No more Mr. Nice Guy

I used to say that the most important characteristic to look for in a partner is niceness. But I think I’ve changed my mind.

The fact is that that criteria is entirely hypocritical. Who is always nice to the people closest to them? But then we think we “deserve” to be with someone who treats us right all the time?

So here’s what I think: The #1 most important characteristic to look for in a partner is goodness.

If someone is a good person, they might sometimes act not nicely but they care about it when they do. I constantly see couples being not nice to each other. But when the two people are good, the misbehaviour doesn’t have to be the final word. The person/people misbehaving could take responsibility for it and try to work on it.

In dating when someone mistreats me, I don’t necessarily run off in the opposite direction. I don’t even necessarily think badly of the person because of it. I consider my general impressions of the person – as in, do I think he is a good person – and I see what kind of communication happens when I bring up the issue.

We often look at what others put up with in their relationships and we think, “God, how does he/she put up with that?!” So yeah, we probably each have to figure out which misbehaviour we can somehow put up with, but that’s probably a question worth taking seriously because if you’re going to run off every time there is mistreatment in your relationship, I’d venture to say that you’ll never really get to connect with anyone, especially since often it’s very possible it’s you misbehaving.

The other list – by Avi Woolf

One of the common tropes in dating is the infamous “list” that many people have when looking for a partner. For women one might argue that the list is longer and more detailed but in both cases, they are the set of qualities any potential match must meet in order to be seriously considered for dating, let alone for commitment.

But discussions about these lists miss a more important point: the fact that there is also another “list.”

What other list, you ask?

The list where you describe what you bring to the table for the other person. The one where you describe how you’ll try to make your partner feel happy and fulfilled, cherished and loved, valued and appreciated.

check list

Image by bredmaker

Relationships are a two-way street in which both sides provide for each other. They require give as well as take. Both sides have requests and needs from their partners, some reasonable and some probably less so. And both sides also need to have a list of expectations from themselves – and it will probably have to be more than just showing up and “being yourself.”

Remember, your hope is that this person who will inevitably have some reservations about you, will choose to take themselves off the “marriage market” for life (one hopes), say no to all other offers and devote themselves exclusively to you in matrimony. That’s a pretty heavy investment and a major leap of faith. You’ll need to consider what else you’re bringing to the table that will convince the quality person you want to be with to take that leap.

By all means, it’s important to know what traits you are looking for in a partner and consider where you might compromise on them. But, on the opposite side of the same coin, remember that “it takes two to tango,” and you’ll dance best together if both of you are committed, quality dance partners.

NEXT: Guys – It’s time to stop being afraid

Avi WoolfAbout Avi
Avi Woolf is a 31 year old content editor and budding tech writer with Modern Orthodox attitudes and a libertarian streak. He’s dated for eight years looking for a girl with whom to brave life and have a family. Likes chess, hates phoniness.

Things good men should stop doing immediately

I meet so many truly lovely men. You can just feel that they’re good with sincere intentions and they just want to find someone to love and give to who will love them back.

But there are two recurring themes amongst some of these good men which I think they would do well to cease immediately. These two traits, besides being unbecoming, are not at all conducive to building positive connections with people.

Here they are:

#1 – Talking and behaving like victims

Many nice men seem to believe that nice women are attracted to bad boys. As a result, they believe they aren’t able to find a nice woman for themselves. I think this is a crock of bull. Of course almost all the good women I know are in relationships with good men.

Whenever I hear men talk like this, it smells very strong of self victimization, the benefit of which might be an excuse to not have to take an honest look at oneself.

Considering the fact that this belief is probably not accurate, I wonder what it is that makes you speak that way – is it certain insecurities? And why is it you believe that many good women are incapable of making wise decisions for themselves? Don’t you think that’s a little condescending?

After considering those questions, maybe you could ask yourself what you might do to attract the women you want (hint: it probably has something to do with self-improvement, making sure your clothes sit right and being nice) and, very importantly, consider how you might widen the range of women in whom you find interest.

#2 – Being pushy

Another very disconcerting phenomenon is that of pressuring someone else to connect with you in any way.

Here is a very important fact: You cannot force a person to do anything they don’t want to do and if you ever do succeed in forcing someone into something, there is a huge toll being paid; at the very least, you are creating dynamics with the other person that are not at all conducive to a real connection, let alone a long-term, healthy relationship.

Listen up, well-intentioned man! Being pushy has the opposite effect.

