Technology has touched every aspect of our modern lives, including how we search for romantic partners and build meaningful relationships. While we are no longer searching for love at the watering well, or arranging marriages like Tevye for his daughters, Judaism’s ancient wisdom is as relevant as ever for an improved online dating experience.
The guiding framework upon which the Torah advises us to search for love is to recognize that there are sacred responsibilities surrounding all of our actions with other human beings. When we recognize that each and every human being is created in God’s divine image, we will be more inclined to treat them – and ourselves – with dignity and respect.
Don’t compare your dating experience with your friends and family
Love and intimacy are amongst the most complex, rewarding and challenging elements of the human experience. Our early childhood nurturing, what we observed from our parents’ relationship, and our personal dating history profoundly shapes our dating expectations and comfort giving and receiving love. Given that each of us walks our own unique path towards finding and maintaining a relationship, it is counterproductive to compare our dating lives with others or to be jealous of our friends and families.
When we embrace the Torah’s wisdom of not relating to others out of jealousy, we can return our focus to our own unique path and progress. Ask yourself: What are my unique dating needs and challenges? How have I changed in the last several years, and what have I learned from my previous romantic and non-romantic relationships? What does dating success look like for me in the short and long term, and what are the steps I can take to be the most whole version of myself who is ready for a relationship?
Answering these questions is not brief or trivial, and the more we invest in finding our own clarity the happier we will be become.
Represent yourself accurately and your dating expectations honestly
Each of us has our own insecurities – perhaps about our age, appearance or career – and it is perfectly fine to “put our best foot forward” in representing ourselves online. The Torah instructs us that it is not okay, however, to “steal from the mind” of another human being. Such a theft occurs when we blatantly lie about ourselves or blur the truth to such an extent that it is unrecognizable.
When we do the opposite – present ourselves with complete honesty, owning even our insecurities and shadow parts – we also gain a higher sense of self-esteem and confidence that is crucial to the dating process. If we are not comfortable in our own bodies and in embracing our own lives as they are unfolding truthfully, a larger issue exists that a romantic partner cannot solve. As a human being there will always be unexpected challenges, and we all have long-standing emotional difficulties to work through, but we must face these issues honestly with ourselves before asking a partner to be comfortable joining us on our life’s path.
Set boundaries and do not cross the boundaries of others
In an agricultural society, the Torah instructs farmers not to “cross the boundaries” of others while planting or harvesting crops. When engaging in online dating, and especially when agreeing to meet in real life, it is essential to understand and communicate our boundaries and respect those set by others. Common boundaries that are important to discuss with a date soon after meeting include articulating our expectations for the kind of relationship we are pursuing, how much time we are able to commit to a relationship, and our preferred method of communication and availability to talk or text.
Under no circumstances is it ever permitted to cross the physical boundaries of others, and it is crucial to learn and respect our own physical boundaries. When we ensure that others always feel completely safe in our presence, we can fully enjoy our time together in safety and security.
As you embark on this sacred journey of love and connection, expect to make mistakes and learn and grow along the way. The more we learn and grow from putting to practice Judaism’s guidance, the faster we can expect to reap its rewards in our dating lives.