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From the Singles Column: Six Dating Sins to add to your Tashlich List

Originally published in the San Diego Jewish Journal

One of my favorite Rosh Hashanah traditions is Tashlich, where a congregation gathers at a body of water to cast away bread crumbs that represent our “sins.”  I say sins in quotations, because my family doesn’t just include broken mitzvot, but also actions that have held us back from achieving our capital G goals (like happiness, fulfillment, etc).

We’ve found that local birds are also quite enthusiastic about participating in this ritual, which has led my family to rename the tradition: “Feeding our Sins to the Ducks.” Whatever you call it, it’s a wonderful way to reflect on the areas we’ve fallen short, and renew our commitment to doing better.

So here are six “Dating Sins” that you should feed to the waterfowl this Tashlich.

1. Putting your own expectations onto others. If you think the person you’re dating can do no right, or that they can do no wrong, I guarantee that you’re wrong. We all experience the world through our own lenses, and people are far more complicated than those lenses would have us believe. To have successful relationships, we must do our best to see past our filters to the actual person. How? By being vigilant about our own motivations, setting aside our egos, and really listening to our partners.

 2. Pursuing perfection. Take a moment and think about what “perfect” is to you: a perfect date, a perfect partner, a perfect you. Now, why is that exact scenario or set of traits “perfect?” Most of us believe, at least on some level, that if we could just achieve A, B, and C, or find a date who is X, Y, and Z, then we would be completely, blissfully, happy. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as objective perfection, and trying to force ourselves, others, and our relationships into an artificial box we’ve defined as “perfect” is a surefire path to misery.

3. Settling. There’s a difference between not pursuing perfection and giving up on what makes you happy. When you truly feel that you’ve settled, you’re not only being unfair to yourself, but also to the person you’re settling for. Odds are, there’s someone out there who’d make you feel like you’ve hit the jackpot… and someone else out there will feel like they’ve hit the jackpot with the person you’re currently monopolizing.

4. Expecting your partner to complete you. It’s very easy to think that in order to be happy and whole you need to find your “other half.” But a relationship isn’t about two half-people making one whole. It’s about two whole people creating a thriving partnership.

5. Not being your best self. We may not be perfect, but we can be pretty darn awesome. Unfortunately, we often fall short of our potential. Perhaps it’s because we’re afraid of really putting ourselves out there and getting rejected, or perhaps it’s just that the daily grind leaves us worn out and stressed. Whatever the reason, it isn’t good enough! You deserve to be the best you, and others deserve to experience the best you. So stop over-scheduling yourself, start getting enough sleep, try to stay healthy, and always make time to do things that bring you joy.

6. Beating yourself up (metaphorically) for sinning. There’s a reason we repeat the Tashlich tradition every year: Part of being human is messing up sometimes (or lots of times)… and that’s okay. Remember: if you never fail, it means you never try. So forgive yourself for past mistakes, and go forth into the new year secure in the knowledge that you’ll have a few doozies for next year!

From the Singles Column: Singles and Statistics

Originally Published in the San Diego Jewish Journal

Last month, one of my readers sent me a lovely letter expressing, in part, her concern about a disturbing statistic: 50% of marriages end in divorce. I’ve heard this number before from many sources, and wouldn’t have thought too much of it… if it wasn’t for a fantastic video blogger named Hank Green, who, at one point, called random people, told them an encouraging fact, and hung up (part of a trend called “positive pranking”). One of these encouraging facts: The actual divorce rate is much lower than most people think.

I did a little digging, and found several articles in some tiny publications like “Time Magazine” and the “New York Times,” which confirmed that the statistic is murky, at best. Depending on how you calculate it, the overall divorce rate has been estimated at anywhere from 12-41% (give or take). This got me thinking about the surprising number of statistics we rely on in our dating lives. The act of going to places and doing things that we think give the best chance of finding a suitable partner, and then getting to know potential partners, is itself playing statistics. Numbers seem to be a solid starting point for decisions. But they are always far more complex than they appear. And if we’re not careful when playing the numbers… the numbers can start playing us.

So, here are my top three things to keep in mind when thinking about statistics.

