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20/20 Shidduch Vision

Barbara Bensoussan

How do you achieve that much-vaunted clarity in the artificial light of the traditional shidduch date? How do you move the relationship along, tease out what’s negotiable from what is unacceptable? Nowadays, many befuddled singles seek the perspective of dating mentors or coaches whose broader life experience and insight help them navigate the fog. The common issues that threaten to stifle shidduchim are often fixable and, with the right mentor, the dater can achieve a happy white-lace conclusion.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The first date is nearly always a little intimidating. Despite all the background checking, you never know who is on the other side of the front door. But whatever your first impression, it’s generally wise to reserve judgment until you know your date a little better. “First impressions aren’t enough — people react to superficial characteristics in both positive and negative ways, but you need more time to appreciate someone fully,” says Aleeza Ben Shalom, a Philadelphia-based dating mentor. Unfortunately, due to the influence of secular media, too many people mistakenly believe they’ll feel an immediate attraction to the “right one.” “Give yourself time to see who someone really is,” Aleeza warns. The initial meeting is also too soon to ask yourself if your date is someone you think you could marry. There’s enough tension on first dates without trying to figure out if he’s really Mr. Right. “That’s not a question for the first date,” emphasizes Rachel Burnham, a kiruv rebbetzin and dating coach in Maryland. “All you have to decide is whether you like the person enough to go out a second time.” Aleeza finds herself dispensing that same advice regularly. “The question ‘Is this my soul mate?’ should never be asked so early. It adds so much anxiety and pressure!” she says. Instead, she counsels, “Ask yourself, ‘Am I present in the moment?’ ” Focus on the interaction, and save the evaluating for later. Making conversation with a complete stranger is another first-date hurdle. For smoother flow, Aleeza suggests asking open-ended questions that can’t be answered with just one word. For instance, instead of, “Where did you move from?” ask, “Why did you decide to move?” This prompts your date to open up about his personal choices. Similarly, asking, “When did you start your job?” offers less of a lead than “How is your new job different from your old job?” If your date asks you a closed question, open up the topic by elaborating on your response and turning the question back to your date. Even if that first date feels stiff and awkward, or your date seems jaded or closed, Aleeza believes in giving it another chance. Singles who have suffered many disappointments become wary of warming up on the first date, she notes. “When in doubt, go out. Most people relax over time.”

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