In the last issue, I published an email from a young woman named Tzipora who thought that she was in the driver’s seat of a relationship (if you can call six dates a relationship, because I have no idea what they spoke about or did during these dates). And as reality usually does, it differed from the fantasy of the dating and married life that Tzipora had always imagined for herself. The fellow she was dating, whom I will refer to as Danny, said that he does like her and has asked her to make a decision. He plans on learning for a year after marriage, then giving his wife a year as a “present,” because he plans to attend medical school, which will take up much (if not all) of his time for the next decade or so.
Tzipora didn’t know if she liked Danny so much as to agree to continue dating, knowing that if things progress to marriage, this the life she will lead: learning, “present year,” medical school, etc. She went on about being alone while raising a family if medical school was a few states away from her family, and she didn’t know if she was ready for this type of commitment to Danny or if this was the life she wanted, because as I said, she imagined it all to go differently.
I asked people from different age groups how they would answer, because I could just not get over the “present year” issue. How can it be a present if someone else is paying all your bills and you aren’t giving anything of yourself? Yes, you are giving your time and love to your spouse, but then you get wrapped up in medical school and all that comes with it. I feel like it’s as if giving candy to a child and when the child is almost finished, taking away the candy. I wanted to know if I was so out of touch with the younger generations because I had never heard of this. I don’t want to be a fuddy-duddy in terms of dating. I need to be kept up to date with all the happenings.
For the voice of the older generation, I asked my father. I told him what the scenario was. To sum up his response: “You want to get married? Get a job! Pay your bills.” I can understand how my father would feel like that; after all, he came from a generation where he worked all his life. Nothing was handed to him. My father got hung up on the term “present year.” And because I was raised in his house and exposed to my father’s way of thinking, I kind of agree with my father in terms of the “present year” issue.
But Tzipora wants to know if she should be asked to decide now if this would be the life she would live if she married Danny. She doesn’t know if she “likes him” enough to make that decision now. For that, I say, ask him for more time. You don’t want to be pressured into deciding if you aren’t ready for it. Tzipora said that she liked being in the driver’s seat and in control, because she was aware that Danny liked her and can envision a life with her.
But I tell Tzipora to forget about who has “power” in the relationship. You need to think about the rest of your life here! Danny felt it was fair that you know what his plan is and to know what type of life you will have for the next decade or so (albeit six dates into it.) I went out with someone who told all the girls he had gone out with that he was going to dental school and would be devoted to his studies. He has yet to go to dental school and now sells insurance and is married with children. Not everything goes according to how we plan it. Hashem is the ultimate planner. A number of things may happen along the way that prevent Danny from going or graduating medical school or he may be accepted to the University of ___ program and you’ll have to live hundreds of miles away from your support system. Life can lead you down many paths. But Danny told you what his plan was. He wants the girls’ eyes to be fully open and that she be aware of what entering a relationship with him may involve.
But if you need more time to decide on it, take it. Knowing Danny’s plan may affect your feelings. What if you don’t want to move to another state? What if you want someone who will earn a degree in less time than it takes to become a full-fledged doctor? The list of “What ifs” can be a mile long. Try to clear this from your head and look at Danny and this relationship as you would any other. Sometimes people find themselves changing their own “plans” for the “plans” of someone they love. You never know.
I asked a friend of mine to weigh in. She is single and may have a different opinion than I have. I let her read Tzipora’s email (I had contacted Tzipora about all of this before I spoke with anyone) and asked what she thought. “Present year” issue aside (she too had an issue with that), she said that life is full of unknowns, and decisions had to be made along the way. Tzipora isn’t going to get everything she wants with “all her chicks in a row.” If she wanted a cookie-cutter husband and life, there were plenty of shadchanim who can arrange that; but if she wanted a normal life that includes uncertainty, then this is it. My friend agreed that if Tzipora wasn’t ready to make the decision of committing to that life yet, then she should talk with the “boy” (yes, my friend said boy) and ask for more time so she can get to know him better and decide what she wants, because right now she doesn’t sound too sure of anything. My friend said that the way she interpreted the letter was that she wasn’t sure that Tzipora was mature enough to make such a decision with the way she referred to dating: “driver’s seat” and “power.” Until she realizes that there is give and take in a relationship and knowing that if someone wins, there is someone who loses, then you aren’t ready for a relationship. It’s all about compromise. She added that Danny should have told Tzipora on the first date what type of life he wanted, or the shadchan should have mentioned it. She felt like this was sneaked in as if, “Now that you have gotten to know and like me, if you want to keep me this is what you have to do.”
To get the voice of the younger generation, I asked my nieces and one of their friends. Two of the three are in the dating parshah and one will be, in the next couple of years. Not surprisingly, the younger generation has heard of the “present year.” They see it as gift of time and love from husband to wife. Two of the three (they didn’t want me to get too specific about identities or who said what) said that Tzipora should take the leap. She should agree to live a life as the one he presented and to continue dating him; but she doesn’t have to make a real decision because even if she does decide to live that life, she will still be dating “the guy” and “anything can go wrong” so they may break up anyway. The third one answered that the fact that he presented this to her proves he is more serious about her, because he felt he was at a safe point in the relationship. Yes, the schedule doesn’t have to be kept to (at date #3 do ___ and on date #6 do __), but he is going full force here, while Tzipora isn’t, and she wondered if it was because Tzipora is enjoying the dating stage of life – regarding how she started her email. And they all gave their opinion about how and when Danny’s “ultimate lifestyle” should have been presented to Tzipora.
Okay. I have five opinions, not including mine. This is what my research has discovered:
- The older generation doesn’t understand the term or concept of the “present year.”
- Both generations have an issue with the way Tzipora went about describing dating and this relationship and maybe how she views dating altogether.
- All agreed that Danny is farther ahead and more invested in this “relationship” than Tzipora is.
- Everyone agrees that Danny gets points for being up front, except they differ about how “up front” up front is. Two said Danny should tell shadchanim to present him as someone who wants this type of life before the first date, because now Tzipora, or any other girl, may have an even harder time making the decision because they’ve gotten to know each other. Three were of the mind that telling the girl after they’ve gotten a chance to know each other is fine because then the girl who doesn’t want this type of life would be saying “no” to a type and not to Danny himself. They liked that he and Tzipora got to know each other before the lifestyle he wanted was presented.
- All agreed that Tzipora can agree to continue dating Danny, knowing what he has planned, but to decide how she feels about him aside from his plan.
Nothing that was said surprised me. I expected my father and friend to answer as they did, and for my nieces and their friend to answer as they did. Times are different. Dating has changed. “Present Year” is now a thing.
Ultimately, Tzipora must decide for herself, but she should know that her plan may never be a reality and Danny’s plan may not come to fruition. She must roll with the punches and whatever is thrown her way. But she should be very clear of how she feels about Danny before she makes any major decisions.
Hatzlachah to you all!