I like to keep the conversation light. I like to bring the funny, be the one to make others laugh. I try to do that with this column. But I also try to be responsible and sometimes things have to get serious. I’d be doing a disservice to readers if I avoided the unpleasant – and some may say harshness – of the dating world. I want all to be informed and knowledgeable and aware of what is out there and prepare all of you, and I’m not just speaking about bad dates and shadchanim who don’t have your best interest at heart. It hurts that I have to write this, but I must, and I write it because I care, not because I want to sensationalize something or scare readers. Ignorance isn’t bliss, it’s dangerous. Read on and educate yourself.
How many times have you (male or female) entered into a relationship and thought that it was too good to be true? You know why you are single, but you are completely dumbfounded when you date someone who seems amazing. Why is he/she still single? The two of you go out a few times and everything is fine. Then slowly he/she says something or suggests something, making you second-guess yourself or to change something about yourself that at first you don’t think is a big deal, but as time goes by the little things you change begin to add up and soon you don’t recognize the face staring back at you in the mirror. I may be talking in very general terms, but let me get specific.
On a date, it’s casually mentioned that the color of your shirt/sweater does nothing for you. “It makes you look sallow. It doesn’t go with your skin color…” You’re at the stage in your relationship that he/she feels comfortable telling you this because feelings are developing. He/she wants you to look good, so you take it as a compliment and a suggestion – “If I want to look my best, I’ll avoid green.” Soon after, another suggestion is made it could be about your shoes: “They are too pointy and resemble elf shoes” or “You can’t wear heels because you can’t be taller than me.” Okay. Not too bad. You’re still having a great time, feelings are developing/getting deeper. You may feel as if you are entering another stage in your relationship, so you go with it. I mean, it’s just shoes, right?”
A little later a comment is made about your vocabulary. “Everything is fine, but you would sound more intelligent and be more respected and seen in a different light if you phrase that a different way, such as ____.” No one ever complained about your vocabulary before, but okay. Not a big deal.
Then a comment is made about one of your friends or family members. The statement wasn’t “Don’t talk to them”; it was more subtle than that. “Is that how ____ always is?” or “That’s kind of an odd thing to do/say. Does ____ usually act/say things like that?” Now it makes you second-guess how you feel about someone you have known and come to care for. You start thinking, “Maybe he/she is a little weird.” Or you may decline an invitation to lunch or to spend time together because you know that your significant other has mixed feelings about him/her and you don’t want to rock the Love Boat.
I consider my readers smart, so I think you know where I’m going with these analogies. The person you are dating or in a relationship with never came out and said, “Stop wearing green. You sound like an ignoramus when you speak, and your friend Feiga/Moshe is nuts, stop spending time with her/him.” But enough doubt was put into your head to rethink things you never even had to think about for two seconds. Slowly you start making these changes, and as they see they have some influence over you, that’s when it gets dangerous, and the suggestions happen more often and an offhanded comment is made about something you do or someone you care about. Whether it’s when you break up or when you’re deep into the relationship, you come to your senses and realize that this isn’t who you are or who you want to be or even who you want to be with. Now you must be the strong person that you are inside to take your life back. Some may be able to do it on their own. Some may need help from family and/or friends or even a therapist because the damage was done. You must not only take your life back, but remember how you used to view the world, your friends, clothes, and even yourself, because whether or not you want to believe it, you have been manipulated. Plain and simple: Someone wanted to change you into what he/she wanted. They didn’t like you for you. They lied you for what you could become and do for them. I’m not losing my marbles; this is actually happening. I have received enough emails, spoken with enough people, and even dated a few of these types of men where I can safely say: This is happening.
If you know of anyone who seems to be in a relationship similar to the one I am referring to, step in. You are not “butting in” when you feel that a friend’s mental or physical health is at risk. Sometimes, depending on the “abuser,” for lack of a better word, the changes could have happened so subtly that the “victim” won’t know he/she is the victim. But then again, depending on the “abuser,” the victim may not know how to extract himself or herself from the situation. Call Shalom Task Force, call a friend. Abuse isn’t just physical, theirs is emotional and psychological, as well.
I do not mean to scare anyone, but as I said, I am not doing anyone any favors by not mentioning this or pretending that it doesn’t exist. This is the more serious side of dating, and it must be spoken about and not be a taboo topic.
I hope to return to the lightheartedness of dating in next week’s column.
Hatzlachah to you all.