Is Your Friend Sabotaging Himself?
Will Telling Him How He's Turning His Dates Off Help Him Change?
“I know a lovely guy,” Rena confided, “But I can’t seem to get Tzvi any dates. My married son, who works with Tzvi and thinks he’s a “great guy”, had him over for lunch when we came for a Shabbos. We all enjoyed Tzvi’s company and I thought of setting him up with some of the young women I know. He was open to the idea, and he told me about his background what he’s looking for. Tzvi is 28, good-looking, neatly dressed, easy to talk to, and obviously intelligent. I enjoyed his sense of humor. He has a good job in hi tech and is close to his family, even though he and one sibling are the only ones who made aliyah. Tzvi explained that he thought of himself as “unconventional” and believed that might be the reason he was having difficulty with dating. Yet, he seems to me to be a pretty conventional fellow who happens to have a few strong opinions that don’t always match the majority.
“I thought that Tzvi would be a good match for someone who is sure of herself but open-minded about new ideas. I was able to set him up once – they dated a few times but decided they weren’t right for each other – but nevertheless his date gave me good feedback about him. Since that time, though, none of the women I suggest Tzvi to will go out with him.
“Three women have turned him down, and all of the same reason. Each did a little checking with her friends, who grew up with him in ‘the old country.” Each heard some variation on, ‘He’s a nice guy but he gets a little weird in a crowd.’ I encouraged two of them to check a little further, reasoning that Tzvi may now be very different than he was when we has younger. It turned out that the description came from ‘current events'. So, here’s this guy with great potential, and a group of women who can’t be persuaded to go out with him. I made up excuses as to why the first two women turned down my suggestion, but I wonder if I should I tell him he’s sabotaged himself, and that his reputation precedes him?”
Tzvi was indeed sabotaging himself, and Rena decided to diplomatically tell him so. She realized that unless he knows this is a problem, he won’t be able to address it. Rena told Tzvi, “I think highly of you and I would like to set you up with a really great girl. But, I’ve encountered a problem that I feel I should share it with you because I think you can do something about it. Some of the women I’ve spoken with have turned down the idea because they don’t like what they hear when they ask about you.”
Tzvi listened to Rena’s explanation and admitted, “I’m not surprised by what you are telling me. They’re right – I act very juvenile and I guess you could say weird when I’m in a large group. I know it is a defense mechanism because I feel so uncomfortable in a crowd.” Tzvi hadn’t realized how negatively this behavior was affecting his dating choices. “I can see that someone wouldn’t want to worry that I’ll act silly on a date and embarrass her, and that she’ll be uncomfortable if I act so immature. But I’m so used to acting this way it will be a challenge to change.” Rena and he discussed ideas about what Tzvi could do to change his actions so that people could stop viewing him as an immature cut-up.
Like Tzvi, some people don’t realize they are unintentionally sabotaging themselves by engaging in a pattern of behavior that turns people off and gives them a reputation that can be hard to live down. Yonina does this. She doesn’t realize that she’s carries a chip on her shoulder and other people notice it pretty quickly. She hasn’t been set up in a while because people are wary of her bitterness.
Max is another saboteur. At a singles’ Shabbaton, he showed up at his Friday night host’s house a short while before the other guests and chatted with his hostess, who thought, “What a charming man. I hope he meets someone this weekend.” Yet, as soon as the rest of the guests showed up, Max was a different animal. “He was crude, angry, and downright obnoxious,” his hostess observed. "It was like Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde. I bet he doesn’t even realize what he’s doing.”
She’s right. Neither does Danny, who likes to make outrageous and sometimes inappropriate statements to see how his date will react. Nor does Rachel, who is so eager to find someone that she exudes an air of desperation from the moment she realizes that a first date is going well. Her dates feel like running the other way.
Tzvi, Yonina, Max, Danny, and Rachel can’t understand why they can’t get dates…and when they do, why they can’t get past the first date. It might help for someone who cares about them to talk to them, l’toeles, about what they may be doing to sabotage themselves and how they can stop so that future dating partners will have the opportunity to get to know what a true gem they really are.