Author offers tips for finding mate after 35

Six years ago, Helena Hacker Rosenberg, a Hollywood producer, was at a diner on a Sunday night with her then-boyfriend. As she looked around her, all she saw were children and families.

"I got really depressed," the fortysomething Los Angeles resident said in a phone interview.

"They were connected in a way that I wasn't."

She decided she wasn't going to spend one more minute dating men who were not marriageable.

Hacker Rosenberg, who is now a relationship consultant and author of "How To Get Married After 35: A Game Plan for Love," had always been proactive in her professional life but had never applied those principles to her personal life.

In fact, she often buried herself in work, sometimes working 70-hour weeks. The temptation to let career take over your life is one many women succumb to, she says. That tendency is "heightened for Jewish women," because the culture emphasizes success.

After the diner incident, Hacker Rosenberg approached dating in a new way.

"I approached finding a mate like finding a job."

Six months later, she was walking up the steps alone to Aish HaTorah's Yom Kippur services in Los Angeles when she met the man she would marry.

Attending Torah study and Shabbat services were among the ways she'd begun nurturing her personal life. The community gave her a sense of belonging that she'd been missing.

"It really filled me up in a great way," she says. "It clarified how off track I was from the essential things that make me happy."

Hacker Rosenberg and her husband are now members of a Conservative congregation, Tifereth Jacob, and their 2-year-old daughter attends a Jewish nursery school.

"How To Get Married After 35" contains hidden Torah, she says.

"There's a lot in the book about how you judge and evaluate people, not judging by what you see on the outside but looking deeper. We all know we're supposed to do this but it's amazing how little we do it."

Traditional Judaism, she says, teaches valuable lessons about getting to know a person first.

"You can judge a man's character so much better when he has his clothes on."

The book contains other references to Torah, including the story of Rebecca at the well, "whose willingness to venture far from her family's home changed the course of biblical history." She says many single women are afraid to take the kinds of risks in their personal life that they're willing to make professionally, including moving out of their comfort zones and going to events alone.

She also quotes from such contemporary Jewish authors as Rabbis Harold Kushner and Dov Heller. And she discusses the biblical edict to "choose life," as well as the "little pharaohs" that keep contemporary people in bondage. "It is hard to have new social experiences or to develop a new mind-set if one is enslaved to old habits and behaviors that restrict opportunity, sap one's spirit, and control one's life," she writes.

Among those "pharaohs" is addiction to work, spinning a cocoon of isolation and repeatedly choosing unsuitable partners, she says. In addition, instead of treating a date as a job interview — and putting the event into perspective — some women treat it as an all or nothing event, returning to their cocoons if it doesn't work out.

After age 35, Jewish women looking for Jewish mates have an added challenge, she admits.

"It is harder to find Jewish men. A certain percentage of men marry out."

While the focus of the book is on women, Hacker Rosenberg is quick to point out that the principles apply equally to men.

In her introduction, she writes that what separates those who find mates in midlife from those who don't is a willingness to operate outside one's natural comfort zone, or see old friends in a new way.

"The emphasis in each case is on the new."

Hacker Rosenberg knows well the temptation to "stay home in your fuzzy slippers and ratty bathrobe."

As seductive as this is, it's ultimately a form of self-sabotage, she says.

"Sometimes being uncomfortable is good. Comfortable can keep you in a rut."