You and the person you are dating may have much in common – your values and goals are aligned, you come from similar backgrounds, and you even have shared interests and hobbies. You both accept and respect each other’s quirks and uniqueness. Seems perfect. As discussed in a previous article Marriage is all about love, respect and acceptance. And something else?, a willingness to put in the effort into the marriage is crucial.
Just as there are no great achievements without setbacks, there are no great relationships without conflicts and problems along the way. No one is perfect and throughout a long life together, we all make mistakes, misspend money, miscalculate time, and do hundreds of other things that mess things up. There are the life’s ups and downs, setbacks and advancements, unwanted changes and wonderful surprises. Additionally, throughout life, we learn new things, have different experiences and we all change. With life, the marriage itself will evolve and change.
To successfully navigate all that, both partners must have healthy mindsets and skills to work through the inevitable storms of life.
To successfully navigate all that, both partners must have healthy mindsets and skills to work through the inevitable storms of life. Both must recognize that people can always overcome setbacks and obstacles, learn from the situation, take responsibility or forgive as necessary, continue forward and embrace the possibilities of the future. This is the hallmark of a growth mindset (see more in previous articles).
Individuals with the growth mindset want to become better, achieve more, and put in the effort and dedication required to reach their goals. In regards to their marriage, they see their relationship as ever-changing and evolving. They believe that they must support their partner, and work together to not only grow the relationship, but also help each other grow in whatever aspirations they may have. This is key for a successful marriage.
To learn more about how to determine if you have the right mindset and what you can do to improve and enrich your growth mindset, read How to develop a growth mindset for marriage (and the rest of your life) .
How can you recognize if your date has a growth mindset?
Throughout your dating, try to ascertain if they continually work on themselves, improving in areas of interpersonal or intrapersonal relationships. If they don’t want to work on themselves, how can they work on an entire relationship?
If they don’t want to work on themselves, how can they work on an entire relationship?
Listen in to what is said, how it is brought up, and what is not addressed. These can uncover nuances of their thoughts about the value of perseverance.
Below are some conversation starters to help you bring up these topics:
- Discuss areas that you are working on, and then move the conversation to find out what they are working on. “For a long while, I was too timid to share my ideas, even though they were pretty good. I read this article that gave me some ideas and lately, I’ve been working on bringing up my ideas during staff meetings. It was hard at first, but I’m getting more comfortable. … What are you working on?”
- Discuss the idea of Growth-mindset and Fixed-mindset in general. Many people do not know the terms ‘Growth Mindset/ Fixed Mindset’, but everyone operates from one of those two mindsets. You might discuss the concept, without using these exact terms.
“What are your thoughts – are people just born talented, or do they reach success because of their hard work?” Discuss a politician, sports player, business man, community leader – how did they get to where they are today.
- Explore together the idea of “Marriage is a labor of love that grows the love”. From all the couples you observed (in summer camps, shlichus, when away from home), what is something that you would like in your marriage? Share your observations – what you liked, what you admired.
“The Ps, whenever one had to bring up something they knew the other wouldn’t want to hear, they always brought a cup of tea. Of course, when seeing that tea coming they knew something was up, but they also knew that the other cared enough to try to soften the blow of the bad news. What are your thoughts about that? …. Any aspects of a marriage that you observed that you’d like to incorporate into your marriage?”
- Take a ‘Fixed Mindset/ Growth Mindset’ test together. Then go through the questions and share stories and anecdotes about each nuance. ( There are several such tests online. )
Reflect on your other conversations and interactions with the person you are dating – choice of wording, tone, timing, etc. One or two isolated, unrelated incidents do not necessarily mean anything; several incidents or a pattern might be concerning. Discuss with an objective person , someone who is not attached to the outcome of this shiduch (preferably someone with experience and not someone too close to you).
- Does s/he take responsibility or shift the blame to others, even playfully? fixed: “I was looking at you and so I didn’t see the stop sign.” growth: “Oops, I should have been paying more attention.”
- How does s/he describe other people? Is s/he always belittling others to make him/herself look better? fixed: “My boss is so stupid. If I had his money, I’d run the place so much better.”
- How does s/he talk about other people’s success? growth: “That’s so cool how he got his first huge order by just talking to the right person in the elevator. I gotta try that!” fixed: “Of course, he made it. His sister-in-law works in that industry and got him his first clients. Some people have all the luck.”
- How does s/he react to his/her own mistakes? fixed: “I’m so stupid, I should have known better.” “That’s not at all what I meant!” growth:”Wow, I didn’t realize that. I have to figure out a way to remember that in the future.”
Work through a conflict together
The team at Shalom Taskforce highly recommends that a couple do not commit to marriage until they have worked through a ‘conflict’ together, and each has reflected on how that experience was for them. By ‘conflict’, they do not mean a full blown out fight, but rather a conflict of opinion or scheduling or the like, and working through that – where to go that evening, when to meet again, when or if to meet with friends.
The team at Shalom Taskforce highly recommends that a couple do not commit to marriage until they have worked through a ‘conflict’ together, and each has reflected on how that experience was for them.
Did you feel heard and respected? Did you find it hard to really listen to the way the other person presented their points? Did one of you give in just to end the conflict and avoid bigger altercations? Do you feel that one of you did not want to put in the effort and just tried to brush the whole thing aside? Did one of you refuse to apologize or take responsibility, even though it is obvious that s/he was responsible for that particular aspect?
Shalom Taskforce’s point about having at least one conflict is to look out for tendencies of control in the other person, and to make sure that the two of you feel comfortable to voice your different opinions and then work it through and make a decision together.
Here, I am proposing that working through a conflict can also help you recognize the other’s mindset about change and growth. As applicable, when the conflict has been resolved, discuss together the resolution process and how you felt through it and after it. Is there anything that you learned through the experience? What did you learn about each other, how the two of you relate with each other, and how to bring up differences of opinions in the future? “ In the future, I’ll try to remember to tell you that I’m ‘hangry’ and I need something to eat first and then some time to think about it before I respond.” “I’m thinking that next time, I might try to diagram what I am describing instead of just using words. It might help me be clearer about what I am trying to portray.”
Throughout your dating, there is so much you are learning about each other. It is important that you also ascertain that the other has the willingness to put the necessary effort into growing and changing through life.