The ‘Twenty Percent’

The idea that everyone enjoys dating is a common misconception. Dating is not the same for everyone. Around a fifth of all people (perhaps more) will struggle significantly with dating; they will find some aspect of dating genuinely difficult. I am not talking about minor bumps along the way that are more or less inevitable, but more sustained difficulty.

[This “twenty percent” group is along a continuum; not everyone in this group will struggle equally. Each person’s experience will vary from experiencing meaningful internal obstacles to feeling utterly overwhelmed and paralyzed.]

The problems people encounter in dating are often nothing like what things are like for them in other aspects of their life. Dating touches aspects of the person’s mind and character that are not nearly as relevant to other areas of the person’s existence. Marriage is a much more profound, intense, all-encompassing, and far-reaching relationship than any other since the person’s childhood. Issues can come to the fore during dating that are either entirely or largely absent from the person’s other relationships.

People who for some reason don’t find dating easy need to understand what is going on and approach dating in a manner suited to their character.

If you are such a person, you need to know that you can be just as successful in dating and marriage, but you are going to need to work to your strengths and take a path that makes sense for you. You are quite possibly not going to be able to follow your instincts or rely on your gut feeling – which is super tough.

It is entirely conceivable that there will be quite some resistance to marrying the exact kind of person who is actually very good for you – which can be frustrating.

Difficult to do? Maybe. But it is absolutely doable. In fact, once you have clarity, it becomes much more manageable.

Where things really go wrong is when you are expecting to go about things like everyone else. That is why so many people struggle so much and experience so much frustration.  Coming to terms with this reality is not always easy.

Firstly, we are raised with certain assumptions about what dating should be. It is not necessarily easy to shrug off longstanding and deeply ingrained expectations.

Secondly, and more significantly, some aspects of dating could end up feeling forced and unnatural, and this is not easy for a person to go through. This is deeply unfortunate but may be unavoidable.

Knowing yourself and what to expect is a huge help. When we know that something is likely to be difficult or painful, we can prepare ourselves mentally for that. Our reactions can then be more constructive and appropriate.

A big part of the problem is that people expect dating to feel a certain way, and when their experience is so different to that they are badly thrown off. Just the simple awareness that you are likely to struggle, and the understanding that for you this is normal, already makes the whole situation so much more manageable.

If you sincerely believe that your dating is supposed to be a deeply enjoyable experience, and then you find it is anything but that, it is understandable that you are going to conclude that something is wrong with the shidduch. “If this shidduch is causing me such stress,” you may say, “how can it possibly be right for me?” Except that for many people that equation doesn’t hold up.

For people in the “twenty percent”, two seemingly conflicting things can be true. On the one hand, it may be a great shidduch idea – judged by what kind of union could be had from it – and simultaneously it may produce high levels of anxiety, or some other distressed reaction. In fact, it is almost to be expected. Again, through proper self-awareness, a large part of the distress can be mitigated, but typically it cannot be avoided altogether.

If you are in the “twenty percent”, you need to prepare yourself to fight through the pain barrier. It is possible that even with the best shidduch, your mind may feel like it is exploding, and your brain may be experiencing a full-blown riot. But quitting is just not the logical thing to do, because the quality of the shidduch – judged by its long-term results – is high. Backing out of a shidduch for such reasons solves nothing.

Better that you work on the assumption that getting married involves you having to run the gauntlet of those difficult internal reactions. It is better that you stick it out, despite how challenging it is, so you can move beyond dating and focus on the rest of your lives together.



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