In one of the relationship workshops which I ran at a congregation with an adult education program on Manhattan's West Side, a woman signed up at the beginning of the second week (of ten weeks). Let's call her Rachel. This case history is a digest of a session that lasted over an hour. Since a few of the others in the group were her friends and she was particularly motivated to gain, she opened up unusually quickly. Since what occurred capsulizes a process which typically can take a longer and less direct route, that relatively "to the point" session can be instructive.
I welcomed her and asked her to share what her goals were for joining the series. She replied that she recognized that she couldn't form relationships. I asked her to elaborate. She spoke slowly, softly, stopping often, as if she were somewhat ashamed of herself and with deep feeling. She continued by describing how, when she would go out with a new person, she would tense-up, put up walls, never let the man get to know her nor establish any close relationship. She would fault-find and thereby reject him with very quick judgmentalism, and she kept emotionally distant and aloof. She would be overly quiet, not saying much, not offering her "personality self." Naturally, the dates were, by and large, dull.
She blamed shadchanim for off-base set ups. I asked what she described of herself and of her needs to shadchanim. What she described was vague and general (e.g. earning a living, height, wants a nice guy - who doesn't?). She was blocked.
I asked around the room for impressions about 1. what were qualities that Rachel should make sure to clearly impart about herself to a shadchan and 2. what to make clear about what she needs from a man. I asked the men to respond first so that she could see and hear what impression she makes on men. I pointed out that she had been very courageous to open up her feelings so soon and that this is where her benefit would come from.
One fellow, let's call him Yitzchok, said she was "a sensitive, emotionally deep, substantial person." I asked her how she felt about that description of her. She shrugged, half disbelieving, half coming to enlightenment. I asked how she sees herself. She admitted that there was more to herself than she had been previously admitting to herself but had a hard time accepting that it was "that much."
I asked another fellow. Let's call him Betzalel. He said that he had the impression that she was more articulate and self-aware than she admitted. He also called her a caring person, intelligent and pleasant-natured. I asked her, "If there's something to these two men's responses, does that suggest anything about what you need to look for in a mate?" She didn't know. I asked Yitzchok, whose face told me the answer was obvious. "She needs a man who is comparably sensitive, emotionally deep and substantial." I added, "In other words, someone she can exchange with on an even level so that they can understand and fulfill eachother." The two men nodded, "Yes."
Channah, her close friend and the party who encouraged Rachel to sign up for the workshop series, interjected, "HOW CAN A MAN APPRECIATE YOU WHEN YOU DON'T APPRECIATE YOU?!" Rachel put her head down as one who is embarrassed does, and said, "I don't trust that I can be liked."
Yitzchok softly asked, "Afraid of rejection?"
She replied, also softly and with her head still down, "Uh huh."
I asked, "Afraid that you won't get the sensitivity and acknowledgement that you need?"
"Uh huh" [to be continued].