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Dating Maze #332: Like Him Enough?
Dating Advice 332

Dating Maze #332: Like Him Enough?

He’s ready to get engaged, but she’s still waiting for the spark to ignite.


Dear Rosie & Sherry,

I'm 26 and am dating for marriage. For the past nine months, I've been dating "Mark." From the very beginning, I could see that he was a very fine person – kind, considerate, dependable, pleasant to talk to, and treats me well. On top of that, he has a good job, comes from a nice family, and we have a similar Jewish outlook. He basically has all of the things I've been looking for. My parents have met him and they like him a lot. I believe he is going to be a very good husband.

Except I don't know if he's going to be my husband.

In some of your articles, you wrote that someone doesn't have to be "in love" with the person they marry, but they have to really like him. I like Mark, but I don't know if I like him enough to be married to him. This has been tormenting me for several months. In fact, this is the reason we've been dating so long. Mark is ready to get engaged, and I have been trying to get to that point myself.

I've asked so many people for advice, but it's only made me more confused. How do I know if I like Mark enough to marry him?


Dear Cindy,

Many other daters have faced the same dilemma you describe – they are dating someone they feel is a very good person, and will make a wonderful spouse. This person shares their view of life and dreams for the future and seems to have all of the qualities they are looking for. However, they can't decide if this is the right person for them to marry, because they don't know if the emotional connection is strong enough. Many times, they will have spent weeks, even months, trying to figure out whether they like the other person enough to be able to move things forward to engagement and marriage.

Often the one emotion they feel with certainty is guilt. "I'm a terrible person," they tell themselves. "This man loves me, he's good to me, he's everything I want. Why am I stringing him along? Why can't I say 'yes' already?"

And because they feel guilty about saying, "No, I don't have enough affection for him to want to marry him," they work harder at trying to summon those feelings, and continue to date even longer.

Or, they may chastise themselves, thinking, "Something must be wrong with me. I've been dating for so long, and finally found a decent person who's perfect for me. Why can't I feel that he's the right one?"

Sometimes, the reason they can't feel that way is because he's not the right one for them. They really don't like him enough to be able to have the kind of marriage they want to have – the kind that blossoms into a deep, loving relationship that can withstand the inevitable ups and downs of life that all married couples encounter (family illness, job loss, serious financial difficulties).

# Fireworks-infatuation will fade; genuine affection is enduring.

Sometimes, though, someone who has these doubts really does have strong affection for the person they're dating. However, they don't have the clarity to be able to see this, either because they're anxious about the idea of being married, and this anxiety is preventing them from moving forward, or because they erroneously think they're supposed to feel the equivalent of July Fourth fireworks. (Anyone in a successful marriage can tell you that "fireworks" are caused by infatuation, which will fade; genuine affection is enduring.)

So how can someone see past the feelings of guilt, the lack of clarity brought about by anxiety and fear, or the doubts that result from an unrealistic expectation of what they should be feeling about the person they plan to marry?

You can ask yourself the following: "Do I look forward to seeing him? Do I enjoy the time we spend together? If I feel anxious when I think about marriage, do I feel better when I'm with him? Do I ever think about doing something nice for him, making him something or buying him something I think he'll like? When I think of not having him in my life, does it make me sad?"

Answering “yes” to most of these questions means that you possess the emotional foundation for a good marriage. If, on the other hand, you often have to tell yourself, "Everyone says to me that he's a wonderful person. What's wrong with me – why I can't be happy to see him, or think about spending a future with him?" then you probably don't like him enough.

You can't push yourself into liking someone just because his credentials match your list of "requirements." If you could, then it wouldn't be necessary to date at all. People could be matched up with their mates simply on the basis of sight-unseen questionnaires. The reason we go on dates with someone whose tangible criteria seem to match ours is precisely to see if we can develop the emotional connection that tell us we've met the right one to marry.

# Focus on the experience of the moment.

What if, after answering the questions we've posed, you're still not sure of your answer? For the next month, we suggest you try what we call a "dating diet." See each other no more than twice a week for that month. When you're with each other, don't try to analyze or evaluate what's going on. Instead, focus on the experience of the moment: listening to the sound of his voice, what you are saying to each other, what your surroundings look like and sound like, what you are doing together, the way he looks at you and you at him.

