Overwhelmed by Dating

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shidduchimDear Editor,
I returned from Israel last June. The plan was that I would start dating after Pesach. The time has finally come for me to begin this course of action. As the oldest child in our family, my parents are naturally very excited at the prospect of entering this new stage of life with me. Many of their friends have already made weddings, and I do believe my mother is just itching to do so herself. I’ve already been overhearing my mother on the phone recently, discussing potential shidduchim for me. I’m not surprised by these conversations or the hours of questions and answers that seem to be part of the process. But I find that every time I hear her on the phone, my stomach is in knots. I literally start feeling sick and have to leave the room.

I do not consider myself a particularly outgoing person by nature. It’s hard for me to meet new people. I find that I don’t have a lot to say to someone new. But my friends whom I’ve known for years are very easy for me to talk to, and I never feel like I have nothing to say to them. It’s just that the beginnings are hard and it takes me time to feel comfortable.

When I think about going out on a date, I can’t imagine how I’ll be able to manage it. In fact, even if someone should call me up for a date, I don’t know what I could possibly say over the phone to a complete stranger whom I know nothing about and, as far as I know, don’t even necessarily have anything in common with.

Naturally, I’m terrified. I want to tell my mother to stop trying to find me a shidduch, because I’ll let everyone down. On the other hand, I do want to get married and know that the only way it’s going to happen is by me going out on a date.

How do I get past the sheer terror of going out? What do I tell my parents?


Dear Petrified,

I’m sorry to hear that the prospect of dating is so overwhelming for you right now. New beginnings are often scary, especially for someone like you, who considers herself to be on the shy side to begin with. It’s a lot to ask of you…or anyone. The point you make is well taken. Where else and under what other circumstances are two complete strangers expected to suddenly spend several hours together making conversation and connecting? It almost sounds unnatural.

I can understand why you are feeling so challenged and nervous at this stage. But being “set up” seems to be the only system we have in place for people like yourself. There isn’t a lot of choice in the matter, if you want to meet your bashert, which clearly you do. If it helps you at all, know that many young women-and men, for that matter-feel exactly the same way you do. Even individuals whom you may perceive as being extremely confident and outgoing often struggle with first dates. Most people are not jumping for joy at the prospect of having to strike up a conversation with a complete stranger and coming off as charming, relevant, and fabulous! It’s a lot of pressure for even the most confident among us.

So, until you’ve eased yourself into this necessary rite of passage, there are surely things you can do that will help. My first suggestion would be to be honest with your parents. There is nothing wrong with explaining to them how nervous the thought of dating is for you. By sharing your feelings with them, you will release some of your stress, not have to carry around the burden of your secret, and take comfort from their support.

Secondly, think about what type of young man would be the best choice for you and thereby enable the dating experience to be more relaxed and successful. Have you thought about whether you’d prefer going out with someone who is very talkative-maybe so talkative that you merely have to be a good audience? Or do you think you would prefer someone on the quieter side, like yourself; someone who might be just as comfortable with silence as with chatter? Once you’ve figured this out, make sure that your parents check into the personalities of prospective shidduchim so that the fit is right for you, thereby enabling you to feel comfortable with who you are.

Thirdly, there are some practical activities that you may find helpful. Have you ever tried deep-breathing exercises? How about meditation? Does a good workout help you relax? Figure out what you can do the day of your first date that can help you feel more at ease. Or, if you need to back it up a bit, see if there is a way to prepare for your first phone conversation with a prospective shidduch, if you know in advance when he is supposed to call.

Finally-and don’t laugh-you can prepare a script for yourself. Think of and write down a list of great questions that you can ask while on the phone and on a date. You might want to discuss this with friends who have been dating already. Get advice from them. What do they talk about on their dates? What are appropriate questions and what are not? Additionally, what questions can you anticipate being asked? Prepare your answers in advance. Yes, this must sound very scripted. It is. But for your first few dates, you should take advantage of whatever tools are available to help you feel prepared and capable. Eventually you will want to toss out the script and just be yourself.

And let’s not forget the good news. Like any new undertaking, dating gets easier with time. Try to view it as a skill that can be honed and perfected. The old adage “practice makes perfect” applies to the art of dating as well. No doubt, the first time you go out, you will feel extremely nervous beforehand, and very possibly will be excessively critical of your performance on the date, perhaps regretting much of what you said or didn’t say. That’s to be expected. But I can assure you that, with time, it will get easier. With time, you will prove to yourself that you can handle the situation and even feel satisfied with your behavior. You need to know this. Going out with someone new may not be your favorite pastime, but I can assure you that eventually it will just be something you do, without terror, in order to attain a necessary goal.

Many things we have to do in life are hard. When we come across a difficult situation we always have to ask ourselves whether we want to just give up and walk away, or break through our discomfort and tolerate the unpleasantness, for the greater good. Each time we challenge and force ourselves to rise above what is difficult, we are also growing in wonderful ways. Uneasiness never killed anyone. And as far as I know, neither has a nervous stomach. You’ll get through this and it will get easier. I have faith in you. Have faith in yourself.

Esther Mann, LMSW

Esther Mann, LMSW, has a private practice in Lawrence. Esther is a psychotherapist and life coach and can be reached at 516-314-2295 or mindbiz44@aol.com. She works with individuals, couples, premarital couples, and families.

{Larry Gordon’s 5tjt.com/Matzav.com Newscenter} 


  1. Esther, you have lots of sechel. Maybe a workshop for young adults on dating may be in order,, shall we organize you for you to lead??

  2. she seems like she is not ready to date. no offense to esther, but this seems quite a bit more serious than some pre-dating jitters. my advice would be that this girl ought to wait a ittle longer, because let’s face it: at the end of the day, it’s a much bigger disaster to get married if you’re not ready than it is to wait an extra year to start dating.

  3. If the writer’s a girl,the current climate allows her to push off shidduchim.

    If a boy, maybe he’s nervous because he has a healthy, realistic idea of the responsibilities of marriage and needs time to prepare himself better. I suggest he talks to a rav or mashgiach he’s close to.


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