like to date, but are uncomfortable with arranging such a thing directly, ask a shadchan or married friend to help arrange a shidduch date for you. It's perfectly OK to suggest that you'd like to meet someone, instead of merely waiting for some to be sugggested to you. Don't be afraid ask after a person.
Thirdly, being proactive takes other forms that are also important to improving your chances for a shidduch. Take the time to improve yourself both physically, mentally and spiritually. Increase your prayer, improve your torah learning and use the time to work on your middos. These are things which don't depend on a shadchan or having dates scheduled, and they can make a real difference in your success in shidduchim. The same holds true for the more mundane things. For example, you can actively work to enhance your physical appearance and attractiveness. Perhaps now is a good time to invest in some new clothes, or to finally learn how to apply make-up properly or do something nice with your hair. Even a gentleman can often benefit from some nice new shirts and maybe place a bit more emphasis on his physical fitness. Once again - it's within your hands to enhance your attractiveness as a spouse on all these levels.
In the end, you have to be your own best advocate and overcome your natural shyness. You cannot be a passive participant in the process. Taking an active role in finding your bashert is within your power and is vital to your success.
One of the first things which a single needs to do in the shidduch world, is to be prepared for the shidduch dating experience and its nuances. This involves several areas.
Firstly, one of the prime things you need to do early on in the shidduch dating process is to prepare a written shidduch profile, preferably with a recent, attractive photo attached. Most shachanim you meet will ask for one, several people you encouter may often request one, and you yourself will need it for you own reasons, as will be explained. Electonic format is even better.
Even if a shadchan doesn't request one, you'll still need to be able to quickly and accurately articulate the answers to several common questions. Items like your familial, religious and educational background, your hashkafa, your beliefs about yourself and the details of the sort of person you seek as a spouse and will or won't consider are all going to be regularly asked of you. By preparing a shidduch profile in advance, you prepare yourself to field these sorts of questions. By giving yourself time in advance to think about these issues, and you will be well prepared to express your answers intuitively, confidently and naturally when the time comes.
More importantly, you should also set up some time evaluate yourself. Who are you, really? What are your priorities? What do you need vs. what do you want? How relatively important are various things for you? What kind of lifestyle do you want to live? What are your expectations of your future home life? What do you believe to be the role of a spouse? Is it fair and accurate? Are your expectations realistic? How is your emotional health and maturity? How are you preparing yourself to accept the obligations and life changes a marriage requires? Are you truly seeking the person who's correct for you and your unique needs, or instead seeking the type of person that you think you're expected to want to marry?
Self-awareness, self-knowledge and realistic expectations are critical. There are several psychological profile tests out there which can be very helpful (Briggs-Meyers, Emotional Intelligence, etc). Likewise, it's also important and helpful to discuss these issues with a variety of happily married persons whom you respect, and gain the benefit of their perspective and experience.
There are other elements to preparedness, and these will be discussed in a later update. Please be sure to check back.
It should be obvious, but it's important enough to explicitly mention. You need to be genuine on a date. If you aren't true to who you are, then you'll only end up misleading someone else or, perhaps worse, accidentally ending up with someone who's right for your personna, but not for the real you.
What this doesn't mean is that you fail to put your best foot foward. Being yourself means being your best self, leaving behind the baggage and bringing forth all the postive things about yourself. Your purpose is to showcase all your positive qualities and middos, while not assuming false ones that are dishonest about who you are deep down. In the end, you're always better being yourself. Learn how to be confident being who you are.
This is a corollary to being yourself. When you date someone, it's critical to demonstrate good middos. If you find it hard, start working on it now!
What does this mean? Ultimately, someone else has put aside the time, energy and attention to date you. That entitles your date to special consideration in and of itself.
Some basics (depending on your sex):
On a date, you are expected to make a good impression. Therefore, it's especially important to do so.
This means several things:
Firstly, it means making your dating environment is presentable. For example, take the time to wash your car, clean up any loose garbage or papers, and vacuum the interior. (Spray with air freshener, if your car smells more like pizza than roses).
Secondly, it means making yourself presentable. Dress nicely, as appropriate for the date. A notch above your usual self, at least. Take the time to apply make-up, do hair, shine shoes - and need we explicitly say, dress in clean, unwrinkled and attractive clothing. You're going on a date, not a hang out with your chavrusah.
If you want to be successful at dating, you'll need to be introduced to people by people who know you and people who know you're date, or some link in between. This means, as dreadful as it may sound to many, that you need to actively network to maximize your chances of success.
Especially as one grows older, it becomes easier to retreat into one's own privacy and not to head out as much. If you feel this urge, you need to fight it. Go out to shiurim and meet new people. Ensure that you are invited to different people's homes for Shabbos meals. The key here is to meet people whom you don't know and leave them with a positive impression. It goes without saying that youe should ensure that they are aware you are presently single and looking for a spouse now.
Go to a variety of different places, not simply your usual haunts. That will maximize your chances of meeting people whom you don't know. Yes, it's uncomfortable for a lot of people - but, hey, who said shidduch dating was easy?
To be succesful (and remain sane by the end), it is highly recommended that you first ensure that you have a solid support network before you start shidduch dating. It needs to be developed and maintained throughout the process.
This support network should consist of several types of people ideally: Rabbis to provide halachic guidance, happily married friends to provide hashkafic support and insights (and proof that it can work!), parents to provide love and good sense (hopefully) and friends for the all important moral support (and chocolate runs!). These are just some of the people who might make up your support network. It's best to have a blend of all of them - no one can be everything, and each has different strengths and weaknesses in supporting you. Some may even be detrimental if asked for advice about the wrong things.
There are several crucial benefits to a support network. They can provide a listening ear and should to cry on when things get tough and help you get back on the horse sooner. They can let you know when you're in halachically murky territory, or unsure of how much you can compromise on issues. They can provide a positive role model to successful dating. They can give encouragement and also help alleviate loneliness, keeping you from falling into the shidduch dating trap of "desperation dating". They can also prove a sounding board, helping to remind you of your purpose, goals and expectations. They can also let you know if your expectations or dating style is in need of adjustment or re-evaluation.
In short - make sure you have the support you need. And if you don't, make sure you make it a priority!
It's easy to fall into the trap of talking too much about ourselves on a date, instead of focussing the other person. Remember that your goal on a date is to learn about the other person, and create an environment where he of she feels safe and comfortable opening up. It's hard to do that when you're doing all the talking, especially about yourself. Ask questions that express interest in your date, and that shows him or her that you've been listening to them. Avoid starting a lot of sentences with "I" or chiming in with "me, too" - focus on your date. Let your date do most of the talking. And don't be afraid of the occasional awkward silence - you're getting to know someone. It's normal and natural.
If you can, attempt before the date to learn a bit about your dates background and interests, and read up on them, so that you can more easily talk about things that are of interest to him or her. You'll also have the added bonus of an easier conversation on your date, with fewer awkward pauses.
By expressing interest in another person, we show that we care and that we have good middos. Most importantly, by listening to others, we not only practice and hone our critical relationship skills, but we train ourselves to think about another person beyond ourselves. For a single person, growing this ability to make a place for another person in one's heart and life can be a reward in and of itself, one that lasts far beyond just the date alone.
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