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Dating Advice #214 -  Ultimatum!
Dating Advice 214

Dating Advice #214 - Ultimatum!

After three years of waiting for him to propose, her patience has run out.


Dear Rosie & Sherry,

I am in my 30s and have been dating a man for three years. He is wonderful. Since we began dating, I have told him of my desire for marriage and family, and he's always gone along with me. But he never really seemed to share the same level of conviction. Many times I raised a concern that we weren't really on the same timeline. Six months ago, he assured me that very soon things would begin to move forward.

As the months past, I expected a proposal, and instead, he did nothing. He told me that he got scared and paralyzed and unsure. I was extremely hurt and decided that I could not deal with the uncertainty, or wait any longer for a real commitment. So I broke up with him.

In several days, he came back saying that he'd made a mistake, he knows he wants to be with me, and that he was planning to propose this fall. I told him that he needs to propose within the next two months. Now I am scared that I have pressured him into doing something he's not ready for or doesn't want, and I worry every day that he will change his mind. Have I forced him to make a decision that will end in disaster?

Also, he has floated an idea of having us live together first, in order to ease his transition into marriage. Is that a good plan?


Dear Tina,

It isn't wrong to give a serious dating partner an ultimatum at the point that you two have reached. If he isn't ready to make a commitment after three years of dating, and after having expressed the belief that the two of you are right for each other, then giving him more time to come around on his own isn't going to make a difference. We say this in light of our many years of helping other people facing the same issue.

There are many people who have trouble making the leap of faith to engagement and marriage. This is more a product of the times we live in than it is on the quality of the relationships. Certainly, some of these people have trouble because beneath the surface they realize that the other person really isn't right for them. However, more often, the recalcitrant person has been dating someone with whom they can build a happy and rewarding life, and even though they realize this, some fear or issue holds them back. It takes a bit of inner strength for such a person to say, "I could use some help finding out why I have this problem, and in dealing with it." Fortunately, most of the people who admit this and go to therapy are able to go on to celebrate their engagement and marriage.

It appears that this man needs a little push, and not just from you. He needs to talk to someone who can help him deal with whatever fears and unresolved issues may be holding him back from proposing and beginning a life together. But first, he has to acknowledge that he would benefit from this kind of help and decide that he wants to get it.

We suggest that you speak with him about our suggestion, and ask if he is amenable to working with a therapist. He should look for a therapist who specializes in short-term, goal-oriented therapy, or a cognitive behavioral therapist.

We also suggest that he find a married person whose judgment he trusts to serve as a hand-holder and mentor during this stage of the dating process and during the engagement that we hope will follow. It is very common for people who are about to become engaged, and people who are about to be married, to experience bouts of anxiety, in spite of the fact that most of the time they look forward to their wedding and to the life that will follow. In fact, the majority of engaged people in their 30s experience at least one such episode of anxiety! They need reassurance that the anxiety is often a normal part of the engagement process, and it usually doesn't mean there is anything wrong. A hand holder and mentor can give them this reassurance.

Living Together

We'd now like to address the idea that the two of you live together. First, it is clear that Jewish law requires people to wait until marriage to live together. Beyond this, however, there are also practical reasons why it is not advisable to live together before marriage. The main reason is that a husband and wife view their life together, from the outset, as a partnership, and they divide responsibilities, arrange finances, develop social lives, and make decisions based on the view of marriage as a joint enterprise. There are many challenges to balance their new life as a couple with each person's friends, interests, careers, and families. Each person must learn to make compromises that he or she wouldn't make in other situations, because they want to further their common goal of building a home and family.

The first year or two of marriage is a mixture of the wonder of sharing a life with another person, and the challenges of adjusting to life with another person, and there are many ups and downs. Sometimes, as they weather a challenging transition period, what carries the couple through is focusing on the big picture of having made a commitment to each other.

A couple who lives together without having made this commitment faces two handicaps. One is that neither of them is fully invested in the concept of laying the framework for a life together. The decisions they make, the way they structure responsibilities around the home, the way they handle their finances, and even the way they balance their social lives are different than it would be if they were married. At the back of their minds, each person may be thinking that this is a trial, and if it doesn't work out, they have an "out." So they do not feel compelled to make the same compromises if they had a long-term goal in mind.

Sometimes, this lack of commitment leads to a great deal of dissatisfaction, since each person is more invested in his or her own agenda than in their life together.

Alternatively, when the living arrangement seems to be working and the couple eventually decides to marry, they are often surprised that what they had in the past doesn't work any more. That's because once they are married, their views of the relationship usually change. The transition is often not an easy one, and may not work. In fact, based on both statistics and Sherry's work as a divorce lawyer, a strong predictor of future divorce is that a couple has lived together before marriage.

