Dear Rosie & Sherry,
I'm no Sean Connery (Jewish version, of course) and have as many faults as most, but I'm facing an "embarrassment of riches" that's got me off-balance and confused about how to proceed. I've met three women, any one of whom by any objective measure would make a superb long-term partner or wife.
All three dates started off without any indication of a long-term future. Lately, however, I see clear signals that each of these wonderful women is moving toward commitment. I have no problem moving in the same direction, but of course I can't "juggle" three different people all with burgeoning emotional attachments.
I'm not worried about who should be my "first choice." That decision hasn't been made yet, but I can deal with the question and arrive at a confident answer. My problem is I think time will tell who is my favorite... and meanwhile I'm playing with their emotions and, in a sense, misleading them. I feel guilty, ill at ease, duplicitous, and cheap.
Thanks for listening. I look forward to your sage advice.
Your predicament is precisely the reason why we recommend not dating more than one person at the same time. Since you've already described all of the difficulties that multiple-dating creates, we don't have to list them for you. But we do have one observation that might not have occurred to you: It may not matter which of the women you ultimately choose. It sounds to us as if you could have a happy marriage with any of them.
We've always believed that most people are capable of building and maintaining a satisfying and enduring marriage with any one of several different people. Each possibility requires the basic ingredients (common values and goals, physical attraction, admiration, respect, affection and emotional intimacy), but from that point onward the couple needs to use their personal efforts and skills to enhance their bond.
If each potential couple were to use their efforts and skills, and make the success of their marriage a priority, it would be hard to characterize any one courtship as being "better than the other." Each will have different good points, and each will be mutually satisfying in its own way. We like to point this out to "serial daters" who can never make a choice because they always think someone better is around the corner.
We also like to point this out to people who keep rejecting excellent (but less-than-perfect) suitors, on the grounds that "they are not my soul mate." While Jewish tradition does speak about a soul mate, we can never know for sure that we've found our "beshert." And that's why picking a spouse comes down to using your good sense and intuition to pick the one who is best for you.
Some courtships might be "smoother" with less challenges, and others will have more friction. (We like to call it "creative tension.") But neither arrangement is inherently better than the other. Sure, the smoother courtship is easier, and of course you don't want to get into any situation that is too emotionally taxing or unhealthy. But... the personal growth -- and growth together as a couple -- can be much greater and ultimately more rewarding when there are certain challenges to overcome.
This is the reason that many widowed veterans of long-term, happy marriages have successful second marriages. They understand that the second time around will be different than the first, but will be a mutually-rewarding experience just the same.
It sounds as though you are optimistic about what the future might be like with any of these three women. You also seem to realize that intensifying three separate courtships will be extremely complicated, as well as unfair to each of the women. It's possible that by juggling three at once, you'll actually find it harder to choose between them because you won't be able to devote enough emotional energy into developing any one of the courtships.
It's also possible that 3-timing these women may end up backfiring. If they find out about each other, you could end up with three failures and a bad name in the dating world.
So why have you continued to see all three of them? Probably because you enjoy all the attention! But now it's time to just "deal with the question and arrive at a confident answer." We're sure you'll make the right choice. Good luck.
Rosie & Sherry