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Jewish Exponent Feature
Deep down, something is wrong from the beginning, but you don’t want to admit it to yourself because you would rather be in an unhealthy relationship to avoid the pain of breaking up.
Maybe your relationship has up till then been amazing, and out of nowhere the great dynamic between you and your significant other changes. Still, you decide to ignore the unhealthy aspect of the relationship because you really do want it to work. We have all seen these red flags in the course of various romances.
Red flags are easily recognizable, and designed to alert you to human hazards. When you see a skeleton with cross bones, you will likely conclude that the contents of a container are poisonous. When you see a red flag in your relationship, it should cause you to realize that something is just as bad.
Even with this knowledge, why do we still have trouble admitting to ourselves that a warning sign is really there? Why do we gravitate toward or choose to stay with behaviors, personalities and actions that are inherently toxic for us? Why do we ignore the warning signs when our friends point them out to us?
My red flags include religion, politics, cigarette smokers and someone who’s unable to communicate emotions. Other tell-tale signs for me are someone who does not enjoy meeting new people, or someone with limited direction or motivation.
More Than Just Irksome
When surveying others to uncover their red flags, I got an array of responses. One of the most important included when someone spends “more time drinking than being productive.”
Cameron said: “I had a relationship where jealousy became a big issue. Now I screen for that. If I find out the girl has jealousy issues, that would be a ‘red flag’ on the new relationship.”
Now, this is far worse than a pet peeve. Most likely, you can get over a minor annoyance or someone’s particular shortcomings, but you cannot get over a red flag. Sometimes, you need to experience a red flag before you realize it is one.
Patrick ended a relationship in the last year with someone he truly cared about, but the time to end it was right.
His ex was very pretty, but she needed constant reassurance and encouragement from her boyfriend. At the time, it seemed a normal part of their relationship, and Patrick was happy to make her feel better about it.
“After being in a relationship with someone who always relied on me, now I know I need someone who is their own person and can take care of themselves. I’m attracted to people who are independent, very confident and have a strong self-esteem,” he said.
We have all been blinded by love. It can cloud anyone’s judgment — or at least prevent you from seeing what you know you should see.
After dating someone who was very argumentative, Bianca’s red flag became someone who was confrontational just for the sake of being confrontational. Her college boyfriend of a year was never satisfied with her plans, and would always change them for no reason.
If she suggested meeting at 5 p.m., he responded with, “How about 5:30?” She said it was not about the time, but more about his need to be in control.
“It didn’t really bother me because I was kind of in a trance. I thought we would get married, but then when we broke up, I realized how unhappy this part of him made me. Some of his behaviors were ridiculous. For example, he yelled at me in the grocery store one day because I put something back in the wrong place. He told me it was selfish and not someone’s job to clean up after me.”
She knows now that he was manipulative, and that his temperament was most likely representative of something deeper.
“If we ended up together, it would have been a really different kind of life — all his way. He actually just got married and lives in a secluded, small town. A part of me still misses him, but then the rational part thinks it would have been an awful life. In order to be with him, I would have had to give up myself.”
She knows now to steer clear of anyone who acts even slightly controlling or argumentative.
More hurtful red flags are those that are often very subtle, and begin happening after the relationship’s started.
Kat had been in a healthy relationship with Michael for a year when he began pulling away physically and emotionally.
“I felt rejected sexually. It was very hurtful because his actions showed that he wasn’t interested anymore. When I would stay over, he’d just want to go to sleep. I knew something was going on because before, he couldn’t keep his hands off me,” she said.
Instead of talking, Michael would give her excuses. He told her he was “stressed out from work,” “tired,” or worse, “it’s not you.” She admitted to herself that the relationship took a real turn when he began communicating differently.
“When he went to my friend’s birthday party with me, he was cold the whole night. He didn’t talk to anyone. He clearly wasn’t trying. Before that, he would have made a huge effort to talk to my friends. I didn’t feel the emotional connection we once had, when we talked all the time and had so much fun. Now, he just didn’t seem into me.”
