The answer isn’t as simple as one would think and depends on the individual.
These are some of the most common reasons why women stay in abusive relationships with the men they love.
In 2006, Wendy Cole interviewed somewhat of a mensch expert for Time Magazine. Here it is for you.
Q & A: Finding a Mensch Mate
By WENDY COLE Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2006
Not long ago, a mensch was the kind of guy your mother wanted you to marry. A devoted and kind Jewish son, no doubt, but someone with as much zing as a glass of warm, flat, seltzer.
But what a difference a few pop cultural references make. Menschiness has suddenly become cool. Desperate husband Carlos on Desperate Housewives described his parole officer as one, while the term came up in an episode of the generally un-menschy ‘Jake in Progress.’ John Lithgow was just singing about them on Broadway in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.
And a guest on Oprah even described her as ‘Mensch of the Year’ last month for admitting her mistake in initially defending fact-challenged best-selling author James Frey. Just in time for Valentine’s Day, TIME Correspondent Wendy Cole spoke to Mensch expert Robin Gorman Newman about her new book How to Marry a Mensch.
TIME: What’s the story with so many mensch mentions these days?
NEWMAN: It’s become hip. The definition has changed. When I wrote my first book on mensches in 1994, a lot of people didn’t even know what it meant, and if they did, they thought it meant someone was a nerd or a bore. As a dating consultant, I met women who would specifically say they didn’t want to meet a mensch.
TIME: How do you know so much about mensches?
NEWMAN: I like to think I am one, and my husband is even more of one than I am. He’s very loyal, dependable, and big-hearted. He does things for people and he doesn’t expect anything in return. He’s a CPA, and he actually enjoys it, which is a menschy thing right there. A real mensch doesn’t need to get a lot of pats on the back.
TIME: Are mensches better for dating or as marriage material?
NEWMAN: Both. But it takes takes a while to know if you have a real mensch. A mensch will stand the test of time. You can’t know it right away. A lot of them are mensches in wolfs’ clothing. Brad Pitt probably thought he was one. But he sure fooled us, and especially Jennifer. Bill Clinton is another mensch in wolf’s clothing. You can’t be a mensch on demand, it’s got to be a consistent part of your character.
TIME: Can you become a mensch if it doesn’t come naturally?
NEWMAN: You can work at it. It does have a lot to do with how you were raised. It helps if you have mensch role models. One thing that gets overlooked sometimes is that you have to be a mensch to yourself before you can become one to others. If you’re not good to yourself , that’s a turnoff. An uber-mensch might have the inclination to save the world, but if you’re tired or stressed you can’t spend your time doing favours for others. You have to strike a balance.
TIME: Where do you meet mensches?
NEWMAN: Doing volunteer work is good. It attracts those with a big heart. But you have to trust your gut. They don’t play games with you. I’m a fan of Internet dating, but you have to be more astute to find a mensch that way. It’s tricky to find a mensch online.
TIME: Once a mensch, always a mensch?
NEWMAN: Always. Your character doesn’t change. If it’s in your heart and soul, it doesn’t go away. There can be times when you’re busy and can’t be there for everyone all the time. That’s when it’s most challenging to be a mensch. Your menschiness might have to take a back seat for a while, but that’s okay.
TIME: You have a two-year-old son. how are you helping him to be a mensch?
NEWMAN: We’re very conscious of his manners. We remind him to say please and thank you. He’s already good at saying he’s sorry. But he needs more practice socializing with other children. He’s still a little territorial.
TIME: Any downsides to being a mensch?
NEWMAN: You can get dragged though the mud and taken advantage of. You could burn out. It is hard work to be a true mensch. That’s why I’m a little concerned that the word is being tossed around so casually these days. We have to preserve the integrity of the word.
TIME: How would a classic mensch celebrate Valentine’s Day?
NEWMAN: Every day is Valentine’s Day for a mensch. You don’t need a holiday to show your affection. Whatever you do on Valentine’s Day is just the icing on the cake.
There’s something about being Jewish, either genetically or as a society, that keeps Jews together as a group. Not completely, of course, as there are many Jewish people who have married outside the religion.
But there still remains today, even in our enlightened, high tech society, an invisible force field surrounding the Jewish people and pressuring them to stay together. How it all began is a mystery but it does, in fact, exist.
As a result of this religious cloistering, there are more Jewish dating services around than any other religion can lay claim to.
Most dating services don’t differentiate their clients by religion and this broader group of matchmakers is by far still the largest in the United States.
But when it comes down to different groups of people who are only interested in meeting people of the same religion, Jewish dating is the largest.
In purely quantitative terms, the Jewish population of the world is almost negligible. There are billions of Muslims, about a billion and a half Catholics and only approximately 20 million Jews on the planet.
And yet Jews remain the most influential group of people in the history of the world. Why that is and how that happened is a question for scholars and historians, but how Jewish dating has become so dominating is something that should be understood by anybody seeking to enter the dating world.
