July 23, 2024
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There Is No Shame in Changed Dating Needs

I got back from Israel about two years ago. When I returned home from Israel, I was totally taken with the messages I received there and I told my parents I wanted to only date a guy who would sit and learn for an extended period of time, and of course was looking for the entire package that went along with that. My parents are not quite as far to the right, but they went along with my dream and proceeded to speak to various friends and shadchanim about the type of person I was looking for.

I’ve done a bit of dating but am still single. Over the past six months approximately, as I remain single, my views are shifting somewhat, and at this point I’m starting to realize I don’t want to marry someone who is sitting and learning. In fact, I realize I would feel more fulfilled and happier with someone whose lifestyle is a bit more well-rounded. Someone already studying toward or who has already achieved a career. Someone who might even consider going to a certain type of movie with me. In other words, I’m just not the same person who returned from Israel. Just as an aside, I suspect that had I married right away, I would probably be living that dream life. But with the passage of time and my own personal growth, I see my future differently. My basic values have not changed at all. The characteristics I was originally looking for have not changed. Just the hashkafa is more relaxed.

As I’m coming to this realization and still being set up with the same type of men I originally wanted to date, I feel like a fraud and yet feel kind of embarrassed to tell my parents and the shadchanim that my needs have changed and I now want to be set up with entirely different men. I feel almost shallow and flippant that I don’t even know how to approach this conversation. I’m even feeling somewhat ashamed!

Any suggestions for me as to how to approach this change of heart without feeling and looking immature and unreliable? It’s like I worry I will lose everyone’s trust in me knowing who I am. But I have given this much thought and do not feel at all wishy washy about my decision. I just don’t know how to approach it.

The Navidaters Respond:

Brene Brown writes: “I define shame as the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging—something we have experienced, done or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection. I don’t believe shame is helpful or productive.” As I read through your email, I was resonating with your shame (or at least my perceived notion that you are feeling ashamed), and then you said it: “I feel somewhat ashamed.”

Brene Brown is a well-respected psychotherapist and author who has done extensive research on shame. You may benefit from reading her literature to gain a better understanding of the shame you are experiencing and also to learn how to let go of it. I highly recommend “The Gifts of Imperfection” (a book I have read at least 10 times and turn to often for guidance or a pick-me-up… I would lend you my copy but it is highlighted and rife with post-its!), “Daring Greatly, I Thought It Was Just Me” and “Women and Shame.” They are easy, enjoyable reads and, most importantly, they will almost certainly give you many an “aha moment.” If you don’t have time to read, Brene Brown has given Ted Talks, which you can easily Google.

In a nutshell and generally speaking, two conditions must be present for shame to grow. The first condition is: I believe I have done something wrong. The second condition is: When others find out, they will think negatively of me. (Some of us don’t need anyone else to find out in order to feel shame. We’re our own worst critics). It seems like you feel good about yourself, your changes and your growth. It is the idea of coming clean to family and shadchanim. What will they think of me? Will they respect me? Will they think I am a fraud? Will they think I am immature?

I have to wonder if this is your first time at the shame rodeo. Have you ever found yourself putting a lot of your mental energy and resources into what others think? So many of us live our lives with a deep sense of shame and aren’t even aware of it. Often, beneath the surface of anxiety and depression lies shame—an intrinsic knowing that we are not worthy, that we are unlovable…and we go about our lives plugging in current situations to our internalized shame algorithm.

In another nutshell, there are two antidotes to shame. The first, a more cognitive approach, is reframing your shameful belief. On some level, you believe that what you are doing is wrong… or the process you find yourself going through is wrong. Therefore (according to this logic), everyone will view you as a fraud or immature. What if your new mantra was I am worthy of love and connectedness with parents and shadchanim as I grow into the deeply thoughtful and self-aware woman I am meant to be?

The second antidote to shame is sharing it with a loved one. Shame bullies us into thinking we won’t be worthy of love when we come clean (as it is doing to you). Shame doesn’t have a leg to stand on when we share our experience with a trusted, empathic person. If your parents have always supported you and have been in your corner, telling them may completely reduce your shame. You may feel better almost immediately.

As you become an adult and weather new experiences and even more personal growth, you will come to realize that most people are in the same boat as you. Who we are at 19 is not who we are at 29, 39, 49, etc. People are always evolving. It is part of the human experience. I am more concerned about those individuals who are the same person at 19, 29, 39, 49, etc., those who never challenge themselves, who never explore new ideas, who don’t branch out, who are lacking in self-awareness. As we grow, we are supposed to experience some inner conflict. If we never felt pain or discomfort, we would have no motivation to make a change. (For example, when we were teenagers, most of us hated our parents at some point. We are wired to feel this way during adolescence. If we loved them and thought they were perfect, we wouldn’t have the motivation to leave the nest and create lives for ourselves.) I hope that through your growth you will be kind and compassionate with yourself. I, for one, think you are doing a great job. You are incredibly self-aware and growth-oriented and want to be honest with your parents and shadchanim. You are not willing to marry someone to uphold an image. You can be very proud of yourself. I think your parents will be too.

Sincerely,

Jennifer

Disclaimer: This column is not intended to diagnose or otherwise conclude resolutions to any questions. Our intention is not to offer any definitive conclusions to any particular question, rather offer areas of exploration for the author and reader. Due to the nature of the column receiving only a short snapshot of an issue, without the benefit of an actual discussion, our role is to offer a range of possibilities. We hope to open up meaningful dialogue and individual exploration.

By Jennifer Mann

 Esther Mann, LCSW, and Jennifer Mann, LCSW, work with individuals, couples and families in Hewlett, New York. As The Navidaters, they specialize in dating and relationship coaching. To set up an appointment, please call 516.224.7779. Sessions are held in the office or via Skype. If you would like to submit a dating or relationship question anonymously, please email [email protected]. Visit their website, thenavidaters.com, for dating and relationship advice and to learn more about their services. Follow The Navidaters on Facebook and Instagram. Check out the hit web series “Soon By You,” and be sure to tune into the Navidaters After Show!!

 

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