Jeanie Silver interviews the authors of Talking Tachlis: A Singles’ Strategy for Marriage and discovers some surprising do’s and don’ts.
Rosie Einhorn, a psychotherapist for over 20 years, found herself with an ever-increasing number of single women in her private practice. Although her clients initially sought her assistance for any number of issues, invariably they began to discuss dating and marriage. She noticed that after several sessions with her, many of her single clients became engaged to be married. (In the past five years, 26 of her clients have married – happily.) Realizing that she was onto something that would be of help to others, Mrs. Einhorn started documenting her goal oriented, guided approach. She shared her findings with her good friend Sherry Zimmerman, a family-law attorney, who often observed marriages that didn’t work through her law practice. Together they began to develop a “strategy” for singles to marry and stay married.
Their efforts resulted in Talking Tachlis: A Singles’ Strategy for Marriage, published by Targum/Feldheim. Both women are married and live in Israel, but their commitment to helping singles led them to take time out from their respective practices and families to speak to groups in the United States. Their message, which they consider to be the equivalent of five or six sessions with a dating coach, has been well-received. The information contained in Talking Tachlis and in their seminars is too extensive for these pages, but the authors agreed to highlight some of their insights during a recent interview.
What is your basic approach to dating?
Sherry Zimmerman: Our approach begins with getting to know yourself and trying to get rid of the standards and the outlooks that others have imposed upon you. …[That way] you are less likely to date people whose goals are not in sync with yours or whose personality is not compatible with yours. It’s surprising how many people don’t realize this.
What common mistakes do people make in dating?
Rosie Einhorn: The biggest mistake we find is that on the first date many people say, “I can’t marry this person.” Marriage is not something to think about until much later. People kill a relationship when they start to imagine themselves married to someone they barely know. … Unless the first date was terrible or the person clearly dysfunctional, give him or her another chance. Another common mistake is if people don’t feel “fireworks” by the first or the second date, they’re out of there.
SZ: A familiar dating mistake arises when a woman has dated a man for awhile and likes him, but she is not yet ready to make a commitment. She still needs time to grow. The guy, on the other hand, has decided he’s crazy about this woman. He wants to see her four or five times a week and calls her every day or several times a day. The woman feels overwhelmed by this [much attention] because her emotions haven’t had time to develop. She ends up breaking off a relationship that might have ended in marriage —
and neither party realizes the mistake!
[Our]strategy of dating includes going out no more than twice a week, even if everything is going favorably; and dating long enough to get to know the person very well. Ask some of your family and friends to get to know the person before you make a firm commitment. Often people who know you well will see something that you are not seeing.
You speak a great deal about emotional intimacy in your book. How is that achieved? What about the role of “chemistry?”
SZ: We advocate building emotional intimacy during the dating process, but always in a reserved and balanced way. Don’t begin by divulging your entire life history. Too much, too soon, often scares off one of the parties, but a certain level of emotional intimacy can and should be established prior to marriage in order to determine the emotional availability of a prospective spouse.
While emotional intimacy is developing, attraction should be building. We differentiate between chemistry and attraction. Chemistry is that instantaneous click which is not based on anything [permanent]. It gives a false sense of connection and soon passes, leaving behind two confused and upset people who have little or nothing in common. On the other hand, attraction develops [along with the relationship]. If at first you say, “He’s not my dreamboat, but he’s cute,” by the fourth date, he should be looking much better. By the tenth or twelfth date, he should look good. Otherwise, there is a problem.
…We believe that if you date properly, you will be married properly. A number of other books advocate playing hard-to-get. That won’t build a good marriage. We are not about playing games. That’s the best way to get divorced.
What is “group dating” and why do you consider it a problem?
RE: Getting married is an individual process. The media has taught us that it is a group process. Television portrays single life as a group experience, having fun, doing things together. The Orthodox version may involve a group that goes out together for coffee on Motzei Shabbat.
The first glaring problem is that the women often have totally different expectations than the men. The women think that if they become friends with men they are interested in, it will lead to marriage. The men, however, don’t share that sentiment. They usually do not date within the group. So you have women who spend year after year trying to lose a few pounds, change their hairstyle or act differently, believing that the men they are interested in will come around. I have spoken to many, many men. They tell me, “If I were interested in her, I’d ask her out.” But the women don’t believe that. The most crushing thing is that the men may be marriage–minded but they aren’t going to marry that “friend” of theirs. They are going to marry somebody else they thought of as a marriage partner from the beginning.
Single life can be a very lonely experience. What is wrong with filling the gap with group dating?
RE: There is nothing wrong with group dating if you don’t want to get married. You need to become emotionally intimate with someone in order to get married and that is not going to happen in groups. Group dating feels good…. You talk about meaningful and personal matters, and it seems like things are moving nicely. But it’s really going nowhere. It’s a false intimacy.
In your book, you describe a phenomenon you call “dating burnout.” What is it?
