Dear Emuna,

I recently met a man that I really like. He’s kind and thoughtful; we laugh and have a good time together. The relationship is getting serious but I’m feeling a little hesitant about making a commitment. There’s nothing wrong with him per se; he’s just very different from my friends’ husbands and from the image I’ve had in my head of the man I hope to marry. In addition, some of my friends have made comments suggesting it’s not a good fit and that I should hold out for someone more like what I always expected. He’s waiting for me to make a decision and although he’s patient, there is a clock ticking. I just don’t know what to do. Do you have any words of wisdom for me?

Unsure

Dear Unsure,

I don’t know if I have words of wisdom but I do have some thoughts. Based on the limited information you have shared in your letter, it doesn’t sound like the issues between you reflect character flaws or, God forbid, red flags. It doesn’t sound like your friends are identifying serious problems. If I’m incorrect about that, then we need to revisit this question. But if my analysis is right, then the issue is really one for you to sort out – not your friends or family or great Aunt June, no matter how well meaning they all may be. There is only one person who has to really live with the consequences of your choice – you!

And the consequences run both ways. If you decide not to pursue this relationship based on what appears from your letter to be superficial considerations, you run the risk of spending your life alone. If, on the other hand, you move forward with the relationship, you run the risk of an unsuccessful marriage. You are the only one in a position to evaluate which is the greater likelihood.

I’ve seen relationships flounder over the color of the man’s hat or the type of fish the woman is willing to cook for Shabbos (I wish I was joking!) but, in general, I think it is foolish to throw away a relationship with a wonderful human being of good character whose company you enjoy just because he doesn’t fit the image that you or your friends had in mind. Maturity means we take a good hard look at the human being in front of us and let go of fantasies and imaginings. Maturity means we try to determine if they are kind and loyal and have what it takes to weather life’s challenges. Maturity means that our friends’ opinions are not really relevant to this crucial decision because we are the ones choosing a life mate, not them.

If we look around the world, we clearly recognize that we wouldn’t want the spouses our friends have and often the type of relationship they have – even though they may be perfectly content. Since that is true, what relevance is their opinion? Again, unless of course they see something of serious concern reflecting abusive, controlling qualities etc.

I actually have a friend who faced a similar challenge to you and is now happily married with a growing family. I can’t guarantee the same outcome but I think her happiness is a reflection of her positive attitude and her ability to ignore the peer and societal pressure and choose someone who is good for her, who provides balance and caring. Every time I see her, I think of what could have happened, God forbid, had she listened to her well-meaning friends who tried to discourage her from marrying him – as they went home to their families and she went home alone. I’m showing my hand here. I’m displaying my bias. But, as I keep repeating, it’s up to you.

Even if the concerns are trivial, if you really can’t move past them, you can’t marry him. Just please think long and hard about it. If you never found another man like him, would you still be happy with your choice? You can’t marry him if you don’t think he’s fantastic but we can make the mistake of allowing trivial issues to jeopardize our chance at happiness. This is a lesson worth learning, an opportunity for growth worth taking whether you move forward with this relationship or not.

Look for similar goals and positive qualities and your ability to connect and grow together. Make yourself a pros and cons list and then make a rational decision. Lead with your mind and let your heart follow.