Dear Rosie & Sherry,
I've been following your columns for a while now, and really appreciate the sensitive and smart advice you give others. And now I need your help with my own situation.
I'm good friends with a fantastic young man who has recently expressed his interest in me romantically. I know him well enough to know that he is kind, brilliant, funny, is Jewishly compatible with me, has values and goals similar to my own, and is just generally someone I greatly enjoy and respect. What's more, I'm very attracted to him.
So what's the problem? When he finishes dental school next year, he is certain that he wants to make aliyah. I am certain that I don't -- my career goals, family, friends, etc. are all in the U.S.
He's a wonderful guy and when I imagine building a marriage and family together, think about he could be really good for me, and I could be really good for him. So do you think I should get started and see how things develop?
This sounds wonderful! You like each other, have similar values and goals, get along with each other, you're attracted to him, you respect him, and you list many of his admirable qualities. Someone this compatible doesn't come along that often! If only you could finesse that one big issue of his wanting to move to Israel…
Frankly, we think that incompatible life goal is going to get in the way. And it will become the source of significant heartbreak, especially if you are dating with the goal of marriage.
This has become the proverbial elephant in the room.
That's because if your dating moves forward in a positive way, the feelings that the two of you have for each other are likely to intensify over time. You'll push off any real discussion about this one basic goal that divides you, each secretly hoping that the other will change his or her mind, or that somehow you will work out a way of compromising. If both of you are firm about your position on this goal, however, when you finally have to confront the "elephant in the room," a compromise will not be possible. Inevitably, you'll have to break up, and because your hopes for the future and your emotional connection to each other will have grown, the break-up will be especially painful. Each of you may even come to resent the other for not giving in so that the marriage can take place.
(Even if you were to date without the goal of marriage, we'd still discourage you. That's because many college students who begin dating -- even though they don't envision themselves getting married in the foreseeable future -- will become more marriage-oriented as they mature, and as they see the pieces of their relationship falling into place. So you would still face the same problems we've just described.)
Based on all of this, our recommendation to you is not to start dating this wonderful young man. This advice is not something we would offer across the board. For example, if you had told us that moving to Israel is something you could see yourself doing after graduate school, or that you'd be willing to relocate after you had 5 or 7 years to gain experience in your field, pay off student loans, or save for a down-payment on a home, we'd suggest talking with this guy about his willingness to compromise the time-frame for his goal of aliyah.
If you sincerely believe there's room for flexibility, then go ahead.
Since you're already friends, the best time for a discussion such as this would be before you decide to start dating, or at the very latest during one of your earliest dates. If both of you sincerely believed there was room for flexibility, then we'd encourage you to date each other.
We'd also give different advice if you had been dating a number of years and had finally found a man who might be right for you. In that instance, we'd ask you to look at your goals and see if you wanted to reassess your priorities. At age 21, marriage, career, continued friendships, and family relationships all seem so promising -- it's hard to ask a college student to choose one over the other.
However, someone who's achieved some of her life goals, and has re-evaluated other goals based on life circumstances, may be more willing to change some of those goals in order to achieve the priority goal of marriage.
We know many women and men who have decided to move to Israel, or relocate from Israel, so that they can marry someone who is right for them. They have decided that at this point in their lives, for the sake of marriage, they are willing to rebuild their careers, have a long-distance relationship with their parents and siblings, maintain long-term friendships over the telephone and in cyberspace, or adjust their financial expectations.
We wish you success in navigating the dating maze,
Rosie & Sherry