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Dating Advice #194 - Over My Dead Body!
Dating Advice 194

Dating Advice #194 - Over My Dead Body!

She thinks she's found the one, but Mom is out to stop it.


Dear Rosie & Sherry,

I have a question that has been tormenting me for the past year or so. I was in Israel last summer and began a courtship with a young man. But because he is in the Israeli army and I live in New York City, we can't be together now. We talk every day on the phone for hours and I truly feel that he is the one for me.

We are both young (20) and my mother is very angry at me that I do not date other men. She feels that I am throwing my life away on an infatuation and that I should go date older men who are already established career-wise.

I do not want to disrespect my mother, but I completely disagree with her. This man plans to study architecture after completing the army in a year.

During our time together in Israel, I saw characteristics in him that I feel I could love and respect forever. Now my mother is hassling me. What do I do?


Dear Tali,

It seems to us that the dilemma you are dealing with is not just an issue of going against your mother's ambitions for you. It is also tied into the fact that you are a very young adult who still has a great deal of growth ahead of you, and that your attachment is to a man who is thousands of miles away who also has a great deal of personal growth ahead of him.

The solution is to try to find out if you and this young man have a future together. Some of our suggestions should help you deal with the challenges of youth, distance, and parental opposition to your long-distance courtship.

We're sure that you understand that people don't stop developing goals, values, and character traits on their 18th birthdays. Young adults continue to develop intellectually throughout the early 20s, and their values, goals and personality traits are often shaped by their life experiences during this period. Two people who meet at this time and feel strong compatibility may nevertheless grow in different directions over the next few years.

These changes can take place regardless of the geographic distance that separates them, but can happen more easily when the couple is separated by a great distance. Of course, some couples are able to grow in compatible directions, notwithstanding the fact that they communicate primarily through e-mail and phone calls.

So, while it is certainly possible that your long-distance courtship has the potential to become a life-long relationship, we hope you understand that you could grow in different directions. Nevertheless, we certainly will not tell two 20-year-olds who relate to each other so well to stop wasting their time with each other and go out with other people! Instead, we encourage you to keep up your long-distance courtship while you each pursue the individual goals you have been trying to achieve -- his finishing the army and beginning his university studies, you completing your education and beginning your career, and each of you keeping up your friendships and pursuing hobbies and interests.

Key Issues

However there are some key issues that bear discussing now. You need to clarify whether you share the same goal (marriage), can agree upon which of you will ultimately relocate, and develop long and short range plans for accomplishing this goal.

In other words, do you both hope that this relationship will someday lead to marriage? (If only one of you has this goal, continuing this courtship would be ill-advised.) Have you spoken about the lifestyle you would like to live, how you will combine careers and family, how you would like to relate to each other in your marriage, the role Judaism will play in your lives, the way you would like to raise your children, the values you would like to build your marriage upon?

Have you discussed whether will you live in the U.S. or in Israel? Can you agree on a general time frame for reaching your ultimate goal?

We recommend that you also formulate intermediate goals for the duration of your long-distance courtship -- such as how often you will see each other while you are dating, when he will finish the army and apply to architecture school, who will pay for each of your tuitions and living expenses, when you will finish your degree and satisfy the requirements needed to work in your chosen field, if you plan to move to Israel what you will need to do in terms of language and education to be able to work there, and what he will need to do if he moves to the U.S.

This suggestion is very worthwhile, and you'll be encouraged as you each gradually make progress toward achieving your ultimate goal.

Understanding Mom

Of course, even if the details of your long-distance courtship fall into place, your mother's opposition will continue to be a source of frustration because you don't believe she is being open-minded about your situation. We expect that she is concerned about more than the fact that your beau is only 20 and has several years to go before he is self-supporting. She may be worried that you'll move to Israel, may lack assurance about the integrity of someone she has never met, may think she will have to support your financially for the long-term, may believe that you are too young to know who is right for you, may worry that the two of you are making decisions based on infatuation rather than whether your values and goals are compatible, or may believe that you are giving up on a social life prematurely for a young man with whom you ultimately may break up.

We suggest that the two of you to talk about her concerns, and for you to demonstrate that you and this young man have similar value systems and views of married life, that you have formulated a plan to achieve your goal of getting married, and that you are both working on the intermediate steps to accomplish your goal.

You and your mother need this sort of dialogue, so that you can understand her concerns and so that she can see that you aren't blinded to the challenges of a long-distance courtship, but rather are asking (and answering) the questions that couples who are thinking about marriage should address.

If you don't believe that you and your mother can really listen to each other without the discussion deteriorating into a lecture or an argument, we suggest you enlist a third party to facilitate the discussion. This can either be a relative or friend who will not take sides and has the ability to diffuse a situation when emotions run high, or it can be a family therapist who is trained to act in this way.

You and your mother will not be able to resolve everything between you in one conversation. However, we hope that over time, your discussions will be productive and that she will be able to offer the support and guidance you want from her.

Rosie & Sherry

November 26, 2005

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Visitor Comments: 6

(6) Bonnie Wills, December 18, 2005 12:00 AM

way to go ladies

Rosie and Sherry, you are 'right on' in your answers regarding matters of the heart.
You 'hit the nail right on the head' so to speak.

