By Tania Hammer
We all make mistakes—especially on dates. But if a person has a solid bein adam l’chaveiro attitude, most shortcomings can be dealt with maturely and appropriately. And when one is sure of his/her relationship bein adam l’Makom, there is a certain confidence that things will fall into place. If things don’t work out, offering a kind, verbal, face-to-face rejection is the best way to move on. Those who text their rejections fall short on the essential middah of kindness.
A couple was ready to get engaged and the l’chaim was set up. Mom asked the chassan to take the dog for a walk up the street to get some bottled water for the event. Chassan wasn’t cheerful, but mom gave the leash to him and the chassan and kallah started walking. When the dog stopped to sniff, chassan kicked the dog and told it harshly to move on. Kallah looked at him and said, “I’m calling this off. Thanks for showing me your true colors before tonight’s party.” And she was right. All of Hashem’s creatures must be treated kindly.
Moms and dads, your children rely on you for your sage wisdom and sound mind when they go on dates. The trust they have in you is vital to their emotional well-being. Don’t abuse it because the family “has yichus,” “comes from money,” or is “older.” Address Torah-true values with the shadchan. These values are everlasting, and this currency will see the couple through inevitable tough times. Go through this list together so your children will know what’s out there. Give them confidence to speak up about all their concerns.
Couples should take the time to get to know each other. A charlatan is more likely to show his/her true colors after several months of dating. Those who date quickly and get engaged after just a few dates will not have this advantage and will be more easily duped by them. Make sure there is conversation between dates, too.
And if you need help sorting out any of these issues, speak to the right people. Friends are fine to help you choose attire, but when it comes to solid communication, seek advice from a professional. Above all, be honest with yourself. If you aren’t comfortable, there’s a good reason.
With siyatta d’Shmaya, you will go to a date delighting in the knowledge that you’re confident enough to trust your intuition to move forward or hold back. Hatzlachah!
Here are my 10 “red flags” to watch out for:
1. One-sided date prep. With shidduch dating, it’s easy to overlook this one. Going to a hotel lounge over and over is safe. After the third date, alternative plans could be made. Both sides have to invest. Does he/she ask you to plan all the dates? Does he/she show little interest in making reservations, getting creative with activities, or expect that you’ll do this for him/her? Domination is definitely a red flag.
2. Lack of emotional investment. It’s natural that the speed of a relationship’s progress is a function of many factors, one of them being age. Dating in the later 20s to early 30s tends to make it somewhat more socially acceptable to ask more serious questions earlier on. Listen to your intuition. If you think he/she is not emotionally invested, there is a good chance he/she is not. Often, in the heat of an argument, one partner might throw out the “Let’s end it now” card. While it’s ultimately a power move, see your partner’s reaction. Is he/she so egotistically driven that he/she won’t take a second look back? Will he/she say ending the relationship is “your choice”? No one needs that.
3. Inability to apologize. Apologies involve setting your ego aside. Apologies aren’t about who is right and who is wrong. It’s about acknowledging the other’s feelings and validating them. While fake remorse and sorrow isn’t the name of the game, neither is a staunch refusal to accept that you might have stepped on someone’s toes. A simple apology is easy. “I’m sorry if I hurt your feelings. That was not my intention.”
4. Excessive privacy. Although it may seem things are going great, stop and ask yourself: “But do I really know him/her?” It’s one thing to be in constant communication and have superficial conversations. It’s another to know one’s motivations, thoughts, and feelings. Is he/she willing to truly open him/herself up and share his/her life story? Or does his/her story eventually end up being deflected back to you? Does he/she reply with something vague and general, such as “I just like to see where things will go” or “It just didn’t work out”? To make a relationship work, you need a sense of the areas for growth. Both of you will have them. Coming to a common understanding of what makes you both tick or what went wrong in a previous relationship can help strengthen the current one. The point is not to gossip about exes or fixate on past relationships. But having a sense of the road one came from can make the one ahead far less bumpy. Different people will have a different comfort level with opening up. This is perfectly reasonable. But you can also tell when one is avoiding these topics altogether.
5. Relationship isolation. No relationship can thrive in a vacuum. Overly exclusive dates are a hallmark characteristic of abusive relationships. No one is there to witness it when your date is putting you down, treating you poorly, or being disrespectful. And seeing through the rose-colored glasses of love or infatuation, you don’t see any differently either. In your eyes, he/she is flawless, which is why you need someone to help check your vision. Whether it is a friend, a sibling, or other acquaintance, it can be helpful to include a larger community in your relationship for the purposes of safety and balance.
Sometimes, families can be at the forefront of relationships—so much so that they interfere with the natural progression. Or they provide so many opinions that it starts to get confusing whom to listen to while you are sorting out your own feelings. It might be helpful to limit your advisors to a couple of close friends or family members. There is no need to poll the entire audience. But getting another pair of eyes on your relationship and its health can help. After all, when disagreements eventually do come up, it can often be others who help you talk through it, apologize, and make up. They can encourage you to see if you are being unreasonable, and at what point it can be helpful to walk away.