  1. Beware flawed data: Even the most ethical of data-collectors must contend with all kinds of bias, which can mess up results — from the way questions are worded, to where and how a survey gets distributed.
  2. Keep in mind the Tree of Life… er… the tree of statistics: I will never forget a quote from my high school health book: “Over 80% of sexually active adults have some form of herpes.” Oy va voi! That’s a scary number, especially to singles braving the already terrifying world of dating. But it becomes a lot less scary when we realize that every statistic can be broken down into an ever-expanding tree of sub-statistics. In this case, the quote said “some form of herpes,” not “genital herpes”. That means that this 80% includes not only every sexually active adult with the STD form of herpes (which is actually 20-30%), but also every sexually active adult with a cold sore.
  3. Be careful with your conclusions: Once we’ve got our (hopefully good) data, we start to draw conclusions. That’s the easy part, right? Wrong! Let’s consider the common report that couples who live together before marriage have a higher rate of divorce. The immediate and easy conclusion: living together before marriage makes you more likely to get a divorce. And that immediate and easy conclusion is what the media tends to pick up and propagate because it’s, well, easy and immediate. Of course, it’s also completely incorrect. More recent studies suggest that, in fact, the higher divorce rate happens when couples settle down too young, either by living together OR getting married… which is also an extreme oversimplification.

So, with all that complexity, how can you ever hope to make a decision again? Start by recognizing that you don’t need all the answers to have a rich, full romantic life… which is good, because none of us will EVER have all the answers. You and your partner are people, not numbers, and only you can truly know what is right for your life. Embrace complexity, allow statistics to inform your decisions, but always remember that your decisions are exactly that: Yours.

From the Singles Column: Dating Advice – Should You be Listening?

Originally published in the San Diego Jewish Journal

“Wait three days after a date before calling!” “Don’t ruin a good friendship with romance!” “Your significant other should be your best friend!” There’s a lot of dating advice going around, but is it really worth listening to? As a dating advice columnist, I am obliged to say “YES! And you should read my column every month, and follow my every sentence so this magazine will continue to publish me!” End of article.

But seriously, is dating advice actually helpful? After all, relationships are very personal, whereas advice is usually… well, not. Most advice I hear attempts to apply a grand, generalized “always” kind of statement to a situation. (“Honey, all men only want one thing!”) Still, part of being human is living in a collaborative society, and sharing advice is a way that we can all benefit from each other’s experiences.

So how can you get value from dating advice in a way that benefits you personally? Well, first off, consider the source. And by “consider the source,” I don’t mean “dismiss offhand,” or “take all advice from this source as unerring Truth.” I mean take a step back and consider who is giving you this advice, and the metaphorical life-lenses through which they view the world. Is this advice coming from your dad? Your Bubby? Your friend? Does this person have the same sensibilities as you? Are they looking for the same things in a relationship? Is this advice something that comes from their own personal experiences, or are they quoting a statistic? Unlike Lot’s wife, salt is your friend, and you should take all dating advice with a grain of it.

Now, since this article has, up to this point been quite abstract (much like dating advice)I will now make it personal with a specific example: Me. This particular dating-advice-giver is a twenty-something secular Jew, who has been successfully cohabitating with my significant other for some time.  Religious observance isn’t a central part of my relationship (though I still do go to temple! I promise!), and I’m fine with living together before marriage. You should take this perspective into account when applying my advice to your own life.

Keep in mind, a  person doesn’t have to be your age/culture/religion and share every single life-value to be able to give helpful advice. After all, the most useful advice gives you insight from a perspective you hadn’t yet considered. That said, by being aware of the advice-giver’s lenses, and how they both overlap and differ with your own, you take that big-picture advice, and start making it personal.

Lastly, to really start getting value from dating advice, think about the reasons behind that advice. Dating advice does not exist in a bubble. There is usually a purpose to it. “The man should always get the check on the first date,” is, to many people, an outdated suggestion, but it has a purpose: to smooth a potentially awkward interaction and pave the way for a fun and relaxed date. While you may not agree with that exact advice, you still might want to tackle the underlying issue — perhaps by divvying up the cost of the date, or agreeing in advance to dine-and-dash (that’s a joke. Don’t do that!).

So, to get personal again, let me share the deepest underlying goal behind my own advice: For you to be happy, fulfilled, and whole, whatever your current romantic situation may be.

…And don’t wait three days before calling someone after a date. If you like ’em, call ’em!

