Jewish singles: In search of a soul mate

THERE IS no doubt that dating and searching for that special person to spend your life with is a big and often scary challenge, filled with excitement as well as disappointments.

Art by Pepe Fainberg (photo credit: PEPE FAINBERG)
Art by Pepe Fainberg
(photo credit: PEPE FAINBERG)
In my last article, I wrote about the difficulties that many Jewish singles experience in trying to find a soul mate (bashert). The dating process, I stressed, is a learning opportunity that offers singles “teachable moments.” In other words, when relationships do not work out or when singles have trouble even getting a date, it is time to do some serious self-examination and ask herself/himself, “Is there anything I can do differently?” Below, I have listed some strategies and advice that can be helpful to singles in search of that special soul mate.
1. Be proactive If you want to meet that special person, being both proactive and open-minded are essential. Rather than feeling frustrated or sorry for yourself, start thinking about ways to meet that special person. First, it takes motivation and strong desire.
Ask friends, go to parties, invite new people to a Shabbat meal, use social dating sites, consult with shadchanim (matchmakers), and be open to going on blind dates. Anytime a friend invites you to go to a social event where other singles will be present, try it. Too often, I have listened to lonely and single clients say that they want to meet someone, but on close examination, they are not doing their part to make this happen.
2. Emotional baggage/issues Often, emotional baggage can be at the core of sabotaging a new relationship. Emotional baggage may include childhood emotional wounds, unfinished issues from previous relationships, and/or other emotional events that affect our thoughts, behaviors and self-concept.
A few examples of emotional issues that interfere in building a healthy relationship: rushing into a new relationship to cover up the pain of a failed relationship; fearing intimacy as result of witnessing a parent’s infidelity; or being controlling of your “date” as result of growing up with a strict, controlling and authoritarian parents. Another emotional issue that may interfere with the dating process is both societal and family pressures to get married by a certain age. I have seen young people willing to compromise on important personal values and/or standards in choosing a marriage partner, simply because they feel pressured to get married by parents, relatives, rabbis and their community. I have counseled both modern Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox singles in a state of panic, because they have not yet found their mate.
Pushing oneself to make a choice in order to be on the “correct” time schedule for marriage can often lead to making bad marital choices.
3. Define your core values It is essential to know what your core values are before beginning a relationship. The reason is simple: after the initial honeymoon excitement quiets down, core values assessments begin to surface, and these similarities and/or differences can make or break relationships.
Examples of core values include children and family (e.g. How many would you like to have?), religious compatibility, importance of materialism, importance of body image and sexual attraction in the relationship, living location preference, and career/ education expectations. Is the person honest, trustworthy, dependable, giving, and fun to be with, friendly to others, assertive when necessary, smart, decisive? All these things matter on varying scales according to each individual. No one ever finds someone that has everything that he/she is looking for. Therefore, you need to know what is most important to you.
What are the five things that are on the top of your list? Determine what really matters most.
4. Look for good communication In his 1994 book Why Marriages Succeed or Fail, John Gottman describes what he believes are good communication skills for couples to use. He tells couples not to be overly critical and defensive towards each other, avoid putting up emotional barriers, and to use the “I feel” statements because they are the most effective way of letting your partner understand you and your feelings. Can you be open with this person? Are you able to meet each other’s emotional needs? Do you have meaningful conversations? Can you be yourself with this person? 5. Find a mentor The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines mentor as a trusted counselor or guide, and a coach. I have interviewed both matchmakers and rabbis as well as several singles before writing this article. On more than one occasion, I heard positive stories about how being mentored helped singles looking for a soul mate. I wholeheartedly agree. In reality, the dating process that ultimately leads to choosing a life partner is probably one of life’s most important and difficult decisions. For some, being mentored may help them free themselves from blind spots, while for others, a mentor can help them sort out values that are most important in a soul mate. Singles can seek mentoring from a dating coach, a psychotherapist or another trained counselor.
THERE IS no doubt that dating and searching for that special person to spend your life with is a big and often scary challenge, filled with excitement as well as disappointments.
Chemistry and sexual attraction are often the starting points where two people connect.
However, the honeymoon “high” is usually followed by a more “sober” and realistic examination of whether this is the right person. It is therefore essential that you know who you are, what you feel, what you want in life. In this respect, Rabbi Dov Heller, a clinical psychologist and relationship therapist, offers excellent advice to singles before they marry, as he wrote on the Aish website in 2001: “Make sure you share the deeper level of connection that sharing life goals provide. After marriage, the two of you will either grow together or grow apart. To avoid growing apart, you must figure out what you’re ‘living for’ while you’re single – and then find someone who has come to the same conclusion as you. This is the true definition of a ‘soul mate.’ A soul mate is a goal mate – two people who ultimately share the same understanding of life’s purpose, and therefore share the same priorities, values and goals.” 
The writer is a marital, child and adult cognitive-behavioral psychotherapist, with offices in Jerusalem and Ra’anana. He also provides online videoconferencing psychotherapy. drmikegropper@