Dear Rosie & Sherry,
I'm a student in my 20s who leads a typical life – school, work, go to a weekly Aish class, out with friends, etc. I love spending time with friends, and love each and every one of them. I typically find myself in the middle of my social circle.
It sounds great – and it is. But lately, I'm stressed out. Due to my "social butterfly" status and the ability to read people quickly, I've been unofficially crowned as the matchmaker in the group. I've set friends up; some even have had babies already! As happy as I am to be the "go-to girl," I'm always overlooked. Now I'm afraid I'll always be stuck in the sidelines.
What to do?
We can see that you genuinely enjoy your involvement with friends and are proud of the “matchmaking” you've done. At the same time, you may be right that your role as the unofficial matchmaker and "go-to-girl" is hindering your ability to find your own match. We're glad that you had the insight, at a very early point in your adult life, to try to understand how this may be getting in the way of you accomplishing your own marriage objectives. Let's look at what might be going on.
We imagine that your involvement in a myriad of activities gives you a sense of purposefulness, accomplishment, and belonging. It's wonderful to be able to feel this way, and we hope that your life is always enriched by the things that you do for others. But it's important to be able to balance these activities with doing things for yourself. Sometimes, an individual who is so committed to helping others doesn't place enough emphasis on his/her own needs and interests. Is it possible that's been happening to you?
Does helping other people give you a sense of self-worth?
It will be helpful for you to try to understand the reasons why you have developed an active lifestyle that focuses on school, work, the community, and friends – i.e. outwardly, but not inward. Could it be that you doing nice things for other people helps you feel more worthy than you ordinarily would feel about yourself? Could it be that somehow, you've developed the perspective that focusing on your own needs is selfish?
On the other hand, maintaining a full life that includes doing a lot for others may be something you observed in your own family and want to emulate. Even this healthy approach can sometimes lead you to neglect yourself. If you find it hard to tend to your own needs, to ask your friends for help, or to accept favors when they are offered to you, you need to make some changes.
We suggest adopting a sort of mantra to remind yourself that you are also important. The great Talmudic sage Hillel is famous for saying, "If I am not for myself, who will be for me… And if I am for myself alone, what good am I?" His message was the importance of balancing one’s individual needs with those of others.
So how can you do this? Our first suggestion is to identify what you've neglected because you're so busy focusing on others. Are you getting enough sleep? Do you get regular exercise, and eat right? Could your wardrobe, your hairstyle, or your overall appearance use some attention? You're the only one who can address these areas of your life, and they are all important. If you need advice or encouragement, consult with a doctor, nutritionist, trainer, or beauty consultant.
Could your overall appearance use some attention?
Also, think about whether you sometimes feel or appear to be overwhelmed by all of your commitments. If you seem overwhelmed, and if you've neglected your appearance or your health, your friends might assume you're either not interested in dating or are too busy to add anything more to your social calendar. But more than that, if the world seems to be spinning so fast that you can't see how you can slow down or make time for yourself, that's a clear sign you need to do exactly that.
“Slowing down” means that you may need to learn to say, "No," to another project or favor. It means getting in the habit of scheduling time for yourself – for exercise, sleep, meal preparation, a beauty routine and wardrobe maintenance.
In terms of meeting Mr. Right, there’s another key thing you may not have thought of: enlisting a network of friends, family, and acquaintances to help.
There's a preliminary step we suggest before you begin networking. Start by taking an evening off for an introspective exercise. Turn off your telephone, find a quiet, interruption-free place, grab a pad and a pen, and start writing down your free-flowing ideas about the following topics:
- What direction do I want my life to take over the next five years?
- How do I envision my marriage, and my relationship with my husband-to-be?
- What are the qualities I value most in life?
- What personal qualities about myself am I the most proud of?
- Which of my personal qualities do I feel characterize who I am?
- Which of them do I believe will help me be the kind of person and wife I hope to become?
- What personal qualities would I like my future husband to possess?
Put this list away for a few days and then set aside some more private time to look at it and think about what you've written. Then, formulate an "elevator pitch" that, in 4-5 sentences, describes where you are in life, the direction in which you're moving, four personal qualities that say something significant about who you are, and four of the most important qualities you are seeking in a marriage partner. You can introduce it with your own version of: "I'd like to get married in the near future, and I'm hoping that you might be able to think of someone who would be good for me to meet."
You're going to use this pitch to "market" yourself to the network you're now going to build. Your friends and family will be the first resources you can approach to ask for help with getting set up. In addition, why not talk to the educators and leaders you've met through your involvement in organizations, as well as your extended family?
You never know who might have a good idea, but that person first has to know that you’ll appreciate their help, and has to understand the parameters of what you're looking for and how they can best describe you to a potential dating partner. In fact, this could be a reason why your friends haven't been working as hard on your behalf as you have been on theirs. Perhaps you never asked them to think of someone for you. Because you seem so put together, they may believe that you're getting a lot of suggestions from other people or are handling this aspect of dating well enough on your own.
Remember that your friends also need to hear your “elevator pitch," because even though they "know" you, they'll be able to do a better job of matching you up if they know what you feel is most important in a dating partner, and how you'd like them to describe you to others.
Our final suggestion is that you get yourself a happily married person you look up to who can become your dating mentor. In addition to giving you advice and support about dating, this person can also help you decide whether you are doing a good job of balancing your own needs with your good deeds for others. We hope that, with all of this, you meet with success navigating the dating maze.
Rosie & Sherry