I just finished my fourth date with a great girl and I’m wondering if I’m doing something wrong, because everyone warned me that dating would be so stressful, but I’m actually really enjoying it. Which leads me to my question. I enjoy this girl’s company, we have a lot of fun on our dates, and I find her personality attractive. But after four dates I have no idea whether she would make a good wife. What should I be looking for? And do I have to steer the conversation or can I just go with the flow and see what happens?
Dating and Not Dreading
Dear Dating and Not Dreading,
It does my heart good to hear there are people out there who aren’t suffering through the dating process. What a brachah! With that, it’s entirely possible that you have not yet reached the decision-making part, which is where the stress often lies.
In order to answer your question, I’d like to share the wisdom of Mrs. Rochel Goldbaum who founded the Directed Dating approach. As per the title, it’s clear that, yes, you will have to direct the conversation, but you’ll have to do it wisely, as you don’t want to risk losing the gift you already have.
Let me back up. For dating to be productive, it has to have direction. Each date should have purpose and hopefully build on whatever progress has been made to date (pun intended). While the initial dates are intended to gauge your perfunctory interest in the person, subsequent dates are supposed to help you determine your interest in this person as a potential spouse.
In a healthy dating pattern you’ll engage your head (intellect) first and then your heart (emotion). When your heart is engaged and you feel a pull toward the other (also known as “enjoying them”), that can be your neshamah alerting you to pay attention: This might be It.
What seems to be happening in your situation is that your heart may have engaged before your mind did. It sounds like you may be developing an emotional connection before you’ve had a chance to assess whether this is a good fit for you. We don’t want to lose the gift of connection because it’s huge. At the same time, we want to acknowledge that it’s not enough.
The challenge here will be to satisfy your mind (determine that the criteria for a good wife are met) at the same time as you continue to nurture the heart piece. In plain English, you want to make sure that you don’t turn your investigation into an interrogation, thereby killing all the joy. That will take some creative and skillful finessing on your part.
Now that you’ve determined that this girl is a good date, what are the criteria for a good wife? Rochel Goldbaum has created an acronym, GAMES, to outline five basic criteria.
G — Growing. Is she a growing girl? Does she continually work on herself? Is she attached to people who promote her spiritual growth such as teachers, mentors, and good friends? Is she someone who thinks about life in a meaningful way?
A — Able to receive. Does she possess the feminine trait of receptivity? Is she able to accept a compliment? When you offer something, whether it’s a drink or an offer of help, does she know how to receive it graciously?
M — Middos. Does she possess the hallmark traits of an erliche, healthy person? Is she honest? Does she have simchas hachayim, an overall positive approach to people and life? Is she other-focused? Does she seem kind and sensitive, attuned to the needs of others, including you?
E — Enjoy. Do you enjoy being with her? While this may seem obvious, it’s actually not a given. Often daters will be able to check the boxes on their list, but there are no accompanying feelings. This element is crucial because it represents the pull, the “meshichah” of the neshamah, and is an indication that the emotional element is evolving.
S — Spiritual compatibility. Are you on the same basic level, hashkafically? Are your values aligned? What do you each prioritize spiritually, and are those goals in sync with each other? Have you explored your visions for your home including how/if technology fits in, the type of education you’d like for your children, and similar topics?
This list is a general checklist to ensure that the woman you date has what it takes to be a good wife. Obviously, you’ll have to customize it to your own needs and personality preferences. Once you know she meets the criteria, the rest of the dating process is to see if you click, so to speak. This, of course, assumes that you/your parents have already done appropriate preliminary research to assess viability and suitability.
I know these steps feel cut-and-dried, and dating is rarely that clear. But these guidelines free you to allow the emotional piece to develop, knowing that if the feelings grow, it’s likely a healthy decision for you. So, while it’s great that you are enjoying this process, please take the time to step back, look at these objective criteria, and see if they exist. You may need to prepare conversation topics that will help you explore the areas you don’t have answers for yet. Filling in those blanks will help direct the process and give you the menuchas hanefesh that you seek.
Wishing you much hatzlachah,