Adjusted with permission from: http://plrplr.com/12156/an-introduction-to-jewish-dating/
And the overwhelming temptation is to say, ‘Who are you meeting?’ and when he says your name, answering, ‘No she’s not here’
This was my instinctive thought as the overly nourished comb-over stood expectantly in my doorway.
With supreme effort, I picked my heart up from the flow, the prevalence of polite socialisation and good breeding forcing me to pursue the date, much to my regret.
For a few seconds the shiny blue Beemer parked in the street was a redemptive feature of the evening. Arriving at the restaurant (I picked a good place hoping the food would save me) the parking was quite full minimising our chances of getting a table. So he did the gentlemanly thing, hefting himself upstairs to secure a table, leaving me in the Beemer, keys and all.
I saw this as my chance of self-preservation – with a double purpose. Not only would I escape an insufferable evening, I would instantly acquire a new BMW for my driving pleasure. While I was deep in fantasy, I calculated how far I could travel before he wobbled back to the car, he returned to tell me there was a vacant table.
Shortly after we ordered, I heard about his recently installed lap band and his restricted eating requirements. Nevertheless this failed to hamper his appetite still ably equipped to devour his way through three courses, while mine was lost in a swirl of disgust.
Because of his condition, or using it as a convenient excuse, he farted throughout the meal, while I did some very deep soul searching asking myself and universal Wisdom what I had done to deserve this?
Now that the fun is over, (as far as my 14 weeks to the wedding blog goes) it’s time to take cognisance of the very serious matter of marriage.
Here is some sage advice
The restrictions on dating do not stem from old-fashioned prudishness. Rather they are a key ingredient in the creation of stable marriages between compatible spouses.
You Will Find What You Seek
The focus of a date is to determine whether this person one is seeing has the qualities and values which will allow the two of them to live together harmoniously and happily for the rest of their lives. Hence, successful dating is an art; it requires the mind to take control of a domain which traditionally and instinctively belongs to the heart.
The restrictions on dating are a key ingredient in the creation of stable marriagesFollowing this reasoning, the setting for the date should be one conducive for an extended private conversation, and both parties should be prepared to candidly describe their visions and goals for themselves and their family. A date at the cinema, for example, sheds little light on anything, and only serves to bring the two to an emotional attachment before it is healthy for them to have one, for it interferes with the ability to make an objective decision. Once the mind has decided, then the heart too must agree. When both mind and heart agree that the person is compatible, then “let the celebration begin!”
Serious and goal-oriented dating lays a strong foundation for marriage. A marriage with such a foundation will likely survive the stress and harsh conditions which will inevitably arrive sometime in the years to follow. This is the Jewish way, and we daresay it is also the common sense approach.
Today, with the loosening of social restrictions on the mingling and fraternizing between the sexes, many marriages start off as casual acquaintanceships. Two people meet, a relatively shallow conversation is initiated, sparks begin to fly, and after a period of intense courting and romance, off they go to the town clerk for a marriage license. The approach to dating has become increasingly focused on attraction and romance, and less focused on real compatibility. “Love conquers all,” is a dangerous adage, and perhaps the main reason why nearly half of all marriages dissolve in divorce, and as a society, we have reached a point where the prenuptial agreement is as an integral part of the marriage process as the marriage vows.
The heart following the mind is a formula for successFortunately, it seems that many people are discovering the wisdom of serious dating and focusing on compatibility. Assorted organizations now offer personality tests, and based on the results of these tests they endeavor to find compatible mates. These organizations claim a high success rate of many happily married couples who they’ve matched up. Makes sense!
In summation: the heart following the mind is a formula for success. The mind following the heart is potentially a recipe for disaster.
Starting the Search
“All the good ones are already taken,” is a line we’ve all heard too often. The thousands of websites and organizations devoted to helping singles in general, and Jewish singles in particular, find eligible soulmates demonstrates the difficulty inherent in finding a suitable mate.
A good place to start is in the hub of your local Jewish community, which likely is your synagogue. In all probability your synagogue offers a variety of programs, classes and evenings of entertainment – all great opportunities to meet other Jewish singles (and have fun and be edified to boot!). Make your rabbi aware of the fact that you are in search mode, and ask him to keep his eye open on your behalf.
All those websites referenced above are also an option; although they may involve the inconvenience of long distance relationships and traveling. There are also many organizations which arrange tasteful retreats and special events specifically for Jewish singles.
No comprehensive discussion about Jewish dating would be complete without mentioning the role of the shadchan (matchmaker). The proverbial shadchanearned his living through making a commission on each successful match he would arrange. He’d make the rounds in the shtetel, cajoling reluctant parents, convincing them of the virtues of some boy or girl, and how well matched that individual is for their son or daughter.