So, when you feel a very strong urge to force someone into your life in any way (whether it’s anything from connecting on Facebook to connecting through touch), to the point where you begin to lose your self control and find yourself behaving in a somewhat desperate manner, do whatever you can to stop yourself immediately (hint: this probably includes finding a distraction).

All this goes for women too

As always, the truth is that this goes for women too. Of course a self-victimized woman or a pushy one is unattractive and it bears the opposite results too. I learned this the hard way but thankfully at a very early age. I was 19 and fell for a cool and very gentle and kind guitarist (see #1). Unfortunately it wasn’t exactly reciprocal. It took me around two years (!!!) to learn the important lesson of the futility of unrequited love and forcing yourself into someone else’s life.

And as for self-victimization, I have definitely experienced that feeling of, “There must be something wrong with this guy if he isn’t interested in me.”

And then I quickly move the heck on.

Waste. Of. Time.

Bottom line: Stop wasting your time and energy and find a nice girl to date. Just make sure it’s reciprocal.

See you April 1, 2014 >>

Never listen to the professional…

…blindly, that is.

People can get themselves into plenty of trouble by blindly following other people’s advice. Thank God we don’t live in a bubble and we can get advice from people who know more than us, have more experience or are just more objective at certain times. But when things go wrong, just because we followed someone’s advice, that doesn’t mean we can point a blaming finger at that person. Unfortunately/Fortunately, our decisions are ours alone, including our choices of who to listen to, when.

Next Tuesday, April Fools 2014 day to be exact, I am planning an event that is based off the believe that as singles, we must not idealize other people and their advice and we need to take full responsibility for our lives and decisions. This event practices this by creating a setting for discussions where everyone is equal.

This is a Q&D event. D = Discussion

At this event which is in partnership with Dr. Pessy Krausz and the AACI in Jerusalem (which is where it is taking place), approximately two singles and two people who support singles (for example, psychologists/therapists/matchmakers/parents/siblings/best friends/others) will each present a question/scenario from their personal/professional experience. Then a discussion will take place between the question-presenter and the four-people panel which is made up of a psychotherapist (Pessy), a rabbi (Rabbi Avraham Priel), a single guy (Joel Haber) and a single girl (moi).

No opinion presented at the event must be accepted. On the contrary, let’s listen and discuss to get the bottom of the issues raised, hearing all sides equally. The intention of this event is to create a very real and yet respectful conversation on a range of topics relating to singlehood and dating for marriage. The range of questions will depend on who braves it and decides to submit a question (questions are being approved in advance).

Dear professionals, this humanization and leveling of the playing field is good for the relationships between singles and those of you who work to help us. Please consider submitting a question/scenario for this coming event. You will have the opportunity to share a problematic issue you’ve had to deal with and be part of a discussion with a wonderful panel. You can email me your question to habitza@gmail.com. We will let everyone who submits a question know ahead of the event whether or not their question was approved.

Either way I will be happy to see you there. Should be a fruitful and interesting discussion!

Please read more about the panelists and receive more details about the event here >>

My First Love – by Rebbetzin Gitel Rosensweig (aka Bubby)

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

This is what Elizabeth Barrett Browning said to her husband Robert Browning.

This is what I often said to my late husband, Rabbi Feivel Rosensweig, who was the late grandfather of your hostess, Deena Levenstein.

Feivel was the first love of my life and the love of my youth, the father of my children and the grandfather of our grandchildren בע”ה.

When I first met Feivel, I was a fun-loving, athletic and very sociable girl with a job I loved where I was very respected. I fell in love with Feivel at first site and eventually chose to devote my life to him which meant giving up my familiar life in Toronto with my family and friends and leaving my job, to live in Kitchener as Rabbi and Rebbetzin there.

We loved each other very much and loved our time together.
We loved to sing together at the Shabbos table.
We loved to dance in the kitchen to the big bands like Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman and Arty Shaw.
We also loved to recite poetry together.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning continued on with her beautiful poetry to Robert which has always been an inspiration to me:

I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with a passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints, — I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life! — and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

The love of my youth is gone and I miss him but I carry our memories in my heart and I see his legacy in our children, our grandchildren and our great grandchildren.

I know I am deeply blessed to have had such a gift.

Rebbetzin Gitel RosensweigRebbetzin Gitel Rosensweig, Deena’s bubby, was a rebbetzin for 36 years outside of Toronto and is the most romantic person Deena knows.

