After writing about gender roles in “Married at First Sight: The Finale,” I started to think about what happens when your partner changes their mind after you’ve made the ultimate commitment. What happens when life throws you a curveball? What if a previously egalitarian-touting partner realizes he or she wants stereotypical gender roles once you’ve set up house? What if your significant other proposes, but then decides he or she doesn’t want to ever exchange vows? What if your spouse decides he or she no longer wants to have any children, or wants to limit the number of children to lower than what you previously discussed? Are any of these relationship-ending decisions? Should one half of a couple be able to make a decision on behalf of both of them?
My suggestion would be to seek therapy for impartial advice from a neutral party and to be open to compromise. Typically, something has happened in that person’s life to make them suddenly change their mind. But you can also ask hard questions while you’re dating and look for certain signs along the way. If a man says he believes women are equal and that he will contribute to household chores, see how he treats female waitstaff in a busy restaurant. If your man proposes, but avoids the topic of setting a date, then think about whether or not you need that piece of paper. If you don’t have kids or if you’re not sure if you want more, then “borrow” (babysit) a friend or family member’s kid(s) for a weekend (they will be indebted to you for the mini-vacation!) to see how you are able to handle it for more than a few hours. You may be surprised that you find yourself not wanting more kids either, or it could be a total deal-breaker because you can’t imagine not becoming a parent.
No one should make any major life decisions without consulting their significant other, but when that does occur, don’t be afraid to seek help.
I have been dating a girl I met on JDate for about a month. We are really into each other and spend a lot of time together. I think we are both excited to see where the future takes us. It’s the first time I’ve been into a girl this way in a long time. I’ve even met her family already and we all get along nicely. Here’s my question: her brother and his wife are about to have a baby and I don’t know what is proper protocol in these situations.
Thanks for your help!
Dear Dating During Family Functions,
This is a great question and my answer applies to both simchas (weddings, babies, etc.) as well as sad situations (a death in the family). Let your girlfriend know that you’re there for her and are willing to help out in any way you can, but that you don’t want to be in the way if she’s not comfortable having you there. And don’t be offended if she doesn’t want you there as these can be very intimate family gatherings.
Then again, these are moments where the two of you can forge a deeper bond so hopefully she will accept your support. Offer to be at the house to coordinate food delivery, offer to be the photographer/videographer of the bris/baby-naming, or offer to just be there for her at any time.
My now fiance took my son out of the room to go play when I found out a close friend had died and then babysat my son when I had to go to her funeral. Both of those small acts were incredibly meaningful to me.
Bottom line? Open up and let her know that you care a lot about her and want to celebrate life’s joyful moments as well as the tough ones, together. Tell her that you understand it’s early in the relationship to be included in family functions and that it’s up to her, but that you are there for her.
under Date Night
When you start dating someone who seems like a total catch, it is easy to want to know everything about them as soon as you can. It’s easy to build someone up to be something they’re not since it takes time to get a clear, accurate picture of who someone really is. However, discussion alone may not get you the answers you’re looking for, and prying too much too soon can prove disastrous.
Behavior is a great way to gauge how someone behaves in most situations (and for me it’s often a lot more indicative than their words). Maybe they think they’re a great dancer, but have no rhythm. Maybe you like that they’re really smart, but soon discover they don’t have a lot of common sense or tact. They can’t tell you those things. Or maybe you think they’re conscientious about how they treat others, but they don’t respect your opinion in making decisions. You just have to see those things for yourself.
If they aren’t as great as you built them up to be early on in the relationship, you are likely to be disappointed. Try to take what you see and hear at face value (or less). It’s easy when we’re excited to let our minds fill in unknown information, or to pry for lots of details to help fill our knowledge gaps about the person.
This is why we date: to figure out who someone is.
