How a Stranger ended up being the Love of My Life

I knew he was the one before I even saw him. I had no idea that he’d have a thick bushy beard or that he wore nerdyish glasses, but I knew from our very first phone call that he would be the guy I’d be marrying. Most likely.

“How”, you ask?

When you’re laser focused on what you want with no way to be distracted from your goal, you’re able to more ready “receive” the messages that are sent.

It’s not woo woo- really.

Growing up in a divorced home, my feminist mother spent a lot of time pointing out rather unattractive qualities in the men that lived around us.
In doing so, she encouraged my sisters and I to physically take note of what we wanted our future husbands to be like.

Did we want him to clear the table after every meal? Take out the trash?

Help out with the kids? Have a good sense of humor?

What was going to be important to us once we were old enough to look for a future spouse and what qualities in men we going to avoid?

Mom reminded us to do this all the time, and while I mostly gave her an eye roll when she suggested doing this exercise, when I reached the age of 19, I secretly wrote a list and kept it in my top desk drawer.

I can’t remember if I gave my list a title or not. If I did, it probably was something like, “What I’m looking for in a husband” or “The qualities I’d like for my future husband to have”.

After graduating high school and spending a year abroad in Israel, I came home and started college.

Now it was time to use my list!

I started shidduch dating and was frustrated with my lack of success.

Granted I’d only gone out with 3 guys, but 3 guys times 3–4 dates lasting at least 3–4 hours long is at least 36 hours!

Not a lot of time in the scheme of things but enough time to know that this dating process was going to be exhausting- with the looming possibility that it could take several months or years for me, like it does for some.

I was about to “sign my life away” to an online dating site (this was about 15 years ago and the online matchmaking sites of today were NOT like they were 15 years ago) and go out with someone a full 10 years older, from another country, when Saul and Toby, good friends of mine that had recently gotten married asked me the infamous question, “So what are you looking for?”

I knew exactly what they meant.

“Oh, I don’t know”, I remember saying, “Definitely someone motivated. I definitely want someone motivated.” I gave that answer thinking about how I had just ended with the previous guy after he told me how he used to enjoy sitting and starting at stop signs for hours on end after he took a smoke. He could enjoy his cigarettes or whatever he was smoking, while I decided to keep working 4 jobs so I could put myself through college! I think that guy is now a father of one of the kids in my son’s preschool 🙂

So motivated? Yes, that was definitely one of the qualities on THE LIST.
I got a call from Saul a day or two after we’d spoken about it. He said, “I have this guy for you. I don’t know much about him, but you said you weren’t picky, so he’s going to be calling you in 5 minutes.”

5 minutes? I scrambled to get to the phone for the phone call. My husband fondly remembers how he was STRONGLY encouraged (ahem, forced) to stop watching the NBA playoffs, and place a phone call to me, a total stranger. I wasn’t sure that this was going to really go anywhere.

We got over the awkward introduction to the phone call and began talking about mundane, day to day stuff.

He asked me about my college major and did I enjoy my seminary year in Israel? Things like that. I don’t even remember what I gave as answers because I was so nervous, but he kept asking questions about my answers.

Never before had I had a man actually interested in what I was saying. He was interested in my answers.

He was actually LISTENING. That was new to me. Most of the men in my life growing up really did not listen to anything I shared with them. I could have come home to some of my most influential male caregivers as a child saying, “So I went to the moon today,” and maybe, just maybe, they would look up and say, “That’s nice.”

So when my future husband was listening to even the small details about my experiences, I got the chills.

We planned out the details of our first date, that he’d pick me up from my mom’s house at such and such time, and we’d go to Washington, DC, maybe to the Air and Space Museum or something like that.

When I hung up the phone, I felt really nervous and excited. I think I was distracted the rest of the day.

When I tried to fall asleep that night, I had a hard time doing so, and I opened my top desk drawer and took out the LIST.

The list had about 10 or so qualities on it. I noticed what the very number 1 spot was on the list.

Can you guess what it was? A Good Listener.

That’s how I knew a stranger would be the man that I would ultimately marry.

Rivka Slatkin is Marketing Director at The Marriage Restoration Project, a global initiative that she founded along with her husband Shlomo Slatkin, MS, LCPC, to keep couples and families together and happy! Discover how The Marriage Restoration Project can help you by visiting

About the Author
Rabbi Shlomo Slatkin is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor and a Certified Imago Relationship Therapist. He works with couples to empower them to develop a conscious and connected relationship through resolving conflict, learning communication skills, and rediscovering love. Rabbi Slatkin also uses Imago Relationship Therapy with singles, families, and organizations. Contact him at
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