I recently made a post about confused priorities when dating. Someone asked me what are the priorities and what should they be looking out for?
I have been married 25 years and I have spoken and counseled thousands of singles that attend my events. My suggestions below are from my experience of what things to look out for when dating and what’s really important.
People always ask how you can be sure about someone. You can never be 100 percent sure. No matter how much processing, evaluating and discussing can create a perfect reality. I am often asked how I knew Gavin was the one? I always share that no matter how many things we discussed, we never had the conversation how we would deal with having a child with special needs. You need to evaluate core characteristics and then once you are married commit to making it work and make sure you are both always giving to each other.
The simplest way to evaluate someone when you are first dating is how does this person treat someone who they have nothing to gain from? The waitress, the receptionist, the toll booth operator. We can learn so much from these interactions.
I think generosity is an incredibly telling character trait. Generosity with money, with time, with attention. The guy who makes time to play football with his nephews, the girl who volunteers for the elderly, the person who gives to community initiative, or the person who donates to causes. This same character trait translates to the father who stays up late and goes across town to pick up his daughter from a party or the husband who takes out garbage and washes dishes even after a long days work.
I ask people to tell me 3 things they are looking for in a dating partner. No-one ever says a thoughtful person. Thoughtfulness is incredibly important. The person that stops to think before talking, the person that considers the opinion of others, the person who tries to understand another’s perspective - imagine those qualities translated into the dynamics of marriage?
Does this person show commitment? Could they commit to a date? Are they focused at work? Are they able to hold a job? Do they buy a car and are happy with their choice or are they planning the next upgrade a week later? Do they follow through on promises like promising their mom they would clean the basement and actually do it? Can their sports team, work group, volunteer committee or minyan count on this person? Do they drop the ball under pressure or difficult circumstances? Translate this into how the person will function as a spouse or parent.
I always lament that you can get a PhD from Harvard but never learn core skills needed for success in life. Financial management, parenting and communication skills. Signs of good communication skills include listening not just hearing. A good listener actively chooses to engage in what the other says. A good communicator can reflect back on the conversation and hear the message from the other persons perspective. Marriages fail and parents without effective communication skills often have contentious relationships with their kids.
A growing person will not allow the disease of modern marriages - complacency- to ruin them. People who commit to learning Torah are often committed to growth. However a person can also demonstrate commitment to growth if they do things that are beyond their comfort zone. Learning a new hobby, reading books for growth not pleasure, committing to an exercise routine are signs that a person is not static. I always tell Gavin I will not accept mediocrity in our relationship. I always want it to be great and that takes effort. Growth oriented people are often willing to put in effort.
And of course the next question is what about attraction?
I have the 4 rules that you have to ask yourself and none of these are negotiable:
1) Am I attracted to this person - this is not will my friends find this person hot or does he have a 6 pack. Remember attraction grows as an emotional connection intensifies. I have known many couples where a women married a hot guy but the first time he is selfish, or starts showing a lack of commitment or is not giving, the attraction flies out the door.
2) Can I live with this person if he does not change and I mean honestly ask yourself if the person stays exactly as is can you live with him or her?
3) Do I see this person as the mother or father of my children? Can I project forward and imagine this person at my Shabbat table?
4) Do I respect this person?
Gavin and I often meet with people and we hear certain priorities over and over again. Looks - thin, blonde, height, etc. don’t translate into good marriage. Many women don’t keep their bodies after 3 kids. I know very few men who are 40 plus with a 6 pack. There was an older guy who met a gorgeous French lady at one of our events. He was the hero among the single men. He waited for perfection and the one above delivered. She had a baby 11 months after the wedding. This tiny size 2 waist lady put on a huge amount of weight. She never lost the weight. TG 3 kids later they are happily married but in the end he waited for drop dead gorgeous and enjoyed the perfection for just a few months.
Education - an Ivy League degree does not translate into success at work or marriage. My friends husband with a PhD from Yale is a loser. I have a friend with no degree and he has built a mini empire. Check out their character traits of commitment, drive and growth, not just the degree.
Date with an open mind and a pure heart. Date with your eyes wide open but check your priorities and ask yourself what really counts.
To many L’Chaims soon!!