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Dating with Dignity

Dating with Dignity

5 ways to infuse your dates with the respect you both deserve.


Sadly, too many singles have expressed to me how years of enduring undignified dating experiences has taken a toll on their self-image, happiness, and overall ability to continue putting their “best foot forward” in dating.

As I listen to their stories, I can’t help but empathize with their pain, and understand why they would not want to invest themselves emotionally in yet another relationship that leaves them feeling so low.

Judaism teaches us that that the relationship of spouses to each other should be "to love her as much as he loves himself, and to respect her even more than he respects himself" (Yevamos 62b). As esteemed psychiatrist Rabbi Dr. Avraham Twerski noted in his article, Marriage That Endures: “It is of interest that Rambam, in citing the Talmud, reverses the order and places respect before love. Why? Because it is unrealistic to expect that one can have so intense a love from day one. It takes time for true love to develop. However, respect is something that can begin on day one.”

Reversing habits that are disrespectful to your date is key to both unlocking the real potential that exists between the two of you, and getting your relationship off to a healthy start. Here are 5 ways you can start off on the right track toward dating – and relating – in a dignified way:

1. Be curious: To build a real relationship, it isn’t good enough just to hear the words your date is saying. Take genuine interest in who they are and respond with a sense of curiosity. This person is an entire world, with a unique history and set of life experiences. Ask yourself: What is their world about? What are their goals? What values do they stand for? What might they be trying to communicate to you? The answer to these questions aren’t always apparent in the words that are spoken, but rather in the “subtext” of their words, their body language, and tone of voice. Don’t just hear the words – try to experience the entire person in their essence.

2. Ask for clarification: Learn how to withhold judgment until you know the whole story. People often forget that they are entitled to ask questions rather than assume the worst. We tend to imagine that someone meant something far worse than they did, and our off-base assumption might lead to the demise of the relationship. Asking, “I’m curious. What did you mean by that?” can be a life-saver, simply because getting clarity on the intention behind someone’s comment often makes all the difference in how you feel about what they’ve said. Making assumptions about their intentions, on the other hand, could easily lead to a hasty negative reaction and/or premature dissolution of the relationship. So don’t wonder what they meant – just ask!

3. Stay present: By being in the moment, you are giving your date the gift of having your full attention. So go ahead and silence your cell phone for a couple of hours. Not every text needs to be responded to immediately. Your sister got a splinter or your best friend passed her final exam? Get back to them a bit later. (If necessary, you may want to notify a few key people that you will be on a date and your phone will be off.) Unless it’s a truly urgent matter or you’re an ER doctor on can wait!

4. Acknowledge your date’s needs and preferences: If you are planning a dinner date and you know s/he is a vegetarian, don’t make reservations at a steakhouse hoping s/he will be fine with ordering a salad. If you know s/he is giving a big presentation at work the next morning, don’t buy surprise tickets to a late-night show, assuming s/he wants to stay out til 2am. Being attuned to your date’s needs indicates that you are paying close attention to what matters to them, which is an important aspect of dating with dignity.

5. Play it Safe – Literally: Too many women have told me disturbing stories about being left alone late at night at the end of a date. Gentlemen, even if you’ve already decided that the woman you’re out with isn’t for you, be a mensch! Escort her home at the end of the evening, even if it means you’ll get home an hour or two later than you wanted to. Order a double espresso the next morning if you need it to get through the day. However tired you may be, her safety must take precedence.

And now, a word of caution: If these tips sound foreign or unimportant to you, or simply do not resonate, please use this article as a springboard for introspection about your own readiness to be in a long-term, committed relationship. These 5 tips are not meant to be used as superficial or temporary “strategies” for winning someone over (that’s called manipulation). When they are exercised in a vacuum and do not reflect one’s overall character, most of these practices are somewhat inconsequential at best – or at worst, they are downright deceiving. (Playing “the nice guy” (or girl) on dates #1 and #2 isn’t going to cut it if “the real you” who isn’t so nice, comes out on date #3!)

The pointers I’ve listed above are meant to help you achieve a real, lasting relationship built on the foundation of respect, which can only happen if you are a sincerely respectful person! Therefore, internalizing the value of respect is an absolute prerequisite to using these tips effectively, both in your search for your soul mate and to keep things going strong long after the chuppah for many years to come.

July 2, 2016

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Visitor Comments: 12

(9) Anonymous, July 20, 2016 1:16 PM


While much of the advise given in the article is good, I have an issue with the gentleman picking up and returning the lady to her home, especially on a first or second date. In these days of not really knowing much about those we may be set up with, current practice ( at least in the non frum world) is for the lady to make her own travel arrangements and NOT give out her home address. Until you are comfortable with and sure of the individual, a lady should never give out her home address nor invite him to the area. It is just looking for trouble.

Shoshana-Jersalem, August 4, 2016 3:16 PM


This is a very scary comment, I mean scary if that is the situation.
Don't you check into the boy first? Isn't there a shadchan? We always did a regular FBI investigation into our children's shiduchim. Thank G-d they are all married and now our grandchildren are getting married, and the safety issue never entered our minds.
Maybe it's better to be old fashioned? The kids chose who they wanted to marry but we always checked them out.

(8) Shoshana-Jerusalem, July 10, 2016 12:26 PM

Excellent advise

The above article is excellent. It means you re a mench.

BUT, why don't you mention that respect also means NO Touching!
Is there no such thing anymore as waiting until the wedding night.? Why shouldn't every Jewish girl be pure, even if she is not religious?
Is there no way a girl can get this across to the boy?

Why don't you add this as no. SIX? I'm positive that most girls don't want the date to end in the bedroom.. Sometimes it's even boy after boy, time after time.

Can't someone write an article about keeping things clean?
I saw here a short video clip by Lori on the subject and there was recently an article here called," I fell in love after we were married" or something like that.

Also, your marriage will be more successful. if your husband is the first one. And even if it's too late for that for you now, because of your past dating habits, it is NOT TOO Late to make the decision, that from now on, NO touchlng!

(7) Michael G. Samet, Ph.D., July 8, 2016 1:47 PM

Sound advice!

Excellent article and very sound advice, Shira.
I strongly agree with comment #5.
These tips apply to other people-relationship situations as well, where sensitivity, judgment, and good decision making all come into play.
I recommend events to all serious single out there.

Kol Hakavod !

(6) Jerry Lindell, July 8, 2016 6:21 AM


Nice guy here: You knock on her door, inside you go.
She'33, I am 32 (problem).
The problem comes from her honorable parents as they make you feel you are on trial. Where do you live. What do you do?
( I am slightly annoyed).
Then they ruin any chance having a relaxing date when they ask: HOW COME YOU ARE NOT MARRIED?

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