Dating Maze #252 -Length of Courtship
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Dating Maze #252 -Length of Courtship
Dating Advice 252

Dating Maze #252 -Length of Courtship

The pressure to become engaged can cause an unhappy marriage, or an unnecessary break-up.

by

Dear Rosie & Sherry,

How long should a courtship last? I have been going out with a great woman for six weeks. I see lots of potential, and honestly think I will probably marry her. But she is pushing for a very quick dating period and it is starting to freak me out. In our circles, most couples date for several months before they decide to become engaged.

The reasons why I would like more time is to familiarize her with my family and visa versa, and just to enjoy this period more. I see no reason to rush if we have the rest of our lives to look forward to.

I hope you can help me, because I don't want to throw away this great opportunity because I am a bit nervous.

A second question: I want us to meet each other's friends for the same reason, but she says it's not necessary. Can you give me advice on that too, please?

Sam

Dear Sam,

There is no ironclad rule as to how long a couple should date before they become engaged. That's because each couple is unique and even when a courtship is going well, the individuals involved can be at different stages of emotional connectivity, feelings about the rightness of the match, and readiness to make a commitment.

Sometimes an advisor -- parent, friend or teacher -- will pressure the couple to become engaged because "it's time," notwithstanding their uncertainty or lack of connectivity. In our opinion, it's wrong to exert this kind of pressure. It often results in unhappy marriages, and other times it results in unnecessary break-ups -- when the couple might have gone the distance if they were allowed to develop their relationship at a comfortable rate.

The period of relationship-building is an emotionally intense time. Daters are busy deciding how much they want to open up to each other, what details they should reveal (and what to hold back on revealing), how much they can trust each other, what they should be giving of themselves (and what they should be taking), whether they can accept the other person's idiosyncrasies, how much affection they have for this person, and whether the two of them have the foundations for a life together. That's a lot to process, and the processing occurs on both a conscious and unconscious level. Because each person processes at a unique pace, it often happens that one dating partner has already decided they've met their future spouse, while the other partner needs more time to reach the same conclusion.

We certainly don't mean that a man and woman should go out for a prolonged period of time without having any set goals or focus. However, if two people are dating for the purpose of marriage, feel their courtship has potential, and believe that it is progressing in the direction of their shared goal, they should continue moving toward reaching that goal without feeling pressure.

Your letter describes a courtship with great possibilities. At the same time, we can understand why the pressure you are feeling is starting to make you panic. You need more time, and you need to explain that clearly to the young woman you're dating.

We suggest you tell her that you think the courtship is going very well, and you feel that it is moving in the direction of marriage. Tell her that you sense she's further along in the process of figuring things out than you are, and that you hope she can be comfortable with you moving at a different speed. What's important is that you both get to the same place, and that your courtship continues to move in that direction without stagnating or hitting major snags.

This may be all she needs to hear. It will reassure her that you share the same goal, that things are indeed moving forward, and that you're hopeful about the future. Many couples who've consulted with us about this same issue found that after they discussed it in this manner, each of them felt calmer and less anxious, and the courtship progressed well.

Friends and Family

As for the issue of meeting each other's friends: We know of many daters who avoid this because they don't want other people to know they are involved in a courtship, until they are on the verge of becoming engaged. Some people don't want to be the subject of gossip. Others don't want to deal with questions from friends who saw them together with someone they eventually stopped dating. And some are worried that their courtship might stir up jealousy that could lead to the breakup of the courtship.

We think it is important for daters to see each other with their families before they decide to become engaged, if this is at all possible, and it often is a good idea to meet some of each other's friends before engagement. This allows each of you to see another dimension about the other person and factor it into your decision as to whether you are right for each other. Since many people are sensitive about doing this prematurely, there is nothing wrong with arranging to meet each other's families and friends after you both realize that you're close to becoming engaged. This way it is still early enough if any alarm bells go off.

We wish you success in navigating the dating maze,

Rosie & Sherry

Published: March 15, 2008

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Visitor Comments: 9

(9) Anonymous, March 19, 2008 9:08 PM

dear rosie & sherry

Did you notice that Sam did not mention any doubts only that he wants "to enjoy this period more"
That is NOT the Torah way!

(8) callie, March 19, 2008 8:15 PM

a few thoughts to ponder...

She doesn't want to meet your friends? That's a warning something is wrong. Its just not normal for someone to refuse to meet someone's friends or introduce you to her friends. Does she perhaps not have friends? And if she doesn't have friends why is that? (all sane women have at least one close friend or two)

Or perhaps she is dating someone else and doesn't want her friends to meet you, "the other man"....

Does her rule mean that you cannot go to someone's house for Seder next month? OR a Purim party? There might be friends there to meet! Or dare I say a family member or two! Will you two be going to seperate parties and seders and not allowed to go together? Does this also means not going to Shabbos or Shul together lest you meet an acquintance?

Are you going to get married to her and realize that your entire social life is going to be just her and her alone? Her displeasure at socializing with your friends (and hers) will not suddenly end at marriage.

I would INSIST on her meeting your friends and you guys going out with another couple who are friends of yours or hers.
If she refuses head for the door and thank your lucky stars you didn't marry her.

(7) Got burned this way myself, March 19, 2008 2:55 PM

Looking at her mother is indeed valid

Rachel,
While I understand your reaction from comments that some shallow males have made, please notice that *my* points deal with issues of character and substance, not appearance.

The hard fact is that people do tend to act as their parents did, even when they say they intend not to. For example, look up the odds of children of alcoholics and abusers becoming alcoholics and abusers themselves.

This is NOT destiny, these are odds that a person can beat with work. A woman can say "I know that alcoholism runs in my family, so I limit how much I drink." Or perhaps her parents were mucked up but her grandfather took up the slack to raise and guide her and became her role model instead.

The key point is that such burdens are real and take work to overcome. Hiding the problem is not facing and overcoming it, and springing a surprise on Sam when it's too late is not the way to build the trust needed for a solid marriage.

Rachel, I am glad you found someone who has stood by you in tough times, and that you stood by him with his issues. But I'd bet that you and he discussed his issues with his mother openly, and at length, before you got married. As you say, "Stuff happens" -- if Sam's girlfriend is already hiding her mother and friends instead of dealing openly and honestly with whatever the issues are, how can he expect her to work together with him to deal with the problems that marriage faces?

(6) brian, March 19, 2008 12:59 PM

life is too short

in my opinion life is way to short to be picky.

(5) Rachel, March 18, 2008 11:19 PM

"Red Flags" above

I'm disgusted that anyone still quotes "If you want to see what she'll be like in 20 years, look at her mother now." (A) Most people I've heard say this are wondering whether the single woman is going to stay slim and gorgeous thru the years, NOT whether she'll be intelligent, sensitive, a good mother, etc.,(B) a single person and his/her parent are not one and the same, and (C) the years and experiences change people in all kinds of ways.

A guy I dated in the early '80's later told me he was worried based on the mother issue b/c I'm adopted and therefore he couldn't guess from meeting my wonderful (adoptive) mother what I'd look like at 45. He's never married. Meanwhile, I married a great guy (though we've had our ups and downs), and one of the things we've survived is his relationship with HIS extremely difficult, unpleasant mother. Finally, in life, "Stuff Happens". I had a life threatening illness last year and still have health challenges, physical and mental. My husband has been my rock; I love him more than ever, and he seems to respect and appreciate me more as he's watched me recover and strive to regain my old self. Did we foresee this crisis when we were in our 20's? Of course not! But what we did expect (and commit to) even then was that true love endures through the challenging times as well as the happy ones.

"Red Flag" and his ilk need to join the 21st century.

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