Dating With Different Backgrounds: Important Factors to Keep in Mind

Written by Rachel Burnham on . Posted in Advice Columns

Does it make sense to date somebody from a familial or cultural background different from your own? Variety is often the spice of life, but is there such a thing as too spicy? The basic “Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus” element is already enough to leave couples scratching their heads trying to figure out dating and marriage. How different can two people in a couple be and still make it work?

There is no single relationship recipe. While some people want the safety and predictability of marrying someone with a personality like their own, others prefer someone with a completely opposite personality. It can be exciting and thrilling, but also challenging. When it comes to background, my experience is that the more similar the background, the easier it is for couples to understand each other and “speak the same language.”

The shidduch (matchmaking) system was crafted to facilitate an independent thought process in choosing a mate. It assists singles in deciding what values they hold dear, the qualities they respect in a mate, and the type of home they’d like to build before becoming emotionally invested in a relationship. Whether you go the shidduch route or not, it is important to go into the process of dating for marriage with these things firmly in mind. Once you are invested, after all, clarity goes out the window and is replaced with the fantasy that “love will conquer all.” It won’t. If you don’t believe me, look at the statistics: love alone does not guarantee a marriage’s success.

Here are some factors to keep in mind when dating someone from a different background:

1). Common Goals and Values: Do you value the same things in life and see yourselves heading in the same direction in terms of the future of your relationship and a home together?

2). Respect: A relationship without respect cannot survive. Here’s a litmus test for respect: Ask yourself, “Would I want my child to turn out like my date?”

3). Respectful Disagreement: Can you maintain different opinions and give each other the space to “do your own thing”?

4). Confusing Differences: Parents who are on the same page send children a message of consistency and safety. It’s difficult and confusing for children to get different messages from their parents. When they love both, they are caught in the middle.

5). Acceptance: Can you accept and love this person for who they are without feeling you need to change them? If you can’t, you will be in for a rocky relationship.

6). Face Value: Have you listened clearly to what your date is saying? When a person says, “I’m not the traveling type,” “I don’t want a big family,” or “I really can’t live in a messy house,” do not ignore them. Often, disagreements crop up later over these very topics that were plainly stated… and ignored.

While similar backgrounds tend to reduce relationship friction, I have seen successful couples from very different cultures and homes build beautiful lives together. It takes more work, flexibility, compromise, and commitment, but if both parties are invested, honest with who they really are, and willing to seek the right guidance and coaching when needed, it can be done!

Wishing you all the shortest route to your longest relationship!

By Rachel Burnham

Rachel Burnham earned both her BA in psychology and MA in occupational therapy (OT) in New York City. While OT may be her profession, her deepest passion lies in Jewish outreach, which she’s been active in her entire adult life. Rachel also coaches Jewish singles to successful marriages, giving them clarity and peace of mind as they navigate the path to love, connection, and lifelong companionship. You can contact her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .


The Impact of Veterans’ Preference on Federal Hiring

Written by Editor on . Posted in Advice Columns

The good news for job seekers is that the federal government is hiring again. But two cautionary notes are in order. First, the federal government’s hiring process remains lengthy. Second, military veterans receive preference in hiring by law, which makes it more challenging for non-veterans to secure a federal job.

Ask Rivkie: Lamenting the Three Weeks

Written by Editor on . Posted in Advice Columns

Do you have a question for Rivkie? Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 Dear Rivkie,

I always dread this time of year: The Three Weeks. It is kicked off by fasting on Tzom Tammuz, then the Nine Days happen, and, finally, we have to endure the hardest fast of the year: Tisha B’Av. I mean, the list of rules is a mile long, the two fast days are during the hottest, longest days of the whole calendar, and it just feels like such a disruption that I never really get the meaning of all of it. Do you have any advice on how to cope with this period and, most importantly, get some spiritual meaning out of it?

The Benefits of Failure

Written by Laura Goldman on . Posted in Advice Columns

A few weeks ago, my daughter tested for her yellow belt in taekwondo. I sat and watched her and the other novices (white belts) break boards with their kicks; they were permitted as many attempts as necessary to achieve success and receive their next belt color. I watched the parents videotape the moment and clap and “aaah” in amazement and pride as they heard and saw the board break.

