Are You Dating While Still in the Freezer?

Relationship seekers may face difficulties, with lessons for everyone.

Some Yeshivos mandate a moratorium on dating for new students. Students that enroll are not permitted to date for the first several months of the zman (semester). Since a student’s dating ability is suspended until that restriction expires, this is colloquially termed “the freezer.” For students that began studying in the winter zman (semester), “the freezer” opens in the middle of Shevat. Soon, newly dating men and women are going to join their already dating compatriots in facing formidable challenges. These difficulties are encountered by many dating individuals but are compounded by perceived Orthodox sociocultural norms and expectations. The struggles include developing emotional intimacy during the dating process and sharing some of one’s vulnerabilities.

Generally, many dating individuals find it difficult to create an emotional connection with each other during the dating process. In most subcultures within Orthodoxy, this connection is more elusive. Many frum (Orthodox) daters maintain that they are not to socialize with members of the opposite sex unless it is “for tachlis” – for the express purpose of trying to get married. Since the beginning of a dating experience between two people is not yet solidified as a relationship, many daters perceive that a cap still exists on their conversation interaction. This often curbs a person’s ability to share meaningful feelings about himself or his life experiences.The hesitation to have conversations about one’s thoughts and feelings fosters the very feeling that there is no emotional intimacy present between the two daters. One or both of the daters will usually express that he or she is “just not feeling it.” There is ample reason for that. Since few conversations revolve around expressing and exploring each other’s thoughts and feelings, it suggests to the daters that the relationship might not be headed toward marriage. Consequently, they do not give themselves sufficient license to open a discussion about their feelings or thoughts. This stifles the creation or development of emotional intimacy and might make one or both of the daters reluctant to continue dating that person. One might no longer be encumbered by the Yeshiva “freezer,” but proceeds to date with an emotionally cold dating method.

A common way that many try to jumpstart their relationship consists of board games or cards that list questions that one can use to cultivate the desired intimacy. In my post, Emotional Intimacy: It’s Not In the Cards,  I discussed that that approach is often not effective. I then elaborate on ways one can free herself from the emotional freezer.

In addition, many dating individuals are reluctant to discuss anything that might highlight their vulnerabilities, foibles, or mistakes. Part of this hesitancy is not unique to dating. Most of us find it hard for to come to terms with our own shortcomings. We sometimes see them as unique deficiencies that highlight that we are personally inadequate. It might be even harder for us to discuss them with another person. Including them in a dialogue gives life and words to those failings, which makes them more real. But daters face an additional inhibition. Society can create a false notion that the more one is removed from faults the more others will desire him. If he discusses some of those on a date, he sees it as possibly ruining his prospects of that individual acquiescing to continue dating him.

It might be worthwhile for daters – and for all of us – to think more about acknowledging our vulnerabilities and imperfections. Having those is a badge of honor – they are the unique hallmarks of being human. All humans make mistakes, have personality deficiencies, and have faults. Ironically, giving voice to those features about ourselves can be endearing. Most daters – and most people – find that the more human and real a person is, the more they want to know him.

As the dating environment welcomes its newest recruits, it might be significant for all daters to consider how their withholding of discussions of their emotions and thoughts might be inhibiting their ability to date successfully. In addition, it might be helpful for those beginning dating, those that are dating for a while, and everyone, to consider the value and truths of our own shortcomings. They are real, endearing, and very human, allowing us to thaw out in life, and live out of the freezer.

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