Whether the popular portrayal of the Eastern European matchmaker is accurate or not, it certainly is not a depiction of today’s professionalshadchan. Today’s shadchan discreetly offers a valuable service, and many have a high success rate. The shadchan gathers information about eligible singles – either through interviewing them, or by speaking to their friends – and has a knack for matching people together.
Today’s shadchandiscreetly offers a valuable service, and many have a high success rateAmongst the chassidic community, where mingling between the sexes is very minimal, almost all matches are arranged by a shadchan. However, there are many shadchans who cater to all segments of the Jewish community. If you are interested, your rabbi can certainly put you in contact with an expert shadchan.
[It is very important that the shadchan receive the honorarium due for the service rendered. Negative repercussions can, G‑d forbid, result if theshadchan is not compensated for the efforts exerted.]
Dating is Not a Game
How about people not yet contemplating marriage? Can they dabble in some “harmless” dating or even some pre-marital sex? Does the Torah frown upon such entertainment and pleasure just because it is not in the context of marriage?
An understanding of the Kabbala of sexuality sheds light on this sensitive subject. Sexual attraction is a sacred calling of the soul, and contains incredible potential when properly harnessed. It motivates the selfish person to be selfless, and is a vehicle for the implementation of the Divine plan for all of Creation (see Why Marry?).
As is the case with any potent power, sexuality’s constructive powers are only matched by its destructive potential. Nuclear energy is a textbook example. It can be used to economically provide mankind with valuable and plentiful energy, or can cause untold destruction and devastation.
Outside the framework of marriage, intimacy is self-centered instead of selfless. It is an expression of the body instead of the soul. Worst of all, it can have a desensitizing effect, causing an individual to associate sexuality with these negative qualities, rather than allowing the person to relate intimacy with the spiritual and meaningful experience it is intended to be.
The less the soul’s power of sexuality has been abused, the healthier the person’s marriage is likely to be. Thus, the task of preserving the sanctity of sexuality and marriage begins long before one actually starts considering marriage.
The less the soul’s power of sexuality has been abused, the healthier the person’s marriage is likely to beThis “hypothesis” is actually statistically proven. Mariah Wojdacz of LegalZoom.com, a leading online legal service center, writes: “The highest risk factor for divorce may be surprising, since it is often seen as a way to promote stability and security in a relationship. Couples who move in together prior to marriage have a far greater chance of divorce than couples who do not. How much higher is that risk? Some studies suggest couples who co-habitat before marriage, divorce at a rate as high as 85 percent.”
A marriage is also healthier when neither of the spouses are comparing their spouse to previous opposite-sex partners they had.
That said, no matter what may have transpired in the past, it is never too late to start approaching sexuality from the proper perspective.
Jewish law precludes a man and woman who are not married to each other from being secluded together in a private place. The Sages’ keen understanding of the dynamics of sexual attraction prompted them to eliminate such settings which can easily lead to actions which will be later regretted.
The preferred venue for a date is thus a neutral public or semi-private location such as a restaurant, hotel lobby or park.
The Age to Throw the Hat in the Ring
The mitzvah to marry takes effect when one becomes eighteen years of age. That is the appropriate age to begin seeking an appropriate mate. This mitzvah may be deferred to a later date if one wishes to study Torah undisturbed by the financial obligations family life entails.
On the other hand, the perceived lack of financial ability to sustain a family should not be a consideration in postponing marriage. The One who sustains all of creation can and certainly will provide for one more family! A home based on proper values is a conduit for Divine blessings for all its inhabitants.
Leaving the hotel one day to take a relaxing walk on the beach, my hand tightly held in his (partial proof) hubby suggested, “We should take pictures of our honeymoon and add them to the wedding album.”
“I think not” was my measured (sensitive) response as robust images of Cinderella’s ugly sisters came to mind with no glass slipper coming forth to a)fit and b) be suitable for a walk along the beach.
Within the space of a week I was able to pull off the persona of both Cinderella and at least one of her demonised sisters.
Cinderella showed up at the wedding, well and good: hair blow waved and gelled; clipped and combed in a way that had it behaving late into the night.
My make-up, professionally applied at a cost of R2000, held despite a rather disproportionate blub, when my husband (still to-be at that stage) saw me as ‘bride’ for the first time.
My dress was perfect, my shoes elegant, nails painted, I was a princess.
But the transformation into ugly sister was inevitable when the Cape Town climate and my back-to-nature hair came together with the wind and sea air that the city is known for.
With only a lick of mascara, my hair as curly and wild as the cattle Billy Crystal had to herd from one side of Colorado to the other in City Slickers, 1991 – and dressing down to shorts and a sleeveless top over sickeningly pale skin, there is no way that pictures are being taken, let alone being pasted alongside gorgeous portraits of the blushing bride.
Thus the only honeymoon pictures I have are mental ones which will remain pure if vague for eternity.
The fact that hubby thought me picture-worthy in my au-naturel state is proof, beyond reasonable doubt that love is blind.