I just started graduate school, and that means I’m not going to be making any money for the next two years. I haven’t been dating because I’m not making any money yet, and most girls want to date a guy who is already making money, but I was wondering if it’s OK to rely on a girl for the first two years to earn income, as long as I have a plan—which I do. I’m not sure what to do. Any advice would be appreciated.
The fact that you are concerned about this issue speaks volumes about your sensitivity towards the person you will ultimately marry. Therefore, as it relates to marriage, you are one step ahead of the game!
When it comes to shidduchim, there are no hard-and-fast rules. Each person has their own set of requirements.
Being in graduate school likely means that you are studying for a profession that will one day place you in the position of earning enough income that anyone who marries you will not have to be the sole supporter of the family. And in your case, when you say that you have a plan, you can explain what your plan is in clear terms. There are plenty of young men who say that they “have a plan,” but when questioned about it, they cannot verbalize their plan in a manner that sounds convincing.
As a shadchan, I frequently hear guys who are looking for a shidduch say that they will work one day. And when I ask whether that means that they will go to school for higher education or enter the business world, they oftentimes have no clue how to respond. So unless one side of the couple’s family is willing to take it upon themselves to fully support them, there are going to be huge issues when the bills start piling up and there’s no idea as to how payments can be made. That’s not to say that just because someone is in school he is guaranteed a job; however, it at least shows that the person is willing to take responsibility for his future as a husband and father.
My initial impression when I read your letter is that you may not necessarily be that eager to get married right now. Meaning, you are ready to make peace with waiting until you are finished with your studies. The reason I am saying this is because you would otherwise not be asking for any advice, and instead you would date and hope that things will somehow fall into place.
Unless there are emotional issues or serious conflicts, I generally do not tell people to place dating on hold. Finding a compatible person to marry is almost like searching for a needle in a haystack. And so, I have big concerns when I hear that a young person is deliberately keeping himself away from dating. The type of person you would prefer dating now may not be available to you in a few years. And that would realistically mean that you would have to alter your requirements. In the first place, you will be older, and so the girls who will be available to you then will also be older. It is common that when a guy first comes on the dating scene, he feels most compatible with a girl who is new to the parashah, too, and that would mean that she is also much younger than him. What these guys discover is that the younger girls usually do not want to date a guy who is older, and thus dating then becomes a challenge for them. There are so many men who have aspired to educate themselves first, and end up facing such circumstances when they finally come on the scene. People cannot understand how older, educated guys with a profession cannot easily find a shidduch, and this is one of the reasons. Years ago, a young girl did marry an older professional guy, but not so much today.
So I think you may understand that my advice is not to wait on purpose. You should instead place yourself in situations where you will have the opportunity to meet a girl who is well-suited for you. But you also need to understand how life may play out, and how to go about dating for marriage where there may be a financial issue down the road, at least for the first few years of married life.
I wonder if you ever had a discussion with anyone in your family about this dilemma. It would be good for you to know how they feel and if they are up to assisting you when you are married until you are financially confident enough. You need to bear in mind that depending on what degree you are pursuing, there is no guarantee that a job will be waiting for you as soon as you are done. While you say it is a matter of two years, it might turn into a longer period of time. That possibility needs to be put out there when you meet someone.
The advantage that you have going for yourself is that amongst young daters, a guy doesn’t usually get declined because he is not yet making a living. If you were an older person without a stable job, you would have more reason to worry about that precluding you from finding someone to date you.
When you do start going out with a girl, it would be a good idea to bring up the topic of finances early enough in the relationship to get a feel for how she perceives a marital lifestyle. Unless her parents are willing to foot all the bills, she would have to be willing to shoulder many of the financial burdens. You might also want to look into getting a flexible part-time job when you are not in school or studying for exams. Jobs such as tutoring are an example of how you can make a few dollars to help contribute to the expenses. And if she is also in school now, then you know from the get-go that the most she will be able to do is get a flexible part-time job, too. In such a case, the only way marriage can take place is if a family member volunteers to help out the couple during that period.
There is another scenario to consider. Even if she is done with her studies and has a paying job, life sometimes brings about changes. Pregnancy, or any other reason that your wife may not be able to work, might present itself. You always need a backup plan for the years that you anticipate not working on a full-time basis.
All in all, it is not uncommon nowadays for women to be the main breadwinners while the husband is still in school. Budgeting is not the only issue of importance, because the wife also has to recognize that her husband will not always be emotionally available to her during stressful periods of exams or assignments. And the biggest test during that time period is if kids come along and the wife does not get help from her husband as much as she would like, and she sometimes feels neglected.
As a spouse, you will need to reassure her that you are there for her, whether there are kids or not. You will also have to go that extra mile in trying to fit together-time into your schedule. But as long as you find the right girl who understands what the routine will be like without any false expectations, such marriages are common and can be very successful. At the end of the day, having that advanced degree will hopefully enable you to be able to afford to live a comfortable and settled life.
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 email@example.com. Read more of Baila Sebrow’s articles here.