Have you ever met his/her friends or anyone whom he/she considers an acquaintance? The adage that we are the company we keep often rings true. Getting a sense of your date’s social circle is collateral information. Maybe they are phenomenal people, or maybe they sit around and insult people. You don’t know until you meet them. If you are constantly kept behind closed doors, it can be another indicator of your date’s lack of seriously considering you. For those who prefer to keep dating private, make sure you interface with at least some close friends to see how your date reacts to them.
6. Inability to communicate. Communication is one of the keys to any successful relationship. It’s easy in the early stages of dating when there is flirtation, witty banter, and small talk to feel like it’s a walk in the park. But what happens when there is a communication breakdown? Relationship longevity is not measured by when things are going well, but rather when the strife enters. Does he/she give you the silent treatment instead of trying to talk through it? Does he/she make passive aggressive statements? Does he/she make threats (“You’re gonna regret it if you don’t tell me right this instant!”)? At some point, your date could be entering bully territory or be manipulative in the manner in which he/she communicates. When you feel like you are constantly walking on eggshells to not upset or agitate him/her, that’s when you know you’ve entered rough waters and that there may be very choppy seas ahead. When you feel like he/she is trying to “punish” you or “teach you a lesson,” move on.
7. Talking down. This is about the date who is a bit aloof, the one who is not waiting on hands and knees for you. Although you may have been initially attracted to his/her raw beauty and take-charge ways, you start to notice that in doing so he/she is bulldozing over others. He/she may be neglecting the feelings of others to assert his/her own agenda. So pretty soon he/she is always right and you are always wrong.
Perhaps you come up with a new project you’d like to start at work, and instead of supporting you, he/she makes a jab at how you’re not cut out for it. Or when you attempt to reason with him/her, your views are “unhealthy” “abnormal,” and any other false clinical diagnosis he/she makes despite his/her obvious lack of mental-health expertise. If he/she is constantly trying to make you “understand” as though he/she is the professor and you are the pupil, you deserve better.
8. Rules that constantly change. This mostly happens to women but men have had this too. And this craft is primarily found in “older” dates. Most women are socialized to be good listeners. Additionally, we are often the mediators and conflict-resolution specialists in disputes among family and friends. However, to be able to do this we must have access to the whole story and concrete facts. This is much more difficult if the story is constantly changing. If the target is constantly moving, it is a futile endeavor. First, he might also be into marriage and children. But he also might not be. He doesn’t actually see the point of marriage. But on second thought, if children are involved then it is a necessity. However, he doesn’t really like children all that much. Relationships shouldn’t be complex equations to solve. They either work or don’t. Don’t waste your time following a nonsensical formula.
9. A biting sense of humor. Laughter is one of the best parts of any relationship. Connecting on a light-hearted level, being silly, and enjoying truly heartfelt laughter is a path to forging shared interests and affection. Witty humor, often associated with a higher intellectual punch factor, can be a favored form of laughter for some. What happens when that same humor starts to translate into slight insults and hints? Although it might be one thing to laugh at an awkward interaction at a restaurant with the waitress, it’s another when a joke is about someone else’s weight, looks, education level, or other attributes. Even if he/she claims he/she is just teasing or commenting on changeable factors (“If she’d exercise more she’d look better”), it does not justify it by any means. And later, the joke can turn out to be on you. Many use humor to communicate an unsavory message that they wouldn’t otherwise share. Even though he/she might constantly brush something off as a joke, listen for patterns. Sometimes there is something more there.
10) He/she talks about changing . . . you. Though this seems to be the easiest red flag to identify, love’s naive glasses can alter your perceptive abilities. The ability for both partners to identify areas for growth is important. Changing the little things can do a lot for a relationship, such as driving a little slower than usual because he/she doesn’t like speeding, or wearing a certain color because you know he/she likes it. But you can’t change a personality.
Don’t make apologies for who you are. Does he want a princess with done-up nails, perfect hair, a classy wardrobe, and who is soft-spoken, obedient, and affectionate on his terms? Maybe you like denim, streaked hair, and the chipped nails of a woman who can get her hands dirty and speak her mind even if her volume is bit louder than she sometimes intends it. Maybe he likes tweed versus pinstripe and comfortable loafers. It’s fine to try new things and show some vulnerability, but the right date will love you just the way you are. Don’t forget that.
These are the top 10 easily identifiable red flags; there are more. Kindness is the overarching factor. Someone who is kind will not raise these red flags. v
Tania Hammer is a social networker for Caring Professionals, a premier home health care agency in New York. She also dabbles in shidduchim and coaching for that special date. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.