Some advice for the newly be-coupled

Eva ruminates on dating in the 21st century.

Penguin couple and fish gift (photo credit: ING IMAGE/ASAP)
Penguin couple and fish gift
(photo credit: ING IMAGE/ASAP)
Shalom! When we last left off, I had started dating Samuel, a guy with “go-the-distance” potential – a prospect that both invigorated me and filled me with fear.
Well, I’m happy to report we’re still dating, and we’re still sorta in the famed Honeymoon Period – but the fear is also still there.
It’s only natural to be lugging around some substantial (designer) baggage once you’ve hit your mid-30s; with a divorce etc. behind me, I’ve erected some substantial defenses.
However, the only way to get over that is to dive right in when the opportunity presents itself. So I have, and I’ve allowed things to get progressively more serious.
I’ve also learned a few things along the way about managing and enjoying a new relationship at this tender age, and I’d like to share them with you, dear readers.
• There will be joy, euphoria and songbirds trilling... and fright, anxiety and panic attacks: There’s no way around it. A serious connection – especially at this stage – is a roller-coaster.
One night you’re strolling on Nitzanim Beach and shmoopily jamming to that ’80s love song; the next night you’re ready to puke since you’re certain the fact he’s late is because: (a) You don’t deserve to be happy and he was cut down by the hand of fate in a tragic bass-fishing accident; (b) He’s discovered the real you (who wears “bubby undergarments”) and is chucking you without even a text; (c) (the real reason) Traffic was outrageous and his phone was dead.
The ups and downs are part of the package; whatever you’re feeling is normal (though I would caution against painting yourself blue and running through Park Hayarkon). Do yoga, see friends, stay busy – relish the highs, and when you’re riding out a low, know it will pass.
He’s scared, too: I always tend to think guys, being more logical and less emotional, don’t get to the same level of vulnerability – and worry – we womenfolk do. It’s somewhat true, but I’ve also learned that when a guy decides to truly get involved, he, like us women, is all in.
Your dude also has his past traumas that he’s trying to work through, he’s also afraid you’re going to do an about-face and replace him with a more svelte BMW owner.
Upshot: You’re both taking a (worthwhile) risk. Try not to get stuck on whether he views you as right for him; remind yourself you’re in this together, and that you’re also trying to figure out whether he’s the one for you.
• Just be yourself: I’ve heard this a million times, but you somehow magically forget it when you’re enmeshed in it. Of course, you want to put the “best you” forward – look pretty, not tell your most lurid stories right away. But at some point, you’re going to slip up and not give the perfect rejoinder, and he’s going to see you in your sweatpants (with the shakshuka stains).
If you’re a few months in and debating whether to tell him the “answer every man wants to hear” or what you really think, opt for the latter. He’ll uncover the truth at some point anyway, and it might be exactly what he wanted to hear!
• Ask the questions you really want to ask: By the same token, the only way to find out who he really is and whether he’s right for you is to find out what he really thinks. Don’t hit him over the head with an anvil or grill him about his sperm count, but do gently ascertain what kind of human being, husband and father he will be.
One way to do this is via discussion-prompting questions such as: What do you value most in a friendship? What would constitute a perfect day for you? Other times, you have to outright ask what you’re pondering: Do you want kids? Where do you see yourself living? Just be sensitive to timing – a relaxed dinner is usually good. Chances are, if he’s marriage-minded, he’ll raise the issues himself.
• Don’t attempt to escape tough situations: And by this I mean situations that are tough for you. We recently attended a Shabbat dinner; the host told me in advance there was going to be another guest from the same country as Samuel, and he would seat us all together. The thing is, when Samuel is together with his countrymen, though he includes me I get nervous that I don’t know their language or enough about their culture – and the differences between where and how we grew up are starkly emphasized.
I considered telling the host not to seat us all together, but then decided I couldn’t manipulate events and avoid the situation forever. Actually, it would be a prime opportunity to see how we would interact. In the end, I was glad I did – we had a fabulous time, and my confidence in him as someone appropriate for me (and I think, his in me) grew.
• The world’s oldest cliché is true: Nothing – and nobody – is perfect: Your lovely new boyfriend is going to have some faults, and some less-than-ideal life circumstances. You’re there to assess whether you can deal with his particular quirks.
You may get overwhelmed and be tempted to sabotage the fledgling relationship, just so you don’t have deal with the difficulties anymore. Simply put: Don’t do it. Take time, when you’re feeling calmer, to think it through. Maybe your instincts are telling you he’s not the one for you, but decide rationally.
I was recently at another Shabbat dinner with Samuel, our first as a couple and one that happened – in typical fashion among meals attended by the unattached – to include Jake, who I had gone out with several times last year. Though the chemistry hadn’t been there, suddenly, something I had liked – that we were from the same country and culture – highlighted my issues with Samuel. As everyone else dug into the matbuha, my mind raced: Why couldn’t I just date someone easy? I should dump Samuel’s Spanish-speaking tuchus and date the delightfully Anglo Jake! Never mind that Jake bores me to tears and Samuel makes me laugh like crazy.
Luckily, I was sensible enough to heed the flashing red billboard in my mind: Don’t say anything now! Don’t be overly flirty with Jake and purposely alienate Samuel! Later, when we walked home and Samuel and I were giggling once again, I was glad I had kept my mouth shut. I would continue to think through the less-than-perfect parts of our relationship, but in the quiet of my own home.
• First steps are exciting, and hard: Going to your first wedding together, meeting the friends and family – it’s all super-exhilarating because it says something about you as a couple, and it’s such fun to attend a function with an adorable partner. But it’s also nerve-racking, because let’s face it, you and/or your guy are being evaluated, and you want so much for everyone to like each other and this to work out.
It’s a party, but it’s work – and it’s unavoidable. Dress up – shave your legs, do your nails – focus, don’t overdo it on the wine, and go for it!
• Find the right people to confide in, but don’t proclaim your relationship status in skywriting... or on Facebook: I think it best to get advice from those who both have your best interests at heart, and are in successful relationships themselves. I prefer to talk to fewer people, since the more opinions I get, the more scattered I feel.
There’s also no need to declare your new relationship status on Facebook – making people who may be resentful/envious come out of the woodwork. The evil eye is really a thing; keep it quiet.
• Yes, it can happen to you – “unlucky” you: Try to forget the broken hearts littering your past. Most people usually find the one at some point or another – perhaps this is it! No matter what, you’ll survive. Meanwhile, sit back and enjoy the romance.