Dear Rosie & Sherry,
Help! About six weeks ago I met a man who is 12 years older than me. He was never married. He is attempting to get closer to Judaism. I am observant. At times, he finds this difficult and has been challenging me. At the same time he is attracted to me and feels I can be the impetus to his leading an observant lifestyle.
Aside from our somewhat different perspectives on religious observance, we have a problem in that he doesn't feel I am available enough to him. He wants to talk daily and see each other at least three times a week. I told him I move at a slower pace. He insists that I don't know how to have a courtship, that when you meet someone you like you need to invest time in building it up.
I had a life before I met this man and have varied interests. I try to go out with him and call him when I can, but he feels I am squeezing him into my schedule. He's given me an ultimatum of changing my behavior. I want to get married one day but he says that my actions tell a different story. I'm so confused. Do I have a problem?
Sarah in LA
You’ve raised a question that troubles many people. There is a pattern to dating that works best for those building a courtship. This pattern strikes a balance between seeing each other too often -- and not seeing each other enough. We have found that people who see each other twice a week with telephone calls in-between, and maintain their independent daily lives, have the best chance of building a successful long-term relationship.
What your friend doesn't understand is that many women don't do well if they date a man more than twice a week, and if they are pressured into dating more often. This highlights one of the differences between men and women. A man often wants to move full speed ahead and increase the amount of time the two of them are together. Each date reinforces his feelings that he is moving on the right track.
Many women, meanwhile, unconsciously allow a multitude of intellectual and emotional factors to influence how they feel about a courtship. They usually need a few days in-between dates, bolstered by the "structure" of their daily lives, to gain the clarity they need for their emotions to fully develop.
Unknowingly, when many men push for more frequent dates, they often unconsciously push the courtship to the point of break-up. The woman may feel pressured, express ambivalence, question how she feels about her date -- and even describe sensations of "nausea" -- simply because she hasn't had that extra couple of days to regain her emotional equilibrium. These reactions have nothing to do with the quality of the courtship. In fact, if many couples with true potential would have paced their dating better, several of them would have avoided this crisis and become engaged.
Your friend does have a point about investing. If you are interested in seeing your courtship grow, you should be dating twice a week whenever possible. Daily telephone calls keep your interest piqued in each other, and help develop emotional intimacy. If the calls are frequently long or intense, alternate a few daily calls to say, “Hello,” and catch up on what each of you is doing with an occasional intense conversation.
Finally, a word about the differences in your religious styles. As long as each of you respects the other's sincerity, you can prevent your differences from becoming a problem.
But be careful not to compromise your religious values, or commit to "holding back" in your spiritual growth, because chances are that with each passing year, you will regret it and feel trapped. A yearning soul cannot stay quiet for long before it reasserts itself. So be careful, and know what you really want in your religious future. One good technique is to imagine how you'd like to raise your children (if this is part of your plan for the future). He needs to share this vision, or there will be big tension later on.
Try to find a solution that satisfies both of your spiritual sensibilities. This effort will also help the two of you develop communication skills that are always important in a marriage.
Rosie & Sherry