Tania's post had me wondering about dating more than one person, and it got me thinking. After having a few conversations with some family, mentors and consulting my old resources, I put my finger on what I think is one of the biggest concerns in dating multiple people: comparisons.
When someone is dating multiple people at the same time, it may be very easy to start comparing them. This one has a better smile, that one's slightly taller (or shorter), this one learns more, that one dresses better. This one is more intelligent, that one is more considerate, this one is more funny, that one is more open-minded, this one is more health-conscious that one is more spontaneous... and on and on.
There's always someone who has one attribute better, or fits certain aspects of what we want more. And it's so easy to slip into that tendency, it's like we're almost hard-wired into it. To want better for ourselves.
Funny story about that -when my Father was dating (before he'd met my Mother) he was once going out with a woman for a little while, and for one of their dates they went to see a Brooke Shields movie. Before they went in, he found his date attractive, engaging and wonderful. After seeing Brooke Shields act in a movie, he looked over at his date and a stray thought caught his attention - what makes his date so attractive? After seeing such an attractive woman on the screen, the one he was dating seemed much less so.
It was largely a matter of relativity, and comparison. My Father is a wonderful and great man -he didn't chase after all the Brooke Shields's of his time; but when the comparison smacked him in the face, it was quite difficult to push away.
Of course it's not always a movie or a woman on the street that creates such a juxtaposition and not everyone draws the comparison. But part of the resistance to dating multiple women is that the juxtaposition may inevitably slap us in the face, and the temptation to compare, the tendency to contrast, can be quite challenging to resist (if at all possible). The same goes with having a tempting offer land in my lap when I'm already dating someone.
I do, however, believe that comparisons don't just occur between people we know, or see, or date, or the offers that happen our way. The comparisons can be with images we create in our own minds as well. The ideal spouse, our idea of what a woman or man we marry should be like. From physique to personality, from skills to interests, from thoughts to feelings... many of us are guilty of having these ideals, and being stuck on some aspect of our ideal mate. Be that a specific shape of nose, having a beautiful voice, hair/eye color, height/weight, having been a counselor at Camp HASC, being Ashkenazi/Sefaradi, having a specific type of humor, the list goes on and on...
And I think many of us are guilty of comparing the person on our date with our idealized, romanticized, imaginary partner. This obsession with how someone is supposed to be, either on a date or within their own lives, can easily block us from actually recognizing who they are and what makes them worthwhile as humans and as a potential spouse. This leads to pushing someone away, instead of learning about their strengths and uniqueness. The image of what we want and expect can really prevent us from accepting people as they are, instead trying to cram them into the square peg-hole that we want them to fit easily into.
I hear a lot of that -ridiculous little excuses for why things won't work -obsession with finding someone who fits all the funny little peccadilloes that we've decided we must have or that our bashert (soulmate) must have. It vaguely reminds me of a matching game... people holding a card in their hand with the imagined perfect spouse and flipping over cards at random, trying to match them with the one in their own hand.
M'shuga'im! It's absolute crockery!
Yet, I'll admit I've done that. Expected or wanted so much to see something in a woman that -upon not seeing it the way I'd expected -I was already crossing her off in my mind. Making myself blind to the other wonderful things about her and never even giving her the chance to prove my silliness wrong. By way of example, just because a woman isn't crazy about kids the way I am, doesn't mean she doesn't love children, or wouldn't make a spectacular mother to her own children.
That is not to say that every woman -and the wonderful traits she possesses -is for me. But it's much harder to see her for who she is and make an authentic choice when I am simply trying to find a match for the ghost of my own mind's creation.
Avoiding thoughts like "my bashert/spouse must be like 'X' and have 'Y' characteristic" will help us recognize the beauty in each and every person we come across, accept and love them for who they are and choose (or not choose) them for ourselves the right way. Instead of trying to build our own Frankenstein from the attributes and body parts we'd like to see together, maybe we can just appreciate a human being for who they are, learning and admiring the journey they've made and getting in touch with another soul.
Sounds better to me than playing a game of "imaginary bashert" card matching.
(And yes, I know that having more similarities between two people definitely helps reduce tension and makes it easier to get along and build a life together, but I don't think we have to reduce people to cookie-cutter types, categories, lists and attributes, a la Shidduch Resume. I just think we are at risk of losing touch with each other as human beings and neshamot (souls) by focusing too much on externals and details. And there's something to be said about learning to communicate effectively, cooperate respectfully, manage conflict and handle differences; there are wonderful skills that we develop as part and parcel of married life and present opportunities for tremendous personal growth.)