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Dating Advice #208 - The Irreconcilable Difference
Dating Advice 208

Dating Advice #208 - The Irreconcilable Difference

Everything looks like a match -- except for their view of materialism.


Dear Rosie & Sherry,

I just broke up with a man, but I feel like I might have lost my intended, and I'm just not sure that the reason I ended it is valid. He is genuinely nice and honest, plus he has the biggest heart I've ever known. There is no doubt that we connected on a true and mature level. We basically share the same values and goals, except for one thing:

He grew up in a very simple home, and I didn't. I was actually quite spoiled. My parents showed their love by giving us things, and always outdid themselves for us. Looking back, I would say it wasn't to our benefit, but the past is something I can't change.

This man adamantly wants to live a very simple life. He doesn't have ambition to earn a large income, and if he ever earns a lot of money, he wouldn't want anyone to know. He doesn't want his wife to wear jewelry or drive a nice car.

Is this something that I can come to resent, even if I have full respect for him in all other areas? My parents are horrified and call him cheap. They were the main reason I broke things off. Was I right?


Dear Valerie,

The second thoughts you are having is a normal reaction to what has happened. Here was a guy you liked, admired and respected - and to whom you felt emotionally connected. It seemed that you had just about all the ingredients for a lasting relationship, except for one difference. And because these positive feelings remain even after the break-up, it is only natural for you to have lingering questions about whether or not you did the right thing.

Another reason why you question your decision is doubt over whether this is even a valid reason to end a courtship. We expect that one reason for your ambivalence is the fact that part of you feels guilty for having been overindulged by your parents when you were growing up, and you may think that your materialism is getting in the way of your good judgment.

In our opinion, two people who discover they have significant, irreconcilable differences in their lifestyle expectations are not well-suited for each other.

A dating couple that is moving in the direction of marriage needs a foundation on which to build their relationship. One corner of that foundation is a common value system, and another corner is compatible goals and expectations for the future. Your differences involve both values and expectations - you valuing ambition and a certain amount of material comfort, and wanting a lifestyle in which these values play a role, and he eschewing all of this.

It appears to us that neither of you will be comfortable adopting the other's point of view or reaching some sort of compromise, and we don't feel that either of you should try to force yourselves to do so. If you do, we can practically guarantee that what you fear the most will come true - you will come to resent each other, you will lose respect for him, and you will regret your choice to remain involved.

We also don't see any place for guilt in this equation. In our view, materialism isn't a bad thing unless it is carried to an extreme. The fact that your parents may have indulged you doesn't make you a spoiled woman who values wealth and possessions above anything else. Women have enjoyed wearing jewelry since biblical times. The Torah describes how Eliezer, our ancestor Abraham's servant, gave Rebecca jewelry when she agreed to marry Isaac. Rebecca was the epitome of caring and giving, and certainly not spoiled.

For you, there is nothing wrong with wanting a nice car, a comfortable home, or financial security. And there is nothing wrong with him wanting a simple life with minimal material comforts.

But financial issues can be very straining for a marriage, and it is important that you both be heading in the same direction. You do not want to be in an position where either of you is being judgmental or forcing your values on the other person.

The bottom line is that in our view, you made the correct choice. The two of you weren't right for each other, even though so many aspects of your relationship seemed to be in your favor. There's an important lesson in this experience: If dating partners cannot find a way to bridge major differences - in values, goals or lifestyle choices - at an early point in their courtship, it is a red flag that they may never be able to resolve the issue - no matter how long they try.

We hope that our answer has reassured you, and we hope that you soon meet the one who is right for you.

