Dear Dr. Chani,
I am not writing to ask you for advice, but to vent my frustrations. As you probably know, the world of dating needs a lot of improvement. I have a daughter who is twenty-three years old and searching for her match. Over the last few years, she has found that most of the men she dated are seriously lacking. Some of them do not have goals or a plan for life. Others are missing role models and mentors to help them get their lives in order. But the worst of all is that many of them lack good manners and thoughtfulness.
Here are some of the stories that my daughter has brought home from her dates. Once my daughter was asked to meet a guy in New York City for a date. She traveled by train to meet him at a hotel lobby, where they went out for drinks. He had brought his car into the city. Yet, at the end of the date, he drove her back to the subway station and said goodbye. She was concerned about traveling by train late at night, so she took a taxi. I understand that times and gender roles change, but it was a very self-absorbed thing for him to do.
Another time, a man took my daughter out to a sports bar. She was seated with her back to a screen. Whenever she was talking, he would stare at the screen behind her. He seemed to be watching the game while she was talking. She felt that he was totally ignoring her. Although he was interested in going out again, she felt humiliated and could not bring herself to go through another date with him.
I suggested to my daughter that she tell the matchmakers about these issues, but she refuses. She says that she does not want to complain about a guy because either she feels bad getting the guy “in trouble” or she is afraid that the matchmaker will label her as a complainer and will not want to set her up again.
I know it seems impossible to change anything, but maybe telling you about it will do something.
Hoping for a change,
I am happy to be someone you can turn to when you are frustrated and you do not know what else to do. I believe that it is worthwhile to discuss issues that are troubling you even if you sense you cannot necessarily change anything. Venting is a powerful way of coping when you feel stressed and out of control of your situation. In fact, it actually does change something. It relieves you of some of your burden by sharing it with someone who can understand you and support you.
You are far from alone in your frustrations with the dating world. A lot of people are suffering from the kinds of treatment that you describe. There are many common dating errors that could be avoided if people would approach dating in a thoughtful way.
One of the themes that emerges from the stories you shared is that your daughter was not treated with respect. It is demotivating and demoralizing to prepare for a date physically and emotionally and then feel like you do not matter. You can feel taken for granted and insignificant.
The dating world would greatly improve if people would keep in mind that the person they are dating is a “someone” – someone’s daughter, sister, son, brother, or friend. Imagine how you would feel if someone was dating your “someone.” If you are dating, treat the person you are dating with the sensitivity and kindness you would want someone to treat your own “someone.” In fact, go a step further and follow the Torah’s guideline – treat the person the way you would want someone to treat you!
You also mention that you have suggested to your daughter to give feedback and she declined. The truth is that when someone you are dating does not treat you properly, giving feedback depends on your specific situation.
If you have developed a relationship with the person you are dating, or you have a relationship with the matchmaker involved, it can sometimes be helpful to give feedback. One of the critical ingredients to giving feedback is to give it within a broader “context.” What do I mean by “context”? When you give feedback to someone without giving any background, your comments can be misunderstood and perceived as overly critical or harsh. It is helpful to give feedback in the context of a broader story about your experience. For example, your daughter can describe some positive aspects about what happened on her date and then explain that “at the same time,” she was concerned about him dropping her off by the train or about him staring at the screen behind her as she was talking. This allows the person hearing it to take the critical parts in stride with the positive parts of the date. This balanced description is more truthful and can be accepted more easily.
On the other hand, there are several reasons why I can understand why your daughter would not feel comfortable giving feedback. It is risky to give feedback to a matchmaker with whom she does not have a relationship. When there is no relationship, it is difficult to know how the matchmaker will hear it and if she can trust the matchmaker to convey her feedback well. She might also be concerned that the person she dated might misunderstand or resent her feedback.
In light of this, another way that the dating world could improve is by people being receptive to feedback. Everyone has “blind spots.” We all have aspects about ourselves and our behavior that we cannot see and about which we are unaware. It is helpful to have relationships with people we trust who can give us feedback in a balanced and gentle way, and let us know ways in which we can improve. Dating would be a more productive, positive experience if there was more of an exchange of balanced feedback. Matchmakers should solicit feedback from daters about the person they dated, and daters should both ask for feedback and be receptive to ways in which they can improve.
I remember a man in his thirties who I knew who had almost given up on dating. I set him up to go on a date with a woman I had known for a while. When she told me that she was not interested in going out with him on a second date, I encouraged her to give me feedback about what contributed to her decision. She told me that he did not really seem invested in the date. He seemed stingy about spending money on the date and he did not seem to take a real interest in her. I delivered her feedback to the man in a balanced way, and he really appreciated it. He adjusted his approach and ended up marrying the very next person he dated!
While this story had a happy ending, it does not always work out so well. So how can people who are dating get feedback in a safe, nonjudgmental way? What can we do to give guidance to daters so they can improve, without getting insulted and despondent?
I invite you, my dear reader, to share your pointers that men and women should keep in mind to act considerately before, during, and after a date. Write to me at chanimaybruch.com/datebetter. I will publish your tips in a future article so that your feedback will make a difference.
You never know the impact that your advice will have on even one person. It can be all it takes to help change a person’s approach to dating so that he or she is not only a better dater, but is able to develop a happy and healthy marriage.
Let’s take your letter as an opportunity to help make the dating world better. I wish your daughter, as well as all our dating readers, to be able to create a warm, respectful, and satisfying relationship soon.
Wishing you much success,