| Family Diary |

All in Good Time

“It’s now or never,” she warned her. “Either you get engaged, or he moves on”


Shani Leiman with Zivia Reischer

"So,” Esti calculated gleefully, “today is May 17. Do you think we’ll be engaged by my birthday on May 30?” She giggled. “I know it’s only been five dates, but after dating 30 boys, I know for sure that this is The One!”

Esti was 25. I knew she’d been through a lot since she started dating six years ago, but that was all the more reason to tread carefully.

“Maybe I’ll just tell him,” Esti said. “I’ll let him know that I’m ready. You know how important it is to be open and honest when you date!”

“Esti,” I said, when she finally let me get a word in, “under no circumstances should you tell Meir on your sixth date that you’re ready to get engaged. He’s definitely not ready, he’s moving at a much slower pace than you. If you overwhelm him, he’s going to shut down.”

You could practically hear her balloon pop. “But why?” she wanted to know. “Wouldn’t it make him feel good?”

“Esti, listen to me. Prematurely disclosing personal information when you’re dating, or prematurely announcing your readiness to get engaged, puts the entire relationship at risk. You’re excited, but Meir is still building this relationship slowly and methodically from his end. He needs to think things through at every step until he arrives at a decision he’s comfortable with. I know it’s hard for you to wait, but you must match his pace, or you’re going to lose him.”

“Nooooo,” Esti wailed. “I can’t! Wait, I have another idea. How about you tell him I’m ready? Would that be better?”

“Esti, I’m not going to pressure Meir. It’s not going to be good for him, and it’s not going to be good for you.”

I remembered Tzirel. I hadn’t been her shadchan, but she’d called me when she was dating seriously. She was a nervous wreck. She told me she had gone out with the boy six times, and now the shadchan had called to tell her he was “ready.”

“I’m happy,” she told me. “I like him a lot. But I’m not ready.”

The shadchan told her it was too bad. “It’s now or never,” she warned her. “Either you get engaged, or he moves on.”

Tzirel told me she thought she was probably going to marry him in the end.

“It’s not like I have any specific problem,” she explained, anxiety causing her to trip over her words. “It’s just that… I mean, I only met him six times in my life! I thought I would have more time to make a decision!”

I advised Tzirel to tell that to the shadchan and to ask if they could have two more dates before making anything official. Tzirel thought that was reasonable and calmed down as soon as she had a plan. But she called me back an hour later, almost hysterical, to tell me that the shadchan had refused point-blank.

“It’s time to grow up,” she’d told her. “If you’re not ready to get engaged now, two more dates are pointless. Just be a big girl and do it.”

Tzirel called me again two days later to tell me that she gets a mazel tov. She had succumbed to the pressure and was engaged.

Don’t worry — the story has a happy ending. Two years later Tzirel is happily married with a growing family and doesn’t regret her decision. But she’s still extremely resentful of the shadchan’s scare tactics.

“I was a nervous wreck my entire engagement,” she told me bluntly. “I needed those two extra dates. Why couldn’t I have had a little more time so I could go into it calmly and happily? I went into the most important relationship in my life feeling pressured and rushed and full of misgivings. I did the right thing by marrying him, but the people who pressured me definitely did the wrong thing. It caused a tremendous amount of unnecessary stress.”

Tzirel’s pain could have been avoided easily if the players involved had acknowledged that not every person is the same. We have different personalities; our processing time is different; our emotional makeup is different.

I told all this to Esti. “There’s a certain amount of time a person can reasonably expect to have to acclimate to a new relationship and grow comfortable enough to move forward. This is true even if — especially if — the dating process took off well from the start and seems to be moving forward quickly.”

Esti let out a breath slowly. “Okay. Okay. I’m going to meet him where’s he’s at. Hopefully I’ll survive without losing my mind.”

“Call me anytime you feel like you’re losing your mind,” I offered.

She took me up on it — and not just once or twice, either. Finally, Esti and Meir made it to date #13, when Meir turned to her with a wide smile and said, “I think I’m ready to move forward.”

“Finally!” Esti exclaimed. “Will you marry me?”

Meir burst out laughing. Two days later, he proposed. They were both glowing, giddy with happiness, when I met them at the l’chayim.

“Worth waiting for, for sure,” Esti told me.


Shani Leiman is a teacher, shadchan, and dating coach. She lives in  Silver Spring, Maryland.

(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 751)

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