SZ: If you become very depressed about dating or lose interest and find yourself going through the motions, or you become agitated at the thought of going on another blind date, you may be experiencing dating burnout. When it happens, you probably are not going to date productively because you are just too overwhelmed.
RE: We recommend that people take a 1-3 month vacation from dating. No dating, no planning of future dates and no discussing the subject. Participate in enriching activities that make you happy. Get involved in some kind of physical exercise during that time, too, because exercise helps the body release endorphins, which help elevate mood. After your vacation, you can re-approach dating in a refreshed manner and you will feel better about yourself. If three months doesn’t do the trick, extend the break.
Would every single who has been dating for a long time benefit from therapy?
RE: Singles are like everyone else. Many are normal, healthy, well-functioning people who want to get married. But some, such as people who are distressed by a change in career or some other risk, get stuck in a vicious cycle, and they respond extremely well to a short-term, goal-oriented approach.
How can people decide whether or not they need therapy?
RE: Keep a journal and watch for patterns. If you go through three bad relationships that look the same — you’ve got a problem. Perhaps you went out with someone you thought was great and on the fourth date you didn’t like the person anymore. Or you go out with someone, give her your heart and get dropped immediately. [If it happens] three times – you should consider therapy.
What advice can you give married people to help them understand singles better?
RE: Like anything else, try to get a sense of what it’s like to walk in their shoes. For example, for many older singles, dating has not only stopped being fun, it is often distressing. One person told me, “When someone says, ‘Just go out for a cup of coffee,’ I think to myself, ‘There’s no such thing as just a cup of coffee.’” Every date involves the rising and falling of hopes and dreams and it can be difficult and painful.
Another point has to do with privacy. In the name of matchmaking, people regularly ask singles the most private, intrusive questions that they would blanch at if similar questions were posed to them.
[People] often blame singles for not being married and accuse them of being too picky. This is inappropriate. Married people need ask themselves whether or not they would be comfortable married to someone else. Usually, and hopefully, the answer is no.
What suggestions can you make to the Orthodox community?
SZ: Helping singles marry needs to become a community project. We have to become as sensitive to this growing problem as we are concerning other global issues. One concrete and effective way to help is by mentoring or “adopting” a single. A great example of this system on a community level is in Passaic, New Jersey, where the community works at mentoring and has been quite successful. I would love to see more communities take on this challenge.
An involuntary member of the singles scene, Jeanie Silver is a freelance writer from Brooklyn, New York. Her previous contribution, “Taking Domestic Violence to Task” appeared in the Spring ’98 issue of Jewish Action.
Sidebar: How You Can Help
A look at Yad L’Simcha, the Passaic/Clifton Shidduch Committee
Passaic, New Jersey was mentioned in the interview as a community which has warm outreach on an individual level and has organized an effective system for helping singles meet their match. Their shidduch [matchmaking] committee meets once a month to share information about single friends in a manner that is efficient, yet discreet. Their system can work in your community too! Here’s how to get started:
- Send a postcard to every person in your community who would be interested in sponsoring a single. One side of the postcard contains an invitation to the upcoming meeting and the other side is a form for the sponsor to fill out, to be used for presentation at the meeting and for later inclusion in a newsletter.
- Meetings last about an hour. At the first meeting, every sponsor presents information about a single, who is then assigned a number. He/she is referred to either by the name of the sponsor or the corresponding number. At subsequent meetings, only new singles will be presented; since some sponsors will attend only to hear about any new potential partners for their singles, not every attendee will present.
- If you hear a person presented who sounds like an appropriate shidduch for your single, what is the next step? At the end of the meeting, a sign-out sheet should be circulated. On this sheet, indicate by number who you presented and who (if anyone) sounded like a possible match. For example if you presented #8 and you think he/she should meet #12, then you would indicate that on the sign-out sheet. Blank index cards should be available for sponsors to exchange phone numbers.
- Once the meeting has ended and you return back to your everyday responsibilities, it is important to prevent any loss of momentum that was generated at the meeting. A follow-up person should be selected to phone every sponsor who expressed interest in a single. The follow-up person ascertains if introductions have been made and assists in coordinating a first date for the designated singles, if necessary.
- To broaden the possibilities beyond the immediate geographic area, the group sends out a newsletter and maintains a profile list available to sponsors via email. The address for submissions of singles’ profiles is email@example.com. All submissions must include a sponsor’s name and phone number. Email address is optional. To request a subscription to the newsletter or to access previous issues, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Making the initial connection between singles is only half the battle. Because many times singles are unsure about whether they should continue dating someone they have met or are unsure about the ways to bring a relationship to a deeper level, is it is vital to keep tabs on the progress of couples that you introduce. In Passaic, there are a number of couples (some of whom happen to be mental health professionals) who mentor dating singles and assist them in developing interpersonal skills as well as helping them in their decision-making process.
In addition, many families form strong bonds with the singles in their community, especially those who are baalei teshuvah or happen to live far from their own families. A standing Shabbat invitation, a listening ear, and helpful mentoring provide a genuine support system for the single members of the community.