From the Singles Column: Dancing – The Dater’s Dilemma

Originally published in the San Diego Jewish Journal

 

Dancing. One of the most romanticized methods of courtship. It ranks right up there with kissing in the rain, and like kissing in the rain, it’s often better in the movies than in real life.

I’ve gone out dancing a fair amount, both alone and with dates… and let me tell you, the movie Dirty Dancing lied to us. You can’t skip that whole “learning thing” with a cute 80’s montage, and while the dance floor can be romantic, it is also a perilous world of bumps and bruises. Now, I am not trying to discourage anyone from getting out there and having fun, but it’s important to consider the “real-world” factor.

Guys, this article is primarily aimed at you. Why? Because in couple’s dancing, the guy is the lead 90% of the time. As such, it is your job to make your partner feel safe as you maneuver through a dimly-lit environment filled with flailing limbs. If you don’t do that job, then you drastically reduce your chances of having fun while upping your odds of striking out. So, without further ado, here are five problematic archetypes among leads… and how to avoid being one:

 

Archetype #1: The Nervous Newbie

You courageously jumped onto the dance floor without taking a class, but now you feel all ferdrayt (dizzy and confused), and your arms feel like noodle kugel.

Solution: There are nearly always free or inexpensive lessons before open dancing, so get there early! Also know that inexperience is not a problem… just don’t run your partner into stuff!

 

Archetype #2: The “Pro”

You took some classes once, and now you “know all the moves.” If only you could find a dance partner as infallible as yourself! Maybe then you wouldn’t have to yank her arm half way out of its socket to make her spin, and “correct” her every “mistake.”

Solution: Dancing is about having fun. So check your ego at the door. Friendly guidance is fine, but if you regularly have to force her to move, then you aren’t leading properly.

 

Archetype #3: The Talker

You are so eager to get to know your partner that you hardly notice the dance floor as you ply her with questions.

Solution: If you want to get to know your partner better, ask if you can buy her a drink after the song ends. She’ll likely be more interested in talking when she isn’t worried about dodging other couples.

 

Archetype #4: The Drunk Dipper

You’ve had a few shots of liquid confidence, and now you’re ready to shake it, Baby!

Solution: It’s okay to be a tad tipsy, but know your limits so you don’t risk giving your partner a concussion. Trust me, it’s happened.

 

Archetype #5: The Seducer

Everyone knows dancing is totally sexy, and your hands always have a way of finding her tuchas.

Solution: The dance floor is not a pre-mating-ground that exists so you can sweep her off her feet and into your bed. I’m not saying you can’t be flirty, but if she moves your hand, she’s not playing hard to get, she’s saying “no.”

 

So guys (and gals), am I saying it’s hopeless, and that you should give up? Not at all! I’ve spent enough delightful evenings on the dance floor to keep me coming back. When partnered with a moderately skilled dancer who has pure intentions, dancing is lots of fun… and can be quite romantic. Just remember to set aside your ego, take a few lessons, and keep in mind that it’s all about having fun with someone you like, not taking a shortcut to the sack!

From the Singles Column: Do You Love You?

Discovering the Difference between Self-Love and Narcissism

Originally published in the San Diego Jewish Journal

There is an old Jewish folktale about a young man named Natanel. He was a very good looking groysemakher (man of influence)… at least in his own opinion. One day, while out for a walk in the woods, he came across a crystal-clear pool. He looked down into the water, and saw the most beautiful woman he had ever laid eyes upon looking back at him. Well, Natanel sat himself down by that pool and stared into the waters, so entranced by what he saw that he forgot to eat or sleep. Finally, he died… never realizing that what he saw in the water was not a woman, but his own reflection.

Okay, okay, you caught me! It’s not actually a Jewish folktale about a man named Natanel. It’s a Greek myth about a man named Narcissus. But the idea behind this story is one that affects everyone in our culture– Jew and Gentile alike– especially when it comes to dating.

See, most of us frown upon narcissism. It is not an attractive quality. When you say, “He’s so in love with himself,” the odds are good that you weren’t being complimentary.

“Okay,” you reply, “so I won’t be narcissistic. Seems easy enough. After all, I’m fabulous! I’m the most humble person in the world. I’m the best at not being narcissistic…  Oops.”