We hope that you and this man address concerns about commitment, and that if you are fortunate to become engaged, you concentrate on laying the framework for the life you will be building together as husband and wife.

And if he can't or won't take the steps he needs to take in order to make a commitment, within the time frame that you've specified, we hope that you have the courage to move on.

Rosie & Sherry

September 16, 2006

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Visitor Comments: 4

(4) Gisele, September 18, 2006 3:39 PM

One of the many reasons for my divorce can -

One of the many, many reasons why I was divorced after 13 years of marriage, and I am divorced now for 7 years, was because thoough out our 3 year courtship- during our college years- BTW, we met in college- were colleage sweethearts! I pressured him to marry me as soon as we graduated! And I think now in hinesight that this was a mistake, that my ex husband needed more time to grow, and become responsible. We both went from our paprents homes to make a home for ourselves as a married couple. But for me I was more on my own, since My late mom passed away a year and half prior to our wedding, and I had to grow up fast, but my ex despite having a job and going to college, he still was more under his parent's control than me, I only had my dad, and he was willing to let go of me- can't say the same for my ex's parents! But putting pressure for a comittment does not work at all.
And prior to my former marriage, I dated a guy, who put the pressure on me to committ to him, and he scared me away- eventually into the arms of my ex husband. And after my divorce, my former boyfriend was divorced 4 years later, and looked me up- we dated, and again he pressured me to marry him, and I backed off for different reasons than the original reasons- and because I backed off, I think it gave him too much time for his kids to talk him out of giving me a chance to be their step mom. And I only wanted to wait till I had settled some lifestyle changes needed for a new marriage to work. But this timing factor ruined the relationship. So both loves of my life were destroyed by "BAD TIMING, AND ALSO BY BEING PRESSURED TO MARRY, ONE TIME I WAS PRESSURED BY THE GUY TO MARRY FAST- AND THE OTHER TIME I PRESSURED THE GUY TO MARRY TOO SOON. NONE OF THIS WORKS- IF IT IS MEANT TO BE HASHEM WILL PROVIDE THE TIMING- NOT YOU!" I learned this lesson the hard way! So my advice is simple don't pressure the guy, if he wants to marry you- he will, and if not it is better to know it now. BTW, living together is not an option for frum people, and anyway, I feel that can not work, it is too easy to walk away if there is no committment. Even though I am divorced, I still think marriage works if done the right way, and even though it took me 13 years to end my marriage, I feel I did all that i could to save it! I wish that I did not wait 13 years, but i don't ever regret being married- it produced my Brocha son from Hashem. And I did give it an attempt. I do know what it takes to make a marriage work, i just have to find a Bashert who shares my views, on a workable, respectable, loving, caring, and not perfect/ realistic marriage! Good luck in whatever you decide. Shanah Tovah to all. May we all find our Basherts in a mazeldik time.

(3) Jewels, September 17, 2006 6:22 PM

A man knows....

When a man meets the woman he wants to marry, his instincts will kick in very quickly. If he senses he will lose her, he will act quickly. Men are much more proactive than a woman when love is on the line. You can't make a man commit if he's not ready. It's against the laws of a man's nature.

(2) Keren, September 17, 2006 10:30 AM

was in your shoes

Dear Tina, it was good that you walked away from him then. You showed him that u will not settle for what u don't want. I'd like to share my experience. I made a mistake of saying yes to a proposal last fall, knwoing that it came not from his heart but from his fear of losing me. After we got engaged I could not get rid of the feeling that he "did me a favor", that he is not in love with me as a future husband should be in my eyes. I started having very troublesome trust issues... long story short, I have found that he was talking to a woman from his past and he told her (not me!) that he was not sure about marriage. It was also clear that he had unresolved feelings about his ex, even though he never admitted that. It became clear to me that his fear of being married was based on something significant and that engagement was not appropriate. Without doubts about my right decision, I left him. It was heartbreaking... I hope that you will find the right decision in your heart and if u want to accept him back, you will have to know how to see what his true intentions are and where he is coming from. I agree, therapy would benefit him (but only if sees it too, not to please you). Good luck!Keren

(1) Leah, September 17, 2006 8:56 AM

Bet this drama isn't over yet...

Anyone who would even suggest living together isn't the kind of guy you want to marry. I'll bet he proposes within your timeline - but then drags out the engagement forever. Again you will have to set a firm timeline. If you have been having intimate relations with this guy, which seems likely since he thinks moving in is ok, then you need to stop immediately. No more free milk. Tell him plainly that if he's not ready to grow up and be a responsible adult, then you need to move on and find someone who is. If he wants to keep on living in some sort of weird extended childhood, he will never be a good husband anyway.

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