My First Love was read at Habitza’s second event, a reading evening on the topic of love and lack thereof at Tmol Shilshom.

The Great Credentials Mismatch – by Avi Woolf

How often have you heard a variation of the following complaint:

I’m so accomplished/educated/credentialed! Why do I have trouble finding guys?

Photo by

Photo by mmagallan

Women – religious women included – have been flooding the colleges and universities for decades now, overturning the traditional structure where it was almost entirely men who went to higher education. In many areas – especially in the humanities and social sciences – women outnumber men in earning degrees; I distinctly remember a strong gender imbalance in favor of women when I got my BA.

Yet these accomplishments, important though they are, often don’t translate into success in the dating world. Why is that?

Many – especially the women themselves – will claim that it’s because guys are intimidated by women who are smart and professionally successful, especially if they’re more so than the men they date. But as self-affirming as this answer is, it’s only part of the story. Yes, there are men who are intimidated, but I think they are in the minority.

The real reasons are as follows:

Mismatched Credentials

When we date you, we are interviewing you for the job of (hopefully) lifetime wife and mother to our children. Your professional credentials, titles and awards, while impressive, often tell us next to nothing about how you’ll fare in these roles. It’s the equivalent of a salesman interviewing for the job of a demolitions expert; these are two jobs which require two entirely different skill sets. The same is often the case here.

If you want to translate your accomplishments into greater dating success, you’ll need to find those aspects of your job or career that show you can be a good partner and emphasize them – we need to see it for ourselves. Whether it’s nurturing tendencies (education, nursing, therapy), good management (accounting) or otherwise, you can’t just assume we know you have those skills from your CV.

The Disposable Male

Another thing which is a serious turn-off is the attitude of many women in the professional world which can best be described as “strong and independent (of men).” Such an approach often bespeaks an arrogance and consequent belittling of men in general. Often such women will not even consider dating men who may be great husbands, fathers and providers, but don’t have the same, higher or “right” levels of education and social status.

Worse, though, it often sends out a signal which men interpret thusly:

In principle, I don’t need you. If need be, I can get pregnant in vitro; I can afford it. You are a disposable part of my life, not a necessary part of the family I want to build.

Here’s the thing: commitment-minded men are not interested in getting married to get divorced or constantly be on probation. We have no interest whatsoever in being a disposable accessory in your life. We want to be loved, needed and valued just as much as any woman does.

If you are truly so independent and don’t need a man, please admit this and let men and women who need each other find them. If you do need a man, then be honest and learn to openly value those traits and things in men which you need.

For those of you concerned that I’m against women being more independent than they were in the past, I’ll just say that of course there’s absolutely nothing wrong with having a career or passion outside of having a family. The two can even enrich each other in various ways. But how you come across in regards to your professional success can hamstring you when dating the opposite sex.

NEXT: The Other “List”

Avi WoolfAbout Avi
Avi Woolf is a 31 year old content editor and budding tech writer with Modern Orthodox attitudes and a libertarian streak. He’s dated for eight years looking for a girl with whom to brave life and have a family. Likes chess, hates phoniness.

Deena’s note
April 1, 2014 is Habitza’s upcoming event: A Question and Discussion evening with myself, Dr. Pessy Krausz, a rabbi, a single guy and the audience. Read about it here and submit a question/scenario for discussion >>

After my espresso date – Letters on dating by David Kilimnick

Shalom Josh,

About the date: I was not into this woman, so I finished the coffee real fast. Once the coffee is done, the date is over. That is my rule. If I order another coffee before I finished the first one, I really like the woman. Here, I got an espresso.

I had to go to another party. Party season is almost over and I am happy for that. I am not a big fan of parties. I would rather eat dinner in my house and watch a good movie. It is much cheaper than the wine I have to bring. They raking in the dough. Big time. It is a scam. They host these parties and tell people to bring wine. Next thing you know, they have dinner gifts for the rest of the year.

I broke it off with the espresso date. I don’t know why I called. I think she got the message when I said, ‘There was no pleasure,” at the end of the date.

I am not good at breaking up without jumping into a different conversation. I have noticed that women really hate to hear me saying, “Hope to see you around.” They never want to see me again. When we break it off, I am pretty sure they are stabbing an effigy of me. That is why I look at the breakup like a segue. “We are done, but now coming into your life is my good friend who has also been single for a very long time, because he cannot be straight forward and express his true feelings. Maybe he will be attracted to you. Who knows?”