After each date is over, think about how you felt when you were together. Are you looking forward to seeing him again? In between dates, don't call each other and talk on the phone, or text or email anything more than the details of your next date. Do you feel yourself missing him? Do you find yourself wanting to call him and share something about your day, or an idea you have?

When your month of "dieting" is finished, you should have a clearer idea of your feelings and hopefully will be able to decide if they are strong enough to marry him. If you decide that you have that emotional connection, but are still anxious, it may help you to talk to a dating mentor or a therapist. Only talk to one person whom you feel comfortable talking to. Advice from more than one person will only make you more confused.

It isn't always easy to figure out if someone is right for you. Making the right decision requires clarity, and we hope our advice will help you navigate the dating maze.

All the best,

Rosie & Sherry

April 25, 2011

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The opinions expressed in the comment section are the personal views of the commenters. Comments are moderated, so please keep it civil.

Visitor Comments: 8

(7) Elisheva, February 27, 2012 6:01 PM

Fairytale ending?

So what ended up happening?

(6) Anonymous, June 28, 2011 10:07 PM

Make it 'worth it'

I think the fact that you have felt 'tormented' by this decision for several months is a telltale sign that this is not the relationship for you. Everyone is entitled to some anxiety or doubts, but this seems like it is far beyond the normal pre-engagement jitters. There is much dating advice, particularly in 'frum' circles, designed to help you avert a total catastrophe (ie 'red flags'). This is probably because we tend to date for marriage at a younger age and for a shorter amount of time, so it is imperative to drive home the point that 'sparks' aren't everything, and one must think seriously before making a life-altering choice just because it 'feels right.' Having heeded these precautions, many singles tend to qualify their relationships based on the absence of negatives, rather than the pursuit of something positive (similar to Michelle’s very astute comment). Also, due to social pressures and the barrage of advice from well-meaning people, we tend to focus on what others have told us to look for, rather than looking for what we want (what works for YOU, on a personal and individual level). I loved R&S's advice to concentrate on how you feel 'in the moment.' I have dated several people who, in a 'big picture' way, had just about everything I was looking for, yet my day-to-day relationship with them just didn't make me happy. In other words, I felt like I *should* want to marry them, but in reality, I didn't actually *want* to. My advice: Just as you should be clear on what characteristics to avoid at all costs (deal-breakers), you should also be very clear on what you absolutely want- the one or two major things that will make a relationship fulfilling to you, and will make you truly happy. Be prepared to compromise on everything else, but do not compromise on this! Everyone will tell you that marriage is hard work. Those in good marriages will tell you that it is WORTH IT. Best of luck finding what is ‘worth it’ to you!

(5) Anonymous, April 29, 2011 1:52 PM

Why not see a therapist

Many people have something internal that's holding them back from commitment - a therapist can help you determine if that's the case.

(4) L.S., April 28, 2011 2:29 PM

Do not marry this man

I was in a similar situation to yours. I dated a wonderful guy who has amazing character traits, a warm heart, treated me like gold, etc. I loved his family, they loved me, etc. The thing is--during our courtship, I always had doubts gnawing at me and it wasn't fair to him or to me. The guy I dated and "Mark" deserve to find their basherts. You are doing the man no favor by staying with him even though you know deep down that he is NOT your bashert as you are denying him the opportunity to find the person who is. You are also denying yourself the opportunity to find YOUR bashert. Rosie and Sherry are absolutely right--you can not marry someone based on a checklist. Chemistry is the word you are looking for--it is that unexplainable spark that lights off and makes two people click. You either have it or you don't. The fact that you have these doubts after nine months of dating shows that you do not have chemistry with "Mark". Break it off ASAP, and may you find and marry your true bashert in the very near future!

Anonymous, April 29, 2011 1:55 PM

Don't listen to her

Trust me LS doesn't know what she's talking about. There are many possible basherts for you - see a therapist, try and sort out your emotions and then decide what to do. Chemistry is not as important as people think - particularly once you get further into marriage, children, life, etc.

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