Tuesday, July 13, 2010

"Droughts"

We singles love to complain about bad dates. To share crazy stories of what outrageous, weird, inappropriate, or just plain odd thing our date did or said. Dating is awful, we whine, can’t I just get married already? It’s a challenging situation, no doubt. But equally or possibly even more difficult are what I have nicknamed “droughts,” the short or sometimes long periods of times- weeks or even months- when we don’t go on any dates at all. To go along with the “when it rains it pours” metaphor which describes the times when one person suggests a shidduch for you and then suddenly you have numerous other suggestions, a “drought” is when your dating life begins to resemble a dessert comparable to the one mentioned in Tehillim 63, “Eretz Tziah V’Ayef Bli Mayim.” If you go with the mashal of being “in the parsha,” then it kind of feels like you’re stuck in the parsha which contains Az Yashir, where there are huge empty spaces/breaks between each phrase. In my experience this happens more frequently to girls than it does to guys, perhaps because some guys have lists, but either way it is one of the tough aspects of dating.

For those of you who have not had the pleasure of experiencing a “drought,” and are wondering why it’s such a challenge, let me explain what it feels like. Every time a friend bombards you with another bad date story in your head you are rolling your eyes and thinking, “Well, at least you went out on a date.” But then you hear how bad the date was and although you wish you had a date, part of you is thankful that at least you didn’t have to spend a couple of hours in agony suffering through a bad date. But if all your friends who are dating are having positive experiences, then it’s tough. This difficult time might even lead you to declare dramatically, “I’m never going to go on another date again! I’m never going to get married!” Even though you know it’s not true, you just want someone to jump in and comfort you and tell you that you have nothing to worry about. (Ok, maybe that’s just a girl thing :)) But then of course there’s eventually some “rain fall” and maybe all the sudden out of the blue two or three or four people have suggestions for you and you wish they could have spaced it out so you’re not bombarded all at once.

There are two main challenges with “droughts.” The first is that for some reason the more dates you or go on, the more it feels like you’re closer to getting married. This comes from a big misconception, but for some reason most people feel this way. It’s kind of like the lottery. People assume that the more tickets they buy, the greater their chances are of winning the lottery. So the more people you date, the more likely one of them is bound to be the right person, right? Statistically and mathematically it is true that your chances are greater of winning the lottery are greater if you have purchased more tickets. However, many people say that if Hashem wants you to win the lottery then you will, so you should only buy one ticket, and if He doesn’t want you to win the lottery then it doesn’t matter how many tickets you bought, you won’t win the lottery.

Whether you subscribe to that notion or not, the same logic applies to shidduchim. You are only looking for ONE person. It doesn’t matter how many dates you have. You could go out with 3 people in 5 years or you could go out with 100 in one year. If Hashem doesn’t think the time is right for you to find your shidduch, then you won’t get married, no matter how many dates you go on. But for some reason if I haven’t gone on a date in a long time, it feels like my chances of getting married are much lower. I feel like I should be buying more lottery tickets to up my chances. This is completely illogical and once you realize that this is a misconception, it changes your perspective completely.

The second reason that “droughts” are tough is that it’s easy to feel that there’s something wrong with you. Why are others going on so many dates, while you have no dates? Is there something wrong with you that no one wants to set you up?

So, how does someone deal with not dating, with “droughts”?

Well, I can only say what works for me, and there are three ways. The first one is summed up best in the phrase, “Yeshuat Hashem KiHeref Ayin.” This is a phrase that I love for many reasons, but applied to this situation it means that at any second your state of not having any dates could change. “Droughts” are related to Az Yashir in more than just the layout of the text, but the content of the story as well. B’nei Yisrael looked in all directions and there was nothing, there was no way out. They were stuck. They thought they’d never get out of this. But Moshe says, “Hityatzivu U’Riu et Yeshuat Hashem.” Just wait! You’ll see Hashem is going to save you. That’s true for B’nei Yisrael then, and it’s a message that’s true for us now.

Maybe it looks like there’s no more dates in sight. As Shades of Grey wrote in this post, have some patience. You’ll get there. Maybe it has been a while since you’ve gone out on a date, but you’ll go out on one again, eventually, even if it’s not for a while. This is all assuming that you’ve put in your proper effort. You can’t just sit there and expect a miracle- even Hashem waited for someone to jump into the Yam Suf before splitting the sea. Once you’ve done what you can do, then is the time for patience.

The second way to deal with “droughts” is to realize that there is an end in sight. This coping strategy can be explained if you look at how to deal with pain in general. One method of dealing with pain involves focusing on the fact that the pain is temporary and will go away. Pain is unbearable if you think that it is never going to end or go away. If someone says, “This is going to hurt,” you wonder for how long. If someone says, “This is going to hurt for 10 seconds,” then it’s much easier to deal with because you can focus on what life will be like after those 10 seconds are up. Dealing with pain involves realizing that you will heal and that the pain will go away one day. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. If you focus on that light instead of on your current situation, then it’s a lot easier. A runner who is running a race thinks, “Almost there, almost there, just keep going.”