(5) Anonymous, December 4, 2005 12:00 AM

too young

The fact that Mom is influencing your thinking to this degree means you are too young. My mother managed to find something wrong with every single person I dated. Was she wrong? No, she was absolutely right and did avert some disasters for me, I will admit. However, with some of them at least, I could have adjusted to the flaws, as everyone has them. I think you need to complete school and be able to be self-supporting. I think you need to move out and do just that. As Rosie and Sherry, said talk with this boy about where you will live etc. Then and only then, once you have the confidence to know that you can make a life even if you make a mistake, and once you know what you want your mom's feelings will not matter. Your argument with your mom is that deep down you know she may be right. She may very well be right but is she right FOR YOU? Once I moved out Mom did not have access to my dating life so she did not see everyone I dated. It gave me a chance to get to know what I wanted for myself. Plus, having moved out(Mom told me I would never be able to save a dime, I would be thought ill of if I moved out on my own. These things turned out to be incorrect.)Having the confidence of having successfully taken care of myself with G-d's help of course, made me realize that I could take this risk with the man I married. I could be right or I could be wrong. If I was wrong in my choice with him, I would still survive and grow from that too. Also, guess what? Once I moved out and away from Mom she came to realize that part of her objections (they were always right, too) was that part of her did not want me to get married and leave. Since I had left, and she had survived she realized she could survive if I got married. Though I urge to respect and listen to your mother's objections, once you are a self supporting adult, you will have the inner strength to know whether she is right or wrong in terms of your life.

(4) Hadassah, November 30, 2005 12:00 AM

comments on comments

In response to Anna's comment, all I can say is AAGGHH! The attitude displayed, although certainly sincere, and seemingly logical, is so sadly Western. I think it's incredible that as a community we have become accustomed to complaining about the "shidduch crisis" while either conciously or I suspect, often subconsiously, conveying the message to our children- or rather, not correcting the message that the MEDIA and CULTURE is conveying to our children- that fun, pleasure and buying 6 inch ankle strap patent leather shoes is the best, must fulfilling way to have "fun" and enjoy life.
Judaism says that marriage is the framework for building and accomplishing the most in life. For a society that is not in touch with the soul of humanity, the deepest yearning for ultimate fulfillment and connection to G-d, it is no wonder that divorce rate is over 50% and most people don't even bother getting married anymore.
For one who is in touch with their own spirituality, marriage is a very real part of spiritual development and ultimate fulfillment; the recognization that only within a marriage can two people learn what it means to give selflessly and become one with G-d compels the homosapian to find a spouse with whom to express this with.
When should a person be spiritually ready for this step? Our Torah teaches that a man should be ready for this at the age of 18.
Ok, so most of us are not holding at that level, but in many religious Jewish circles, 19 and 20 is the average age for girls to get married, and not because they are being coerced, but because they and ready for this next step on the spiritual ladder. THEY WANT IT, and it comes from a place of spiritual health.
Yes, when you're single you can spend your money on YOURSELF. You can devote your time to YOURSELF. You can travel for YOURSELF, and make food for YOURSELF, and wallow in all the joy of YOURSELF. And this is fine, but the problem is that our society has no definite guidelines of when it's time to stop thinking only about YOURSELF in your daily life. Marriage is about learning to think about someone else, and ya know what?
If someone's soul is healthy and in shape, they will want this, maybe even at the age of 19 or 20! It's hard to believe in our selfish, ME-oriented, instant gratification world, but it's true.
I weep for us, that marriage has become a heavy burden that should be delayed ("at least till you're 25") because it involves too much giving. This attitude is the sign of a much bigger underlying problem.
Kudos to Daniel for a great message and to anonymous as well.
May all the men and women in Klal Yisrael find their spouses this year and rejoice!

(3) Anonymous, November 29, 2005 12:00 AM

Re previous comment.

Why wait until you're 25? That's such an unfair thing to say to someone...I know people who have been very young and it's been great, because they've been able to grow TOGETHER. By the time we're older (I didn't meet Mr. Right until I was 25, and we weren't able to marry until I was 27), we're much more set in our ways. If this really is Mr. Right, I'd say go for it.

(2) Daniel, November 29, 2005 12:00 AM

Clarification of Anna's priorities

I fully agree with Anna's observation that pursuing enjoyable activities as a young single can, in ways, be qualitatively superior than as a married person. One can enjoy complete absorption in the activity without needing to weigh a spouses needs.

However, if marriage is of central priority to someone, then this would automatically manifest itself in their choice to put the pursuit of marriage above needing to "have fun now & get it out of my system for the rest of my life". If a person willingly pushes aside a marriage opportunity so they can pursue fun, then it's clear that marriage is not their number one goal. It may be a strong second, but that's not the same as first.

Western society (and marketers) have created a culture of consumption and pursuit of unbeholden fun. Families have much less disposable income than singles, and Madison ave knows this quite well. Singledom is encouraged.

Over the past few decades, we have been viscerally conditioned to believe that complete abandonment in fun (i.e. adolescence until our 20's, then it's 30's, then 40's, etc) is of central importance.

I do not see any reason why a marriage-minded person can't enjoy all their activities while still single (or married) provided they don't come at the expense of their pursuit (or maintenance) of marriage.

However, to formally state a goal of non-matrimonial pursuit until age 25, seems imprudent at best. Judaism considers true personal, relationship, and life growth to happens when a person is married. The ideal of full self-actualization before marriage is a non-jewish one. The only aspect which isn't is the seriousness and willingness to try one's best in geting married.

Youth happens once, but immaturity can be for a lifetime. Having fun does not always create a better person. People who, by default, make self-absorbing fun their number one goal in life do not automatically stop at any arbitrary age. Whether it's 25, 35, 45, etc. Other factors usually stir within later on, but by then, people struggle with innate undeveloped relationship concepts against issues that make it more difficult to relate as time goes on.

Bottom line, if you're both focused on marriage and have the inner conviction to be ready to make it work no-matter-what, then get married. It might be tough going to school, getting established, etc - but if you back each other up, and both always try, you'll make it work. It's not easy, but I've seen good people who have done just that. As long as you're both willing to try your best and know you're in it for life, then you're ready in my opinion.

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