BY: HABITZA – Date like a Mensch
Deena: How did you get into the field of relationship coaching?
Chana: As an educator of Judaic studies, the particular subjects I focus on are and have always been, relationships and character development. Because these subjects are so personal, many of my students approach me after class, to discuss their dating situations. These discussions led me to develop my material, and to fine tune my research in both Judaic and secular texts. By now, after 24 years of teaching, I have counseled literally thousands of people. My years of research and experience in this field evolved into my book, “I Only Want to Get Married Once.”
People are afraid of choosing the wrong person…and also afraid that they won’t be able to make a marriage work. People are afraid to be themselves…and afraid not to be themselves. Bottom line, people have stopped trusting themselves and have stopped believing in love and marriage. – Chana Levitan
Deena: There are so many self-help books out there, especially about relationships. If you decided to write one, you obviously felt you had something to add. What is it people can get out of your book that they won’t necessarily get out of the other books they’ve read?
Chana: Yes, there are many self-help books out there, and some are very good. Yet, I felt that what people really needed was a practical, clear and uncomplicated approach to dating. My book is based on my lecture series. When you lecture, you see whether people are with you—long winded speeches/lectures lose the audience. In addition, you receive immediate feedback as to the relevance of your information. The material in my book was tested, developed and fine tuned through my years of lecturing. As a result, my book has a refreshing ‘to the point,’ practical and entertaining style, yet, is packed with important information which is easily accessible. This is certainly reflected in the many customer reviews of my book on Amazon, i.e. “The book is an easy read and clearly written, while the guidelines are very insightful.” Or: “I have read my share of dating books but this is the first time I have come across one with practical advice.”
Another characteristic difference between my book and others is the way I present the topics of love and infatuation. Many books present these two elements as opposing experiences, almost as though they are mutually exclusive. My research and experience tell me otherwise. Infatuation is an element in every dating experience. People get into trouble when they either make their infatuation the basis of the relationship, or one of the foundational points. The goal is to keep the infatuation to a minimum, so that you can think clearly while your feelings are all wound up. Easier said than done. The ten questions and information in my book are the tools through which you can create this balance during the tumultuous dating process. And they work.
Throughout the years, I have been privy to many people’s processes. I have seen people grow, change and redirect their energies. I have watched ordinary people evolve in wondrous ways. – Chana Levitan
Deena: You write throughout your book that anyone can have the healthy relationship that you are describing. Do you truly believe that? If so, what makes you believe it?
Chana: If I didn’t believe it, I couldn’t have written the book. Throughout the years, I have been privy to many people’s processes. I have seen people grow, change and redirect their energies. I have watched ordinary people evolve in wondrous ways. Because when we commit ourselves to becoming the healthiest version of ourselves, very profound things happen. So yes, I believe that anyone can have the healthy relationship I am describing. But, as I say in my book, love is a verb, an action, a choice (this includes loving ourselves…and others). In other words, we do have to do the work, it doesn’t just happen. But if we’re ready to do the work, we will succeed.
Deena: The title of your book “I only want to get married once” alludes to the fact that there is so much divorce today. But the opposite is also true, that so many people aren’t getting married at all, or at least not until very late. Do you see these two facts as two sides of the same coin? And, do you think that the tips you give in your book can actually help people reach their first marriage goals more quickly and easily? Can you give examples of how?
Chana: I wouldn’t say that they are two sides of the same coin, rather, one is the result of the other. Because divorce is so rampant, people are afraid to try. I believe that this is the key word: fear. People are afraid of choosing the wrong person…and also afraid that they won’t be able to make a marriage work. People are afraid to be themselves…and afraid not to be themselves. Bottom line, people have stopped trusting themselves and have stopped believing in love and marriage. My book is written to reinstate this trust and belief. The practical tips in my book (based on my lecture series), combined with the information and tools within, have equipped many men and women to regain that trust. To give you an example of a fundamental point I discuss, I clarify the difference between values, goals and interests. All too often, people think that just because they share similar interests, their relationship is solid. However, even if all of a couple’s interests match up, if their values clash, they are in for trouble. Upon clarifying this essential point, I guide the reader in identifying his/her values in a practical and uncomplicated way.
