Some say that the more things change, the more things remain the same. In some aspects of life, I agree; in others, I obviously don’t. People can debate if it applies to dating. Yes, dating is, at its roots, the same and will always be the same; but as time moves on, dating changes. Over the first days of Sukkos, someone in my family mentioned dates at the airport, and my nieces looked as if they had eaten the actual fish head on Rosh HaShanah (disgusted). “Airports? What are you supposed to do at the airport? Watch planes take off?” Very simply they were answered, “Yes.” Well, to say that my father and some cousins “got schooled” in what dating in today’s world actually means is an understatement. Even if people were allowed to wander around an airport nowadays, I don’t know how many couples you would be able to spot on dates. New, flashy, fusion, excitement – that’s what many are looking for when they date. I’m no fuddy-duddy. I hear what goes on and what couples do. Do I necessarily agree that you need constant excitement and “new” on every date? No. How can you get to the important things that matter – someone’s hashkafah – when you are busy painting and sipping, ax-throwing, petting dogs in a pet shop, etc.
Just as dating has changed, so too what people are looking for in marriage has changed. Yes, I said marriage, not a mate. If you wanted a kollel life, you date someone who wants the same thing. If you want to be a working professional, then you look for another person climbing the corporate ladder. But I never expected that what people would want out of marriage would change: love, affection, trust, truth, family. But after reading this letter, I began to wonder. I also asked a few people in different age brackets and phases of life what they thought of this letter and what they would respond to the letter-writer.
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I’m in my early 20s. I have been out with a decent number of guys – not too many or too few. There have been times when I was the disappointed one and sometimes I left the guy disappointed.
I think I may have met someone who could be the someone I have been looking for. We have been out six times and I am going to agree to another date. He has already told the shadchan that he really likes me. He wanted to stop using the shadchan, but I don’t think I’m ready for that. I want to take things slowly. I don’t think that decisions have to be made at specific stages or date numbers. I don’t think at date #3 you have to drop the shadchan or at date #5 you must talk about where you see yourself, your marriage, and your spouse in ten years. Whatever happens, happens – when it happens, you know.
I kind of feel like I am in the driver’s seat, because he has already admitted that he likes me and has agreed to go at my pace and not drop the shadchan. He even wanted our parents to meet a few weeks ago. But what’s the point? Were we getting engaged at that point? No. Was there serious stuff to discuss then? Sure, but between him and me. Why involve our parents? At that point, I wasn’t sure how I felt about him. I thought the idea was ridiculous. It’s not a b’sho or anything like that.
During our last date, we really got to discuss what we want in the beginning of a marriage. Since he wants to go to medical school and knows it will take up a lot of time and he won’t be as available to be there for his wife (and possible kids), he said he would spend one full year after getting married learning. Then, afterwards, he would take a year off and give it to his wife, do whatever she wants: be helpful around the house, take trips to Israel or other places, or if there is a baby, help out 50/50 – not be the typical father that helps out on occasion, but really help by waking up for the midnight feedings and changing the “awful, yuck diapers,” because he knows that once he begins medical school, he won’t be as hands on as he or his wife would like. He can promise to give his wife one full year. I don’t know how I feel about that – not just the year, but the medical school and all of it.
Medical school and residency will take many years. His focus will be his studies. Yes, family will be very important, but he may come home most times and just want to sleep and not spend time with me (or kids); that’s a lot to think about. I’d be doing most of it on my own. It would be like living with a roommate I love, if there are no kids. Then I’m thinking about medical school. He can get accepted anywhere in the United States and then his residency can be anywhere. I’m not sure about being “independent” in a new city where I don’t have the support system of family and friends. Yes, I can make friends and all, but it’s just going on my own because my husband will be so busy. He said he’ll apply to all medical schools in the Tri-State Area, but in other states, too, and he doesn’t know at this point where he would like to go.
I always thought I’d get married, and my husband would learn for a year or two and then he’d get to working on a degree – a degree that may take two years while learning part-time or working part-time. This is a whole different path. I know that life is reality and dating isn’t real, and dreams and fantasies are far from reality; but I have to make a decision. At this point, I would continue dating him, but now I must make a commitment without making the commitment. If I say I’ll still go out with him, then I’m agreeing to this life. I don’t know if I want to agree to the life. Yes, I like him. But I think I would have to more than like him to make this type of decision.
What do you think?
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Tzipora, thank you for your letter.
I have never heard of the term, “giving a year to your wife.” It’s a very sweet thought. By this fellow telling you that he understands medical school will be hard on a wife, so he wants to give something to her to prove he does love her and wants to do right by her, that’s nice, but how can he call giving his wife a year as a “gift” when someone else will be paying for this year: the vacations they will take, their rent, car payments…and then pay for the medical school? That in it of itself doesn’t make sense to me. If he understands that medical school and residency and all that comes along with it will take many years, then why not get started with it? Why delay it? Get started!
You say that you expected kollel to be reality for the first year or two and then for some degree to be gotten. Not sure what type of degree or how long that will take or what the plan is during that time, but that can be figured out later. This is an issue that needs to be decided on now, as you said. But I don’t think you are in the driver’s seat here. In fact, when a couple is in a relationship, no one should be the one with the power, per say. And in this case, he just ejected you from the driver’s seat that you think you occupy. Once this decision is made, a major step has been taken and you are basically agreeing to that life if you end up together. I agree with you that there is no dating schedule of what to do at date #3 or #5 (and meeting parents in the middle of it all certainly didn’t make sense to me, but it gave you a huge clue as to where his mind was. He was thinking Full Steam Ahead. He was moving forward.)
The first person I presented the concept of the “gift of the first year” to was my father. He is someone in an older generation, not old and decrepit, but from another time. He went out with more than his fair share of women in his time, and he also had to make decisions about career while dating and thinking of family and marriage. My father’s thoughts: “A year to give? It’s not his to give. You’re going to be a husband, maybe a father, get a move-on it with life. He’s probably already 22, 23; wake up! How can he say he’ll learn for a year after marriage, then give his wife a year, and then go to medical school! He’ll be a 33-year-old intern! And what’s this about giving it to his wife? All those paying for his bills will be giving it to his wife. I’d like to give it to him. Someone has to wake up these guys. Marriage isn’t a game. You want to get married. Get a job! Pay your bills. If you’re in kollel, fine, it’s something that’s been discussed. Same thing with medical school or law school. It had been discussed. But a year to learn and then a year off and then medical school? Someone better shake these guys up and wake them up.”
Thank you, Father.
Tzipora, I have consulted two others from younger generations. Space is short, so I will continue this next week and let you know what my consultants and I think about your question.
Hatzlachah to you all!