By Baila Sebrow

Question

I read your column every week, and I follow the advice you give to people. So I know that when singles date they should not be looking for that fairytale story where people fall in love at first sight. I watch the movies and read the books where they always make it seem like people get married because they fall in love. My question is: Without that feeling, how do people know if the person they are dating is the one they’re supposed to marry? That is my huge dilemma now.

I’ve been dating a guy for four months who he treats me like gold. He is so caring, he respects me, and he has awesome middos. Everyone says that he will make a great husband and father. But I’m really not “feeling it,” if you know what I mean, and it makes me feel bad and guilty at the same time.

I know that there are not too many guys like him out there. I dated long enough to know that most guys are selfish, and they are only nice if it benefits them. But with all of his great qualities, he doesn’t “have it” like the other guys. I know that I could get “that feeling,” but the problem is that it only happens for me with the womanizing type of guys who are not good for me. I went through Gehinnom with those guys who were always cheating on me.

So far, I am not planning to break up with him, because I’m waiting to see if that feeling of crazy love will ever come. What do you think? Can it happen that you marry someone you don’t feel excited about? What do most people feel when they get married?

Response

When you say that the womanizers who cheated on you were not good for you, the fact is that such guys are not good for anyone. It sounds like you have endured much hardship in your dating life, and now you are not sure how to kick back and relax with a guy who, as you say, “treats you like gold.” Your dilemma is that as wonderful as he is, he does not possess the traits that cause you to feel as though you are on cloud nine.

Perhaps you are caught up a bit too much in the romance movies you watch and the books you read, to the extent that you are having difficulty distinguishing fantasy from reality. As good as those authors are, they may lack the understanding of what a healthy, loving relationship between a couple entails. And even if some of those authors do understand the realities of life, they write the stories that appeal to a wide audience of romantic-at-heart types of people.

The problem with fictional romance stories is that they usually portray the “bad boy” type of guy capable of sweeping a woman off her feet. And as you know, a “bad boy” is exactly that. Any joy experienced with such men is, in most cases, short-lived. But society buys into the nonsensical notion that if a woman is not “feeling it” while dating, she should end the relationship.

Yet with the guys who don’t treat a woman properly but excite her, there is no happily-ever-after as the writers of such stories want you to believe. And that is because if the relationship has neither substance nor a firm foundation, and if your beloved does not have good enough middos to treat you with respect, it will fall apart. Unless one has had enough experience, they keep looking for that “loving feeling.” The question is, can you discover and experience love with a good man, like the one you are now dating? The answer is yes. However, you need to understand what love is.

Throughout history, philosophers, artists, and writers have been trying to comprehend and depict love. The problem is that because love is not tangible, it is difficult to accurately describe. So, they settle on illustrating that sentiment as a look of yearning in the eyes of the character, or they will explain it in terms of experiencing increased heart rate or even “seeing stars” when the heroine is in the presence of her Prince Charming. I am not saying that you can’t feel that rush of excitement with a man you love, but the love that lasts is the kind that grows from sharing and bonding together as a couple exclusively committed to one another, and no one else.

Good, loving marriages begin where the partners made the choice to choose each other. It begins with attraction, not just in the physical form, but emotional and spiritual. As the relationship progresses, common goals and aspirations, hashkafah, and other sensible intentions will give the person the motivation to allow their emotions to enter, further deepening the connection.

With regard to the type of guys you previously dated, all they had going for themselves was probably some cool, charming attitude and (I’m sure) a handsome appearance. As your experience has shown, they were nice only if it benefited them. A selfish person can never be a good spouse. Those relationships fell apart because of who those people are and their inability to give of themselves in a selfless way.

You are now dating somebody who seemingly has everything that you have been seeking in terms of qualities and the way he treats you. But your doubts about him are the monster that lives inside you and many others in your circumstance. The trick is to be strong enough to not let that monster of doubt obscure your field of truth, because if you do, you will find yourself in and out of relationships. When you are with a person who is not good for you, it will end, and with a quality person, you can allow that monster to make you second-guess yourself, as you are doing. Don’t let that become your struggle in life.

It is interesting that you agree that when singles date they should not be looking for that fairytale story where people fall in love at first sight. That is a step in the right direction. You have come to realize what you need, and you just need a little more drive to bring you to the point where you achieve real love and happiness.

You have been dating this guy for four months. In frum dating, that is not a short time; however, it is not earth shatteringly long either. For both of you to spend all these months together, he is certainly feeling something strong enough to invest this amount of time.

Let’s focus now on the guy and the relationship you are in. You are aware that he would ultimately be a good spouse, and I imagine that you must find him attractive, too—perhaps not in the way those other guys made you swoon, but you surely enjoy being in his space. And that is no small matter!

The question, though, is if you are ready to get married or to be in a serious relationship. Your encounters with the wrong types of guys and feeling so-so about someone who can be right for you makes me wonder if you are dating just to not be alone. Most human beings crave relationships. That is why people want to have friends. But with friends you don’t have to do any soul-searching to figure out if you should continue being with them. It works for as long as it works for both parties, and it either continues or they just drift apart.

Dating relationships are different. It eventually gets to the point where each person in the relationship has to start thinking about the future. So please be honest with yourself if you really want to be married. If the answer is no, then that will explain everything you have faced, past and present, and you will need to let this guy know the truth. If the answer is yes, you have some homework to do.

I do not believe in convincing anyone to continue dating a person they have doubts about. However, there are a few pointers I can offer to help you discern whether this guy might be a good candidate for you. I will assume that you both share the fundamentals of common goals and expectations for the future. If you are able to converse smoothly with one another and he has healthy relationships with the important people in his life, those are major factors not to be overlooked — just as much as middos.

There will always be differences in the personalities of people. Not every guy has the skill to make a woman feel giddy with excitement. Unless there is something else that bothers you about this guy, continue dating him. At the same time, you need to level with him and let him know how you feel about him and the relationship. It would not be fair to continue dating and after a while still not “feel it.”

By keeping the lines of communication open, you will allow him the same privilege of making an educated decision in continuing to date you. He might think you are excited to be with him, and that is what he wants. Or, when he hears how you feel, it might add a new dimension to the relationship where he may reveal another side of himself that could bring you to feeling what you have felt with others. That fairytale relationship you crave may be with him. If so, the happily-ever-after that really matters is possible with such a guy. 

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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