Deena: Regarding divorcees, I’d guess that they are also apprehensive about getting into a new relationship. What words of encouragement and advice can you give these people?
Chana: Yes, divorce is painful and that pain leaves some serious scar tissue. But as I mentioned above, life is all about change and growth. We can either let an experience make us or break us. The choice is ours. I added a short but very important section at the end of my book, entitled, “If you’ve already been married once.” The essence of these added pages is that we are human and we will make mistakes. The key is to milk each mistake for all of the wisdom and insight it has… and to be armed with upgraded tools and knowledge in order not to repeat the mistake.
Deena: Many singles who have never been married are uncomfortable with the idea of getting involved with divorcees. What would you tell these people?
Chana: Considering that divorcees are quickly becoming the majority of the adult population, it would be unwise to turn someone away just because they are divorced, especially for those in their 30s and older. There are many reasons people divorce; i.e. they didn’t think clearly and really married the wrong person, their ex-spouse was very unhealthy and possibly even abusive, the family of the ex-spouse (no, I didn’t say mothers-in-law, I’m trying to go easy on them, especially since I just became one) wreaked havoc. But then there are more problematic reasons why someone might be divorced; they don’t know how to have relationships and keep burning bridges in their lives, they are severely selfish, lazy and/or abusive etc. In short, it is imperative to look into a person’s divorce to find out the background and reasons for the divorce. This procedure is both normal and accepted. If a person is defensive about someone looking into their divorce, I would take that as a troubling sign.
This being said, it is important not to lump all divorced people into one group. After a divorce, some people wallow in self pity and blame others, while others are proactive and set out to build the parts of themselves that need some work and repair. After this work, these proactive people are sometimes in better shape than someone who was never married. In short, when dating someone who is divorced, it’s important to simultaneously keep an open mind and yet, do the background research.
Deena: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Chana: Yes there is. Perhaps I can sum it all up by saying that dating can feel like a ‘beetza’ and it can turn into one big ‘beetza’.
Dating, regardless of whatever dating process we use, is a trying experience. It is important to remember two essential points:
- Attitude/positive thinking goes a long way. Many singles fall into the trap of tremendous doubt, “I’ll never get married” or “There’s no one out there for me.” I cannot emphasize how destructive this type of thinking is. So it’s ‘out with the negative, in with the positive’ which means thinking, “I am a catch and I am going to get married. Now, what can I work on within myself to make me an even better version of myself.” This is positive and proactive.
- It’s essential to re-inspire yourself to actually ‘be married.’ As I mentioned earlier, our fears often hold us back from many things. Even if one wasn’t afraid of marriage in the past, with age, the fear often builds. We become a little too sophisticated for ourselves! It is so important to internalize and remember the fact that marriage is not a loss of self, a draining of self nor a compromise of our true selves (unless people go about it in the wrong way). On the contrary, it is through the work of marriage that we actually discover our true inner selves and evolve in ways we never thought possible (this is the subject of my next book). Looking forward to and believing in this kind of work combined with the positive attitude mentioned above can keep someone moving in a positive direction.
Deena: Where can we find the book “I only want to get married once”?
Chana: My book is available at the various Steimatsky and Tamir book stores throughout Israel. It is also available at Mannys, Shankys, Moriah and other Judaica stores in Jerusalem. It can be purchased on line at Amazon, Barnes and Nobles and Borders or from my publisher atwww.gefenpublishing.com. In the States, it is available at various Judaica stores throughout New York and Boston. I don’t know if it’s in Borders/ Barnes and Nobles yet, but it should be soon. Although I cannot conduct regular email correspondence, people can contact me through my website www.chanalevitan.com. They can also find out about my latest events at my website.