When the relationship ended, Kat wasn’t surprised; he wasn’t even returning her calls.
Looking back, she said that she should have talked to him about his behavior without letting it continue for a month.
“I was asking him, ‘What’s wrong?’ when I should have said, ‘I know something’s wrong, you’re pulling away for me, and let’s talk about it.’ ”
It’s clear that red flags are serious. We need to teach ourselves how to acknowledge their existence in order to end a disfunctional relationship. It’s important to realize what works for us and what doesn’t, so that when we date, we know if a person is right.
With each different relationship, we learn more of what we really need in a companion — and what we can live without.
Did you meet your significant other on an organized trip to Israel? Or know someone who did? Share your story at: Please Email Me Your Story.
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After two years as a dating columnist for The Dating Dance at the Jewish Exponent, I welcome you to the debut of my new blog. I invite you to email me your dating questions and stories to post. I will also respect your confidentiality. Just let me know if you want me to post only your first name or if you want me to create a pseudonym. I look forward to hearing from you!
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The Jewish Exponent
It’s that time again. First apples and honey, wait 10 days and then the fast. Every year it is pretty much the same drill and yet a little feeling of excitement always comes over me before the High Holidays. Regardless of whether I am single or not, the repetitive nature of the holiday is comforting. Now I know these are the days of awe and teshuvah (repentance). Also, there clearly is a strong religious component in what makes the holidays special and for many the only time spent in a synagogue all year.
For the purposes of this column however, I am going to start by talking about the more trivial aspects of my annual ritual. No matter where I am in my life or whom I am dating, I’ve always made it a point to get something new to wear for at least one of the three days of High Holiday services. There is still something very nice about going to synagogue to see and be seen.
The more pious of us keep our eyes in our prayer books until the service is over, but I’ve seen many who barely crack their prayer book because they are too busy watching the audience. We must admit, there is a lot to watch! That boy who you had a crush on in summer camp finally came back to services with his family. Cannot wait to bump into him on the way out the door. Then there is that lady with the ridiculous hat and feather sticking into the face of the person behind her. In fact, every year I ask myself, is this a fashion show or a religious service?
Nothing distracts me more than the countless children squirming and whining. I always thought it would be great if after services we did not have to run home with our families but got to socialize more with our synagogue peers and friends. It is hard to feel like part of a community if you are young, single and attached to your nuclear family.
I wonder about the old days when people used to walk all over instead of drive. There is a part of celebrating these holidays that helps me to imagine what Jewish life was like in traditional and more enclosed Jewish communities. It is not that I want to return to those times but it seems so exciting to imagine myself as part of a Jewish community held together not only by faith, tradition, and culture but also by all the events of daily life including School, shul, social events and everything all within a couple of blocks.
After the Rabbi’s sermon on a more serious topic, which is most likely about Israeli soldiers or teshuvah, my thoughts drift back to where they should be on the High Holidays.
I realize I do not want another year to fly by wondering where did my time go? Did I really spend all my time shopping, people watching and discussing who is dating whom and who is getting married? Although it is natural to look around, it is time for me to focus on self-reflection.
Single or not ask yourself, what did I do this past year? Am I fulfilled in my life? What parts of my life did I love and what did I not like? Did I spend my time wisely? How can I be a better person? What could I have done better? And do I owe any apologizes?
If you are single on Rosh Hashanah ask yourself what character traits do you want in another person? Then reflect to see if you have those same characteristics. If you are looking for a kind, generous, and patient person, ask yourself, do I have these qualities or do I need to work on being more patient?
Spending time wisely for a single person often means dating wisely. Am I only dating those who treat me the way I wanted to be treated with the utmost respect? Also, am I giving someone a second chance and going on a second date when the person is kind even if initially, I am not that interested?
