Ethics in Dating

Margaret E. Retter, Esq.

You will probably think that I am old-fashioned but I still think we should treat one another with the same respect as our grandparents cared for their family and friends. I believe in manners and etiquette. Nowadays, that seems to be missing.

The Talmud and “responsa” are filled with descriptions of the
way we are supposed to conduct our lives, especially between “Adam Le’chavero”. The Gedolim that we try to emulate emphasized the behavior that we should be aspired to “ad bias HaMashiach”, but somehow as the years have past, our attitude towards manners and behavior between “Adam Le’chavero” have lessened to the point where proper conduct has basically disappeared. Perhaps it is shocking and a bit controversial for me to say but it seems to me that young men and women today do not have etiquette when they deal with one another, especially in the “dating scene.”

I have seen young people addressing their elders as “you guys” and thinking that everyone is their “buddy.” Many times I have heard young people call their parents’ friends by their first name. It’s one thing when a person from the bank or a “800 call” addresses you by your first name, (which I think is distasteful but I guess that is supposed to be the new “friendly approach”), but it is something else when 20 year olds address their parents’ acquaintances by their first name.

If this is how our children are being raised, why are we surprised when we hear that your child is dating someone with no manners? This is an issue that has been brought to my attention by shadchanim and counselors, and complaints from both boys and girls who are dating and their parents. And, I have experienced this personally.

I will not go into shidduchim as a topic…but will begin at the stage when finally it is agrees by the “powers that be” that a young woman and young man MAY meet.

Much to my surprise, there is a new concept in certain circles, that the boy does not call the girl anymore for a date but leaves it to the shadchan to “arrange the date.” I do not understand why that is. This didn’t happen in my time or my children’s time. I personally think it is appropriate for a boy to call the girl on the telephone (when given the phone number and an arranged time to call) and speak to the girl who he may want to marry…NOT TEXT, NOT E-MAIL, but actually speak to one another. One can learn a lot from a phone conversation. Why shouldn’t they speak before they meet? Maybe they will quickly learn that they do or do not have compatible interests. Maybe they will find the other person fascinating or boring before they meet. At some point they will have to speak on a phone if they, blei ayin hara, may marry.

But nowadays the shadchan arranges the first, second and possibly third date. At what point will the “daters” actually have to take responsibility for making decisions that will ultimately affect their lives? There is no reason why it cannot start with arranging the first date.


(1)      Getting There Why is it that you cannot figure out where the girl lives? Please don’t tell me that you don’t have GPS or a navigation system that can help you find her home because if you say you don’t, I don’t believe you. Figure it out. It’s really not that complicated. There are so many times that I have heard the boy say: “It’s too complicated, have the girl meet me ‘in the city’.” Seriously? You have already lost my respect and confidence. As my mother a”h used to say, ”you need to find a husband who can find water for you in the desert.” Guys who can’t find an address or location are lazy and WIMPS! Even in the “alte heim”, bochurim could find the town of the girl they were to meet, by train, horse or donkey.

(2)      Be on Time: When you finally get to the girl’s front door, be on time! If there is a reason that you are a few minutes late, CALL! Greet her father and mother in a respectful manner. Decide the issue of “THE HAT” before you get to the front door — hat on/off, when you wear it or don’t wear it. Typically, the girl will not “be ready, but will be down in a few minutes.” Hint, hint — this is your opportunity to show her parents that you are a mature young man ready to take care of a wife. Show her parents that you can have an intelligent discussion; talk about your background, your family, ask how they are doing. Be a Mensch. Be well groomed and neat. Collars and cuffs should be sparkling white and shoes polished. Stand up when the young lady comes into the room and smile. Have a five-minute conversation with the family, say goodbye and leave with your date, and, of course, open the door for her when you leave.

*** Here are some interesting points to be aware of:

(i)        Food Be aware that there are many different minhagim in families about whether a potential choson is served anything, and I mean anything. Some families prepare silver dishes filled with a variety of tasty snacks and three types of drinks; but some families have a minhag that a potential choson is not offered any food (and maybe not water either). One friend told me that when her daughter was dating a boy “he was lucky if I let him use the bathroom.” (This girl is happily married b”h and her husband is always served a beautiful dinner.)

(ii)       Conversation Personally, I do not think that a first meeting is an appropriate time for a learning session or “fahrher” between the young man and the father. I know of a young man who came to a girl’s home for the first time and the father took out a Gemara to farher the young man. The young man said, “Please meet me in my office where I am learning all day” and then left with his daughter for the date. She liked him but the father did not. Today, the young man is happily married (without a farher) to a different girl and happily learns daily with his father-in-law.

