I got a LOT of feedback from that last essay, “Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a match!“. Obviously, this is a topic that needs to be explored and discussed and I’m glad I could get the ball rolling.
So, I’m gonna share some of my thoughts on this subject and answer some of the questions people asked me. I suggest for anyone reading this to take whatever is relevant to your situation and ignore the rest, keeping in mind that I’m not a pastor or a counselor and I’m certainly not a “Matchmaker” myself. I’m just offering my own humble thoughts based on nothing but my own experience and observations.
My dearest hope is that this provokes a lot more discussions.
For starters, there’s an elephant in this room and that elephant has a name.
His name…is “sex”.
SO MANY ladies wrote to me in the wake of that last essay asking the same question, phrased in different ways.
“How can I let a guy know I’m interested in him without giving him the wrong impression about what I’m offering him”?
At the same time, many men asked me the question; “How can I show a lady I’m interested in her without making her think I only want, well…you know!”
What I glean from these questions and comments is that one major stumbling block preventing people from starting the process is that they’re afraid to send the wrong signal about what they think about what comes at the end of the process.
Here’s what I think, and what I suggest.
First of all, despite the absolute mess the World has made of it, there is NOTHING(!) wrong with wanting sex. God created us “male and female” and part of that creation was giving us sexual organs designed to be used in tandem with each other in order to give gratification and pleasure to both parties. If this is done properly, in the context of a marriage between a man and his wife, it also creates powerful, lifelong emotional bonding and, just incidentally, is a lot of fun.
On the other hand, paradoxically, it’s also less than 1% of your married life.
I know that’s hard to believe, but it’s true.
The good news is, the other 99% is also a lot of fun (most of the time) and in some ways just as intense.
But getting back to the original point, there is nothing wrong with wanting sex, and there’s nothing unusual about it either. It’s a big part of why you want to get married, and it’s a big part of why anyone would want to marry you.
So stop freaking out about it.
If a member of the opposite gender signals to you that they’re interested in you, accept the fact that one thing they’re interested in is having sex with you.
Then, take a deep breath and put that thought to one side because, frankly, there’s a lot of other material to cover before the two of you even get to that point. Happily, the process of going through all that other material will bring you to a place of emotional intimacy which will prepare you for engaging in the act of physical intimacy on your wedding night.
Or, in the process, you might discover that you don’t want to and/or aren’t meant to marry that person after all, and so it won’t be relevant (that is, if you don’t get ahead of yourselves and fall into temptation and sin, which is what you obviously need and want to avoid.)
But if/when you get to that point, you’ll probably still be nervous (at least the first couple of times) but you’ll also be so emotionally attached to that other person that coming together in the physical act of love will be so marvelous and joyous and wonderful that you’ll soon forget all about the awkwardness, nervousness and anxiety that you had at the beginning of the process. Before you know it, it’ll be as natural as breathing.
But to get to the end of the process, you have to begin the process, and I know that’s not easy.
So here’s what I suggest.
If you receive a signal from a member of the opposite gender that they’re interested in you, or if you’re the brave one who sends the signal to someone else, take a moment to internalize the fact that one of the things that person has in mind is physical intimacy.
Then, start thinking about all the other things you’ll be sharing. Think about what you’ll look like sitting next to each other at kehilah. Think about what you’ll look like going to the grocery store together. Think about how you’ll feel spending Shabbat Erev at your mother-in-law’s house.
Because that’s the other 99% of what marriage is all about. That’s the part where you grow more emotionally intimate with each other, which is a compliment to the 1% of the time you’re being physically intimate with each other.
There’s a couple of other things one should be aware of in this area of relationships between men and women.
First, sex is HARD WORK!
I mean, physically, it’s hard work. You need a healthy heart, limber muscles and a strong cardiovascular system to enjoy it to its fullest. You spouse will also enjoy it more if you’re both healthy.
So if you want to prepare for marriage and sex, one thing to do is buy a good pair of cross-trainer shoes and head to the gym. Or get a treadmill, or whatever. Just remember that the better shape you’re in, health-wise, the more you’ll enjoy sex. The opposite is also true, the worse physical shape you’re in, the less you’ll enjoy it.
Now there’s something else.
I’m speaking mostly to the ladies now, but this is also relevant for a lot of men.
It’s REALLY difficult for a man to be emotionally intimate with a woman and not want to also be physically intimate with her.
So if you’ve got a male “buddy” who you like to “just hang out with” because there’s “no pressure” and you can just “share your feelings” and “be yourself” with him, be advised, he wants to have sex with you so bad it’s not even a joke.
The reason he hasn’t told you that yet is because he wants to, but he’s afraid that if he does you’ll be freaked out and then you won’t want to be around him anymore and although he wants more from you he is afraid that if he reaches for what he REALLY wants he’ll lose you entirely, and he’s afraid of taking that chance.
(That’s pretty tragic, isn’t it? Yeah, it sure is.)
So, if you have any feelings of kindness towards your platonic male “buddy” whatsoever, you need to do one of two things.
You need to either make a decision to think of your platonic male “buddy” as a flesh and blood man who has flesh and blood needs, passions, emotions and desires and who thinks of you as someone who he wants for more than platonic friendship and then decide if that’s something you’re also prepared to contemplate.
If you can’t bring yourself to contemplate that, than, you need to gently but firmly tell him the truth, that there’s no hope for him to ever have you as his wife, that it’s not going to be like that, etc. Then, after you’ve told him this, you need to gently but firmly eject him from your life as comprehensively as you can.
It will be painful for both of you, but if you do anything less, you’re just making it more difficult for him and more complicated for yourself.