Rosie & Sherry

June 24, 2006

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Visitor Comments: 15

(15) Shaul, July 20, 2006 12:00 AM

Valerie could have done as Rabbi Aqiva's wife Rachel did

The Talmud tells the tremendously moving story of Rabbi Aqiva's marriage to Rachel, daughter of Kalba Savua (the Rothschild of his day). Aqiva Ben Yosef was a simple layman, an illiterate shepherd, but in whom Rachel saw good qualities. She encouraged him to learn Torah and married him against her father's will. He was so angry that he disowned her, but she loved Aqiva and was willing to share a life of abject poverty with him so that he could learn Torah. She even cut and sold her hair in order to help support themselves.The Talmud tells us that Rachel sent her husband to learn Torah for 24 years, and that when he came home with 24,000 students, she pushed herself through them in order to kiss his gown. They tried to push her away but he rebuked them, saying "Mine and yours, is hers".On that occasion Kalba Savua was still regretful at having disowned his daughter, and heard that a wise man had arrived. He called him in order to dissolve his vow, but did not recognize him. Rabbi Aqiva asked him, "Would you have made your vow had you known that your son-in-law would learn Torah?" He answered, "Even a single verse, I would not". Rabbi Aqiva then revealed to him, "I am your son-in-law..." Kalba Savua was so elated that he made his beloved daughter Rachel his sole heir.I humbly submit that even a spoiled woman, if she sees good spiritual qualities in her partner, can make the necessary sacrifices if she is looking for a spiritually fulfilling relationship with her husband...

(14) Anonymous, June 29, 2006 12:00 AM

Common values are important

I was discussing my marriage with my friend last night and saying what totally different interests my husband and I have, everything from t.v. programs to music and interests. We have been married for 34 years and are from totally different backgrounds and are different religions. What units us is common values and the same outlook on life. Valerie did the right thing. My niece was married with such a person, divorced him, and is now happily married with her soul mate. She was lucky to find out in time to make a life for herself. A miss match is a lot of trouble.

(13) Shawna, June 27, 2006 12:00 AM

Good advice

I'm four years into a marriage with similar conflicts. My husband is the one raised with more wealth and higher expectations, and I am the one wanting a "simple life." I could see this difference when we were dating, and several times brought it up as a barrier to future happiness. Each time, he swore that he too can live a simple life, and prefers to live in the older, friendlier neighborhoods (as opposed to the new suburb designs of small to no yards, everyone driving into their garage and entering the house via there - noone ever knowing what their neighbors even look like), and that the importance of automobiles is to get you from point A to point B in comfort - not to show off.

However, since we've been married, this has been the most contentious problem - because it relates to the most-stressful topic for couples: money.

I love him, our son, and his two daughters from a previous marriage. I love our family, and by and large, our lifestyle. But he wants a bigger, nicer home, a bigger nicer car with all the perks, eating out at restaurants all the time, etc. I want the next car to be a hybrid (I wanted the last car to be a hybrid - but agreed to an SUV iwth a DVD player, when he promised the next car would be a hybrid, and waiting would be better, because they'll have improved the technologies, etc.) Now, he's forgotten his agreement that the next car would be a Prius, arguing that we need another big, gas-guzzling, Arab-supporting car of some kind.

I don't think I wish I was still single and without this family -- but I definitely wish he'd have been more honest about his desires before we married.

(12) Bracha R, June 26, 2006 12:00 AM

good for him

I too, agree that it's fine for someone to be somewhat material minded but it's also fine for someone not to be. I am married to a man who learns in kollel. While many people would not be able to live our life style I am perfectly happy with it. My children wear either hand me down clothing or home sewn clothing. We try not to buy extras but we do have toys in our house! I tell my kids 'no' to the purchase of many things because they get the 'gimmes' and no matter how much money we have I wouldn't spend it on whatever they wanted whenever they wanted it. Not being interested in materialistic things doesn't mean that someone won't support his family. My husband uses his talents to the utmost, they just don't involve a high salary. and he buys me jewelry.

(11) Anonymous, June 26, 2006 12:00 AM

remember mony doesn't last forever

I agree with Rosie and Sherry in that you made the right choice. It's clear you would never be content with him and you would probably have made him very unhappy.

But it probably wouldn't be a bad idea for you to take the time and think about yourself and your values. You could marry the wealthiest, most ambitious man in the world but that money could all disappear one day due to bad investments or (god forbid) ill health or some other misfortune. What then?

Money can ease some things in life but there will always come a time when it is not the answer to all your problems. There will also come a time when you have to make a life for your own with your husband, separate from your parents.

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