I don’t often hearken back to my Jewish religious tradition for dating and relationship insight but “Under a Spell,” a little gem of an essay that appeared in Tablet yesterday contained a small bit of Kabbalistic wisdom that spoke to me.

The narrator, who as someone in her early 20s is far too young to be writing a story such as this one, discusses her relationship with her Jerusalem matchmaker and the older man she had been set up with. After a great, encouraging first date, the narrator reports back that the second was anything but good and wonders how or why things drastically changed between meetings one and two. (Spoiler alert: they don’t end up together).

There was, Malka explained to me, a Kabbalistic explanation: The first date is hesed—your hearts are open to each other, it’s all joy and love; second date is gevurah—when judgment starts to kick in; the third date is tiferet—hopefully the harmonization of the two.

I can’t count the number of excellent first dates I’ve been on that were then followed by second dates that drained me of all enthusiasm for the other person. Like Malka explained to the narrator, the first date, while not about joy and love on my end, is at least about excitement and curiosity. I am interested in learning about the person sitting opposite me (especially if he is very attractive). But by the time the second date rolls around, my critical faculties have kicked in. I am no longer merely interested in learning about him. I am most certainly judging–is he smart? Is he funny? Is he making me laugh? The newness and novelty from the first date has dissipated and I’m thinking much more analytically. Sometimes the guy clears this second date hurdle and my enthusiasm remains intact and I fall further into “like.” Often, however, he does not.

Like the narrator, I try to move past the second date, treating it as though it is Wednesday– aka “hump day”–something I simply have to endure before moving onto the greener pastures of the third date. Yet this is typically to no avail. I almost never recover my first date enthusiasm after an uninspiring second date even if I manage to convince myself to agree to dates three, four, five, six and even seven. The initial misgivings never fully dissipate.

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