Dear Rosie & Sherry,
I am a man in my 30s, with a strong sense of self, spiritual values and career. I am very happy where I am and it has not come easy. But now that I am looking to get married, I have fallen into a bad pattern. It looks something like this:
I meet someone I like who has similar values in her mid-30s. After dating for six months, seeing each other twice a week, visiting with family and friends, I bring up the next step of getting engaged. She responds that she wants to date for a couple of years before getting engaged, and then have a year-long engagement.
What?! That means dating for three years! Nobody's getting any younger, and by that time a family might not happen.
I've already been burned like this three times. I think someone in their 30s should have a good idea of what man she wants. If it's me, great; and if not, then fine too. Isn't one year of purposeful dating enough?
Either that, or maybe I should be dating women in their 20s?
People date for different reasons -- for companionship, for enjoyment, for an emotional connection without long-term commitment, and for marriage. You've been making the assumption that the women you have recently dated are as marriage-minded as you are. This isn't an unrealistic view, since many women in their 30s have this goal. However, a high percentage of women in this age range feel they still have plenty of time to settle down.
Look at it this way: It probably took you more than a decade of dating to decide that you are ready for marriage. Perhaps you had an epiphany, or perhaps this was a realization you arrived at gradually. It appears that the women you've been dating haven't gotten to that point yet. You cannot even assume that after a few years of dating you, they will actually be ready to make a commitment. What they may be doing is pushing off something they are not yet ready to do.
There's a way to pre-screen future dating partners so that you won't belatedly discover that the next woman you date isn't as marriage-minded as you are. When someone is suggested to you, ask if she's dating for marriage. Many times, a woman will let the friends who are setting her up know that she wants to find the right guy and settle down. While you can't always find out if someone shares your goal of marriage before the actual date, many times you can.
Whether you meet someone on your own or agree to a blind date, it's always important to learn about each other's value system and short- and long-term goals early in the dating process. In some circles, its common for people to learn a little about each other's view of life and future goals before the first date is even arranged, but we know that many singles prefer to find out this information on the actual date. The trick is to ask the right questions early enough in the courtship process.
We usually recommend that people on their first two dates begin with "airplane talk" -- the kind of discussions people may have with a stranger they sit next to on an airplane and may never see again. You should each tell a little about yourself, what you are doing with your life, about your hobbies and how those interests developed. And of course there's that old standby, Jewish Geography.
As the conversation warms up, you can each describe a little more about yourself by focusing on subjects that give the other person a glimpse at your way of thinking, but don't go too deep below the surface. For example, you could speak about the qualities of someone you admire or who has been your mentor, something that you've always wanted to do or achieve, and even some of the ways you like to have fun.
It's also a good idea to discuss future goals, such as where you each see yourself in a few years, and the route you hope to take to achieve those goals. The content of these discussions will help each person get an idea of whether their values and goals may turn out to be compatible. It's still too early to know for sure, but even at this stage it can be apparent that two people either seem to want similar things out of life, or are not moving in the same direction.
Since you are dating for marriage, you shouldn't date someone whose life view and expectations are quite different from yours -- no matter how attracted you may be to her -- because the foundation of a long-term relationship is compatible values and goals. On the other hand, it is more likely that someone whose view of life is similar to yours, and who is traveling in a direction that is similar to your own chosen path, will also be marriage-minded. However, you still cannot make that assumption and will have to clarify each other's intentions as the courtship continues.
Somewhere towards the end of the first month of dating -- after you've passed the initial, awkward stage of dating, and find that dating is becoming more comfortable, and have learned a bit more about each other -- we recommend that you openly discuss the reason why you are dating. You can tell her that while it is far too early for either of you to know where your courtship will lead, you would like her to know that you are dating for the purpose of finding the right person to marry, and that if it turns out you are right for each other you would like to get married within a specified period of time.
When the fact that you are dating for marriage is presented in this neutral manner, the other person will usually be honest about her own intentions. If a woman does not share your goal of moving the courtship toward marriage, she's not for you, no matter how wonderful she seems. She isn't going to change her mind simply because she thinks you're a great guy. And you have no way of knowing when she will reach her own epiphany.
Our suggestions can help you ascertain if a woman shares your goals in a much shorter time than you have experienced. We hope that by following them, you will meet the woman who is right for you in the very near future.
Rosie & Sherry