On Sunday evening, June 19, Let’s Get Real with Coach Menachem hosted Rabbi Reuven Epstein, CPA, CFF, head of The Marriage Project, for an enlightening inter-active virtual lecture on dating and marriage.

Coach Menachem Bernfeld introduced the event and shared that growth comes when you move out of your comfort zone. Next, Rabbi Epstein shared a midrash that, after the world was created and Hashem saw that everything was good, He then created Adam, and the angels looked down and saw that Adam was the purpose of creation. They wanted to sing shirah, but the Torah says that it is not good for man to be alone. Hashem said, you are not perfect. Rabbi Zechariah Wallerstein z”l taught that marriage is a sacrifice, and you need to be ready to sacrifice.

Rabbi Epstein taught that marriage is about connecting. It’s about creating a new unit where two halves form a whole. “The opposite of a good marriage is a coexisting marriage. You need the new unit of two melding into one. Marriage is a kesher.” He shared that problems occur when two people live side by side without meshing.

There are certain elements necessary in order to embark on a lifelong journey with your spouse. You have to realize that you are embarking on a walk, side by side, for 100 years.” If someone lags behind or someone forges ahead, there are problems.” Every decision and everything you do, like how to raise your children etc., is decided on jointly.

When you are dating, you need to see that the elements for this side-by-side journey exist.

Someone asked how many dates are necessary to discover this. Rabbi Epstein shared, “between four and 11,” but he said that compatibility is underrated. People need to be attuned to each other. He personally dated his wife three times and then knew they were compatible.

Someone else asked how she will know when she is ready go into shidduchim. He acknowledged that there is a lot of pressure after seminary. There are three things to focus on that will help you know if you are ready to start:

First, you have to be ready to give to another. You have to know who you are and to be a player. He explained, “You have to be running towards something, not away from something.” You need a vision of want you want your home to be.

Second, you must make sure your history is behind you. You have to be healthy in the sense that your struggle is behind you.

Third, you need to date yourself. You need to take time to ask yourself questions that you anticipate the person you date will ask you. You need to know what is important to you and not just repeat things you learned or heard. It has to be thought through. For example, is it important to you that your husband always davens with a minyan? If you haven’t thought this through, you can miss yellow flags and red flags. He suggested having an older sibling or someone you can speak to about this.

He added that, of course, everything is from Hashem, and you need to daven and have emunah, but he is speaking here about necessary hishtadlus.

Next, someone asked how you know if your history is really history. Rabbi Epstein stated that if you are constantly struggling with something, then it’s not history. Also, you can speak to your therapist, and you can also ask yourself if you are going to be a burden to someone else.

Another caller asked how to think of what to say on a date. Rabbi Epstein shared that on a date we forget that we are also selling ourselves. The goal of the date, in a way, is to sell yourself, and you want to share what you accomplished or did during the day. Help the person get to know you. On the other side, you want to glean information from your date. You need to approach the date with confidence, not being haughty, of course. You need to know that you are awesome and have a lot to share. He suggested a book: Bringing Out the Best in People by Aubrey C. Daniels.

He shared a strategy to help couples when there is a disagreement. First, agree with the other person. Repeat back what he or she is saying. For example, if your wife wants a new dining room and you don’t, you could say, “I hear that.” First, you have to understand the other person’s viewpoint. You could say, “I think it’s a good idea. Now, can we talk through our budget, timeframe, etc.” The more validation and getting on board with the other person, the better the result will be.

Someone asked about friends of the opposite gender and couples getting together. Rabbi Epstein said it’s a slippery slope, and Chazal put g’darim in place in terms of how we speak and yichud and a certain mindset and mentality. If a person develops an emotional connection with someone of the opposite gender at work, this can drive a major wedge between a couple. He stated, “Don’t ever do something you need to cover up from your spouse.

Another person asked about dating a long time but not feeling attracted or connected to the other person. Rabbi Epstein shared that you need to date emotionally and open up to each other in an emotional way. He shared that you should ask questions that get the conversation going emotionally, like when was the last time you cried? He added that marriage is an emotional connection with another person. Rabbi Epstein has a website, Date Like a Pro, that has emotional questions you can ask to help you get a sense of the kind of life you would live with this person.

Dating emotionally helps people realize if this is the right one for them. He added that, in general, physical attraction will follow emotional attachment.

May Hashem bless klal Yisrael to all find their zivug and with beautiful shalom bayis.

By Susie Garber