By Michelle Mond
I have been helping a man to find a shidduch for the past few years. I have counseled him through dating situations and have seen his growth and understanding of what really should matter in a future wife. He recently approached me with a letter he wrote, and asked if I could find a way to publicize it to help others who might need to hear the advice that he has only recently taken to heart but wishes he had sooner.
I took his letter, which we discussed at length, and also took note of his feelings and thoughts. We have combined the two, which leaves us with this brutally honest letter to share. In the process of these years of searching, he has managed to find himself and would like to share his thoughts and experiences with as many people as possible.
• • •
Hi! My name is “Dovid.” I am a single, 36-year-old, eligible Orthodox Jewish guy. I would like to take a few moments to talk to my fellow single men out there. Like many of you, I started on the dating scene at the age of 23. I was extremely accomplished for my age, and felt I needed a girl on par with that. That led me to come up with a list of requirements for my future wife: She should be beautiful, thin, outgoing, worldly, “with-it,” accomplished, smart, an achiever, bubbly but not too loud, from a good family . . . the list went on.
As soon as I started dating, I was bombarded with suggestions of girls who fit the bill. It was overwhelming. Every time I went out with a great girl, I would get a call or e-mail from a friend who had another fantastic girl for me; each one sounded better than the last. I could barely concentrate on the girl I was dating, because I supposedly had so many other options.
And the thought always crossed my mind: What if I could do better? At times, I got somewhat serious with a girl, but then I would notice certain imperfections, and I would simply give up on the shidduch, in the belief that I could get someone who had even more of the characteristics I wanted and felt I deserved—only to come to the rude awakening after breaking it off to date someone new that she had her flaws as well.
In my younger years of dating, I decided I wouldn’t date a girl over a certain age. Marrying a younger woman would improve my chances of having a large family, as I had always imagined. But as I approached my upper twenties, I looked at my married friends, who were having their third child while I was still single. Here I was: personable, capable, talented, and successful. I had a ton going for me in all areas. Yet I looked in awe at my friends who had families and wondered how they were so lucky. How had they found their perfect match so early on, while I, Mr. Accomplished, was still looking?
Not once did I take a look at myself and my dating technique and think that I might be doing something wrong. Not once did I think I had the wrong mindset. Now I know that if I’d had a different mindset back then, I would most likely be married by now. Until recently, I was still looking for the same thing I was looking for at 23—including dating only younger girls. I am realizing that those younger girls don’t want to date an “older” guy, as accomplished and great as I think I am. People now want to set me up with women who are divorced, with kids. This is an unattractive option for me, as I would like someone like me, who has also not yet started a family. I look back at all the choices passed up when I was in my twenties, and I feel like such a fool for having given up many girls who would have made great wives and mothers, if I only had buckled down and realized this one simple thing: There will never be that “perfect” girl.
I know that sounds harsh. Trust me, though; I wish I had realized this in my twenties. Instead, I was lost in the forest, bombarded with so many awesome-sounding girls that I was never able to focus on the one I was with. I always thought the next one would have more of this or less of that, always sure that was what I needed to make me happy.
I recently took a poll of my married friends. I asked them if they thought their wives were perfect for them when they were dating. Almost every one of them was honest enough to tell me that no, he didn’t think she was perfect, but rather that she was good enough. He thought she would make a great wife and mother, was attracted to her, and took it from there. These guys unanimously said that they relied on the positives they saw, took the step to engagement, got married, and have been working together to become the perfect people for each other.
I realize now that this is the healthy approach to dating. Until now, I was hung up on my “list.” She had to be on my wavelength, intellectually; she had to be the most gorgeous; she had to be just like me hashkafically; she had to be outgoing enough and worldly enough; she had to have the right kind of family, etc. If she did not have all these characteristics, I would worry that I was making the wrong choice and would be unhappy married to her, and I would move on to the next idea.
Caught in this vicious circle, here I am, 36 years of age and still single. My current prospects are not close to as good and on target as the ones I had ten years ago. I realize now where I was wrong and what I could have done differently. We pave our own path in life, and perfection is something to strive for within ourselves—not something to look for in a spouse. Because if you have that attitude, then, like me, you will always be imagining someone more perfect.
Some of you may be saying, “I’m not looking for perfection, but I need at least this and this and this to make me happy.” Maybe it’s time we looked at our lists and came to the conclusion that certain things are not as important as we think they are. One smart piece of advice I got recently was that my approach should change to this: Are these reasons strong enough for me to break it off if I knew that in ten years I would still be single?
This thought has completely changed my mindset on dating. If you have dated a wonderful girl seriously but ended it because you thought it was not quite the best fit, maybe it’s time to think long and hard about whether your reason was legitimate. I know that I look back at certain girls I dated in my twenties and realize how petty my reasons were for ending the relationships. One girl wasn’t as intellectual as I liked, one was not outgoing enough, one was attractive but not the specific look I went for, etc.
I have changed my attitude and my ways. I am now looking for a normal, attractive, positive woman whom I can respect. I know now that perfection is not the goal when dating; it is something to strive for in a marriage to someone with whom you see the potential to grow. Now I know I won’t find everything on my list, and I’m okay with that.
I hope that all my fellow men out there (and women, if relevant) will learn from my mistakes to realize what is important and what is a healthy approach to dating. Some may call what I went through “commitment phobia” or “perfectionism,” but I call it simply needing a reality check. I think that if most guys saw things through the eyes of a 36-year-old like me, who at one time was just like them, they would come to make more realistic choices in their dating. Even more, they would realize the probable outcome if they don’t change. Nobody wants to end up 35-plus and single, but so many put themselves in the position where that is inevitable.
If only one person gains from my personal account, writing it will have been well worth it. I give us all a berachah that we should be zocheh to find our bashert soon. May G‑d open our eyes so that we are able to recognize the potential in our soul mate when he or she comes along—seeing both the amazing traits and the flaws—and have the strength to take the step to commitment and a lifetime of growth to perfection together. v
Michelle Mond is a shadchanis from Baltimore.