By Baila Sebrow

 

Question

I am turning 30 soon and have been dating for 12 years. Everywhere I look girls are getting engaged and married; girls I used to babysit have children of their own now.

Lately, I’ve been redd to guys who are 40, or divorced with kids, and it was a wakeup call for me that I need to make a decision and pick someone already. I ended up agreeing to go out with a guy I never would have considered before, but he is around my age.

He is a nice guy, has a good job, comes from a good family, and has lots of friends. However, he is not good-looking at all. He is short and bald, and though it bothers me, I continued with him anyway. He likes me a lot, but I feel nothing for him. I want to feel what other girls feel when they date a guy. My parents tell me not to wait until I feel something, because I never felt anything for any of the other guys either. They promise me that when I am married to the person and I have a good life with him, I will start to feel something. Is that true? One of my siblings was like me and she got divorced because of it. What if I don’t feel anything for a guy even after I marry him? That’s what I am most worried about. FYI, this is the longest relationship I ever had.

Response

Even though you insist that the reason you agreed to go out with him was because you are nearing 30, you recognize that this is the longest relationship you’ve had. One might say that maybe you are putting in extra effort with this guy because you feel that your chances to marry somebody close to your age and status are slimmer than when you were younger. However, I believe there is something about him you feel drawn to that you have not felt before.

One of the leading reasons young daters break up ostensibly good relationships is because they expect to feel something that they never do. I am sorry that your sibling got divorced for what you assume to be the same reason. Not having any details about that marriage, I cannot comment, except to say that there is a good chance there is more to that story that you are not sharing or perhaps are not privy to.

I think the relationship you’re in now is offering you something you have never experienced before. You might be feeling an emotional connection to him and you are likely enjoying mutual compatibility, but you are afraid that it is not enough because you are not feeling the excitement you imagine needs to be in a dating relationship.

Undeniably, attraction is an important factor in a marriage. However, that cannot be the sole objective. Marriages based on nothing more than physical attraction have a low survival rate in most cases. If you need examples, check out the tabloids. The irony is that in those relationships, they declared to everyone, including the media, “He/she is my everything.”

This becomes a pattern with such people because their relationships have no substance. Physical attraction wears off quickly. Imagine a child who is amazed with a shiny new toy. The child will initially obsess over that toy and feel that he or she cannot get enough of it. After a while, his interest begins to wane until he barely even acknowledges that once-favorite toy and is ready for a new one.

What element is needed to get that feeling of wanting to marry somebody or even stay married? It is the soul likeness to one another that feels like you “came home.” People experience that feeling in close friendships, too. It is the building block of any relationship. In dating situations, it flourishes further if allowed.

In the beginning, people determine compatibility when they share similar upbringings, personalities, hashkafos, and a general mutual outlook that makes them feel comfortable and able to relax in each other’s presence. Those factors cannot be compromised on or substituted.

Your parents are right to a certain degree. It is true that when you are married to somebody with whom you share a good life that you start to feel something. But that is only if you appreciate the good. Not everyone does. I was recently asked to get involved in a shalom bayis situation where the wife wanted out of the marriage because she felt no attraction for her husband, and she felt that she could do better. She was ready to break up a family with three children for that reason. My concern was about how her husband treats her and their children, and she insisted that he is good to his family but that she does not feel in love with him. The husband had no complaints about her.

I am not a marriage counselor, so I strongly urged them both to make an appointment with a therapist. However, in the interim, I advised the wife to begin spotlighting all her husband’s positive qualities as a spouse, friend, and father. I further encouraged them to have better communication with one another, so that they can always feel free to have an open dialogue to discuss anything on their minds to help them feel closer. I assured the wife that contrary to her thinking, she cannot do better — different, perhaps, but not better! Last I heard, the couple is still together, baruch Hashem.

For your own good, please do not compare how you are supposed to feel based on the way other girls describe their feelings. Each person has different wants and wishes, and, besides, not everyone is entirely truthful, because of the need to convince others or themselves that they are making the right decision. These girls might be going gaga over a guy they are dating, but that is all there is to the relationship.

Your sister, unfortunately, had a failed marriage. You make it a point to state that you are most worried about divorce. Fear of divorce is a big reason why people are hesitant to get married, especially if it has happened to them or a family member. You have good cause to worry about it. Divorce is a widespread reality that is increasing in alarming rates all over and has become prevalent in frum circles, too. Your concern of possibly joining the statistics of failed marriages is valid. From your letter, it seems that you are tying in your fear of divorce to not feeling any attraction to the guy you are dating.

The ability to stay married in a fruitful relationship is not about feeling “that feeling.” That’s where most people make a mistake. They need to understand that marriage is a partnership. Like any partnership, good dealings require that both parties do their share to make it work. Physical attraction alone is not enough, as statistics prove time and again.

Although you say that he is short and bald, the fact that you continued to date him past the first time you met him should be telling you that he possesses something that taps into and satisfies your emotional needs. It is also possible that his appearance is not what you had in mind for a spouse, and that could be disappointing you, too.

If you were to tell me that something else about this guy bothers you, I would tell you to end it here and now. But I feel you should give this relationship a chance and get to know him a bit more. If you still feel no attraction to him — meaning, if whatever nice qualities he has still do not make you feel additionally drawn to him — then it would not be a good idea to continue.

My concern is that this shouldn’t keep happening to you and ultimately impede your opportunity for marriage with a man who is quality. It would not hurt for you to visit a therapist to work out any fears, issues, and even illusions that you might have about marriage. Yes, chemistry has been known to happen immediately—you meet someone, and you believe that you are consumed with love. This has led most people to believe that chemistry should always be instantaneous. By viewing the long-term beautiful marriages around us, we see that this is usually not the case.

I am a strong advocate of open communication. If you can do so, it would be a good idea to talk to this guy about how you feel about him and the relationship. Sometimes what is needed is that heart-to-heart talk to bring more clarity to a situation. You might both come to the understanding that there is no point in continuing to date, or it might set off something in your heart that you have never felt before.

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 5townsforum@gmail.com.

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