Dear Dating Coach,
I am 23 and recently met a guy at a friend’s Shabbos table. We hit it off right away and started to date. My parents did some research to find out about him (after we started dating) and they were unhappy with what they heard. Now my parents are angry and think he is “all wrong for me!” How do I explain to them that they can’t control everything?
With Out-of-Control Parents
We have a great park near our house filled with swings, slides, and a full jungle gym. My son’s favorite part of the park was recently removed – a rock formation built for climbing. My son always thought that it was perfect for jumping. Every time we went to the park, my son would race to the rocks ready to leap from the top. As he ran, I would plead with his inner daredevil, “Don’t jump!” Yet time after time, he would swiftly climb to the top, flying down – landing with the grace of a cheetah, barely making a sound. Yet, no matter how many times he landed better than an Olympic gymnast, I would still caution him not to jump from the top. And he was fine. He really was. Until, one day he made that same jump and broke his arm.
Leap of Faith
Congratulations on meeting someone that you connect with. It is always exciting when you feel like the person you have started dating has the potential to be your future spouse. Even though you didn’t meet through a typical shadchan, you trusted your friend’s judgment since she invited you both to a meal. This must feel both fortuitous and validating after dating for a while. It can be frustrating then to receive negative feedback from your parents when you feel like things are going well. It is not surprising that their response makes you feel like they are desperately wrestling for control.
You are positive that they are only determined to see the cons in your new relationship, their rose-colored glasses shattered by their need to protect you and shield you from any potential or imagined harm.
So, take a moment to look at the CONS: Consideration, Objectivity, Negativity, and Sensitivity before you completely disregard their advice.
Consider the information that they have received. Is it from a reputable source and is the information current? Ask the friend who initially hosted you both if she knows him well and if she is aware of any areas of concern. Take your parent’s life experience into consideration as well: are they seeing something that you aren’t? Being cognizant of the fact that you are already dating, take the time to review everything you know about him, including his behavior during the time you have spent together.
Are you able to be objective or are you too emotionally invested to see things clearly? Repeat what you know and how you feel to an objective third party (such as a close family friend, mentor, rebbetzin) and carefully screen their reaction to the information given. Marriage is forever, and while we make our choice to wed with heart and emotion, we must hold on to objectivity as well so that we can make healthy and informed decisions.
Here you must make a choice. You can accept the negative comments and agree that the information is too concerning to ignore. Or, after careful review and self-reflection you acknowledge what you have heard, yet are able to determine that the information is false or without merit. If that is the case, then you must fully release any negativity so that it doesn’t adversely affect your future together.
Your parents love you. Their love compels them to worry about you. This is not subject to change with logic or fact. Be sensitive to this love and give them the respect that they deserve as your parents. When you understand that their concern for you is grounded in love, you will be able to be sensitive to their feedback and give it credence (deserving or not). Your sensitivity will allow you to be kind and understanding because you know that they only want you to be overwhelmingly happy with the person you choose to marry. It will also encourage your parents to see things from your perspective and respect your viewpoint.
So carefully inspect the CONS so that you can make a logical, thoughtful, and healthy decision that will lead you toward a loving and successful marriage.