Reevaluating ‘The Player’

Written by Rachel Burnham on . Posted in Advice Columns

As the all-time greatest hockey player Wayne Gretzky once said, “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.” This adage can be applied to dating, as well. When you go on a date with someone, even if they aren’t exactly who you are looking for on paper or at first glance, you are taking an important step in the journey of finding your everlasting relationship. A healthy and active dating life propels the momentum of dating forward, gets others to think of us more often, further develops our communication/dating skills, and allows us to be more open-minded in the process. Sitting at home, waiting for Mr. or Ms. Perfect is very limiting. It does not allow for many opportunities, and can make you feel depressed.

Mother-Daughter Dueling

Written by Editor on . Posted in Advice Columns

Dear Rivkie,

I am a teenage girl in a family with multiple siblings. My problem is that my mother and I often seem to be embroiled in one fight or another. Sometimes I don’t even know what it is I did wrong, so I don’t know how to apologize. What’s more, my mother seems to get along with my siblings better than with me.

The Federal Reserve and Interest Rates

Written by Chad Freeman on . Posted in Advice Columns

Chad, I am interested in buying a home this year, but I heard on the news that the Federal Reserve Board just raised interest rates again. I am afraid that rates are too high for me to afford the home I want to purchase. Can you please comment? Glenn R.

Summer Vacation Situation

Written by Laura Goldman on . Posted in Advice Columns

With school complete and summer in front of us, there can be a moment of dread when we realize that the three to eight hours a day in which the kids were occupied and supervised by others during the school year are now our responsibility again. Some of us will send the kids to camp. Others will do “Camp Mommy/Daddy” or go on vacation. Still others will have their children at home “hanging out.” Most will do some combination of these.

Whatever choice you make, summer is a terrific opportunity to encourage kids. As with any of us, kids want to feel like their voices are heard and that they are capable and relevant people. During the summer break, when the pressure and the rigid schedules of the school year are relaxed, there are numerous opportunities for kids to step up and try their hand at things that they normally are unable, or we are unwilling, to let them do.

For example, if you haven’t yet planned a family vacation, or you would like to take the kids on a day outing, you could take the opportunity to involve the children in the decision making. Consider sitting down with the family and brainstorming ideas of where to go. If your children aren’t familiar with what is available, you might ask them about the type of vacation/outing they would like to go on; hiking, boating, activity centers, historic sites, and visits to family are just a few examples.

Once everyone agrees upon a type of vacation, you could offer choices of several places that would satisfy that criteria. Then involve them in the tasks necessary to making that outing a reality. Ask an older child to research how to get to that place, or ask them if they would like to work on it with you. Ask younger children to decide on what toys, snacks, and videos to bring along. In involving the children, you enable them to feel like an important part of the decision, which increases their sense of self-worth. And you also earn the coveted “buy-in” from the kids, which should make the trip much more enjoyable.

Another benefit to involving the children is that they will get exposure to and training in a new set of skills. They will learn how to organize a trip, listen to others, collaborate, research logistics, and plan for necessities. While at the beginning of training the child is more of an observer, soon thereafter the roles switch and the child begins to take responsibility for pieces of the project with the parent as overseer. Before long, the child can do things without oversight. I have a friend whose son, by the age of 13, was savvy about accumulating and using airline miles and took responsibility for booking all the family airline reservations.

Summer is also a great time to teach kids how to assume more of the responsibility for themselves and the family. Children as young as five can learn how to set a table and clear dishes. Children eight and older can start learning how to do basic cooking, laundry, and cleanup. They can learn how to clean a bathroom, sew on a button, spray the table, or make a menu. They can learn how to make their own lunch — a skill that will come in very handy when they start school again. While the objective is not to create Cinderellas, the summer is a great opportunity to enable children to learn how to contribute meaningfully to the family and become more self-sufficient.

Needless to say, training and engaging kids takes a good deal of time. And while it is summer vacation for the kids, it might not be for the parents. Work on one skill at a time and be patient — with yourself and them. And employ your child’s creative brain in decision-making discussions as often as possible. Then watch for the results: the blessing of engaged and self-reliant kids.

By Laura Goldman

 Laura Goldman is a parent educator and coach. She is the principal and founder of Arise, LLC, a leadership and parent coaching practice. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .