Dear Rabbi Shmuley,
I am 30 years old, and would love to meet someone, fall in love, and get married. My problem is that I'm too picky--or at least my friends tell me I am. I have first and sometimes second dates fairly often, but there's always something that makes me end it before it gets too much more involved than that. He took a cell phone call during our date. Or he works late every night. Or he has no relationship with his family. To me, these are major red flags that he is not a man who can be devoted to a relationship without baggage or distraction. I know my standards are unreasonably high, but can you advise me on how to tell the difference between a minor human quirk and a relationship deal-breaker?
In the back of my book "Kosher Sex," I give a checklist for marriage. But before I highlight some of those qualifications, let’s identify a visible truth. You are more than likely a commitment-phobe. Now, there are two kinds: the passive commitment-phobe, who sabotages the relationship before it even begins by dating inappropriate people, and the active commitment-phobe, who looks for all kinds of outs as the relationship grows more serious.
It seems clear to me that you’re the latter, an active commitment-phobe. The men you are dating are not bad. If they’re imperfect, then so are you. Indeed, if they were perfect, why would they need you? It is through our failings, shortcomings, and deficiencies that we come to appreciate what our partners add to our lives. Just think about it. Were you to devote yourself to one of these imperfect men, you could probably teach them how to honor a woman by, say, not answering the phone during a date, honor himself by not becoming a workaholic, and honor his family by being closer to them.
I am a great believer that a woman inspires a man to be better. The notion of romantic love is that a man strives to be a knight, a gentleman, battling dragons, or in this case his own inner demons, in order to win the fair maiden.
The reasons you’re so dismissive of these men can feel like many different particulars. But put together, they all come down to this: fear. You’re afraid that something is going to go wrong. But love and fear are diametrical opposites. Love is the extension of the self, through trust, to connect with another. Fear is the recoiling of the self to shy away from the other. So stop being so afraid. Nothing terrible is going to happen if you fall in love, as long as you fall in love with the right person. And all you need to determine who that will be is to focus on the essentials of character rather than nit-pick the peripherals.
Here are some highlights, from the checklist I mentioned earlier:
- Is he humble, or does he brag shamelessly or talk about himself constantly?
- Is he courteous and respectful, or does he repeatedly cut you off in mid-sentence?
- Does he apologize if he hurts you or has made a mistake?
- Does he focus on you, or does he seem distracted by other women?
- Is he patient with children?
- Does he treat waiters and service people with respect?
- Does he carry himself in a dignified manner, or does he curse, get drunk, or yell?
- Does he give to charity?
- Even if he is not close to his parents or family, does he listen to you when you tell him why he should reconsider?
- Is he generous, or does he insist you pay half the bill?
If you’re dating men who score 7 out of ten on this list, you’re doing OK.
One more thing. The other reason you’re not getting married is that you’re not feeling lonely enough. Love is the solution to humankind’s first malady--aloneness. That’s what Adam first experienced in the Book of Genesis. I suggest that for two weeks you go cold turkey on going out to movies, hanging out with friends, and especially dating. Once you start experiencing the loneliness that comes from a dearth of human company, you will long to be with a man who assuages your loneliness. And chances are, your expectations will be much more realistic.
G-d bless you,