I am a girl in shidduchim in my early twenties. A few months ago, I started going out with an amazing guy. We met on Shabbos at a mutual friend’s house and sort of hit it off from there. It’s funny because the minute I saw him, I had the weirdest thought, just out of the blue — something like, “Oh my goodness, I’m going to marry this guy.” I hadn’t even asked his name yet!
Anyway, we started going out and he is really everything I could have asked for and more. He is kind, patient, giving, and physically attractive to me. Our hashkafot and values align. I support his career path. Although I haven’t met his family yet, he’s met mine, and so far everyone gets along great (and his family sounds pretty similar to mine). He is a bit quieter than I am, but I like to think that we complement each other nicely in that area. The list goes on and on — he really is perfect in so many ways.
There’s just one problem: I don’t know if I actually like him, because I don’t get those butterflies or sweaty palms around him (and I have gotten them before — I went to a coed camp and had many a high-school summer crush). I also don’t get excited when he texts me (and I’ve gotten excited about guys texting me in high school). I honestly don’t really think about him during the day. Sometimes I really just forget he exists! We go out often despite our busy schedules, and when we go out, we have fun and can joke around as well as have serious conversations. But when I come home, I never really feel that exhilarating high that I feel should be happening.
Also, baruch Hashem, I have a close-knit family, and when it comes to choosing between FaceTiming him or hanging out with my family, I would rather hang out with my siblings. So how do I know if I really like the guy? If I don’t really like the guy, what should I do? I can’t imagine calling it off; he is literally everything I am looking for and I know he will make an incredible husband and father. I feel like I would be the biggest idiot for dropping him.
You don’t get those butterfly feelings in your belly when you are on a date with him? No grumbling noises there, or that weak-in-the-knees feeling? Perhaps you’re not hungry, as you have just eaten. No stomach-turning or churning when you are next to him? Guess that means you are not getting nauseated. Your palms don’t feel sweaty? Maybe the temperature is set lower than you are used to. Some young ladies have even expressed that they expect to feel their hearts palpitating when in the presence of their bashert. Baruch Hashem, I don’t have to recommend a cardiologist to them or to you!
Surely, you realize that I’m being facetious, but I am also being serious. How many love stories have you read? How many are totally fictional? What you think you should be feeling to be certain that the guy is “the one” is something that is only experienced in the imagination of a good storyteller. That is not real life.
Real-life relationships are nothing like the scenario you describe. You think you had feelings for some guys in summer camp or others you were texting with; well, the fact that you are not with any of them now is very telling that they were not real. Yes, they existed, but they did not materialize as anything more than a pipe dream.
It is possible that you may have felt the butterflies in your stomach and sweaty palms because you were nervous. People can sweat profusely when they are nervous, and they can also feel sick to their stomach. You may have felt that way with those other guys because you had the instinct that whatever was going on with them and you at the time would never go further than flirtation.
The relationships that you hoped would happen with the summer camp and text buddy guys were like castles in the sky, because your sixth sense told you that nothing would come from any of it. The more you communicated with them or saw them, the more your feelings of excitement intensified. I have a hunch that if you would have dated those guys the way you are dating this guy, you would have had no such feelings. You were uncertain about them and about how they felt about you, and that caused you to experience the physical symptoms you describe.
In a secure, healthy relationship where you know how you stand with your significant other, you will not experience those mushy-gushy, giddy feelings. That only happens in the beginning when you are still apprehensive about the relationship. Do you think happily married people walk around with sensations of butterfly bellies and sweaty palms when they each go about their day apart from one another?
You know that you have met a good guy, and you state so by praising him to the hilt. Your initial instincts upon meeting him sound like they were on target. So what happened? Are you having a difficult time accepting that your ship has finally come in? Are you worried that it cannot be possible for you to find your bashert, so you are looking for problems where there may not be any? Young lady, the way life works is that if you want to find a problem in any area of life, or with any person, you will find it.
You list all the qualities that you like about him, and it sounds like you are compatible in every way. Why don’t you feel that exhilarating experience when you come home? I believe that’s because he makes you feel comfortable. It is normal to experience that in the beginning of a relationship, but as you get to know each other well, you settle into the comfort zone. That’s normal. That comfort zone comes from feeling confident that you are with the right person. Men and women who are in unreliable relationships feel nervous and elated at the same time, and they call every friend they know to rehash everything that was discussed on a date, and they come up with more commentaries than Rashi. You don’t need to do that. You understand each other well. You know that you can count on his sincerity, because he is authentic. He is the real deal!
I read your letter several times, and to me it feels like you are fighting yourself. It is possible that your issue is not about him. Rather, I think that you are not ready to make that move towards marriage. When, deep down, people do not want to get married, they come up with all sorts of problems. When you say that you would rather spend time with your siblings, or that you forget he exists, it’s possible that it’s not about him. You may not want to get married right now. The brain is a powerful and complex organ. You can train it to believe things that are not the way they appear to be.
There are two things I recommend that you do immediately. This guy gets along with your family, but you have not met his yet. It is important that you meet them. It might help put things in better perspective for you. If you still feel the same after that, you need to discuss your feelings with him. There is no point in going through the motions of dating a guy and saying that he is perfect for you, but adding that you feel no excitement for him and that you don’t miss him. He needs to know. It is possible that you really want out of the relationship for whatever subconscious reason, but you do not want to do it yourself. You may need to have him break up with you. In that way, it would remove the yoke of responsibility that you ended a good thing. If he breaks up with you, then, in your head, it’s on him.
For future reference, whether it ends up working out with this guy or you meet somebody else, here are the makings of a healthy relationship leading to marriage: “He is kind, patient, giving, physically attractive to me, and our hashkafot and values align,” as you said about him. You also say that you support his career path. That tells me that you respect a guy who has a good work ethic. Another critical and key factor in a wonderful lasting relationship is being able to have fun and serious conversations, too. To have your partner as a best friend is huge in a successful relationship. And you have all that with him!
You are smart and astute, and I think you did much research about how you should be interacting with one another in a relationship. In your case, it fits perfectly. The guy of your dreams is right in front of you. You will recognize him or anybody else when you are emotionally ready to accept that as factual.
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. Read more of Baila Sebrow’s articles at 5TJT.com.