To tell you about the post date party – the mojo was working. After a bad date, everything looks good. Everybody looked so beautiful, thanks to my date and my new standards, and the dark room. I ended up chilling with a divorcee with kids. But why was she partying when she has a kid? That to me shows irresponsibility.

Parents are not supposed to party. They should only be out for get-togethers. Get-togethers are a responsible way for parents to see other people. Bar-mitzvahs are fine too. But a parent should never be at a party.

The divorcee gave me a number which doesn’t work. That was the only responsible thing she did. I wasn’t even going to ask her out. I was going to set her up with my friend. So she was wrong. Ha ha.

Even so, we had a good time flirting, if you know what I mean. Maybe you don’t know what I mean. I’ll tell you. We were talking that romantic stuff like, “Whose the daddy?! Whose the daddy?!”

Lehitraot Achi,
David

david kilimnick

Photo credit: Dana Dekel

David Kilimnick
David is an expert in getting his audiences to simultaneously laugh and cry. His goal since his move to Israel in 2003 has been to meet his naturally blond Yemenite soulmate. Meanwhile he is committed to bringing joys of laughter to the plight of the single (and otherwise defined) Jew. You can see David’s weekly standup performances at his Off The Wall Comedy Basement: Jerusalem’s Comedy Club.

These are real letters David has been writing about his singlehood to a friend for years.

Read more about/by him here.

“I Would Like My Book Back” and One Other Poem by David Kilimnick

David Kilimnick performed these poems in the most dramatic of ways at Habitza’s reading event in February, 2014. Here are the two poems in all their glory.

I Would Like My Book Back

We broke up
But you are still in a relationship with my book
We broke up
But you still have my pot, so I cannot cook

We broke up
You have my shoes, you also have my CD
We broke up
Please give them back to me

I am Normal: But You Would not Know

I knocked on your door at 3am
What the hell was I thinking

I called 8 times from right outside your front door, because you didn’t pick up
What the hell was I thinking

I sat outside your front door for 5 hours
Till you called the police
What the hell was I thinking

I paid for your drinks, always top shelf, Johnny Walker Green Label
It could have been Red Label, you wouldn’t have known the difference
What the hell was I thinking

I waited 6 days to call you,
I was thinking I would have you thinking
‘He is so mature and doesn’t need me, doesn’t even like me, now I love him’
What the hell was I thinking

I said ‘I love you’
What the hell was I thinking

I enlisted in the army
What the hell was I thinking

I adopted a child
You love kids
What the hell was I thinking

I thought you have a soul
What the hell was I thinking

david kilimnick

Photo credit: Dana Dekel

David Kilimnick
David is an expert in getting his audiences to simultaneously laugh and cry. His goal since his move to Israel in 2003 has been to meet his naturally blond Yemenite soulmate. Meanwhile he is committed to bringing joys of laughter to the plight of the single (and otherwise defined) Jew. You can see David’s weekly standup performances at his Off The Wall Comedy Basement: Jerusalem’s Comedy Club.

Read more about/by him here.

Sign up to find out about future Habitza activities >>

Down with the Nice Jewish Boy™, Up With the Good Jewish Man – by Avi Woolf

“Where are all the good/normal/sane/civilized Jewish guys?”

How often have you heard variations on the above complaint? From the stories of many a frum girl, one would get the impression that the male population consists exclusively of man-children, players and a small group of genuinely desirable men who are either out of reach or already married. Talk about a losing proposition.

Here’s the thing, though: there are plenty of good guys out there. They may not be the Perfect Prince Charming, but they’re even better than that. They’re responsible, good-natured and possess many fine qualities. So, what gives? How come there seems to be so much disappointment when they hit the dating scene?

I’ll tell you why:

Most frum guys – myself included – have little to no idea how to attract women. None. Zilch. Gornisht.

And no, our Yiddish knowledge doesn’t seem to be helping at all.

Worse, much of the advice we get from people we know is useless and sometime even counterproductive: Be nice. Be yourself. Be “chivalrous.” Trust me, none of it works.

But, you may ask, shouldn’t men treat women with respect?

Yes, but the devil is in the details: A woman wants things like respect, but she don’t want it from just anyone. She wants it from a man they are attracted to. Don’t believe me? Spend some time reading romantic literature or watching romantic movies (think of it as a research project). Notice something? The leading man in them can be many things – rich, poor, handsome, gruff, kind, noble or wicked. But he is almost never just a “nice (Jewish) guy,” that kind of bland nonentity most of us were taught to be.

He can pull off the same actions and achieve vastly different results. Take the above-mentioned advice, for instance. Chivalry graciously granted by a gallant knight feels very different than the exact same chivalrous act done by someone acting like a servant or butler. Politeness and attention from a desirable man with options is very different from a guy who acts like he’s desperate for your attention and can’t function without you. This is simply not negotiable; to paraphrase one Jewish relationship expert: man must come before mentsch.

I can already hear guys complaining: but I’m not a movie star/dashing hero/whatever fantasy women have! I can’t possibly live up to those expectations!

News flash: you don’t need to be any more than all women have to be supermodels. It’s about the direction towards which you strive, not an exact goal which must be reached. Your goal is to become the best version of you that you can possibly be.

So how does one do that?

Well, it’s certainly a major project, but I’ll try and set out some key points here for starters. Keep this in mind at all times:

Never let perfect be the enemy of better and it’s never too late to improve yourself. Leave the impossible standards and regrets about lost opportunities behind and get moving.

Confidence

Confidence doesn’t necessarily mean being arrogant (though I know women who like that, too – within limits). It also includes what I call “courage under fire” – the ability to overcome fear in a tense or embarrassing situation. I have a friend who has none of the “classic” traits in a catch. Nevertheless, he’s skilled with women because he’s not afraid to approach them and he rarely if ever gets flustered.

Above all:

Act like a guy who has places to go and people to see, someone who’s going somewhere. Don’t be afraid to gently engage in banter, even light teasing, with your opposite number. Practice being calm and collected and train yourself to develop a thicker skin. Take small risks. Most importantly, take the mindset of “I’m nothing and she’s everything” and throw it out the window. You both have value, and if you don’t value yourself – why should anyone else?

Appearance

First, get thee to a gym and work out regularly. Second, go clothes shopping with someone who knows how to do it properly. Learn to start enjoying looking at yourself in the mirror and smile. Heck, even do one of those wink gestures.

Regular daily hygiene is mandatory. Stand up straight at all times. If you have difficulty doing so, do daily planks. Learn to look relaxed but in charge. If you have annoying mannerisms – and I’m sure you’ve been called on them – minimize them. If you can, grow a cropped beard and keep it trim.

Skills, Likes and General Competence

If you have serious skills or loves – emphasize them. Show you’re passionate about something(s). Constantly look to improve these. If you don’t have anything, start trying things out – at least one new thing a week. It can be anything from woodworking to painting or playing an instrument. Never stop improving your “skill toolbox” in all aspects of life.

There are quite a few websites filled with more good advice; I personally love The Art of Manliness. But find what works for you.

It’s past time for us to bury the “nice Jewish guy” and create in its place the archetype of the “Good Jewish Man.” Both men and women will benefit.

Next: The Great Credentials Mismatch

Avi WoolfAbout Avi
Avi Woolf is a 31-year old content editor and budding tech writer with Modern Orthodox attitudes and a libertarian streak. He’s dated for eight years looking for a girl with whom to brave life and have a family. Likes chess, hates phoniness

Deena’s note: Read Avi’s first piece on Habitza, his message to women, here. And read about the upcoming Habitza reading event in Jerusalem here.

Look away, baby, look away

Why is it like that? Why is it that there is at least the tiniest bit of a cringe whenever you happen to bump into almost anyone you’ve ever dated? Somewhere is the hope that one or both of you will look away.

One of my goals is to create a situation where people are hurting each other less in dating. Quite a few times when I’ve said that to people, they get a little bit of a confused look on their faces. They don’t understand which hurt I’m referring to.

Well, if we’re all doing just fine, why all the awkwardness? If we’re all treating each other wonderfully, then it shouldn’t be so hard to bump into each other. Half of Jerusalem shouldn’t have potential for uncomfortable moments.

Objectification. I think that’s what’s going on. When you go out with someone, you see them, at least on some level, as an object that might fill your needs, like a brain to kibbetz with, a womb to hold your baby, strong arms to carry your bags, that person who will be there for you through thick and thin (um, you don’t even know them yet!). You guys are supposedly getting to know each other in the most innocent of ways, human to human, but there is actually a lack of humanness in the process which leads to uncomfortable partings, when the object is finally discarded.

We all know that breaking up is hard to do because so many different feelings are involved, but it’s more extreme than necessary.

Do you agree? In which ways do you think people create hurt in the world of dating? How do you see yourself and people around you hurting each other in the context of dating?