Is it a part of who he is, or does he just eat that way because that’s the environment he’s in?
Iknow this might sound like a superficial question, but I am really struggling with it. I take my health very seriously. I work out every day, and I avoid meat, flour, and sugar except for the occasional treat on Shabbos. The guy I’m dating is a real bochur. He likes his Thursday night cholent (and on Friday, and Friday night, and Shabbos), preferably with a beer, and appreciates a good charcuterie board. I think the only exercise he gets is walking from the dorm to the beis medrash.
Everything else is a great fit. We have great conversations — he’s a great listener and also a great contributor. We see eye to eye hashkafically, except for this area where I put an emphasis on health, and he thinks it’s “getting caught up in the trends of the outside world” (his words).
I know we’re not supposed to focus on externalities but I’m not sure if this counts as an externality. I really like this boy, but I also feel strongly about this issue. Is this a deal-breaker?
A Healthy Eater
Ilove this question in its own right and also for what it represents. If I’m reading it right, you’re asking a question about whether someone who values a healthy lifestyle can be married to someone who places little or no value on it. But you’re also asking the larger question of how/if we can reconcile differing values and when they become a deal-breaker.
The first issue is that of judgment. Do you look down on his affinity toward cholent? Do you see yourself as somehow superior because of your lifestyle choices? Judgment and love can’t coexist in the same moment. Yes, it’s true, we can be judgmental of someone we love, but in the moment that we’re judging them we are not in a place of love. So if you have many cumulative moments of judgment in the relationship, what will that do to the emotional fiber of the marriage?
We have to look at degree of philosophical allegiance. It sounds like you are committed to your lifestyle. How committed is he to his choices? You use the word “appreciate” in reference to meat boards. That is very different from, “it isn’t Shabbos without a charcuterie board.” Is it a part of who he is, or does he just eat that way because that’s the environment he’s in? Is he open to a healthier lifestyle if someone else does the work? There are so many gradations; where does he fall on this issue?
And finally, as you mentioned, is this a personal preference or has it become a philosophy? Because if you prefer salad but are willing to make cholent with kishke because that’s what he likes, then we have something to work with. But if eating healthily has become akin to a religious belief, then you might find yourself in a state of constant inner conflict. We can all agree that in marriage, when it comes to preferences, we will need to compromise. Sometimes we’ll do it your way, sometimes we’ll do it (the right way) my way. But if it’s a deeply held belief, you might feel like you’re giving away a little part of yourself each time, and the conflict can end up eating (no pun intended) away at you.
Let’s extrapolate to the greater question of whether we can marry someone who does not share our values. For purposes of this argument, I would like to make a distinction between hashkafah and values. To build a Torahdig home it’s important that you share a hashkafah about the defining features of that home. Life is hard enough outside the home; you need the inside walls to be a united sanctuary. You want to create a home in which all parties are working toward the same goals. That has to be a given.
Within that tzurah, that structure, there is some fluidity. Each partner will come with their own set of values — be it middos or institutions — that they prioritize. Whether it be family, community, chesed, learning, mental health, financial stability, or any other host of variables, each of you will enter the marriage with a set of values. As long as you are committed to the infrastructure of the home, you can usually negotiate the particulars of the values.
In this example, you would be weighing your value of healthy living against the context of your overarching hashkafah. If the two of you agree that your infrastructure is a Torahdig home with room for all approaches within halachah, then you can certainly find a way to negotiate both your lifestyles within that framework. But if this man views your lifestyle as misaligned with the more traditional home that he wants to build, you may need to determine if this a stand-alone issue or if it’s symptomatic of misaligned hashkafah.
One caveat: It’s important that you don’t enter this relationship thinking that since you’re going to be the one in charge of cooking anyway, you’ll get him to come around. We don’t have control; we only have influence. Maybe after seeing enough of your gorgeous salads, he’ll be compelled to have one, but you can’t go in with those intentions.
There are many scenarios in which this could work with the proper respect and communication. It sounds like the two of you need a deeper conversation to get to the meat of the issue (sorry, couldn’t help it) and help you decide.
Sara Eisemann, LMSW, ACSW, is a licensed social worker and a dating mentor. She lectures on topics related to relationships, personal development, authenticity, and growth. She welcomes questions, comments, feedback, and interaction at email@example.com.
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 859)
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