While Noah took the animals in two by two and Tevye’s daughters knew the importance of finding a match, my heart goes out to the 20- and 30-somethings who want to be partnered but aren’t. The world tends to be paired; couples are described as happier and society often penalizes single people.

Being single by choice is one thing, but many would choose otherwise and it is they, or their parents, who present in my office for consultation.

Finding just the right person isn’t easy, as our high divorce statistics attest, but the problem is often twofold: finding a date and accepting a mate. While being physically in the right place at the right time is essential, women are often emotionally ready to settle down while men of similar age are students, still in the army or doing a post-army trek.

Hence, while women’s biological clock is ticking away, men are often not interested in a serious relationship.

To compound matters further, as couples look for love in all the wrong places and are “too” particular in partner choice, they often find themselves feeling both alone and lonely. While being afraid to “settle” may have kept you, inadvertently, from settling down, what makes you fall in love and, more importantly, what keeps you in love may differ dramatically. Understanding these differences is essential. Flirting or spontaneity, for example, while exciting in early romance, may be unacceptable in a spouse or parent. Similarly, while your date may value appearance and wit, will they be there also for discussions about diapers, work, exhaustion, wrinkles and aches? “Settling” is a concept men accept more easily than women. Men seem to have fewer criteria and lower standards in mate selection.

Women tend to be particular and focus on nuance. Seeking perfection, are they too picky? Perhaps the difficulty is not in finding any mate, but rather being too selective in finding the right mate. Given that Mr./Mrs. Right may be very different a couple of decades down the line, and you yourself will also change tremendously in that time, what do you look for, how do you find a partner and how do you know if and when you’ve met the right person? Doesn’t everyone want to feel that signing the ketuba (marriage contract) guarantees that they’ll live happily ever after?

Here are a few thoughts on the subject.

1. Life’s a lottery. You have to be in it to win it. Take advantage of any opportunities to meet others and, if you’re interested, let it be known. Whether you meet someone through a friend, an Internet dating site or a blind date, you need to get out there to be seen. Don’t be afraid of an introduction. The person making the introduction may know your backgrounds and interests and understand what you each are looking for. People tend to prefer others with similar interests. Look around where you work, study or enjoy fun time.

2. In the Internet age, one is as likely to find his or her partner on a screen as in person. This has both advantages and disadvantages. If you’re using the Internet to check out profiles and pictures, recognize that this is just a screening tool and is both impersonal and inaccurate. Beware also the dangers of cyberstalking. Meet face-to-face in a public place. Have coffee or go for a walk.

3. Take a deep breath and go in relaxed and prepared. Think of this first date as simply an opportunity to meet someone new and have fun. Keep it pressure-free, keep your expectations low, be open-minded, ask questions and be interested.

4. Recognize that is no such thing as Mr. or Mrs. Perfect and if no one is ever good enough for you, you may feel stressed, lonely and disappointed. Everyone has flaws. and with age we become more set in our ways and less tolerant. Compromise and respect are essential. Find the positive in everyone you meet and recognize that meeting someone, falling hopelessly in love, getting married and living happily ever after is usually reserved for the movies.

Marriage takes work. Passion and romance are important, but a caring, sensitive friend you enjoy being with is absolutely critical.

5. Make a list of values that you feel are important in a partner and share it with a trusted friend. Look at how your potential mate talks to and treats their parents, siblings and children. Do you see kindness, caring, stability, honesty, respect and true friendship? Do you laugh together and have fun? 6. How well do you communicate, share and negotiate differences of opinion? As a couple, two people learn how to grow together and this is something that must be worked on every day of their marriage.

7. If you find yourself dating the same person for a long time but unwilling to settle down, ask yourself why. Seek professional consultation to understand why you are stuck. Explore fears around commitment and other areas of difficulty. Everyone has imperfections and we all want to feel valued, loved and appreciated.

8. Finding a good mate depends on you. What you are willing to put into the relationship will determine what you get out of it. So look with all your heart and be patient. You will find your “intended.” You will be in the right place at the right time.

Dr. Batya L. Ludman is a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice in Ra’anana. Send correspondence to ludman@netvision.net.il or visit her website at www.drbatyaludman.com. Her book, Life’s Journey, Exploring Relationships – Resolving Conflicts, has recently been published by Devora Publishers.

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