Dear Rosie & Sherry,
I met a very nice woman at a Shabbat table. Since then, we dated six times in two weeks, going to cultural events, including a few full-day events.
Now she says she's not sure she wants to continue, and she needs a break to sort things out.
How should I take this? Is this her way of saying that she wants to break up, or in this case will distance make the heart grow fonder?
From what you describe it seems that you may have made an error that many singles make when they want to develop a courtship. You may have gone out with this woman "too much" in "too short" a period of time, and your dates may have lasted "too long." (Dates lasting more than three hours are too long when the two of you barely know each other.)
When someone calls a time-out so they can sort things out, chances are these are the problems that caused it.
It's only natural for someone to feel a little confused or overwhelmed under such circumstances. First of all, it can be difficult to spend a great deal of time with someone we haven't gotten to know that well and haven't shared many experiences with. As we become more accustomed to each other, and even begin to like each other, the situation may become even more confusing because many people simply can't process all the emotional data generated by too-frequent dating, and we lack the time necessary for our emotions to work themselves through. Usually, we aren't even aware that this is why we feel so confused or ambivalent.
So instead we think there is a problem in the budding courtship, or we may have thoughts like, "I'm not feeling what I am supposed to feel. I don't even know what I'm feeling. One day he seems great and the next day I don't know what I see in him."
These reactions seem even more confusing when the other person isn't experiencing these confusing feelings. In fact, we've seen many courtships in which one of the partners (usually the man) quickly comes to the realization that the person he's dating has the potential to become his life partner. Each subsequent date reinforces these feelings, and he wants to accelerate the process.
The other person (usually the woman) has a more complex mechanism for sorting through her emotions. If the two of them were to go out once or twice a week, she'd have enough time for her feelings and thoughts to coalesce. But when there isn't enough time in-between dates for this process to take place, she ends up feeling overwhelmed.
If we're right about the reasons why this woman wants to take a break right now, then it's a good move for both of you. If she were to break things off, the two of you might miss out on something with great potential. If you were to continue to date, she would only become more confused and ultimately, the courtship would end. This way, she can gain some clarity.
We suggest that you phone her in two weeks and tell her that you would like to continue to date her, but that this time you'd like to take things more slowly. If she agrees to start dating again, then follow a timetable of going out no more than twice a week, with your dates lasting 3-to-4 hours at the most. Occasionally, you can have a longer date. (In fact, we recommend that as people get to know each other better, they have at least one day-long or afternoon-into-evening date, so they can see what each other is like when they are tired, hungry, or not at their best.)
On the days that you don't see each other, phone calls are fine, but too many long-winded conversations may have the same confusing effect as overly-long dates.
Also, be aware that even if this woman agrees to resume dating, you may feel more positively about the potential of your courtship than she does. It's very common for two people to have different levels of interest during the initial stage of a courtship. One person may quickly believe that they've met their match, while the other will not come to this realization until much later in the dating process.
If you believe this is happening to you, you'll have to resist the urge to push things along or to pour your heart out to her. Instead, take things gradually by giving yourselves time to get to know each other better and share more experiences together.
As you both feel a deeper sense of comfort with each other, you can begin to talk about the direction each of you feels your relationship is taking. If you are on the same track, you'll have a sense of the most opportune time to talk about these feelings.
We hope this advice is helpful, and we wish you the best of luck.
Rosie & Sherry