Dear Rosie & Sherry,
In previous columns you've mentioned the idea of giving one another space during the dating process. You recommend one date for 2 or 3 hours and then not another one for several days, and I've followed that advice.
Now I am about to date someone from another city. I need to travel several hours by plane. Does your advice change in this situation? It seems impractical to sit around a foreign place and wait a few days in-between dates!
With relatively inexpensive air fares and even cheaper long-distance telephone rates (not to mention the blessings of e-mail), it is now easier than ever to negotiate a long distance courtship. However, anyone considering long-distance dating should be aware of the inherent problems in dating a G.U. ("geographic undesirable") and how to avoid those problems.
Before two people even consider beginning a long-distance courtship, we recommend that they clarify two points. The first is that each of them is dating for the purpose of marriage, and the reason they are dating each other is to see if they will be able to develop a relationship that will ultimately lead to marriage. The next point to clarify is that one of the parties (and it doesn't matter which one) is willing to relocate if the two of them decide to marry.
So let's say those two issues are clarified. You've coordinated your schedules, purchased the airline ticket, and arranged for accommodations once you arrive in your date's home city. What do you do once you get there?
Plan to intersperse dates with activities you will do on your own. It's a terrible idea to spend too much time together. This is true whether you're meeting for the first time, or getting together again for a second, third, or even fifth meeting. In fact, one of the biggest mistakes long-distance daters make is trying to cram too much time together into their compressed schedule.
We can't tell you how many promising courtships we've seen dissolve after the dating partners spent just about every waking hour with each other over the three, five or seven days they were together in the same city. That's because everybody needs "down time" to consciously and unconsciously process what they experienced as the courtship develops. Plus people absolutely must have some personal space and personal time.
There are other reasons why courtships such as these are destined for failure. Who would want to spend so much time with someone they have little or no history with and are just beginning to get to know? And who wants to be on "dating behavior" for 8, 10, 12 hours at a time, trying to keep up the flow of conversation for so long? It's bad enough if the man and woman already know each other, but it is even worse when two people are meeting for the first time. Even if they turn out to have compatible personalities, since they barely know each other spending so much time together may feel like torture.
Whether an individual travels to a distant city for a first date with someone they've "met" through an Internet dating service, a blind date that's been arranged through a friend or a matchmaker, or someone they've already started to see on a periodic basis because of the distance between them, we recommend that they limit how much time they spend together. It's a good idea to arrange a first date of approximately three hours, followed by second and third dates that last between three-to-five hours. There isn't enough of a foundation between new dating partners for them to be comfortable with each other for longer periods of time.
If the first-time daters have arranged to be in the same city for a long weekend or other three-day period, they can see each other each day, but we recommend that they set a three-to-five-hour time limit on the dates.
If they are dating for the first time and will be in the same locale for five to seven days, or more, we recommend that they take at least a day off between most of their dates. They will need the breathing room. When they are not together, the visitor to the city can go sightseeing, visit museums, spend time with friends and family, learn Torah, telecommute to work, or shop.
Our advice isn't much different for couples that have already begun a long-distance courtship and are seeing each other for the second, third, or fourth long weekend. If they are in the same locale for five to seven days, they still need some breathing room, even if they want to see each other daily. We recommend taking one or two days "off" during that period of time. We also suggest that the couple follow the three-to-five-hour time-frame for most of their dates, and have no more than one very long date during each visit.
No matter how long a couple has known each other, we caution them not to overdo the time they spend together, no matter how much they like each other and no matter how difficult or expensive it was for them to arrange the trip. Otherwise, at some point during the visit one or both of them may begin to dread going out on another date, and may decide they feel this way because there is something wrong with the other person. Often the other person may be an entirely appropriate match, but what has happened is that the person hasn't had enough time to process what has been going on and feels overwhelmed.
We also recommend that long distance couples vary what they do when they are out together. Although the man traditionally plans where a couple will be going, particularly at the beginning of a courtship, if he has traveled to meet the woman in an unfamiliar city he may have some difficulty figuring out where to take her. We recommend that he do some "homework" before his trip, by familiarizing himself with a map of the city, the modes of transportation that will be available, and the most interesting or ambient places for a date.
We suggest that he try a change of venue for each date, including a few spots that generally appeal to tourists. Since many people tend to take the historical and touristy places in their hometowns for granted, a tourist spot might be a novelty for both people and might be conducive to some good conversation.
After the long-distance traveler returns to his or her home, we recommend that those who want to continue to date each other correspond by e-mail and telephone, but quickly agree upon the next time they will be getting together and make arrangements for the trip. This is the way for them to maintain the momentum they began and establish a framework in which they can allow things to develop. While e-mails and phone calls are not a substitute for actual dates, they are a good way to enhance what has been started in person.
Although people who date over long distances may take a little longer than conventional daters to reach the point at which they decide to marry, it isn't a good idea to artificially extend the length of the courtship simply because the man and woman haven't had so many face-to-face meetings. We've seen how difficult it can be for two people to continue a long-distance courtship for an extended period of time. They may not see each other as often as conventional daters, but nevertheless the feelings between them can become very intense. When they are apart they long to be together, and the distance between them can be very frustrating.
Like those who live in the same city and see each other on a regular basis, there comes a time that long-distance daters are ready to move things to the higher level of engagement and marriage. If they reach this point but choose to prolong their courtship, one or both of them will become frustrated and resentful, and a promising match may dissolve.
We've seen enough successful long-distance courtships to know that they can succeed. We hope that you can adapt our suggestions to your own situation and that they will help lead you to the chuppah soon!
Rosie & Sherry