If you are in a relationship, realize this is a good time to concentrate a little more on yourself. This is a time when you should be concentrating on where you are as an individual not only as part of a couple. Ask yourself, do I feel good about where I am in my relationship? Do I get what I need from my significant other? Am I good partner?
Self-examination and reflection is wise. In fact every year God commands us to think over our last year. On Rosh Hashanah, God determines the goodness of our approaching year based upon how well we acted the previous year. We have the opportunity to do better though, and if by Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, we sincerely commit to behave better, God will forgive our blunders and therefore give us the wonderful year that we merit. On Yom Kippur, Moses carried down the second set of Ten Commandments. God, showed that he forgave the Jewish people for praying to a Golden Calf. Through this, we learn to not only forgive through second chances, but to forget by not holding the mistakes of others against them.
I find it amazing that we get to cleanse ourselves from all our wrongdoings for the year during this short time period. We seek forgiveness not only from God, but also from our significant others, family, friends, co-workers and even our adversaries.
If you know you hurt or took from another person you are dating or previously dated, it is not enough to be apologetic. You should give back what you took and ask for forgiveness from that person. Then you should ask God for forgiveness. If you know you broke someone’s heart, you clearly know you cannot give him or her a new heart. You need to know it is not your place to mend it if you do not want to get back together with this person. You must respect their wishes if that person chooses not to be contacted.
Rabbi Hayim Herring STAR Blog on came up with a wonderful idea that I am going to try this year. He discusses how, in additional to making a “To Do List”, he is going to make a “To Think List” that will force him to reflect throughout the entire year. He said, “You can’t plan to change unless you give serious thought to where you are and where you hope to go in the future.”
My “To Think List” (# 1 & 7 are taken directly from Rabbi Herring)
(1) There’s more than one way to fulfill your dream and there’s more than one dream in you.
(2) Be more optimistic (and therefore complain less)
(3) Be more humble
(4) Trust my strength
(5) Cherish every moment with loved ones
(6) Be more patient with loved ones, friends and others in your life. You never know whom you are standing or driving next to, since we all have the right to be here.
(7) Don’t just love the “Jewish people” in the abstract; show that you mean this in everything you do.
(8) Why be in a bad mood?
Although this list may not appear to apply to a relationship or be dating orientated, striving to become a better person will make you happier and more desirable to others. We cannot allow ourselves to get off track because that would make your list meaningless. We should strive to think and act on our goals throughout the entire year.
We must remember that giving others another chance applies to ourselves as well. You must be aware of the cliché we are our own worst critic. It is often easier to truly forgive others and have difficultly forgiving ourselves. The Torah teaches that we are only human and that we make mistakes. As long as we try our best, it is ok to make mistakes. We must forgive ourselves and start the New Year fresh.
What would you put in your “To Think List”?
Are you in a relationship with someone of a different culture or religion? Please Email Me your dating stories, dating questions or comments.
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Does the Equation ‘Giving = Love = Happiness’ Make the Grade?
August 30, 2007 – Adina Matusow, Jewish Exponent Feature
On a plane ride recently, a woman and I got to talking, and at one point, she gave me a very valuable piece of information: that the most important concept to hold on to while maintaining a serious relationship is to give continuously. She said even if you don’t always receive what you need from your significant other, you must never stop giving because loving someone means doing just that.
It was a wonderful insight, which seemed to be reinforced during a lecture by Sara Rigler, titled “The Secret to Happiness,” that I attended soon afterward. Although I’m not sure I agree with everything Rigler said, she provided an equation that really made me think: giving equals love equals happiness.
Can this be true? Can such a simple equation really lead to happiness in love? I’m not sure that the answer is so simple; however, the idea does have substantial merit.
I thought about a story that a friend, Leah, 25, told me. She explained that at the beginning of her newest relationship, she was not quite sure her boyfriend was as committed as she was. She knew he was not seeing anyone else, but she also knew that his career goals involved extensive traveling, and that these plans came well before her.
