Dear Dating Coach,
I was introduced to a wonderful guy that I like on so many levels. We have the same sense of humor, he is smart, ambitious, and we really seem to see eye to eye. He is however, a bit more modern in his approach to Yiddishkeit than I am. He says that after he gets married, he will definitely do many of the things that he doesn’t do now; like davening daily, wearing tzitzis, and being more careful about where he eats. I can’t envision a future with a husband who doesn’t value those things, but he says he will change after he settles down. Is it safe to take him at his word when everything else seems to match up so well?
Alter After Alter
We are in an intense years-long battle with our yard, where we always end up the loser. When we moved in, our yard was paved and as we had been dreaming of greener pastures, we decided to put in grass. We ripped up the asphalt, threw down some dirt, put down sod, and called it a day. Since then, every couple of years, we will walk outside to a lawn that looks more like the Sahara than the lush greenery we envisioned. Our ninja weeds pop up during the cover of night, mocking us each morning as we walk to the car.
Sometimes though, it seems like maybe we are winning. When we installed sprinklers to gently encourage our lawn to grow, the grass flourished for a while. When we aggressively removed some browning sod, and replaced it with new, the lawn looked better. But just when we get comfortable again, boom! The grass will die and we will be right back at square one. A landscaper recently explained where we went wrong. We stayed too close to the surface by only adding dirt and sod while hoping for a beautiful lawn – a shallow fix, and the grass never took root. Without roots he explained, nothing lasts forever.
They Always Say…
It is always a wonderful feeling to meet someone that really seems to “get you.” When the chemistry is there, conversations seem to flow easily, and you always have a good time when you are together. It is not easy to stop and reevaluate when you are already emotionally involved. Kudos to you for taking the time to step back, so that you can be sure that you are making good decisions not just for now but for your future.
Time Changes Things…
There are times during a marriage when one spouse may struggle or face some sort of obstacle and it is our duty as a partner to bolster and support them in any way we can. It is however, difficult to begin a marriage when you are already not on equal footing. Going into a marriage where you know that there are fundamental things that you hope will change, is not only reckless but a possible threat to your future shalom bayis. Especially when change hinges on your ‘union’ – and not on self-reflection, personal growth, and individual improvement. While your shared commitment may blossom for a while, the connection will be so tenuous that you will always be wondering when it will wither and fade. You can water and add seeds to bolster his growth, but it will always be a shallow foundation.
But You Actually Have to Change Them Yourself…
Now sure, there is always room for growth and change. In our lifetimes we will all make positive new commitments and there will be times when we falter. Those changes however, will be based on our own self-worth and connection to Hashem. They will not depend merely on changing a Facebook status to “married.” This type of transformation must come from a place within each of us. If he also envisions a life where he is improved in his Yiddishkeit, then the time to make a change is now. He needs to demonstrate that the roots are already there. Perhaps he decided not to ‘water the lawn’ for a while, but he knows that his connection is still strong. Sit and talk openly with one another. Tell him that he needs to want to change for himself, not only because of a marriage certificate. Ask him if he is prepared to make those changes now, so that you can both be sure that this is a life you want. Otherwise, you will just be fighting a battle that depends too strongly on a ‘surface change’ – and a lawn without roots can never fully flourish.