But here’s where it gets tricky: In order to be successful at dating, relationships, and life in general, you have to both avoid being narcissistic, and, at the same time, love yourself wholeheartedly.

Say what now?

No, I’m not speaking in paradox. It is very possible to love yourself without being narcissistic. But first you have to recognize one very important fact: self-love and narcissism are two completely different things.

I would bet that you have, at some point, mixed up those two concepts without even noticing. For instance, if you’ve ever said “I don’t like to talk about myself,” or deflected a compliment (“Oh, no, I wasn’t that great/I’m not that pretty/I just threw this on”), you’re mixing them up.

So why is this such a big deal? The stigma against narcissism is so great that we overcompensate by denying ourselves pleasure in our own accomplishments. In other words, we go so far to avoid narcissism that we also avoid loving ourselves. And when you don’t love yourself, you tend to have a much harder time believing that others can love you.

Let me tell you, nothing cramps your dating style like a deep-seated existential doubt about your own lovability and general worth as a human being. It’s like getting lettuce stuck in your teeth times a thousand.

 

The difference between self-love and narcissism is often subtle, but it is profound. For instance, someone who has healthy self-love is open to sharing their interests and passions. Someone who is narcissistic will share those interests and passions without also letting their date share. Notice how neither of those examples involve completely not talking about yourself. Great relationships happen when two interesting individuals are interested in each other. To make that happen, you must both share, and be open to others sharing with you.

So, as you go forth into the dating world, keep this in mind: You can live with humility without talking yourself down; you can be proud of yourself and your accomplishments without being vain; and you can love yourself without being a narcissist! And no matter how hot your date is… don’t forget to eat and sleep. Remember what happened to Natanel… er… Narcissus!

A Case for Texting

Originally published in the San Diego Jewish Journal

I’ve been seeing a lot of new studies lately about all the ways technology destroys our social and romantic lives. The statistics are certainly compelling, but as I sit alone in my room, staring at my flashy electric light-box, I find myself protesting their primary assertion that the problem is the technology.

The fact is, technology is nothing more than a tool – a tool that we can use to the detriment or the enhancement of our social and romantic interactions.

Consider the Terminator. On the one hand, it was a terrifying death machine bent on the destruction of mankind. But on the other, without the Terminator, Sarah Connor never would have met her hunky man from the future, Kyle Reese. So, from that perspective, the Terminator is nothing short of a laser-toting Yenta!

“But Jenny,” you protest, “the Terminator is a speculative technology from a fictional story.”

Yes. That is the single, solitary flaw in that example. So, let’s look at a real-world technology: the cell phone.

Of all the technology cited for destroying our social lives, the one that comes up the most is (ironically) the technology whose primary purpose is to help us communicate. These pocket-sized electronic beasties have become a problematic part of modern dating. Whether it’s because one person is so addicted to their phone that their significant other feels like a third wheel to a piece of circuitry or because of a drastic text message miscommunication, the fact remains: dating in the time of cell phones is tricky. For example, I once had a guy cuss me out via text because I didn’t respond to his “had a great time on our first date” message within a few hours. I happened to have been at work, and hadn’t had a chance to check my personal cell. When I did get the message, he received a prompt reply – which contained a few choice words of my own.

So, would it shock you if I said that none of these are examples of how smartphones ruin our dating lives? Well, hold on to your yarmulkes, because that is exactly what I’m saying!

Smart phones are only as intelligent as the people using them. So if you’re having dating and relationship problems, it does you no good to assume the fault lies with the phone. Can texting or surfing the net become habit-forming? Sure. So can chocolate or owning puppies. Does that make you physically incapable of putting your gadgets away when it is not appropriate to be using them? In the vast majority of cases, the answer is a resounding “nope.” If you use common sense, and constructively communicate with your partner about their feelings on the subject, you can not only avoid any technological pitfalls, but actually enhance your relationship.

For instance, while texting is a terrible medium for intense and emotionally-charged conversations, it can be a fantastic way to let your significant other know you’re thinking of them. Likewise, while withdrawing into your own little technology bubble at dinner is extremely rude and a surefire way to tick off your date, using your phone to share a fun video or look up a fact that applies to your dinner time conversation can be a fun way to get closer to the person you’re with.

