By Baila Sebrow
I have been dating a woman for the past eight months. We have spoken about getting married from our very first date, as we were friends and knew each other for many years before beginning our dating relationship. We have a strong connection, share the same hashkafos, and we want the same things out of life. We are a great fit. We were both married before for a long time and realize that it takes work to keep a relationship healthy.
The obstacle we keep running into is anger. She is a very emotional person and whenever something upsets her, she takes it to the extreme. Oftentimes, it takes me to an angry place, and I also lose control of my emotions. We even express the thought of breaking up during these outbursts. Neither of us wants to end it, though, and we always quickly recover. However, I feel as if we lose days at a time because we’re not dealing with issues in a calm way. Eventually, we are able to discuss the issues and come to an understanding, but I feel that we would do best without the highly charged emotions that create a day or two of drama in our lives. How can I help her work through getting a better grip on her emotions? And how can I control mine when I see the drama coming on?
It appears that your problems might be stemming from what you shared in your opening sentences. It does not matter how physically attracted or how emotionally and spiritually connected you feel to somebody. It also does not matter that you have the same goals and aspirations or that you both love the same foods and music. Moreover, it even does not matter if you dream similar dreams every night of the week. Talking about getting married on the first date is immature and unrealistic, and I’m sorry to say that it holds as much weight as a preschooler saying that he wants to be an astronaut when he grows up.
I have no doubt that there are cases where a child aspired to be an astronaut and his dreams were realized. But realistically, most children who say that they want to be an astronaut when they grow up ultimately choose another profession when they reach adulthood, in the same way that premature expressions of commitment lead to skepticism.
When the attraction (physically, emotionally, spiritually, etc.) to someone you are dating is very intense, it can feel like you are two halves of one whole that came together. That is not a bad thing. On the contrary, it is a blessing, because from early on you have the ability to set the groundwork for building the relationship. However, that is all that should be happening on the first date, even though you have known each other for a long time prior to that first date. It was that first date when you established the current relationship. For your own sake, do not kid yourself into believing that the fact that you knew her, or that you were friends with her and you might have had long conversations with her in the past, counts for anything. That just means that your friendship felt strong enough to allow you both to feel safe and comfortable so that it could develop into a first date.
People who are highly emotional feel things in a stronger way than less emotional people, and they react in a stronger way, too. Feelings of happiness, sadness, fear, and anger, amongst other emotions, are overwhelming to emotional people. And it sounds to me that you might also be a highly emotional person as well. It is quite probable that you are feeding off each other.
I am going back a bit to discuss your desire to get married from the first date. Your intense emotions were at play in a big way on that first date, when you both realized that you are so compatible with one another. I get the sense that when you are together, the chemistry is highly concentrated. And since nobody is perfect, it is probably when you are not together that in her highly emotional state she is replaying various aspects about you and the relationship she has with you, and that is when she decides she wants to break up with you. And the same goes for you, too. So, if she is meeting you on a date when in the back of her mind she decided that you are not for each other, and you do something that feels off-kilter to her, she is convinced that now is the time to break up. From what you are saying, this scenario keeps repeating itself.
The reason you both recover quickly, as you say, is likely because of that chemistry and your emotions combined, so you reconcile after each breakup. By the way, bear in mind that these high emotions are bringing you back to each other again and again.
I do need to bring up the topic of anger-management issues, because I want to make sure that neither of you gets abused in any way. I see that you made no mention of it, but please be honest with yourself and make sure that you are not doing anything to hurt her, and that she does not do anything to hurt you.
Abuse is never OK. If it exists in any relationship it needs to be addressed with a mental-health specialist. If there is any abuse going on, I recommend that you take an immediate break from seeing each other until such time that the therapist feels it is safe to reconnect.
If it turns out that you are both mentally healthy and just do not know how to bring the relationship to fruition, you both need to figure out why that is since you cannot wait to be married. You are eight months into the relationship, and you have not made that march to the chuppah yet. There is clearly something holding up the process, and that might be the reason for all this drama you are both experiencing.
You asked how you can help her get a better grip on her emotions and how you can control yourself. What you can do outside of therapy is to find out what triggers her, and just don’t push those buttons. And it works both ways. I am not sure who starts up, since you make no mention of what it is that upsets her that eventually causes you to react, too. I get the feeling that there is much more to the picture than you are sharing.
People who are emotional typically do not do well under pressure. My advice is that you do not place each other under any kind of pressure or deadline to get married. I am sure that there are plenty of issues that need ironing out, as I implied earlier. And along that train of thought, another thing to be cognizant of is the fact that you jumped to express feelings to each other so early on, which means that you have deprived yourselves of the courting period in a relationship.
One of the main reasons that it is important to not jump into a relationship too quickly is because the couple needs time to ponder and examine each date and manner of communication for what it is. You both missed out on the getting-to-know-each-other facet of the relationship and instead developed that comfort zone way too fast.
Have a conversation with her and encourage her to be frank with you with regard to how she really feels about you and the relationship, and if deep down she wants to spend the rest of her life with you. If you both still feel very strongly about each other in the same way, at least to the extent that you both want to be in each other’s lives, take a breather where you spend time getting to know one another.
Try to pretend that the last eight months have not happened and that you do not know each other. Start dating the way people who meet one another for the first time date. Leave the past drama behind and recreate the relationship. But this time, do it from a candid perspective. Be honest with yourselves to determine if you are really meant to be with each other. Reach out for assistance to help guide you. Because you were both in long marriages, you might be a bit rusty in how to communicate effectively in a dating relationship. Enjoy each other’s company, and, as I tell all daters, make it a fun and meaningful experience.
Baila Sebrow is president of Neshoma Advocates, communications and recruitment liaison for Sovri-Beth Israel, executive director of Teach Our Children, and a shadchanis and shidduch consultant. She can be reached at Bsebrow@aol.com. Questions and comments for the Dating Forum can be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org. Read more of Baila Sebrow’s articles at 5TJT.com.