So, in the interest of simplification and practicality, I'm going to try to make an overview of the orthodox dating process. This article presumes that you are just beginning to date in an orthodox fashion, and therefore, does not deal with the circumstances of someone who has been trying and not finding success.
FYI, converts: No one will let you start this process until you've finished your conversion. If you find someone, you find someone, but no reputable website or matchmaker will take you until you have a shiny conversion certificate.
- Dating for marriage, not for the sake of dating.
- The first rule of dating for everyone is that if you want to love someone else, you must love yourself first. Healthy self esteem and self-acceptance.
- Think about what you want from life. What are your life goals?
- Know your strengths and weaknesses.
- Make a list of deal-breakers and must-haves. Then evaluate those to determine if they're actually important enough to be on that list.
- Come to terms with the fact that you probably won't get what you envisioned.
- Come to terms with the fact that you may find exactly what you're looking for, but that person may have been married before and/or have children from a prior relationship.
- Come to terms with the fact that you will probably have at least one long-distance relationship, especially if you live in a small community. Give it a shot!
- Realize that orthodox dating is usually for a very short time before engagement, compared to secular standards. It's not unusual to hear of a couple dating for only 2-4 months before an engagement.
- Keep in mind that real "love" usually comes after marriage, not before. The first time someone loves a partner in the Torah, Yaakov (Isaac) "loves" Rivka (Rebecca) after marrying her. To quote an Aish article, "I don't marry a soulmate. I marry a good person with integrity and with goals and expectations consistent with my own."
- Start telling people that you're looking to get married.
- Put on your game face and get a positive attitude about the whole thing.
Nowadays, you have several options:
- Professional Matchmaker. A pro will likely require you to prepare a "shidduch resume," which is exactly as dispassionate and business-like as it sounds. Most people dislike professional matchmakers because the process has severe flaws in the modern world. Also, you can burn out on "shidduch" (blind) dates.
- Informal Matchmaker. Friends, coworkers, family members, the old lady you walked across the street. Literally, every person you meet.
- Personal Connections/Kismet. Aka, chance. I don't suggest that this be your only method.
- Jewish "Singles" Events. Treat classes and other Jewish events as a place to meet other singles with similar interests.
- Online Dating Services. Be aware that at least one site (Saw You at Sinai) combines traditional matchmaking with "regular" online dating.
- Make an effort. In other words, when you're going on a date, dress nicely. Put your best foot forward. Be as positive and optimistic as your nature allows.
- Give the person a few tries, unless they are very clearly a "no." But if it's not working out after three or so dates (either no attraction forms, it turns out you don't have the same goals, or the person has questionable traits), cut 'em loose.
- Keep it objective. Don't be blinded by the bling or a hot bod.
- Middos/Good Character Traits. Take the person as they are, not what they might become. As they say, "Everyone changes after marriage...for the worse."
- Common Life Goals.
- Attraction. I suggest giving this a few dates before making a final determination so long as the other two factors are present. Hopefully being shomer negiah can help you keep this area in focus, rather than letting it blind you! Shomer negiah is really the "key" to orthodox dating.
- How well do you communicate? That's the "key" to orthodox marriage!
- Beats me. Awwwwwkward.
And While You're Doing All This
- Keep your other single friends in mind. Become a matchmaker!