The third method of dealing with the challenge of “droughts” is to realize that you have been given the gift of time to reflect. If you’re going on date after date after date without a break, then you don’t have time to think things through. “Droughts” are a great time to step back and reevaluate. Is what I said I’m looking for really what I’m looking for? What have I learned from previous dates about myself and what I’m looking for that can help me in the future? These are important questions, and it’s good to have time to see what you can learn. I don’t mean that you should over analyze every detail of every date you’ve ever been on, because that is not healthy. But using the break to gain some perspective can be more productive towards finding a shidduch then going on a lot of dates that go nowhere.

Another positive side of “droughts” is that they help you appreciate going out on a date. Kind of like the whole “absence makes the heart grow fonder” idea, or like the feeling you get when you’ve been on a diet for a long time and then you bite into that first piece of cake.

To sum up, dating is tough, but not dating is even harder. Know that Hashem can save you at any second and also that this difficult time is only temporary; it has an end to it. Take the time to re-evaluate who you are and what you’re looking for. And when it finally rains, you’ll appreciate it and enjoy it that much more.

13 comments:

  1. This is interesting since I'm just coming out of a frustrating drought after having being mismatched with a few mostly-great-but-with-key-unresolvable-differences girls. It seems that once I became cognizant of my contribution to being setup with those bad dates, and took positive action to correct, the drought suddenly ended with a few suitable matches. I learned what I really needed to specify to shadchanim, and even which shadchanim I needed to not use anymore. And I found some more suitable shadchanim.

    I learned more about what to really look for, to thereby be more effective than a TSA screener X-raying an old grandmother at the airport.

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  2. I have been in such a drought, it's like I walked across the Sahara.

    And I pretty much had the same exact thought process as you.

    I was getting my hair cut recently, and my hair stylist asked if I was dating anyone. I said no, and he replied that it happens sooooo quickly, so no worries (Shivisi Hashem . . . )

    I left with fabulous hair and feeling good.

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  3. My thoughts about droughts are much simpler, although not quite profound. Basically, they suck and hopefully they don't last too long and e/t works out for the best.

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  4. What about those unfortunate souls who never marry? Is that what Hashem thinks is best for them??

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  5. I haven;t been dating all that long so I can't say that I really know what drought feels like, but I did worry about dating since I was not living in The City last year. Even though I wasn't a "conveniently located" girl I did get quite a few dates. As you said, quantity is no more helpful than a security blanket, but I think it was Hashem's way of reassuring me that He has a plan and whatever I see as hinderances present no challenge to Him.

    Nate: You answered your first question with your 2nd one.Is it a satisfying answer? For those with super strong faith it is. For the rest however, we just have to accept it as truth. How many people do you actually know who never get married? Most people do get married, but maybe not as soon as they initially hoped.

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  6. Micha- It's always great when we are able to learn from frustrating situations and when they give us clarity.

    Bookworm- I love when random people give me chizzuk! Sounds like your hair stylist did a good job.

    BJG- I like the way you summed it up!! You said it perfectly and much more consisely.

    Nate- That's a tough question. I believe that everything Hashem does is for the best, even though it's hard to feel it some times. If someone never marries, then it is because Hashem decided that is best. While that might be hard to accept, the two alternative are harder to accept in my opinion. One alternative is that Hashem does not have complete control over the world, so even though He doesn't think it's best for this person to never marry, He can't do anything about it. The other alternative is to say that Hashem knows it's not best, and has control to change it, but is evil. I think we can all agree that is not the case.

    Coral- I like the way you put it- things we see as challenges are not challenges for Hashem. I hope that you never have any droughts, or at the very least that if you do, that they don't phase you in any way.

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  7. I'm of the view that we are all meant to wed. But not all at the same time. But really, how many single 50 year old bachelors/spinsters do you know?

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  8. Bookworm- trust me, unfortunately i know many

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  9. Dating droughts may be hard but i would rather not date than go out with someone who is completely inappropriate and in the end its just a waste of time. Being single definitely has its advantages and its nice to take the opportunity to do the things you could never do once you are hitched. Marriage is great and i cant wait, but until then..im enjoying everyday of my life to the fullest!

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  10. aminspiration- I agree. I would rather not go on a date then go on a pointless date.

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  11. SternGrad, great post. As usual :)
    That was truly a nice amount of chizuk.

    The thing is...when one is experiencing a "drought"...there's a question if (s)he should just wait for the water to come, or if (s)he should go searching for water.
    IE: should (s)he call more shadchanim/teachers or go to more singles events, or just wait there...thinking that the previous attempts of hishtadlut were enough?

    For example, I once told a teacher of mine that I did my hishtadlut...I called x amount of shadchanim, and they didn't get back to me. She told me that it's incumbent of every frum girl (or her mother) to call and continue to annoy them until they set you up and have you on their list of priorities.

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  12. Sefardi Gal- you're very right. The first thing to do in a "drought" is to look and make sure you're doing enough Hishtadlus. But once you've put in a certain amount of effort (and of course you can always be doing more) then instead blaming the "drought" on your lack of efforts there is a time and place for realizing that maybe this is what Hashem wants for you right now.

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