I am writing to you about my friend’s daughter who is in a long-term relationship but the boy does not want to commit. They are both in their early thirties, have been together for two years, and live near each other.
The girl gave the boy an ultimatum a year ago. He said he would propose, but he is scared. The ultimatum date was pushed off a few times. Her mother confronted the boy a year ago, six months ago, and now. He keeps saying that it’s their business, not the parents’ business. There seems to be something wrong with him. Firstly, he never had a girlfriend before. He was a big nerd and always studying. The girl had a broken engagement about five or six years ago. The boy broke it off. Now she is insecure, and she invested so much time in this relationship. She has a therapist, but the therapist couldn’t wean her away from this guy. Her mother and father are sick about all this, having to watch their daughter flounder. There is much heartache all around. What can be done here? What advice can I give her mother to tell her daughter? Oy, so many ill boys!
It is understandable that the mother of the young lady is feeling helpless, and it’s logical that her parents want to do something to help their daughter, but they have no clue where to begin. It is a source of tremendous anguish for parents to watch their child suffering and struggling to make a life for herself and not succeeding. But the worst mistake your friend made was confronting the guy. And she didn’t just confront him once. According to what you say, she confronted him three times. That is unacceptable behavior, and the only thing she accomplished was to create distance between her and this guy. If he ever had any doubts about her as a future mother-in-law, this would be a good reason. So, for starters, your friend and her husband cannot confront anyone in their daughter’s romantic life.
You are a wonderful friend to the young lady’s mother for taking such a strong interest, and that also tells me that you want me to be completely honest with you. That said, please forgive me, but you will have to remove two items from your vocabulary as it relates to guys. The first thing you can never do is call any man a “nerd.” It doesn’t matter if he never had a girlfriend before, or if he studies too much by your standards. Nerd is a derogatory term, and for you to be helpful to your friend’s daughter you need to remain objective and neutral in your opinion of him. I do recognize that you care and that your passion about the situation is coming from a good place.
The other change that would be in the best interest of everyone concerned is to let go of the belief that the boys out there are ill. While there are sick men out there, it is not always the men who act ill. You need to be open to the notion that there is more to the stories than you hear about. That might be one of the reasons the young lady’s boyfriend told your friend that it’s none of her business.
When a couple dates for a long time, as in two years, the thought process and the socially accepted idea is that it is the man who does not want to advance the relationship to marriage. Believe it or not, half the time it can be the woman who halts the progression, either because she expresses those thoughts, or she acts out in ways that will give the man doubts about continuing. And in a sense, it becomes a self-fulfilled prophecy. Women who deep down do not want to marry can make that happen in a very passive way. They go from long relationship to long relationship, and in each case the guy does not make a move towards marriage, while those who do, somehow always get cold feet. To an outsider looking in, it can appear that, yes, men are a bunch of ill people. But when the same thing keeps happening over and over, one needs to take stock of the situation and start to figure out if they are doing something to cause it.
The young lady was engaged several years ago, but other than the fact that the guy broke it off, we know nothing else. Was she involved in that decision at all? Meaning, although he made the official move of terminating the relationship, did she have any say in the matter? Did it come out of left field? Is it possible that the relationship she is in now has her feeling shell-shocked from that broken engagement? Could it be that she is scared to move forward, but knowing how anxious her parents are for her to get married, she tells them an inaccurate story, blaming him for the delay? She continues to date him even with all the ultimatums she has allegedly given him.
I laid out those possibilities, because the information conveyed to me is coming from a fourth party, and there is a pretty good chance that things may not be as they seem, despite the closeness of your relationship with the family. On the other hand, they might be exactly as you assume. So, I will now delve into the matter precisely as you view it through your eyes.
There are men who refuse to commit to marriage. That is a reality that is becoming just as prevalent in frum circles, too. Women of all ages will date a guy for years until it ends. Such men may promise that marriage will happen one day, citing excuses such as not feeling ready, feeling scared, wanting to finish their education, and lots of other reasons. The women who are in relationships with these men hang on to hope, false promises, and illusions that the guy will one day surprise them with a proposal. Not only does it not happen, but when they do break up with their girlfriends, it is oftentimes done abruptly.
As cruel as that is, the ones to blame are the women who hang around to keep them company. In these types of situations, the man needs a girlfriend to have dinner with, spend time with so as not to feel lonely, and sometimes the woman is even doing his laundry, cooking his meals, running errands, and anything else asked of her that will make his life easy. In the case of your friend’s daughter, I wonder if she is doing this too, considering that she lives close by. If so, he has it made! Why would such a guy even bother with marriage, when he can have most of the benefits of a wife without having to fulfill the responsibilities of a kesubah?
The other facet is that since she was rejected by a man she was engaged to and is already feeling insecure, in her mind, this guy is her knight in shining armor whom she trusts will one day marry her.
If you have a close relationship with the daughter, or even a friendly relationship, I recommend that you speak with her and find out exactly what is really taking place in her life. You say that she has a therapist. We don’t know what’s going on in those therapy sessions and if she is receiving the help she needs. If she is just wasting time and money and this therapist is not offering her the care she needs, it’s time to find somebody else. The young lady might need guidance and mentorship in dating, relationships, and how to recognize when she is in a dead-end situation.
Just so you have an understanding about men today and why some do not commit, it is not always that they are bad people who look to take advantage of women. There are deep-seated issues that are not being addressed, and men do not always reach out for assistance as eagerly as women might. There are men who also may have been shell-shocked from a past relationship. You say that the guy the young lady is dating never had a girlfriend. That might be true, or maybe it’s not. There is still the possibility that he may have experienced rejection by somebody, which left him emotionally wrecked. He may have been mistreated by another female prior to meeting your friend’s daughter, and he may have subconsciously convinced himself that it may happen again.
There are also cases where men, just as women, get into relationships before they are emotionally ready to do so. They may be sincere in their intentions, but they are not ready to take the plunge into marriage. There are also men who just want to have a girlfriend. They enjoy the company, romance, and security of having a significant other in their life.
Getting back to speaking directly with your friend’s daughter, I think you should make that attempt. She might be able to shed light on the situation. Your friend and her husband are too emotionally vested to have a heart-to-heart talk with her and remain objective. If it turns out that the daughter is the one holding out on marriage in one way or another, then let it be. Tell her that you are there for her and suggest the possibility that she consider a different therapist. If it proves to be that the guy is just shlepping her along for years, but she is aware that he has an issue and otherwise wants to marry him, then it is imperative that they go for couple’s counseling.
On the other hand, if the guy is a cad and is stealing her time and productive years from her life, she needs to extricate herself ASAP. Her therapist has not weaned her off the guy, according to the mother’s version. If that’s true, this therapist is likely not a good match for her. I strongly caution you that everything the young lady shares with you must remain confidential. In becoming her trusted confidante, there stands a good chance that your efforts to help her will yield the results that can make everyone happy in the end.
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.