James Clear, author of the bestselling book Atomic Habits, famously said:
“Think about what you want today and you'll spend your time. Think about what you want in 5 years and you'll invest your time.”
The 3300 year-old Jewish approach to dating takes this teaching to heart.
CHOOSING A CAREER VS. CHOOSING A LIFE PARTNER
Most people invest vast amounts of time, energy, and money into pursuing education and professions that best fit our interests, strengths, dreams, passions, and values. We set ambitious goals. We make vision boards. We ask mentors to guide us when we’re feeling stuck or unsure.
Yet when it comes to who and how we date—choices that have the greatest impact on our happiness—we have this unspoken expectation that it will all just . . . happen.
We dream we’ll meet someone, feel instant chemistry, start a casual relationship, fall in love, and slowly watch our relationship deepen. We may even hope for some Heavenly sign or Eureka moment that will help us determine that this is the person we want to spend the rest of our lives with. Best case scenario: a dreamy proposal and happily-ever-after ending.
This let-nature-take-its-course approach is one reason that so many relationships (and marriages) result in heartbreak.
Judaism's advice is simple: Date intentionally from the outset—with the end in mind.
Practically, this means that whether or not you plan to get married now, date with marriage in mind. That means screening out those who aren’t marriage material.
TURN THE FILTER ON
Why should you only date those who are “marriage material”?
Not because it would make your Mom happy. (We like making Mom happy, but that’s not the only reason.) But rather because:
A bond based on attraction and chemistry does not necessarily contain shared values, mutual respect, deep trust, and other essential ingredients for a healthy and lasting relationship. (Without these qualities, even a starry-eyed Romcom-esque love story is doomed to end as another Shakespearean tragedy.)
Leaving romance up to luck makes you much more likely to spend months or years in futile relationships that leave one or both of you in pain (Hello emotional baggage, unhealthy patterns, tedious therapy, and other monsters from under the bed.)
By the time you need to decide whether your significant other is marriage material, you’ve already invested so much in the relationship, which makes it difficult, if not impossible, to see things clearly and objectively. The result? You're more likely to tie the knot despite fire-engine-red flags.
Of course, life is unpredictable, and there’s no fool-proof formula to dating. However, being intentional gives you the best shot at having a meaningful, deeply rewarding relationship in the end.
In other words:
Think about what you truly want (AKA the traits that are most important to you) in a long-term partner before the first date
Work to become the person you want to be in a marriage.
Date with intention and foresight—letting your mind, not your heart, lead the way.
The above is a short excerpt from Met@Chabad's soon to be published dating guide, "A Guide for the Dating Perplexed".