I always wanted to write an article about dating. My friends would hear stories from my countless dating escapades and encourage me to write a book. This week I am turning 34 years old. As I reflect on this past year, I decided to celebrate my birthday by writing my very first article. Just a little something to cross off my bucket list.
Life is a series of matchmaking experiences. We seek the right friends, job, community, shul, and, of course, the right spouse.
I have been dating an awesome girl, “Batya,” for a few months, and am very happy with her. We have been part of a local group of Jewish singles that hangs out and attends a lot of Jewish social events. We also attend singles events such as the American Friends of Lubavitch shabbatons for young professionals in the greater Washington, D.C., area.
Here’s where it gets sticky. Recently, Batya told me that she thinks it’s inappropriate for us to continue to attend these gatherings together, since they are really meant for singles looking for their bashert. I am a very social person and I really enjoy these kinds of shabbatons and other similar events. I assure her I am obviously not looking for someone else to date when we go, as we are a couple, but she doesn’t seem happy that I’m reluctant to give up this habit. I really like this girl.
What do you suggest?
Oh, dear. When I got this question, I did a quick survey around the dinner table, and here were the results:
“Survey says: BZZZZZ!!!”
If you are too young to get this reference, it is from the 1970s game show “Family Feud.” When a contestant got the wrong answer, a very loud noise occurred, and boy did you know they were wrong.
Anyway, Kalman, everyone in Rivkie’s house sided with Batya.
To preface what comes next, I just want to say that we are assuming that you are dating for marriage and not just “for fun” here, and this answer is based on that underlying assumption.
When we are dating someone, a process is in place so we can really get to know that person. Do we share the same basic belief system? Do we want the same sort of family life? Do we have fun together? Do we like each other’s families? (That last one is not a requirement, but it’s awfully nice.) You get the idea. It is difficult to get real answers to all the questions when you are still going to singles events.
A bigger issue is that when you attend these singles events, you are sending off a signal to other girls that you are available. It’s likely that not everyone in the room will know that you and Batya are an item, and someone may approach you, looking to meet you as a prospective single, and then what? Without meaning to, you could cause a girl a lot of embarrassment, which we know is a major no-no, not to mention an aveira (sin).
Think about it. You are at a singles event, you approach a girl to introduce yourself, and then she says, “Sorry, I’m here with my boyfriend.”
I mean, ouch. No, sir! Talk about false advertising.
Dating is also about learning how to compromise when you and your significant other don’t agree. Sometimes, it’s about what to watch on Netflix, while at other times, it’s something bigger, like, “Should I quit my steady job and start a new business?”
So, how about a compromise?
You love to be social, right? You’re a real people person. Why don’t you use that gift to make your own, not-exclusively singles shabbaton right where you are? Could you and Batya organize a fun event or outing with young professionals and be in charge? When you do a project together, that can tell you a lot about the other person, how they interact with people, and what their strengths and weaknesses are.
It sounds like your heart is in the right place, Kalman, and I’m sure you don’t want to do anything to hurt Batya. Look at it as a win that you aren’t at these singles events anymore. Make your own fun with Batya and try to help other young Yidden find their bashert. Just because you are paired up doesn’t mean you can’t socialize anymore. You just have to tweak it a bit. Boundaries change and you must prioritize Batya’s feelings.
And don’t forget, Rivkie loves to attend weddings. Wishing you all the luck and happiness!
All the best,
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I, like many of us, have spent time this summer at bus stops, saying goodbye to my children as I send them off to camp.
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
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