The advisory on dating should read: "WARNING- DATING MAY BE HAZARDOUS TO YOUR RELATIONSHIP".
Nowadays, we spend longer than ever "getting to know each other" before settling into a long-term commitment (a.k.a. the M-word). Our liberal thinking encourages us to be open in and about our relationships. We have access to a wealth of articles, books, websites and TV shows that deal with relationships.
Yet, we see a particularly poor success rate. Break-ups are the norm and divorce rates have skyrocketed.
You know what they say, "If it isn't working- try something else".
Luckily, as Jews, we have access to methods that have stood the test of time. We are fortunate to have guidance on how to build a meaningful relationship, without much of the hurt and confusion that accompanies the conventional dating process.
Imagine you had some money and wanted to find someone with business experience to partner with on a new venture. Would you choose a partner suggested by your great-aunt (Boy, do I have a business partner for you...) and see if it develops into anything serious?
Would you ask a fellow to come over and fix your PC because you “spotted him at a bar after a few drinks and “he looked really nerdy”?
Many people think more carefully before signing a cell-phone rental contract than they do before investing time and emotion in a potential life's partner.
Why? People have a strong impulse to seek a partner. Evolutionists will tell you that it’s survival instinct. Judaism says otherwise.
Have you ever wondered why G-d first created Adam and then made Eve from his “rib”? Surely, the All-powerful could have just created a human couple, as He made male and female versions of every other living species.
G-d wanted us to realize that without a partner, we’re missing an intrinsic part of who we are. This creates the urgency within humans to find our “missing” part. Subconsciously, we feel anxious to find this “missing part” and we might jump at every “suggestion”, “phone number” or “good looking person” we encounter.
Choosing your life's partner is probably the biggest decision you'll ever make. It’s serious business, and a casual approach is counter-productive. You need to devise a dating-strategy and minimise your personal investment until you know that this is something worth pursuing.
So, here are a few pointers for a spiritual dating strategy:
1) Get serious. Appreciate how important this process is, and treat it with the proper respect. You'll have plenty of opportunity to enjoy life; don't compromise long-term happiness with "fun".
2) Research. Discreetly, find out some objective information about the prospective guy/girl. Do they share similar ideologies with you? What's their family like? What do their friends say about them? Are they ready to settle down?
3) Use your head. Feelings can be really tricky. People often tell me how they feel that everything is "right" about their partner, but they don't have "strong feelings". You may have had an expectation of what you would feel when you found the right person. Now, you're worried, because you're not feeling that way. Don't panic. Use your head and assess: Are the values and character traits that I'm looking for there? Is there a good reason I should not pursue this relationship?
Then make an objective, thought-through decision.
4) Look for guidance. Often, the problem is that your head is just as muddled as your heart. Find someone you respect and can trust, who knows you well and who has more experience than you do. Use that person as a sounding board to see if your fears/ expectations/ excitement are justified.
An objective opinion is very reassuring when you are caught up in the blur of emotion.
5) Connect to your soul. If you're working on discovering your soul mate, make sure that your soul is in gear. Judaism believes that marriage reunites two parts of a single soul. The more in touch you are with your soul, the easier it will be to detect your other half. Spiritual dating includes being extra focused on prayer, torah study and doing mitzvos during the dating period.
Of course, you can never "go it alone" anyway. An additional bit of Torah, prayer or mitzvah observance gets Hashem on your side. Then dating becomes advantageous to your relationship.