Question: I’ve been dating a guy for three months. Things have been going great and our parents are discussing financial arrangements. It has become clear that we are close to getting engaged. My friend suggested that I should not get engaged until seeing if he has a temper. She told me that most divorces happen because the guy is abusive, so she advised me to make him angry.
It wasn’t easy to get him angry because he is such a chilled-out guy. But I did it anyway. After trying different things that didn’t work, I called him “stupid.” And he actually got angry. Even worse, now he is hurt, because I insulted him. I tried to tell him that I was joking, but I don’t think he believes it.
My parents are furious with me. They are saying that a 23-year-old girl has no business playing games with a serious guy. But all my friends agree that I just brought out in him what would have been hidden until after we got married.
My life is such a mess because I really like this guy so much. Are my friends right?
By Baila Sebrow
As if the shidduch crisis isn’t bad enough! The number of girls and boys who have never been married is increasing in staggering numbers. No hashkafic circle is now immune to this. The crisis is more serious than we can imagine, and Klal Yisrael is seriously at risk. If these singles do not get married off in the right way, how will our continuity be maintained?
With all the lectures, shiurim, and advice from various professionals, there still has not been enough accomplished in alleviating the crisis. Each time a new trend emerges in the testing and checking of a shidduch potential, we are succeeding in delighting the anti-Semitic enemies who only wish to see us diminish. This includes the latest trend of “see if you can make the guy angry.”
Certain customs have become accepted rules that people in shidduchim use to determine hashkafic compatibility. Some of those may seem ridiculous, but their viewpoint can at least be respected. Family customs can be a big issue, and at times it makes sense to decline a shidduch for such reasons as a means to avoid future shalom bayis issues. But deliberately making a boy angry to ascertain his potential for abusive behavior should be outlawed. Those who originally recommended this objectionable advice created a situation where people ultimately react in misguided ways—as you did.
Those who have, unfortunately, been in abusive marriages will undoubtedly agree that it does not take much goading to instigate anger in an abusive person. The slightest provocation, from someone cutting him off on the road to the waiter messing up the order, will give the girl an idea if the guy is easily inclined to anger.
Conversely, if a girl is dating a guy who possesses a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde persona, she can be entirely fooled, even when provoking him. From a personal perspective, I would get suspicious if someone showed no reaction when being deliberately aggravated.
A girl recently told me that a guy she went out with got into a heated argument with the maître d’ because he could not find their reservation, and when he accommodated them anyway, the guy complained that he was not happy with their table. Even though they were sitting and enjoying a delicious meal, the guy was steaming over what had occurred and boasted of how he would blog about it so that no one would ever go to this restaurant again. Furthermore, he couldn’t stop talking about it even while driving the girl home. I advised the girl to not go out with this boy again.
The guy you have been dating for three months sounds like the type of guy many girls would wish for themselves. You state that you could not get him angry, being that “he is such a chilled-out guy.” At that point you should have realized that he is not inclined to lose his cool. That should have been your cue to stop while you were ahead. Instead, you kept pushing and pushing, going so far as to call him stupid. No surprise that he got angry. What normal guy wants to be called stupid by his date?
Subsequently, your friends theorized that he is not a good guy after all, and further predicted that he will be abusive after marriage. Worse, they saluted the directions you followed in getting him angry and comforted you by saying that all you did was bring out something that was hidden. How preposterous!
I have a news flash for you. You were the abusive party on that date. You verbally abused a guy who was only being kind to you. And the results of your actions? Congratulations, you discovered that this guy has human feelings. That is very different from the anger-management issues your friends encouraged you to set out to uncover.
Your friends are not entirely to blame. They naively subscribe to recent advice given by educators who, with the best of intentions, are trying to reduce the number of divorces so prevalent today among young couples. Domestic abuse is not to be minimized. Spousal abuse, whether verbal, emotional, or physical, is a real and frightening phenomenon in frum society. However, bear in mind that this is not the only cause for divorce. There are many other factors that lead to young couples getting divorced.
Although therapists cite various techniques for picking up signs that a guy is abusive, many of those guidelines are not easily utilized in frum dating, especially when dealing with emotional abuse. Emotional abuse is difficult to spot because it is so subtle and, unfortunately, will not come out sooner than the engagement period or when discussing wedding plans. At that point a guy might demonstrate symptoms of controlling behavior, causing the girl to experience feelings of inadequacy.
The observable aspects of a guy’s temperament can be openly seen in how he treats others and speaks of them. Disrespect towards his parents and other members of his family is often a telltale indication that the guy is not emotionally well-adjusted.
From the bit I am gathering about this guy, I assume those factors have not been an issue. Further, I believe that he has not been showing any signals in mistreating you or indifference to your feelings, which explains why he allowed you to keep saying or doing things that likely may have upset him, up to the point where you resorted to name-calling.
You are correct that the situation has turned messy. One can only imagine what might be going through the guy’s head. While you and your friends were plotting to expose a deep, dark side to this guy, you ironically served up that impression of yourself to him. As far as anyone is concerned, it is quite possible that he, along with his family, might now consider you to be an abusive person.
Your parents have a right to be furious. Before opting for the actions in setting a trap for this guy, you should have discussed your feelings and concerns with your parents. I doubt that they would have advised you to listen to your friends whose advice you blindly followed.
I am not sure how well either of you know and understand one another after dating for three months. Even though your parents are discussing financial arrangements and the sensation of an engagement is in the air, it sounds as though you might have had some doubts to begin with. In addition, the fact that you continually provoked the guy to reveal a negative side of himself almost makes it seem as though you were subconsciously hoping to turn him off. Please confer with a mentor of your choice to figure out whether the doubts were there to begin with or they only surfaced after initially discussing your relationship with your friend.
Although you apologized to this guy by saying you were only joking, at this point it is not enough. If you like this guy as much as you say and wish to continue this relationship, then you need to do the following. Call him and explain the circumstances of how you mistakenly took someone’s ill advice. Stress that you are truly sorry, not just in second-guessing his character, but in ruining what could have been a nice date. I am optimistic that he may overlook this lapse in your behavior. Hopefully, this will be something that you can one day laugh about.
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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