(3)      PLAN, PLAN, and PLAN the date! Figure out where you want to go and how to get there. If you are not sure ask a friend, ask your parent, Google it. Is it an appropriate venue for a date? Will you be able to hear each other when you speak? On a first or second date, do NOT ask the girl where she would like to go. That is your responsibility. If you are flying to a different city, do your research beforehand. If you need to rent a car, make the arrangements beforehand. If you do not intend to take her out to dinner, let the shadchan know. So many times girls are picked up at 6:00 p.m. In my day that meant dinnertime but apparently today it does not. Don’t wait four hours into the date to offer her a soda. Keep an extra bottle of water in the car for her. If the date is long, offer to buy her a snack or even a meal. If you are planning to walk through Central Park, tell the shadchan that your date should wear comfortable shoes. Know the major locations in the city that you are dating. For example, in New York City, know where the Freedom Towers, Times Square and Central Park are located. Maybe even know where the Highline is. If you don’t, with all due respect, you will look like you are incapable or immature and will not be able to care for a wife and family.

(4)      Discussion: Find out from the shadchan what the girl’s interests are. Where did she go to school and seminary? Try to have an interesting conversation with her (and not about religion or hashkafa). Treat her like a lady. And if you don’t know what that means, think about how you would want your mother or sister to be treated and act accordingly.

(5)      Date Over? When you both have a feeling that the date is over, take her home. Walk her to the front door and say, “Goodbye, it was nice meeting you.” If it is a private house, wait until she gets inside the house before you leave. If it is an apartment building, wait until she’s inside the lobby before you leave. I am not sure how much time you need to wait to discuss whether there will be a second date, but don’t procrastinate either way. Discuss it immediately with the shadchan. Give the girl enough time to discuss the date with her parents and let her decide if she wants to go on a second date.

If you behave like a gentleman, with manners, you will hopefully receive the answer that you want.


(1)      Be on Time No excuses! It is appropriate for the boy to wait for you for a couple of minutes before you make your entrance but that is it. Don’t keep a boy waiting. He is just as nervous as you but he is standing with your parents who are looking him “up and down.” If you will be late, call the shadchan. Let the boy know before the date that you will be late. He may have come from afar or a different city to meet you. Be respectful of his time.

(2)      Conversation Your seminary teachers or advisors have discussed “dating” with you. They may have given you a list of questions or topics to discuss on Date #1, #2, #3. Perhaps you can think a little out of the box and talk about interesting things. Be courteous. Find out what your date’s interests are. Now is not the time to discuss religion, hashkafa, where you want to live when you’re married and children. Don’t you think those important topics should be discussed at a later time? This is also not the time to show how mow much ”learning” you did in seminary. I don’t think the boy will feel comfortable discussing the Rambam or Rashba at this time. He already figured out that you are a “learned” person because he analyzed your resume. This is also not the time to “show off” or lecture him on “Yiddishkeit”. Please do not be arrogant or “holier than thou.” It is never appreciated. On the first date, just evaluate whether you are compatible and try to have a good time.

(3)      Coke or Dinner? If you have been told that you will be NOT be going out for a meal with your date, eat beforehand. If you do go out to eat, EAT. Many young men have told me that girls always order salad, sit with a fork in one hand, twirling the salad around on their plate and twirling their hair around with the other hand. The young man who is hungry doesn’t know what to do because he is ordering food and the girl is eating nothing. Do you plan on eating salad your entire life at every meal? No, so be genuine. Eat something. If it is a date for a “Coke”, order one, and if you are thirsty and the date is long, ask for another.

(4)      Date Over? If you have both agreed that the date is over, and you are on your way home, he should take you home, to the door or lobby of apartment building. It is the only courteous.

(5)      Your Parents Many parents wait for their daughter to arrive home so they can interrogate them about their date. But if you need some time, be honest and tell that to your parents that you want to think about the date and speak to them tomorrow. Just remember that the boy would like an answer by the next day whether you want to go on another date. This should not be done by a text or e-mail. Speak to the shadchan within a reasonable period of time and let the shadchan know your decision.


Be a Mensch Please, please, please…realize, that even though this boy or girl may not be your “Bashert,” they are still sensitive human beings with feelings and everyone should always be treated with respect and dignity.

Good luck and with mazel!




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