I’ve been dating my boyfriend since the senior year of high school. None of my friends’ parents allowed them to date then, but I met this guy at my uncle’s house and we liked each other right away. Now that I am home from seminary, everyone—including my boyfriend—expects us to get engaged. It’s not that I don’t like him anymore, but since my friends and I came home from seminary in Israel, everything is different.
My friends started going to shadchanim and dating guys all the time. I still go out with the same guy. My parents think I am very lucky not to have to go on dates, but I feel that I am missing out on the fun.
Before I left for seminary, I thought I was going to marry this guy, but now I am not so sure we are perfect for each other anymore.
Is it possible to really like someone and want to marry him, but then later change your mind? I feel like that is what’s happening here.
By Baila Sebrow
In the world of dating and relationships, anything is possible. Things can change from one minute to the next, sometimes with little provocation. But I think you need to consider the possibility that you are simply wondering whether “the grass is greener on the other side.”
It sounds like you believe that your friends are having more fun than you. While going to shadchanim and getting set up on dates might be fun for a while, I assure you that the frustration eventually builds up when the goal of marriage is not reached.
It appears that you come from an environment that is more relaxed about socializing with the opposite gender. In many cases, even if a girl and boy meet in natural circumstances, as you met this boy, some parents would never have allowed a relationship to flourish. You were very lucky to have had that opportunity and not be stifled about even talking to a boy. Whether or not you end up marrying this boy, you will never have hush-hush fantasies about what could have or should have been.
I do not know whether you are the first child in the family to be involved in the chapter of dating, but if you are and really have no clue about what it’s like out there, I will educate you.
In the circles where families and schools are very strict, dating is forbidden—just as it has been for your friends—until a girl or boy is ready to find a marriage partner. Any new milestone in one’s life should be fun, but the manner in which shidduch dating has evolved over the years is anything but fun.
Your friends are going to shadchanim and getting dates. And that’s great. Are they all sharing with you the process involved in getting a date, or the rejections they are likely experiencing—often for preposterous reasons?
You probably do not realize that when a shadchan makes a suggestion, usually first to the boy or his parents, both sides make such extensive inquiries they could put the FBI and CIA to shame. About the only thing missing in many cases is checking fingerprints.
The investigation involves reaching out to friends as well as enemies to find out about his or her personality, character, and intelligence; how skilled one is in learning; how connected the parents are, whom they socialize with, their level of frumkeit, their financial standing, etc. And that is just the tip of the iceberg. If any one of the references makes a remark that can be taken as negative, the shidduch is over before it has a chance to begin.
If both sides pass the inquisition, arrangements for the date commence. About half the time, the boy and the girl realize within a few minutes into the date that there is no possibility for a shidduch between them. The effort it took to do all that checking out turns out to have been a waste of time. Nevertheless, this is the cycle that goes round and round.
And those are the lucky ones. Let’s talk about those who do not even get that to that point. And because you are young, let’s talk about the wonderful high-quality girls who sit home and never get a date. There is usually nothing wrong with them, but they experience rejection after rejection for unjust reasons. And when some shadchanim see that a girl is not sought-after, in many cases they will suggest a boy that is the opposite of whom she should be dating. Worse, they are persuaded that they will never get such an opportunity again. The fortunate ones realize on the date that the boy may not be for them, while others actually go ahead and marry someone knowing that the person was not suitable for them in the first place. Sounds scary? This is the reality.
You have been dating this boy for two years. Shidduch dating is not like that these days. In some circles, the families will decide that a shidduch will take place even before the couple meets. In other cases, dating continues for a short time. Years ago, it was common for frum people to date for a number of months, some even up to a year. Nowadays, that is frowned upon except in rare circumstances.
It might be fun to go shopping for clothing for dates and be consumed with thoughts about what to wear. But many times while dating, someone gets cold feet and one or the other breaks the relationship off. Not so fun anymore.
There are times that the person has no clue why the relationship ended. Because there is a shadchan in the middle, one may never find out the truth. When someone decides that the shidduch is not for them, the shadchan is contacted and informed of the new development. Of course, the shadchan will ask for details as to what happened, but may not always fully share them. Sometimes they withhold what they know to spare the feelings of the rejected party, or because they feel it is not necessary to disclose anything. Many girls who have been broken up with are left in the dark, thus suffering further from unresolved conflicts and a lack of closure.
Lucky is the one who is spared from procedures designed to be difficult. Obviously, there are some girls for whom dating is not fraught with the havoc I depicted. But for many it is. Look around your community of girls much older than yourself and see how many are still not married. Speak to them about what dating has been like for them. You will then gain an understanding that you were blessed to find a guy at such a young age and be spared from future angst.
Unless he is not the right guy for you, or you seriously have grown apart, I urge you not to do anything drastic yet. It might be a good idea to take a breather for a bit while assessing the situation.
Being a student in a seminary does mold a girl to some extent, for some more than others. When she returns home, oftentimes her own parents barely recognize her after the major metamorphosis she has undergone, whether in appearance or on an emotional and spiritual level. However, as time goes on, things level off. Meaning, she will not be exactly as she was before seminary, but living back home will bring her back to the life she has known.
I urge you to speak to a mentor who has known you for a long time, like a teacher or rebbetzin. You need to explore what exactly is causing you to challenge this relationship. Although you are still young, I would hate for you to break up with this guy only to later regret your decision. That is why this matter needs to be handled with utmost care and guided by knowledge. Furthermore, at some point in the mentoring process, you will need to level with this guy about your concerns. Working together and being honest about what is ultimately best for both of you will hopefully bring you the correct answer.
Baila Sebrow is president of Neshoma Advocates, communications and recruitment liaison for Sovri-Beth Israel, executive director of Teach Our Children, and a shadchanis. She can be reached at Bsebrow@aol.com. v
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