It’s hard to wait sometimes, but try not to rush getting to know someone. If you’re right for each other, waiting three months to discover he or she is a clean freak probably won’t make a huge difference in the long run. Also, part of the fun of dating is getting to know someone better, and hopefully enjoying his or her company more and appreciating each other’s quirks more as time progresses. Sometimes you build someone up and on the third date you realize you don’t think he or she has the good character traits you were envisioning. Recently, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by learning more and more about a guy I’m seeing. I didn’t gather that he was very cultured from first meeting him, but when we went out and I learned how knowledgeable he was about many things I wouldn’t have expected, I was impressed. Instead of building him up and being let down by elevated notions of him, I went with the flow (for once), let him reveal himself over time, and was excited when he exceeded my expectations.
- Don’t have sky-high expectations. They lead to a lot of unnecessary disappointments.
- Don’t rush getting to know someone because you’re worried they might not measure up. If they don’t measure up, you will certainly figure it out in time.
- Don’t build them up to be someone they’re not. They can’t live up to the fake version of themselves in your head.
under Online Dating
Askhole: a person who constantly asks you for advice, but always does the opposite of what you tell them.
These people aren’t a**holes, per se, but it does make you wonder why they bothered asking for advice if they weren’t going to follow it.
Most singles tend to ask for advice because they’re hoping you are going to say what they were thinking, therefore confirming their intentions. So when your advice does not align with what they want to do (call him, text her, accept a weekend date late in the week, etc.), they will do it anyway. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.
So take it in stride. Your advice is only your opinion, and it may or may not be the right advice. Or, your friend need to learn lessons the hard way. Each situation is different. Be there for your friends and don’t get upset if they don’t take your advice. And don’t say “I told you so” either. It’s always easier to give advice than it is to take it.
Everyone talks about learning lessons from your past so that you don’t repeat your mistakes, but you ought to also learn from your past in a positive way.
What did you like the most about your exes? What attracted you in a way that wouldn’t wane no matter how bad the relationship got? What did your exes do to make you happy? What were the reasons you wanted to stay with your ex? What kept you there when the going got tough?
Look for those same qualities in your next mate… and then of course remember the lessons you learned about from your past relationships which contributed to their demise (i.e. the negative stuff) and keep those things in mind as well.
In writing my blogs, I sometimes like to remember that it’s not only single people reading. So for this week’s piece, I went to one of the sturdiest relationships in my life, the marriage of my friends Alastair and Lauren. As we ate dinner together last week, I decided to ask them for advice on healthy relationships.
- On how they decided they were right for each other. Practicality is always king. Agreement on where you’re both headed is vital. Alastair and Lauren think of themselves as good roommates and think that, combined with their attraction, made for a great relationship. Common goals are also vital, and the practical understanding of the long-term blueprint was important in their relationship leading into marriage. They also trust each other immensely, and think of each other as their closest confidants. Money is an important point that comes up for them as something they immediately trusted each other with beyond just living together.
- On what keeps them happy. Anticipate the other person’s needs. For example, Lauren and Alastair cook for each other when one is stuck at work (or in a classroom with me, in Alastair’s case). Basically, do nice things without being asked and put your partner before yourself. Life isn’t having sex and talking about G-d, it’s making the decisions to help each other and keep life stable.
- On finding the right person for you. Find an environment that’s conducive for people being together regularly. Jewish events, hobby groups, and universities (within limits — maybe not if you’re in your 30s or older and not in college) are great ways to find people. Finding a place where you’re comfortable with lots of people is great, and while the university option was how they met, they still have lots of faith in meeting at community events.
One final note I’d like to make is how much I enjoy having Alastair and Lauren and their fellow married friends in my Jewish community. In Dallas, we don’t have “singles” events for young Jews, but rather events for young Jewish people in general. While some people don’t love the mixing of singles and couples (how can you tell who to hit on?), I think there’s an added value not just from the fact that those in relationships can also be great people, but in the fact that they can give you a sense of guidance in a very confusing dating landscape.
Having two people in as stable of a relationship as Alastair and Lauren is more than just a great reminder of what I aspire for, but also a great resource to help me get there. So couples of the Jewish world, be sure to stay active in your community as my friends have, you never know who will benefit from your friendship, and the friends you can introduce them to.
