Dating is intensive and time consuming. Each date can eat up many hours of your time, from preparing, going on the actual date, and reflecting on the date afterwards. A single date can easily wipe out a complete day of your life. For a date to go well, you need to be present and focused. If you are over-tired, exhausted, or distracted, the date can fall flat. It is therefore inadvisable to begin dating if you don’t have the time, energy, or clear mind to apply yourself fully to the project. Of course, there are situations (for example, a long-term family problem) where a person has no choice, but it is clearly not ideal.
If you are in the middle of completing semicha, or are working on your medicine finals – those may not be suitable moments to begin with a new shidduch. If you have just started a new job or are in the midst of a major relocation, you need to ask yourself whether you have the headspace for shidduchim. If you are committed to being a head counsellor in three weeks, it may not make a whole lot of sense to start dating, when there is a fair chance that things will be left hanging.
When you commit to begin dating someone, understand that this is a major undertaking. It will require an enormous amount of your time, focus, and attention. If you are unwilling or unable to devote the time and energy to this process, it is normally best to delay things until you are. It is unfair to the other person, and it is unworkable for you.
Dating and pressure don’t go together
Of course, life is messy and we cannot predict exactly how things will go. For example, you may find that, for unforeseen reasons, dating is dragging out. You never imagined that after several weeks you would still have yet to have made a decision. That can be like that, and there is not a lot you can do. Still, it is best to avoid putting yourself in that position.
If you do end up in such a situation, it is best to put the dating on hold until you are both able to continue dating properly. Consider what happened to Yossi and Leah.
Yossi had summer plans that he was very excited about. First, he would spend 5 weeks as head counselor in a Gan Yisroel and then a few weeks of traveling to help Shluchim in some far-flung, exotic destinations. He had worked out all the details months ago.
He found himself in a dilemma. He was in middle of dating Leah and there were only 13 days until his flight to camp. Things were going well enough. But it just didn’t seem that they would be ready to get engaged within the week or so, with enough time for him to go to camp. Leah had a few things that she wanted to figure out.
Of course, normally Yossi would have given her as much time as she needed. But he had these amazing summer plans and he had the responsibility to the camp. He did start dating Leah more than 6 weeks before the first day of camp; that should have given him more than enough time to get engaged and be ready for camp. But here it was less than two weeks until camp, and ….
The shadchan understood the problem too. If Yossi and Leah didn’t figure this out quickly, they would either have to continue dating long distance (which makes everything more difficult), hold it off for two months, or … So she decided that Leah needed a little pressure. After all, this was a perfect shidduch.
And so she called Leah directly. And put on the pressure. “You know, it’s almost summer; you both have summer plans. What’s taking so long? You already met for five weeks. By now you should know yes or no. You have to figure it out in the next day or so.”
So after an agonizing night, Leah just called it off. She couldn’t make such a life decision with that kind of pressure. Both Yossi and Leah each had a miserable summer. Yossi couldn’t understand what went wrong, they got along so well, they had similar values and life vision. Leah felt bad for hurting him. And she kept second guessing herself.
Dating needs a clear head
During dating, each party needs to be able to be in touch with his or her thoughts and emotions. There is enough pressure in a normal dating experience; there is a lot to think about, a lot to process. Not only are they considering if this is a good match, they are also wrapping their head around the upcoming changes in their lives. And they need the space to begin that emotional connection with each other.
Now, things can get complicated when you are eager to give a shidduch a go, and you don’t want to risk the opportunity slipping by. Perhaps you are a bit older and are anxious not to delay things any further. Or perhaps you are very keen on a particular suggestion, and you feel that a delay may put it in question.
It is therefore difficult to make a blanket statement about what to do in these circumstances. What can be said is that minus a really good reason, it clearly is not ideal to begin dating if there is not sufficient time to see things through. If at all possible, see if you can mutually agree to begin dating when you have sufficient time to follow through the shidduch to completion.
If you are in the middle of a shidduch, and you find you are unable to reach a decision by a particular deadline, it is best to put things on hold and resume when you are again able to give dating your full attention.