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| Relationship Advice: What if you met someone over the summer months?

Judah S. Harris    
Thursday, 03 October 5:59 PM

Many single men and women, currently unattached,were wondering if they might meet someone over the summer vacation (or even it not officially on vacation).

It's possible - why not? The first thing is to get out - not stay at home or spend extensive time in solo activities. It's good to push oneself. There are programs and events aplenty over the holiday, some close by and some requiring a little traveling. Admittedly, it might seem like most of the publicized things you read about are geared towards families or kids. To avoid disappointment choose to join scheduled events that potentially interest you, in their own right, and that might present a larger concentration of people that match what you're looking for or who could be good "matchmakers" (likely to know the right people). Attend at least two or three events over the holiday. Pick a variety of activities to maximize what you might gain by attending and whom you might meet in these particular settings.

What if you do meet someone? That's good news, but then things become more challenging. Hopefully you've been there before and can navigate a potential relationship. The challenge, of course, is trying to determine compatibility. When you're not finding anyone to relate to or connect with one-on-one, then there's no need to consider compatibility. When there is some suggestion of a potential match between two available people, the differences become more of an issue, understandably. They have to be addressed and with clarity of thought. It's been said that dating is unnatural. People do it, but it's not a totally natural progression of a human relationship. The stakes are higher and people know it, and it's exclusive. When we have to choose one of something and live with that choice for a long time, it can get confusing and decisions - right decisions - become more difficult.

Most of us don't need a primer on dating, but most of us do benefit from occasional reminders and the opportunity to adjust what we've done in the past, in order to arrive at where we'd like to - namely being in a relationship, a healthy and happy relationship.

Some dating advice guidance can include the following suggestions...

Wait to make a decision. If you were somewhere else on holiday and headed back to Israel on a booked flight right after your stay, there might be a push to decide based on a printed ticket, or the urge to meet more people (who might match "better") during your visit, and not the merits of the current relationship where it presently stands. You can't rush things, even when you're rushed. If you do live in Israel this particular deadline is not present, but others are - you have to get back to work, you live in a different part of the country and long distance is not convenient or easy for you (or the other person), or you know other dating suggestions (maybe more desirable ones) are waiting for you. There are practical considerations of time, money, geography, and the like... but decisions of relevancy, ideally, should be based mostly on the person and the relationship potential, not on outside factors.

People expect a lot of a relationship - as if it's going to solve everything. They're looking for many virtues and traits (sometimes it's called a "list"). Again, the stakes are high, but don't underestimate comfortability and communication. Achieving these two with another person is something fortunate and indicates potential. Place an emphasis on these two items.

Individuals in a relationship become aware of similarities and differences. Differences don't, in their own right, automatically imply less compatibility. It's definitely important to identify what the similarities and differences are, but in tandem to consider what they mean to the relationship and to focus on qualities. He or she is different in these specific ways, but what do these traits (that can possibly be viewed as positive) represent for me? In other words, "What are the consequences of these differences?"

Do we ever get to fully know a person? Hopefully not - in a relationship that is. Successful relationships happen when there's a feeling that there'll always be something new to discover about the other. When we choose partners, we need to know them well enough to make a choice, but also believe that there will be more to learn over the many years of togetherness that will provide excitement and bring two people closer in understanding and connection. Intimacy is knowing the other person. In the dating process, when concentrated time is spent together, it's prudent to vary the activities and the times of meeting, and vary who else is present. A weekly picnic in a park-like setting is wonderful and conducive to feelings of connection. But beyond that, seeing the other person in various situations and with friends and family, perhaps even coworkers, presents added information that can augment - and contradict.

You have your life already - it's satisfying in many ways and probably there are aspects you're not thrilled about and either have accepted as permanent or something you can improve greatly or slightly. The benefits of being in a good relationship are known. The question to explore is what would he or she contribute to the picture that exists, to my life at this time and going forward (this is one part of the question, and the other is what can I contribute to my partner's life).

Dating is unnatural, we said. In the courtship process, people act differently than they might at the grocer, dentist, in professional work environments, or with a close friend or relative. The best advice is to be open and honest, couth and polite, but not to hide or feign. That would be hard to maintain for posterity and it's not real. Real relationships involve real people. No one is looking for perfect - we hope - so there is no need to struggle to act perfectly, or to view dating as the obligatory wooing stage - when we strive to be on our best behavior - that proceeds the real stage. Life changes, people change, and the dating trajectory is supposed to reveal with great accuracy what life might be like with the other person. More openness and honesty assures more accuracy.

Enjoying just being with a person - the comfortability and noticeable levels of excitement and happiness when you spend time together - is mandatory if a relationship can be defined as successful and promising. In tandem, direct discussions do need to take place about tougher subjects, such as life goals that each person has and their individual approaches towards important topics such as education for children, money management, the manner in which to incorporate time for friends and acquaintances (when and where), political leanings, causes that are close to each person's heart (e.g., ecology and volunteer activities), and of course religion and religious expression, as well as music, art, and hobbies one is passionate about, that reveal more of the makeup and will compete for available time together, unless the other person can share some of the interest.

For religiously observant singles, religion is always a primary topic of discussion while dating and precise modes of practice and the nuances of religious outlook figure in significantly when each person is attempting to gauge compatibility in the relationship. Styles vary greatly and seem to take on epic importance within many observant communities. Older singles also emphasize the importance of being religiously similar, but usually have a broader view of what is close enough in religious commitment and style, and hone in less on certain habits and religious expressions that may be more representative of a person's past within their families and communities than their core values.

Couples who are dating, presuming they have not been married prior and raised kids, would find it easier to talk about certain topics they are directly familiar with. They have handled money before, voted in elections, chosen recreational activities, formed nutritional attitudes... but they have not raised a family, so their attitudes are yet unknown. They can make an educated guess and have ideas about what they would or wouldn't do in any range of situations, but like marriage itself, one doesn't fully know what it's like until they actually experience it. Opinions expressed on semi-unfamiliar topics should be understood as what a person thinks now and their sentiments might very well change when reality sets in. Good communication and the ability to negotiate differences are indicators that can insure best outcomes from unknown variables.

Even with the topics you need to discuss, balance them with less serious conversation. It's easy to get immersed in exchanging ideas and debating with someone you enjoy speaking with, feeling the need to find out if there's in fact enough symbiosis. Have fun. Fun is able to put things better in context and offer a fairer perspective. Serious becomes heavy and implies that life with this person won't be fun. Life with your partner will be serious, but also fun. Serious dating discussions all the time - or too much of the time - portends that life with this person will be too serious. Couples who are dating often think they're connecting real well because they are able to have many serious and open discussions with each other. And they are right - the connection is there, but still one has to ask themself: "Can I have fun with this person? Can I be serious and also have lots of fun?"

It's totally common when we're dating to be critical of something (more likely a number of things) about the other person. How much is too much? If you feel like you are being overly critical, maybe you are. Does the person who is the object of your criticism feel that you are being overly critical (they may also be overly sensitive)? People who are highly critical of others are usually highly critical of themselves. It's important to recognize that fact. This is not to suggest that being critical is a bad thing - if can show discernment, standards, strong values, and the desire to build to something better. Rather than attempting to wipe away the inner need to offer criticism, try hard to add something: an ability to be more forgiving. Forgiveness is one of the most therapeutic adjustments of feelings available. It's powerful and it's hard to do. Couples that are capable of forgiving not only episodes and actions that take place, but also physical or personality traits, stand a better chance of making it happen. A dating relationship is an opportunity to connect with another person and become a better one at the same time.

 

- Judah S. Harris

         
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