So, as you go forth into this brave new world, think of your technology as a metaphorical hammer. If it is wielded without care, it can result in sore thumbs and sadness. But when used correctly, it can be a useful instrument as you build your relationships. But please, don’t use your smart phone to help you hang a picture frame.

You’re Not as Nice as you Think you Are

Originally published in the San Diego Jewish Journal

Many guys believe the “girls don’t date nice guys” story, just as many women believe that “guys don’t go for sweet girls.” It is a common bobbemyseh (old wives tale) used by “Nice Guys” and “Sweet Girls” to explain why they can’t find a decent person to go out with. It’s a simplistic and comforting view of the dating world. It is also a cop-out, and incredibly damaging to the romantic life of anyone who believes it.

The cop-out will form a barrier to your goal of finding that special someone, because by relying on it, you shift the responsibility for your lack of love life onto someone or something else.

Now, it’s extremely uncomfortable to admit that there is something that you are doing that is stifling your love life. But, believe it or not, taking responsibility doesn’t have to be painful. We must understand why we feel it’s painful in the first place. Because when we say, “There is something I am doing that is stifling my love life,” what we hear is, “There is something wrong with me.”

Suddenly, without our “Nice Guy/Sweet Girl” story, we find ourselves falling down the rabbit hole of self-loathing: “People won’t date me because I am [insert insulting adjective here].” No, I’m not calling you worthless, or ugly, or whatever insulting adjective you came up with for yourself. This is what is happening in your own mind. This is the supposed “truth” that you are so afraid of confronting. But guess what? This is every bit as false as the original cop-out.

The odds are, I just described the thing that you’re doing to stifle your love life: holding on to some fundamental self-doubt about your own strength or worth as a human being.

Suddenly, you’ve made the dating stakes a lot higher. Being attractive to the people we are attracted to is incredibly validating, and goes a long way toward countering our personal insecurities. But on the flip-side, when the objects of our attraction don’t reciprocate, our insecurities have a tendency to rear their ugly heads and find reinforcement.

Even worse, when your romantic pursuit is about personal validation, rather than a simple desire to get to know the person you’re pursuing, it can come across as needy. This is a very common way that the Nice Guy and Sweet Girl actually make themselves less attractive to the person they’re pursuing.

So, how can you break out of this vicious cycle? By mentally separating who you are from what happens to you.

Recognize that rejection is not a negative statement about your – or your rejecter’s – worth as a human being. It just means that, for one reason or another, you aren’t right for each other.

So, Nice Guys, if the woman you’re interested in is truly only attracted to Bad Boys, then, like it or not, you’re not what she’s looking for. Stop chasing her, and find a girl who is interested in you. I promise, she’s out there. The same goes for Sweet Girls.

I won’t pretend it’s easy. Getting out of a mental cycle that you’ve had for years takes practice and patience. Just as finding a great match can take time and work. But it is doable, and it is worth the effort. I know, becauseam also a Sweet Girl. And if I can do it, you can, too!

Originally published in the San Diego Jewish Journal.

Chanukah comes early this year, bringing lights, latkes, and presents. DUN NAH NAAAAAAA! Oh no! You have to find the perfect gift for your special someone. Whether you are in a long-term committed relationship, or you are just experiencing the budding beginnings of romance, gift-giving can be an extremely stressful challenge. As we approach the festival of lights, here are four tips that will help you survive this tradition without getting burned out.

1. Get Personal

The best kinds of gifts are ones that you put some thought into. Whether you’ve been dating two weeks or 20 years, when it comes to finding the perfect gift, there is one place to start: with them. Think back through conversations you’ve had. What are their favorite shows, books, activities, hobbies? You may luck out and remember something they specifically asked for. You may luck out even further and they may not remember having asked for it, meaning you get to be a superhero!

Remember, you don’t have to over-think it. Just don’t make it an after thought.

2. Keep it appropriate to the relationship

Whenever you’re considering a particular gift, be sure to also consider the context of your relationship. If you haven’t been dating very long, then a surprise romantic get-away for two to the Caribbean is not only way over the top, but it will almost certainly send the object of your affections running for the hills. A good rule for new couples is: keep it simple, and under $25. A small token of your affection is all you really need. That also puts far less pressure on your date if he or she hasn’t gotten you something.

