by Samantha Hulkower
While at first blush this might seem like a silly problem to encounter, one of the hardest things I've had to do was to stand up for my decision to take a break from dating. We should all have such difficult problems in life, right?
I started becoming more interested in Judaism around the time I turned 28. In the secular world, 28 isn't necessarily a scary age for a single woman, and I hadn't thought too much about my age. Since I was going through something of a paradigm shift, I took myself out of the dating pool. I didn't think it was a good idea to be dating while I was figuring out who I was and what I was really looking to get out of life.
Almost everyone else thought differently. True - some people would smile and nod and admit that I was 28, and not heaven forbid 38, and maybe I had enough youth left so that I could afford to spend some time on me. But most people told me that I shouldn't wait too long.
Social pressures to be married, or coupled to some extent, often drive people to start dating when they aren't really in a place for it. There are many legitimate reasons to not be actively dating: it could be that you just got out of a long relationship, and you really need time to remember who you are; or you just got a new job that requires spending many long hours at the office, and you barely have enough time for yourself, let alone another person; or you've recognized a character flaw in yourself that you want to work on.
That's not to say that we should remain hermits until we think we've reached our ideal selves - part of growing as a person depends on being in close relationships and learning to handle challenges. Learning to both give and take from people, how to put others first, to prioritize your time to make space for others in your life, or simply how to talk less and listen more are all ways of growing we mostly get from dating.
Recognizing that you might not be in a good place to date helps you get out from that place faster. Also, taking time to analyze the relationships you've been in and where they went wrong can help you to identify patterns and lead you to make better decisions in the future.
Just like it's ok to be single, it's ok to take a break from dating to figure yourself out. While I was figuring myself out, I realized I wanted to spend some time living in Israel. Opportunities to pick up and take off are definitely easier when single! Since I've been here I've met lots of other people in their 20s and 30s (and 40s) who saw being single as an opportunity to be able to embark on something they realized they always wanted to do. It just so happens, that many of these people are, without even intending to, meeting other people and finally having healthy and fun relationships.
It's better to take the time to work on yourself now, rather than waking up one day to realize your life took you places you didn't want to go but you never had the where with all to apply the breaks.
Samantha Hulkower is on sabbatical in Jerusalem from the US. She's appreciating all that life has to offer in Israel and trying to find the humor in every situation (especially dating). You can also view her blog on environmental issues in Israel here.