Though she debated ending the relationship, she decided that he was worth an attempt. She continued to give him a lot of her time and emotional attention, to prove he was a priority.
“I had strong feelings for him from the moment we starting dating. Although I had my doubts that the relationship might work, the only way I knew to show how much I cared was to give him as much as possible. I did his laundry when he left it at my place because I knew how much he hated doing it. I made sure to have his favorite foods in my fridge when he came over, and I brought him dinner when he didn’t have time to make it.
“These are all things I still do for him today. Every time I see him, I try to come up with something special in the hopes of surprising him. It makes me so happy to know that giving more and more to someone I love not only makes him happy, but it makes me happier within myself.”
Leah told me that the more she gave her boyfriend, the more he gave her in return. The couple has now developed a strong pattern of giving, and she said there came a point in their relationship that she knew it would likely succeed.
Knowing the Other’s Needs
I talked this whole giving idea over with some of my friends at dinner recently, and here’s what some had to say.
“If you want a healthy relationship, you better know [his or her] needs, and you should fulfill them as best you can,” said Jason, 27.
“Giving is knowing what the person wants before you ask for it,” said Melissa, 40. Jason asked Melissa, “How do you know what someone really wants?”
“It’s like having a baby. The baby cries, you need to figure out if they are hungry or need a diaper change. It’s the same for a significant other; you kind of just get to know the person from being with them for so long that you know them better than they know themselves.
“For example, if they had an upsetting day at work, would you badger them as soon as they got home? Not if you knew that person needed decompressing time. Instead of asking what’s wrong, you give them space and time. You need to learn what the person needs and wants, and you need to know it may not be something tangible.”
I then asked Melissa, “What if you just met the guy? How do you know he’s a giving person?”
Melissa explained that she’s very particular about the way she likes to be kissed. So, a good indicator for her is how a guy would react if she tells him she doesn’t like the way he kisses.
“If I try to show him the way I like to kiss — and if he’s receptive to that — then I know he’ll be receptive to other things. But if he’s not, then most likely he won’t be receptive to my other needs. Basically, if he can’t do this one simple thing, then he’s gone!”
Avoid Being Bitter
The topic then moved to those who have long passed the age when they had hoped or planned on getting married. How do you tell a person to give when someone is not happy with being single? Jason suggested that maybe a good way to prevent yourself from becoming jaded or bitter in regards to dating is to just “give more.”
“When you allow yourself to become jaded, all you think about is what you’re not getting and how terrible your life is. If instead you choose to give, you become outside of yourself and therefore don’t think so much about what you need,” said Jason.
Will the giving equation really work?
Adam, 34, also sees the importance of giving.
“I do believe that if you care about someone, you should do things for them that they like whether it makes sense or not. For example, if she asks you to get something at the store and you think it’s a waste of time or money, but you do it anyway because you know it’s important to her. I really believe the more you give the more you care.”
Julie, 31, thinks that giving involves a physical and emotional side. She’s often bought boyfriends items they wouldn’t think to buy themselves. But she also focused on the importance of nontangible giving.
“On the emotional level, giving means being honest with your partner. When you’re in a relationship, you’re not only giving your heart and mind, you are giving someone your true self — who you are today, and who you want to be tomorrow.
“Sometimes, that means letting yourself be more vulnerable or, if you are normally an intense person, it means not being intense all the time. Giving means breaking the barrier of your comfort zone because you are truly giving your self.”
While growing up, many of us spent time learning what it means to be Jewish. I have had many friends tell me they are not good Jews because they do not keep kosher or they do not keep Shabbat. Every time I hear someone say this, I tell them how can that be true when being a good Jew means being a good person and having Jewish morals and values. Values that include giving tzedukah and practicing the concept of Tikkun Olam. However, maybe it is time we all focus more on giving unconditionally to those that we care about most – your family, friends and your significant other.
Did you meet your significant other on an organized trip to Israel? Or know someone who did? Share your story at: Please Email Me Your Story.