3. Match their personality and sense of humor

My dad often tells the story of the one (and only) time he tried getting my grandma a funny card for the holidays. She read it through, pursed her lips, gave a little huff and said, “Well, if that’s how you really feel.” Now, hopefully, your special someone will be a tad more understanding than my very prim and proper grandma (may she rest in peace), but when finding a gift, take time to consider the person’s sense of humor. Some people just want straight-up romance and heartfelt presents. Others find flowers and poetry irritating, but a whoopee-cushion on the restaurant chair might go over great. I’m willing to guess, though, that most of us fall somewhere in between. We like the romance, but want it tempered by humor so it doesn’t get too disgustingly, mushily sweet.

4. Have fun with the search

I’ll let you in on a secret: I actually love finding gifts for people. Why? Because rather than approaching gift-hunting as a chore, or something to stress about, I think of it as a treasure hunt (one that won’t fill my own apartment with a ton of stuff I don’t need!). It’s a fun way to communicate my affections for those around me, and show them how well I know them.

So, as Chanukah draws near, take a deep breath, set aside the stress, and get back to the real reason we give gifts: to have emotional leverage over the people we love. (cough cough, ehem) I mean: to express our feelings for the people in our lives, and to bring them joy.

With that, I wish you a happy Chanukah, and a fun gift-searching season.

Originally published in the San Diego Jewish Journal

You unlock this door with the key of insecurity. Beyond it is another dimension. A dimension of listening to all your crush’s romantic problems and offering advice, a dimension of longing looks at the object of your unrequited affection, a dimension of imagining what life would be like if only you were together. You’re moving into a land of friendly conversations and platonic almost-dates; of “I’m so glad we’re friends,” and “Why can’t my significant other be more like you?” You’ve just crossed over into THE FRIEND ZONE.

The Friend Zone: that dreaded state of romantic limbo so easy to stumble into, yet so difficult to escape. It’s the subject of sitcoms, pop-culture magazine articles, and an MTV reality series. Many theories have been suggested as to why one falls into this dreaded state, resulting in myriad misconceptions. And so, as a public service to singles everywhere, I will address a few of the most prevalent misconceptions about the Friend Zone.

Misconception #1: My crush doesn’t see me in a romantic light because he or she thinks of me as a friend.

In fact, the situation is usually the exact opposite: You are in the Friend Zone because your crush does not see you in a romantic light. Perhaps they don’t feel chemistry, maybe they are not Jewish and prefer to date someone of their own religion, or there may be something else about you that doesn’t match what they’re looking for. For instance, I (sorry to admit) once sent a guy to the Friend Zone despite the fact that he was sweet, easy to talk to, and fun to hang out with. The problem was, while he was by no means stupid, he was not interested in intellectual conversations, which is a big deal for me when choosing a romantic partner.

That said, there was nothing “wrong” with him. I really enjoyed having him as a friend, and genuinely cared about him. We just weren’t a good fit romantically.

Misconception #2: He or she just doesn’t know how I feel

I’m surprised that so few people have called bubkes on this one. I have sent a few guys to the Friend Zone in my time, and guess what? I knew all along that they wanted to be more than friends.

When you have a crush on someone, and you spend a lot of time with that person, it’s extremely unlikely that you’ll successfully hide how you feel. You are almost certainly exuding pheromones, and your mannerisms are giving off a strong “I want to be more than friends” vibe. The object of your affections may pretend not to notice. They may even convince themselves that they don’t know your feelings. But if they don’t make a move, it’s almost certainly not because they have no inkling of your desires.

Misconception #3: I’m in the Friend Zone because I’m just too nice.

I guarantee that you are not stuck in this zone because you’re “too nice.” There is some other reason, so stop going on and on about how women just go for the “bad boy” and men just go for the “skanky shiksa.” Seriously. I will probably write an article soon about the “Nice Guy”/“Sweet Girl” syndrome, but for now, suffice it to say: the whole concept is bogus, and by clinging to that explanation you will put yourself through a whole bunch of needless and unproductive suffering that gets you no closer to a happy fulfilling dating life.

