Many people have heard of and benefited from Rabbi Avigdor Miller’s “Ten Commandments of Marriage.” Rabbi Miller’s commandments focused on loyalty to one’s spouse and making every effort to avoid cycles of hurt and resentment. Dating, however is a different story. After all, why be loyal to someone who you may not marry? Isn’t it better to reject an unsuitable person before becoming married, than to learn to forgive and overlook flaws? The dilemma is how can you tell if you are being wise and prudent or picky and selfish? We therefore thought it might be helpful to suggest commandments for dating, and this is our attempt to distill some of the concepts we have developed about relationships into useful guidelines.
Commandment #1: Stay in the Here and Now
When dating it is very important to concentrate on the experience of being with the person. You should not let your mind wander into thinking about past relationships, or future possibilities. Just listen to your date, share your thoughts and enjoy the moment. After the date you can spend as much time analyzing it as you would like.
Commandment #2: Assess Your Ability to Solve Problems Together
We believe this to be the single most important quality that a successful relationship must have. Even the best of marriages and the most compatible people experience serious and difficult challenges over the years. Ask yourself, “Is this the person I want with me during the bad times as well as the good?”
Commandment #3: Don’t Give Up
No matter how long it takes for you to find your bashert, don’t become jaded or cynical. We know it’s easy to say and a lot harder to do, but it’s the plain and simple truth. There is absolutely nothing helpful or constructive about giving up.
Commandment #4: Look for A Positive Fit with Family Styles and Similar Values
While one shouldn’t rule out any person simply on the basis of him or her having a different background, the chances for success are higher when there are basic similarities. When a shidduch is being suggested, of course you are trying to find out about the individual, but make sure to ask yourself, “Is this the kind of family I would be comfortable with? Are the brothers, sisters and parents the kind of people that will eventually feel to me like my own family?”
Commandment #5: Don’t Confuse Values with Religious Customs and Practice
Although it may be ideal to have identical or similar religious practices as well as backgrounds, do not rule out someone who has different religious practices or customs. The main thing is not the practice, but if you share common values. For example, if one person is more yeshivish and the other more Torah Umaddah style, if both are serious about avodas Hashem, the details can be resolved. Of course, don’t wait until the kids are bar and bat mitzvah to work on it! Some matters of religious practice are non-negotiable. It would be a good idea to find a rabbi whom you both respect and whose rulings you both can agree to accept.
Commandment #6: Have A Low Tolerance for Abuse
If your prospective mate broke a confidence, was deceitful in any major way or was abusive, this is a bad sign that there will be future problems. To be sure, you should always give a person the benefit of the doubt and state what he or she did wrong, but if it is part of a recurring pattern, cut that fish loose before it’s too late!
Commandment #7: Ask Yourself If You Can Trust This Person
Trust is a key ingredient in a relationship. If over time you are not getting the feeling that you trust this person, follow your instincts and leave while you can.
Commandment #8: Don’t Be Afraid to Succeed
Though it is difficult to admit, some people are afraid to succeed. Having a successful relationship may inadvertently hurt other family members. For example, a youngest or only child of a widowed parent might find it difficult to marry and
abandon his parent. Or a younger sibling might feel bad about getting married before an older sibling. In the long run, if you let these fears run your life, no one will be happy. On the other hand, if you are unafraid to do what is healthy and appropriate for you, this may actually liberate others in your family to live their lives to the fullest.
Commandment #9: Trust Your Friends
Getting an objective opinion can be really crucial when you are making serious life decisions. Don’t be afraid to share your anxiety and ask for their thoughts.
Commandment # 10: Don’t Be Swayed by Romance and Passion
Romance is a great thing if you have it, but it does not necessarily predict or assure success in a relationship. You can have strong feelings for someone who ultimately is not the best choice for a marriage partner. Some people are attracted to those who hurt them, and others start off relationships being attracted to the same qualities that they ultimately end up despising. Therefore, although it is important to feel attracted to your potential mate, and you certainly should not marry someone who you have no positive feelings for, what you should be looking for is shared values, mutual respect, and an ability to enjoy each other’s company. If you just have passion and romance without the above, when it wears off you are left with nothing.
By Rabbi Simcha Feuerman, CSW and Chaya Feuerman, CSW Psychotherapists
Rabbi Simcha Feuerman, CSW co-authors a weekly column in the Jewish Press on religion, relationships and parenting, along with his wife Chaya Feuerman, CSW. The Feuermans also have authored a book, titled How to Have Fun Without Getting into Trouble: Essays on Relationships, Parenting and the Self. In addition, Simcha serves as Director of Community Services at Ohel Children’s Home and Family Services and maintains a private psychotherapy practice in Queens, New York, where he provides individual therapy, family therapy and couples counseling.