By Baila Sebrow
I’m a frum girl and I dress in tzniusdik clothing. No one has ever complained about the way I dress, except the guy I am currently dating.
For example, I wear skirts and dresses that cover my knees, but when I get into a car, sometimes my knees get uncovered, and as soon as I realize it, I quickly cover up. Regarding my neckline, I have a long neck, and unless I wear a turtleneck, sometimes it looks like my shirt or dress has a lower neckline, but I am very careful about covering my collarbone.
This guy is not such a tzaddik either. He vapes like crazy. He drinks beer like it is water, and I told him that. But he says that what he does is something that all guys do, and that I have to be more careful about my tznius. Aside from that, we get along very well. How can we solve this problem?
“Otherwise, we get along very well.” No, you do not get along very well with him. You are either deceiving yourself or you do not recognize what is directly in front of you.
Regarding tznius, some people will say it is subjective, depending on one’s hashkafah, while others, especially those who are less open-minded, believe there is only one way or the highway when it comes to the dress code of a woman. I am not sure where exactly the guy you are dating fits in. You say that you are a frum girl and that you are careful about being tzanuah. Is it possible that he is more to the right hashkafically than where you are holding, and in his view, a woman needs to consider whether a piece of clothing will be revealing in various scenarios?
If it’s a hashkafic issue, you have to accept that you will not change his mind. You have two options. You can choose to accommodate him by agreeing to dress in a manner he approves, and not begrudgingly. The other option is to conclude that this guy is not for you, as you feel satisfied with your level of tznius and have no interest in changing that. Moreover, tznius is not just about the where the hemline of your skirt or dress ends, or whether your collarbone is always covered; other tznius issues will likely come up should you end up marrying him.
I mentioned the hashkafic part of his criticisms. What is troubling me is if his critical view of you is a part of a control issue. If so, you are setting yourself up for a lifetime of misery. No one can thrive under a dictatorship. I don’t know how long you’ve been dating this guy, but why has he started complaining now? If he didn’t like the way you dressed early on, he had the option of walking away. If he is hoping to change you, then it could be this isn’t only a hashkafic difference, but a control issue as well.
I will address your complaints about his vaping and drinking, but first I want you to understand that living with a controlling person will cause you to always feel guilty, because you will always feel that you are doing something wrong. Not only that, but it may generate for you a cycle of lying just to keep the peace. That will create an atmosphere of tremendous tension and even stronger feelings of guilt. You will lose your sense of esteem and individuality, and you will basically feel bad about yourself all the time. And if on top of all that it turns out he is a jealous person, you have the makings of a disaster waiting to happen.
You mentioned that he vapes. Vaping has become a popular recreational activity among young people and is common and widespread in frum circles too, to the extent that smoking cigarettes used to be. It is assumed to be less harmful than cigarettes, but it is still not safe and can lead to harmful scarring of the lungs, as one inhales and exhales the aerosol. I get complaints from young ladies that the guys they go on dates with not only vape, but that they do it right in front of them. My response is that it is no different than old-fashioned cigarette smoking, in that if the person who wanted to smoke had manners, he would ask those he was with if they were OK with it. Vaping on dates when it has not been discussed and approved beforehand is downright rude and has been killing shidduchim; many young ladies will decline a second date from men who vape.
However, it sounds like there is another problem. You say that he drinks beer like water. Are you insinuating that he gets drunk? If so, does he drive while under the influence of alcohol? Are you in a vehicle with him while he is intoxicated, and is he putting you in danger, too? He might think that beer is less inebriating than other alcoholic beverages, but if he drinks beer like it is water, then I am taking the liberty of assuming he is drunk while he is on a date with you.
Let’s sum this up for you. The guy you are dating criticizes you, he does not respect you enough to not vape in your presence, and he drinks too much. The reason I first took all your grievances apart separately is not only to give him the benefit of doubt, but so that you can understand what might be going on in his mind. If it was just one aspect about him that is bothering you, perhaps there is something to work with. Here I see that this guy is coming with a whole bunch of problems. If you were my family member, I would tell you to go walk away from this relationship. But then I would likely be privy to more information than you are willing to share here. The fact that you wrote to me means you are not sure what to do, because you like him enough to want to find a way to make this work for you.
Do you feel that he is able to control his drinking, or is this part-and-parcel of who he is? Does he need to drink in order to relax? People who need that drink to calm down have a drinking problem. Does he drink anything else that is intoxicating, whether in your presence or alone, and if so, how much? Do you find that criticism of you is more intense when he drinks his beer? The better question is: Do you want him that badly in your life that you are willing to work with him to overcome his habits or addictions?
Again, were you a member of my family, I would discourage you from continuing with him, but if you want to find a way to help him and save this relationship, you are going to need help and support. You cannot do this alone, and I caution you not to even try. If you don’t know enough about his background and issues, please educate yourself immediately. If he cannot manage his habits or addictions, he must recognize that he has a problem, and he must want to get professional help. If he refuses, stay far away from him and do not allow him to convince you to reconsider, because not only will you be ruining your own life, but you will become his enabler. Keep in close contact with the person who is helping him, because you will need lots of moral and emotional assistance and chizuk. Please bear in mind that in these types of situations there is rarely a happily-ever-after, as those afflicted sometimes go right back to their starting point, and this will be a constant struggle and source of stress in your relationship with him.
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. Baila also hosts The Definitive Rap podcast for vinnews.com, Israel News Talk Radio, WVIP 93.5 FM HD2, and talklinenetwork.com. Questions and comments for the Dating Forum can be submitted to email@example.com. Read more of Baila Sebrow’s articles at 5TJT.com.