I enjoy reading your articles and would like to ask you a question. I’ve been in a relationship for four months so far, and I’m being pressured by my parents to get married already. My boyfriend and I are both in school, and we don’t think the time is right just yet. My parents are scared he will get cold feet later on and break up if we don’t get married soon. How do I deal with family pressure? I want to mention that we are shomer negiah in this relationship, in case that changes any thoughts about how to answer this question.
Regarding your disclosure that you are in a shomer negiah relationship, yes, that has bearing on my answer to your query. I will address my thoughts about that first.
I have always been a proponent of shomer negiah dating, for all hashkafic categories — not only those who are to the right, but even for those who are to the far left. Dating couples who have been in long shomer negiah relationships such as yours (and even longer) will attest to the many advantages of adherence; most significant is that their mental judgment is less likely to be clouded the way it is for those who are more lax in that area.
Precluding physical contact from a dating relationship allows the couple more opportunities to grow together emotionally without supplementary reflections that could impede addressing obvious red flags. In shomer negiah relationships, the couple is in a place where they are more likely to evaluate each other with a clear head. Moreover, if a problem does crop up, ending a relationship that was never physically established is much easier. People, and especially women, who have been in a non-shomer relationship that has ended have expressed that it feels like a divorce, and here is the interesting part: They categorically state that had they been shomer, not only would they have ended the relationship earlier on because of things they inadvertently and sometimes deliberately overlooked, but they plan to be shomer in future relationships.
If your parents are aware that you are in a shomer negiah relationship, they might be concerned for two reasons. The first is that spending so much time together without getting married might naturally lead you both in the direction of breaking that adherence. The other explanation is the fact that you are both shomer may create an environment where one of you will find it almost too easy to back out for reasons that could be trivial, or that you may even drift apart.
Regardless, it sounds like your parents are fond of this young man. So, putting aside the shomer negiah issue, the fact does remain that they want you to get married “yesterday,” and the pressure on you is mounting. Since you are able to view this guy from an intellectual and emotional perspective, let’s delve into your situation based on the miniscule amount of information you have shared with me about him, and the interaction you have with each other as a couple.
You are both still in school, and, realistically, it is not easy to be married while you are students. Marriage is a major life-changing event that requires work from both spouses equally. That can be challenging in the best of circumstances, and if one of the partners is not up to it, the marriage has a stronger likelihood of failing. Think of it like school. If you don’t study hard enough, or you are not completely motivated because you are also busy with extracurricular activities, the chances for academic success will be at a lesser level.
Studying towards a career means hard work to maintain a decent grade point average, which often involves pulling all-nighters before a difficult exam, and, of course, research and writing reports. Then you have the stress of worrying about how well you will do or have done on something you turned in. And if it happens to be that there was some disappointment, the stress level rises to an even greater intensity.
When one partner in a marriage goes through the process of higher education, the non-student partner needs much patience and understanding. Balancing schoolwork and marriage can be stressful, and when both are in the same experience, while trying to make a go of their marriage, it takes extraordinary commitment to successfully pull that off. I am not saying that it cannot be done. There are many couples who will claim that it worked for them, but for the most part it is extremely challenging.
The bigger question is whether you are sure that you want to marry each other when you both graduate or if you are only keeping each other company just to have a significant other right now, and then later you plan on figuring out if you truly want to get married or perhaps move on. That is something that both of you need to think about seriously. If it turns out that, deep down, you are not certain that you want to get married, then there is no harm in hanging out as friends if that is what works for you and you are both on the same page, so to speak. However, if you really do want to marry each other, and you would do it now except for some concerns, then here is what I advise you to consider.
Do you feel that you are both mature enough to handle the responsibilities that come with married life? I understand that your parents want you to get married, but what about the guy’s family? How do they feel about the relationship and would they also like to see you married as soon as possible, even though you are still in school? Speaking of parents, how will you, as a couple, live from a financial standpoint? Who is offering financial support? If anyone is relying on the assumption that one or both of you will get a part-time job, that is not being realistic, and, in most cases, that is hardly a reliable source of income. If your parents are so gung-ho on your getting married, are they ready to offer you an open charge card?
Being as realistic as possible, even if you initially meant to wait a bit, what would happen if you get pregnant and have a baby? What is the game plan in such a circumstance? Can your parents afford childcare while you finish your studies and get your degree?
It sounds like you are level-headed, and the questions I have posed might be the same thoughts running through your head, only you have not addressed them yet, and you feel that it is easier to just say you will wait. Please discuss the issue thoroughly with your parents because I do understand where they are coming from. Your parents probably heard many stories where a young couple in school is dating, and after a while the guy (or even the young lady) backs out. Perhaps they are also afraid that you may not meet somebody like him so easily again, and so they are pressuring you to seal the deal while you have a good opportunity. To be completely honest, from a shadchan’s perspective, I cannot blame them. I even agree with their perspective, as long as everything is dealt with and arranged before they walk you to the chuppah.
If you both care about each other strongly enough, and you also have the proper guidance and mentorship, then you should consider the prospect of marriage much more seriously.
Since you met this young man at what I assume is a fairly young age, you may not be that aware of the trials and tribulations that frequently come with finding a shidduch. It is not easy to meet somebody with whom you share compatibility. It does not matter how beautiful, intelligent, nice, and accomplished a young lady may be. She could also come from the most illustrious family, and yet finding a shidduch can be the most difficult task of her life. There is a good reason why it is compared to splitting of the Red Sea! The process is not simple, and I am not saying this to scare you. But oftentimes those who meet their significant other at a young age may think they are missing out on the fun of finding a shidduch.
Though it should be a fun, relaxing learning experience to find a spouse, for most people it is not. Without going into details, because that is not what you reached out to me about, I strongly urge you to have a conversation with other young ladies who are in the dating scene, so that they can outline to you the experiences they are encountering.
If you and your boyfriend come to the decision that you will not wait until you both finish school, and will instead get married, know that as long as you are committed to the marriage, there can be advantages, too. You will have a built-in study-buddy even if you don’t take the same classes or are in the same school. You will get each other in terms of the need to vent or “veg out” on the couch. There could be another bonus that may or may not apply here: If you decide to get married while still in school, you might want to look into the school’s policy regarding tuition discounts. There are universities that will offer it if asked, so that will reduce some of your expenses.
The bottom line is that whatever predicaments you will overcome as a young married couple, know that it will strengthen your bond and you will have built a strong foundation for an everlasting, beautiful union.
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.