Misconception #4: There is no way out of the Friend Zone

There is one way to get out of the Friend Zone that works almost every time: come clean about it, and ask your crush on an actual date (not a hang-out!). The answer could surprise you. There is a chance that your crush reciprocates your feelings, and has been feeling “Friend-Zoned” by you! But no matter what happens, make sure that both you and your crush know that it won’t destroy you if you don’t get the answer you want. It’s not easy, and it can be downright terrifying, especially if they have to take some time to think about it. But by giving your crush a genuine chance to say “yes” or “no,” you can get out of limbo and either move forward, or move on.

Originally published in the San Diego Jewish Journal

Love and infatuation. Most of you readers have probably heard both terms, and are aware of what they mean. However, seeing as this is a dating column, and these are the two driving forces behind 98.753 percent of all dating interaction (give or take), I feel it is my duty to touch upon these concepts, their similarities, and their differences.

First off, the most important thing any Savvy Single needs to know about these concepts is that they are not the same thing. “Well, duh!” you may say, rolling your eyes. After all, on paper, the two are easy to distinguish. Infatuation is defined as “a foolish and usually extravagant passion or admiration.” Romantically speaking, it’s that fluttery feeling you get when you think about your crush. Love, on the other hand, is something deeper. It’s an affection and connection that is the basis of a long-term relationship; an emotional bond that can even become the foundation of a shared life.

Now, I’m not saying there is anything wrong with infatuation. Infatuation can be really fun (or really not, as any love-sick teenager rejected by a prom date will tell you), and there is absolutely nothing wrong with going out and having a good time. However, when your goal is to find that “special someone” and settle down, distinguishing between love and infatuation is the key to actually making it work.

Why? Because, when it comes to building a life together, infatuation is not enough. As I said two paragraphs back, love is an emotional bond that is the foundation for a shared life: two people, one team, taking on anything the world decides to dish out… and deciding who is going to do the dishes. It takes a lot more than butterflies to forge a bond that can withstand earthquakes, chores, and planning your kid’s bar mitzvah. After all, butterflies are beautiful, but they’re also short-lived and easily crushed.

“Okay,” you say, “so, love’s good for long-term, infatuation’s fine for the short-term, and they’re very different things. I get it, and I can tell the difference easily.”

But can you really? Pop quiz: have you ever loved someone so much it hurt? Your heart raced when you were around them. Perhaps you had trouble putting two sentences together when they were near. Have you been unable to get them out of your head, felt this electric connection, sparks flying, etc.?

Guess what… that’s not love. That’s infatuation.

See, the challenge is not distinguishing between the two on paper. It’s telling the difference when you are in the throes of passion. When you’re in the middle of the experience, it’s very easy to mistake that powerful feeling of infatuation with love. Yet it’s essential not to make any major life decisions based solely on that feeling. This means 1) don’t jump into a major life-commitment (such as marriage, cohabitation, or opening a bank account), and 2) don’t be too quick to run away from a good thing.

I slap my forehead every time I hear about a couple getting married after only knowing each other for a few months. While they may luck out and wind up having a fantastic relationship, they are taking a major gamble. As real as the relationship feels at that point, the infatuation hasn’t had time to simmer down. This means everything is a rosy haze of butterflies, and it’s darn near impossible to tell if both people are actually compatible. Real love is generally not in a hurry, so if you are in a hurry, that’s a big alarm bell that your motivation is probably infatuation.

On the flip side, I’ve seen lots of people run from fantastic relationships because they just don’t feel that “spark.” It’s an interesting choice of words, because a spark is inherently something that doesn’t last. It’s something that can begin a massive blaze that burns hot and fast, or can kindle a long-lasting campfire (for my less metaphorically-inclined readers, the campfire is love). Note also that any given campfire will burn at varying levels over time, and requires constant ongoing care.

So, with that said, how the heck can you actually tell if you’re infatuated or in love? That’s something that only time can answer, so ask yourself: how long have you been with the other person? If it’s a couple days, weeks, or months, you’re probably still very infatuated and should treat yourself as though you’re insane, because, quite frankly, you are. Once you’ve been dating a few months, the shine will likely have just begun to wear off, and you’ll start actually getting to know each other. After a year or two, though, you’ll have seen each other in a lot of different situations, had a chance to fight (and resolve said fights), and had your ups and downs together. At that point, you should have a pretty good idea of whether or not this is something that can last ‘til death do you part (and that doesn’t mean by killing each other!).