Singletude: A Positive Blog for Singles

Singletude is a positive, supportive singles blog about life choices for the new single majority. It's about dating and relationships, yes, but it's also about the other 90% of your life--family, friends, career, hobbies--and flying solo and sane in this crazy, coupled world. Singletude isn't about denying loneliness. It's about realizing that whether you're single by choice or by circumstance, this single life is your life to live.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

"Am I Too Picky When Dating?" by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach: A Singletude Response

Sorry, but I couldn't let this one slide without a comment.

The Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, who has a syndicated Q&A column, recently published this response to a single woman who expresses a concern that she has "unreasonably high" expectations for her dates. Her first-date turnoffs include workaholism, poor familial relationships, and cell phone conversations in the midst of the date, and friends are accusing her of pickiness.

The rabbi agrees. The verdict: she's too selective. And not only that, she's a downright "commitment-phobe." He goes on to provide a list of dating qualifications which are more appropriate in his book and urges her to find someone who meets them, then mold his bad habits and undesirable traits to her liking.

Now, I'm often impressed with what Rabbi Shmuley has to say about relationships, but unfortunately, his position on singlehood seems to be that it's always less preferable to coupling, and that attitude is plain as day in this Q&A. Sure, his top ten list of criteria for a prospective partner is esteemable, including such characteristics as humility, generosity, and patience. But why is this woman deemed a "commitment-phobe" because she doesn't want to settle for someone who doesn't also demonstrate additional virtues that she considers important?

"Picky" calls it as she sees it and says her dates are waving "red flags." I tend to agree. If she wants someone who will be attentive to her and any future children, a man addicted to overtime isn't the best choice. What good is it if this man is generous with his money, as the rabbi advises he should be, but not generous with his time? If she wants a healthy relationship with her in-laws and a future husband whose attitude toward his family is based on the closeness of his own childhood home, then casting her lot with someone from a dysfunctional family is risky, as well. Turning to Rabbi Shmuley's checklist again, the man may have all the patience in the world, but how will that help him show love or exercise discipline with his kids if he didn't receive either? And while "Picky" might want to cut the guy some slack if he has to take a high-priority call, people who whip out the cell willy-nilly throughout a first date don't seem too interested or respectful. How does that fit in with the rabbi's admonition to choose someone who is courteous and focused on his date? Eliminating potential lovers on this basis doesn't seem commitment-phobic; it seems smart.

To compound the problem, Rabbi Shmuley then recommends that the letter writer "teach them" to be better men, proclaiming that "a woman inspires a man to be better." Oy ve! Could anything be less true? One of the hardest lessons we have to learn in life is that people don't change for each other. At least, not permanently. Someone may be temporarily inspired to change in order to win over a prize catch, but it's only a matter of time before the relapse. People change because they want to, and if a partner can support them in that goal, that's one of the crowning achievements of a relationship. But, again, change is conditional on desire. No amount of encouraging, prodding, whining, or nagging is going to make someone budge if he or she doesn't want to, not in the long run. In fact, the myth of the transformative power of a relationship, that someone can marry a frog and make him a prince (or a princess) is one of the most damaging lies we're fed every day and one that continuously undermines our single and marital happiness.

Is "Picky" too picky? I don't think so. I think she's discerning. She knows what makes a good partner, and she's willing to avoid the telltale signs of a bad apple instead of compromising her values for the sake of a relationship. My guess is she's relatively content as a single and believes that a significant other should add a blessing to her life, not demand a sacrifice. I hope this ill-conceived advice doesn't contribute to a divorce for her further down the line.

What do you think? Was this single too picky? What red flags do you look for on a first date? What's your checklist for the ideal partner?

Fun Link of the Day


CC Solomon said...

I agree with Picky but would give a guy some slack if he's not close to his family, we can't pick our family so if its dysfunctional that isn't necessarily his fault. I also hate when guys are on the phone during a date, especially if they have that contraption hooked to their ear like they are ready to get beamed up by Scotty. So disrespectful. Guys who try to move too fast on the first date piss me off too. It makes me question what they are really looking for. Guys who are overly cocky or talk bad about people make me wonder if they are judgmental and self centered. Ultimately you have to go with what feels right for you. Never accept something with the hope that you can change the behavior because what if you can't? Will you be happy anyway? If yes,the good outweighs the bad, then go for it. But if no, then let it go instead of risking later divorce over an issue you were basically already forewarned about.
BTW- thanks for all your comments on my posts, said good stuff!

Clever Elsie said...

Cat: Guys who try to move too fast on the first date piss me off too. It makes me question what they are really looking for.

That bothers me, too, although sometimes I think the rules for modern dating-if there even are rules anymore--are so scattered all over the place that men have no idea what's too fast or too slow. What I usually do is split the bill on the first several dates so that the guy won't consciously or unconsciously think that I owe him something, although this doesn't always communicate the message. When it doesn't, pulling out the pepper spray usually does the trick. ;)

Never accept something with the hope that you can change the behavior because what if you can't?

So true! I think one of the most common reasons relationships fail is because one or both partners ignore the red flags and delude themselves that they can change the problem behavior after marriage. But, as my mom, who has Southern roots, is fond of saying, "You can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear."

You're welcome for the comments, and thanks for yours as well. You always contribute good points. :)