I am 23 years old and have been dating a guy for a little over one year. We met through family friends. After a few months of dating, it became clear that we were heading toward an engagement. At the time, he was applying to law school, and felt that until he is settled in a school of his choice, we should just continue to date.
Baruch Hashem, he was accepted to his first choice of law school. Now he is saying that he feels the need to finish school and get a job before getting engaged. His parents seem to support his decision.
My parents are very concerned and have even made a generous offer of taking care of us financially until he finishes school and starts earning a decent salary. His response is that he doesn’t want to take money from anyone, especially in-laws.
He keeps saying that he wants us to get married, but my parents and all my friends feel that he is commitment-phobic and that I am wasting the best years of my life on a guy who is looking for excuses not to get married.
Do you think it’s a good idea to continue dating this guy, or should I just give him an ultimatum that unless we get engaged this relationship will end?
The Panelists Respond
I understand the angst you are experiencing regarding your belief that the guy you are dating is honorable in his intentions to marry you. Furthermore, your parents are within their due rights to be concerned for your emotional well-being and happiness. However, with respect to you and your parents, I believe that you are viewing this situation from a distorted angle.
If a situation such as this occurred in years past, this guy would have been hailed as a hero. He would have been on the receiving end of much praise and admiration for demonstrating such a mature manner and for sacrificing his own happiness in order to fulfill his financial responsibilities as a future husband and father.
In today’s society, dating customs follow a cookie-cutter mold. If there exists a slight variation, many people will dispose of the situation so as not to stray even slightly from the accepted methods.
This guy was likely being conscientious in his initial hold-off to an engagement until he was accepted to law school. Unfortunately, countless engagements have been broken when the chasan had promised to go to law school or medical school, but he was not accepted and the girl and her parents felt cheated, and as a result terminated the engagement.
In my opinion, his concern of finding a job after law school conveys a positive quality that I wish all young men about to embark on the journey of marriage would display. Holding a degree in one’s hand is not a guarantee in obtaining a job, or one that pays enough to support a family. There are numerous graduates from law school who intern without pay, sometimes for long periods. Woe to the non-earning young man who is expected to pay bills.
Although your parents were kind enough to generously offer financial support if you marry each other, I understand this young man’s motive for rejecting their monetary proposal. Refusing to accept handouts, even from in-laws, proves that this guy is a noble, intelligent, and responsibly accomplished young man who shows promise for future successes.
Do not discuss this situation with your friends, but only with your parents and your rav. And do not listen to anyone who is ignorantly quick in harshly labeling this guy as “commitment-phobic.”
I urge you to look at this situation from his perspective. The guy you are dating does not present himself as a drifter who is trying to find himself, nor is he someone demonstrating signs of being emotionally unstable and therefore incapable of holding his own. On the contrary, this guy is showing firm indications of being a “great catch.” Do not make the mistake of forcing an ultimatum. Allow this relationship to deepen and flourish harmoniously.
Baila Sebrow is president of Neshoma Advocates, communications and recruitment liaison for Sovri-Beth Israel, executive director of Teach Our Children, and a shadchanis. She can be reached at Bsebrow@aol.com.
I understand that you must have strong feelings for him and the decision before you is a difficult one. Because you have already invested so much into this relationship, I urge you not to do anything drastic.
What you need to do is sit down with him and explain that you are not looking for a long-term relationship; you are looking for a husband. Have you made this clear to him before? Perhaps he is of the opinion that you are willing and even appreciative of his desire to postpone marriage until he is financially stable. Since you have been together for over a year, giving an ultimatum without having a serious discussion can be disastrous no matter what the outcome. You should be at the point in your relationship where you are able to make your views clear to each other without resorting to threats.
After you have this talk with him, if he is still hesitant about moving forward with this relationship, then perhaps it is time to move on. Whatever his reasons are for not committing, if you are at a point in your life when you are ready for marriage, then this relationship is not for you. I wish you hatzlachah in your decision.
Tzipi Altmann has led seminars for women on successful conflict-resolution and has provided personal counseling while residing in northern Israel. Tzipi currently teaches at Bnot Chaya Academy and its seminary college program. She can be reached at email@example.com. v
In each installment of the Five Towns Jewish Times Dating Forum, a question pertaining to contemporary dating issues will be addressed by our diverse and experienced forum panelists. Questions and comments can be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org.