Because here’s the other thing.
All of your platonic male buddies have male friends who are hoping you eventually become his girlfriend, and none of them are going to come anywhere near you until you make it crystal clear to everyone that this is not gonna happen.
If you’re a single woman and you’re wondering why all the men in your congregation appear uninterested in marrying you, that COULD be the reason. The same goes for men who are in “friendships” with women that they don’t think of as potential wives.
What other people see is not always what we think we’re showing them.
So, to sum up, platonic “buddies” of the opposite gender that you spend a lot of time with and otherwise share your life with are okay if you’re 12 years old. But if you’re older than that, the dynamic is REALLY inappropriate and frankly toxic. The only person of the opposite gender you can safely be emotionally intimate with is your spouse or a close relative for whom there is no question of physical intimacy.
For the men (mostly) a more generic piece of advice.
Women respect men who respect themselves. If you come to kehilah (or work, or whatever) dressed like a slob, you’re projecting the fact that you don’t respect yourself. That’s in addition to the fact that when you dress like a slob you’re not very physically attractive.
So find some decent clothes to wear to kehilah. It doesn’t have to be a suit and tie, but it should be clean, and it shouldn’t be what you’d ordinarily wear to the beach or to dig ditches at a construction site.
‘Nuff said about that.
I want to end on a more hopeful note, so I’m going to tell you about two things I did which DIRECTLY contributed to my getting married.
First, several months before I started dating the woman who I would eventually marry, I started praying for her.
I didn’t know I’d start dating her soon and then marry her about a year later, but one evening I simply started praying for her, saying something like this (I don’t remember the precise words, but it was like this):
“Lord, thank you for my wife. I don’t know where she is or what she’s doing at this moment but You do. I want to thank you for causing her to be born and grow up and that you’re preparing her even now to meet me and you’re also preparing me to meet her. I pray that you take care of her, especially if she’s in trouble right now. I pray that you sustain her and guide her and show her that You love her, and that I love her and I’m so much looking forward to loving her and taking care of her for the rest of my life. Thank you for my wife Lord, thank you for her husband, B’shem Yeshua, Amen.”
I prayed that prayer, with a few minor variations, every night for months, and then one day we started dating and I changed it by adding her name and more details about her as I learned more about her. I still pray for her in this way every day.
I have no doubt in my mind that God heard those prayers and I also know that by praying that prayer, I not only blessed my wife, I blessed myself. I prepared my own heart to do as I said I was going to do, to love her and take care of her. When we did start dating, my heart was already so tender towards her because of those prayers that it took no time at all for me to fall completely in love with her.
The other thing…well, let me tell it from the beginning.
When we started dating at the urging of our Matchmaker (she told me this part later on) she was really nervous and she was actually trying to find a nice way to get rid of me. Finally one day, she came to me and said she “just wanted to be friends.”
How many promising relationships have ended on that tragic note?
It had happened to me already more than once, and although I was also having a lot of troubles with the relationship and this was giving me an easy and even somewhat graceful way out, since it was her saying it and not me, something inside me simply refused to go that way.
I wrote her a letter (paying NIS 300 to have it professionally translated into Russian so she would be sure to understand precisely what I was saying) telling her why that wasn’t acceptable to me. I don’t remember everything I said and I don’t have the English version of that letter anymore but I remember a couple of key phrases, including when I told her that we were “too old for this ‘just friends’ nonsense” and a few other things like that.
She told me later that she had acknowledged the truth of this but it hadn’t really moved her.
But then she got to the end, the last paragraph of the letter in which I said wrote/said these words.
I wrote/said “I know there’s a lot of challenges in front of us. We grew up in different countries and don’t speak the same mother tongue. We both have a lot of fears, anxieties, baggage and issues. But I think I might love you, I know for sure that I want you and I’m also fairly certain that I need you. So I’m going to fight for you, and I’m asking you to fight for me.”
That did it.
That struck a chord in her heart. It was a turning point for her. It knocked her off the fence she’d been on regarding her feelings towards me and from that point on, we started fighting for each other. We met every morning and prayed together for our relationship, we both worked hard to develop our Hebrew so we could speak more with each other, we both gave up some things that we didn’t think we could live without to make room in our lives for what the other person couldn’t live without. We did a lot of things like that, and eventually God gave us the victory.
Brothers and Sisters, hear me.
NOTHING worth having in this life is acquired easily or without sacrifice.
If you want to get married, you’re going to have to do something personally to make it happen.
STORM the Gates of Heaven with your prayers and don’t give the Lord a break from your outpourings of praise and thanksgiving for your spouse. Remind Him CONSTANTLY of how much you love them and how much you want to meet them so you can start your married life together. Ask Him to prepare you, and them, for that moment.
When that moment comes and you do meet “the one” STRIKE while the iron is hot!
Trust in God and have confidence in yourself!
BELIEVE that you can and will be the other half of your spouse and that despite whatever obstacles there might be, whatever anxieties or difficulties you or they might have, whatever awkwardness there might be, you will FIGHT YOUR WAY THROUGH THEM in prayer and with joy.
You’ve got to FIGHT for your spouse, and they’ve gotta fight for you!
It won’t be easy, there will be challenges, there will be sacrifices you both must make, there will be setbacks, there will be obstacles to overcome, work around or power through.
But there’s a line in a song that says “love’s not a fight, but it’s something that’s worth fighting for”
Outside the Bible, I doubt that truer words were ever spoken.
That’s what I’ve got for you today people.
Don’t forget the treadmill, and I look forward to eating your wedding cake. Just remember I like marshmallow frosting.