Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Mixed Mazal Tov

A comment on Chana's engagement story/post got me thinking about a topic that crops up every now and then that always causes mixed emotions, though generally for the better.

"Anonymous" April 27th, 2010 8:01 AM remarked that he is no longer a secret admirer, which is quite understandable, given the circumstances that Chana is taken.

This particular person (whoever he is) reminded me of that bittersweet feeling that arises whenever you find out someone you like(d) and considered a potential date/spouse has been snatched up by some lucky other person. This hasn't happened in a while for me, though I have had this experience a handful of times over my dating career.

The moment you hear the news, two emotions immediately well up: 1) A sense of happiness for the other person, which is certainly appropriate and 2) A sense of loss or sadness for what might have been. The latter feeling is particularly poignant if you were admiring the other person for some period of time and never got the chance to act on your feelings through dating, or perhaps were rebuffed at some point and intended to give it another try in the future.

True, the sense of loss is really nothing more than a door slammed shut on a fantasy/infatuation that may have been developing for quite some time, which sort of makes it akin to being dumped after really liking a person - except for the fact that it was all in your head to begin with.

However, I think the cathartic process of realizing - realistically, that is - that this other person for whom you've been harboring affections and potentially planning to go out with is no longer available does wonders for mental clarity. I know from personal experience that since high school I've always had a few girls in mind whom I've known from different experiences in life, whether I grew up with them, met them on NCSY Shabbatonim, was introduced to them in Israel or at YU that I considered potentially worth dating. That curiosity always piqued whenever I spent time around them, though it would fade in the subsequent days afterward.

I did make an attempt to finagle a shidduch with a one or two such girls, utilizing a mutual friend who was "in" on the fact that I was interested in the person to make the suggestion. I was rebuffed (via the intermediary) each time, which was certainly disappointing at that moment. Such refusals don't quite remove that little voice in the back of your head that the possibility still exists since they aren't "taken" as of yet. Often enough, you can sit, biding your time, go out with other people, but still have this other individual in mind for comparison. Also, the fact that the person her/himself has no clue that you were the one behind the attempted suggestion can build up a false hope of sorts that there may be another way to make the connection happen.

Suffice it to say such mental delusions are not healthy by any means, and that's why it is so beneficial to finally hear that these individuals are "taken." Aside from no longer being plagued by these feelings, which drain energy from one's psyche and can make dating in general difficult (as in distractedly thinking about them instead of the person you're going out with), I find that sense of having a window of opportunity closed to be uniquely satisfying. I don't understand why people get particularly upset (or legitimately upset) when such a person they've had their eye on is now engaged. In my mind, this in fact makes life easier! Be happy for the person, and realize that this means they weren't meant for you. That means one less wasted date, one less emotional upheaval, and one less source of agitation.

I sometimes find it hard to make choices when there are several good suggestions presented to me. This includes dating (such as the overwhelming feeling I've gotten from YUConnects at times) as well as something like having too many good shiurim to attend that are scheduled at the same time (such as during tomorrow's Yom Iyun on Women in Tanach and Talmud). I'm not an incredibly indecisive person, for example, I can easily make a choice at a restaurant of what I'd like to eat, but sometimes it can be a little too much to choose what is best in a particular situation (such as dating) when many legitimate options present themselves. That's why it's good, in my mind, to have girls on YUConnects turn me down after I've said yes to 7-8 suggestions. I'd much prefer to focus one person and have all other distractions removed from even the remotest possibility of consideration in my mind.

In my own case, when these particular girls I've known and been interested in have gotten engaged and married, I felt a bit saddened by the lost chance for a shidduch, but I am always equally elated for both the person and myself for having achieved a greater sense of where I'm really headed (or not headed) in my quest for my soulmate. These ideas could also easily apply to someone who has gone out with a particular person, been dumped, and hopes for a second chance. In either case, a healthy sense of closure allows you to move on with life as a whole, which is always a good thing.

So, be happy for the other person! That twinge of sadness/disappointment is also a good feeling to have, but it is far more important to use the simcha generated by the good news for your friend/acquaintance as fuel to further your own dating ambitions. This is how we all should properly keep a level-headed perspective as we go about dating on the road to marriage.

Don't be discouraged by the fact that someone you know (or were interested in) has made that next step. You're not being "left out" at all. Instead, view these announcements as another piece in the puzzle that provides clarity of vision in your own dating life that will steer you in the right direction toward that special someone.

May all the puzzle pieces that compose the greater mosaic of the Jewish people fall properly into place, forming a beautiful unified image of klal Yisrael. And may we all, each in our own time, find that perfectly sized spot where we belong - soon!


  1. "May all the puzzle pieces that compose the greater mosaic of the Jewish people fall properly into place, forming a beautiful unified image of klal Yisrael. And may we all, each in our own time, find that perfectly sized spot where we belong - soon!"

    Shades, rejection is definitely not easy. I have a concept in my head that men tend to handle it more easily than gals do.
    The emotional tug of war you've mentioned is just a struggle of the mind and heart. The mind's happy for the other person, but the heart wishes it was complete.

  2. Oh Sog. I know all too well what you mean. It's strange how even after one has been dumped, you can still have hope. We are really hopeful creatures, aren't we? I haven't yet encountered the feeling which you ave described but I have prayed for it. I've been waiting to hear that one of the guys I went out with is seeing someone seriously/engaged, but no such news yet. I pray for it, b/c I just want to know already that everything turned out for the best and that no horrific errors in judgment were made.

    C'est lavie, right? G-d has a plan; a plan more illustrious and detailed than we can ever imagine. Excellent post! I thoroughly enjoyed it.

  3. I thought I would feel sad when I heard someone I dated got engaged, but the first time it happened to me, my first reaction was to be really happy for the person. I knew he was a great guy, but not for me, so I was glad to hear he found someone.

    It's harder to feel that way when someone who I liked (but never went out with) gets engaged. I suppose it's because there's this sense that we never got to try it out to see how things would work out, even though clearly he found the person he was supposed to be with and that wasn't me.

  4. It definitely takes time to master this mindset, and I know from experience. Maybe it applies more (at least in my circumstances) when the other person was a close acquaintance or perhaps even a friend. That is a bit different than simply someone you wanted to go out with, or did and were rejected by them. The divided loyalties to your friend and wanting to ensure their wellbeing versus your own wellbeing and happiness can be a hard match up to resolve.

    In the end though, I think it's a big growth process to be able to put that other person's happiness ahead of yours - that's part of what marriage is all about anyway - placing your spouses' desires and emotions ahead of yours into that #1 spot in your life. Giving up the selfish "well, why not me" attitude is a major stepping stone toward real maturity that will be beneficial in any marriage.


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