You finally met someone you like and the feeling is mutual. Dating turns into a relationship rather quickly — and before you know it, you are spending all your free time together as your emotions grow. But then the other person’s feelings deepen… while your feelings stay stagnant. You continue to move forward as a couple because you still like your significant other, but since you’re not falling in love with the same veracity, you begin to doubt if this is “The One.” As you learn more about each other you start to see flaws where there once was perfection.
You know intrinsically that you should be able to accept these flaws as human and normal, but instead they start to irk at you. And the things you liked before also start to gnaw at you, making you wonder if you can get back to that exciting, lust-filled place — or if the relationship is a ticking time bomb. Unfortunately, once you get to this point, it is likely that you won’t be able to backtrack and that the relationship is indeed doomed.
Don’t try to fight it, this is a course that many relationships take. Be comforted by the fact that you didn’t allow it to go any further, and listened to your heart and mind when it told you that something wasn’t right. Feelings are going to get hurt in this wild ride we call dating; don’t be shocked when you are on the receiving side and don’t feel bad when you are on the distributing side.
Buy Tamar’s new book “How to Woo a Jew” now!
People are often on their very best behavior for much of the first phase of dating. Playing “Prince” or “Princess Charming,” making romantic gestures, acting affectionate, and using their very best manners. It’s easy to hide mood swings, flaws and ticks when you aren’t living together or experiencing all of the normal day-to-day doldrums of life without an escape hatch.
When you’re dating, and you have a terrible day at work, or traffic was a beast, or a customer service rep wasn’t helpful after being on hold for an hour, you typically have the chance to decompress before seeing the special person you’re dating. The luster of the relationship hasn’t dulled and your excitement over the possibility of a future together means you are going to put on a happy face, try to enjoy yourself and leave the ugly day behind.
But that’s not reality.
In fact, it would behoove you to keep it real after a month or so of dating to see how you both deal with times of stress, and how you handle each other when one of you is moody and stubborn. It is not realistic to always be charming; no one is that smooth all the time. Everyone has their issues and if you can’t figure out how to be on the same team and deal with them together, then you may need to find a different partner.
A recent article in The New York Times “Modern Love” column titled The Hard Won Lessons of the Solitary Years resonated with me. Although there are lessons that we learn while IN relationships, there are also many lessons we learn the older we are as singles. Which is why it always bothered me when my coupled up counterparts would speak to me in a condescending way about things that I “wouldn’t understand” because I wasn’t married or in a relationship at the time.
What I found ironic though is that I was learning life lessons as an independent woman that would go on to benefit me later. There’s no right or wrong answer to what age is best for getting married; everyone has their own path, but in the meantime we should be cognizant of the way we speak to our friends who are on a different path and make sure we are respectful. Everyone learns their own hard fought lessons on their own time and we never know what someone is going through, it’s best to appreciate what they bring to the table — a perspective that comes from being in a different stage of life than ours.
A girlfriend of mine was telling me a story last night about how and why her most recent relationship ended. Apparently the guy, who’s a few years younger than she is, freaked out after continuously meeting all her engaged, married, and parenting friends. Since there’s still a “2″ before his age and a “3″ before his, he felt pressure that she would want to rush into getting married even though she had never said anything of the sort. She explained to me that she tried telling him that she wasn’t in any hurry but he had already made up his mind and broke off the relationship. After a few weeks he came back into the picture ready to listen to what she had to say and admitted that she hadn’t put any pressure on him and now they are cautiously talking again. She sat next to me and told me all this and my response to her was that neither she nor he could rationalize his feelings away and making excuses for the past month wasn’t going to magically change the fact that he freaked out nor was he going to magically not feel any subconscious pressure from dating a woman in her 30′s. I warned her to proceed slowly with her eyes wide open and that in the meantime I would ramp up my efforts to set her up with someone.
People don’t change in a month but they can change over time when they truly want to. Actions speak louder than words so if you are dating someone who hasn’t asked you for Prime Time Date Night within the first few weeks or hasn’t introduced you to his or her family and friends after a few months or refuses to have The Talk after half a year and always has excuses as to why, then stop making excuses for that person and move on to someone who is going to treat you as special as you deserve to be treated.