It sounds like you would thrive on some banter and verbal give-and-take
I’m dating a really nice girl now. Really nice. And that’s part of the problem. She’s very sweet and easygoing. In fact, she never disagrees with me. She’s extremely attentive and very interested whenever I speak. I know everyone is all into the men being the “mashpia” and women being the “mekabel” and I’m fine with that, but something is missing here. I feel like this girl is looking to me to be everything.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to plan the dates and to lead the conversation and even open the occasional door. But I need a partner. I don’t want a “yes man”; I want someone I can interact with. I need some stimulation and a little challenge.
People tell me I’m crazy and that I should be happy she has such good middos and seems to look up to me. But something about this feels off. I don’t know if she’s afraid to be herself. Or, worse, maybe this is herself and there’s not much there. I’m a confident guy — I can’t handle someone needy. Am I just making trouble for no reason?
Look at you, listening to your inner voice and everything. I’d like to commend you for paying attention to the cues you feel, even if you can’t articulate exactly what about them bothers you. And let me piggyback on your comments to once again reinforce the notion that HaKadosh Baruch Hu gives us feelings for a reason. If you feel it, there must be a reason. As I like to say, “Where there’s smoke, there’s smoke.”
So what’s this feeling you have? You raise the possibility that what you’re getting is a “needy” vibe. It’s possible there’s some of that, but I’m hearing more of a “flat” vibe. You worry that this girl isn’t, and won’t be, enough for you. In a nutshell: That’s a really valid concern. Both for her and for you.
You seem like a confident, self-aware guy with a zest for life. How painful would it be for you to always feel like there’s no place to put that. Being a successful mashpia-mekabel duo ideally means that the reception of the flow by one increases the flow of the other. It doesn’t mean a passive receiving where the interaction ends by one doing all the giving and the other just saying, “Uh-huh.”
And think about how painful it would be for her to feel she’s sucking the life out of you. While frum engagement is not necessarily predicated on romantic connection, there does need to be a certain spark, a “meshichas halev,” a pulling of one toward the other. And I don’t hear that happening for you.
For better or for worse, we no longer live in a world where you have five cows and I have two horses, it’s a perfect match. Marriage is no longer the business interaction it once was. Granted, there are many couples for whom marriage seems to be a mutually beneficial arrangement where each does for the other, and collectively they have a whole that’s greater than the sum of its parts. They build a beautiful home and it works.
It works for them, but I don’t know if it would work for you. Sure, if you marry someone with beautiful middos who respects you, you’ll likely have a functional marriage. But it sounds like you’re looking for more than that. I hear behind your words a deep desire for a friendship within the marriage. It sounds like you would thrive on some banter and verbal give-and-take.
This girl sounds like a real gem. She has so much to give to the person who would actually appreciate it. How sad would it be for both of you, each good people with so much to give, to be in a relationship where you were not feeding off of each other’s strengths and renewing the wells of energy you each possess.
We need to insert a few caveats here. Is it possible that some of her reticence is shyness? Have you noticed her being more responsive or playful as the dating progressed, or does this seem to be who she is?
If she hasn’t dated much or hasn’t spoken to boys much, she may not be comfortable expressing the lighter/more fun part of herself. So please ensure that the dates you have planned allow and encourage that sort of expression.
Also, please recognize that there is a difference between someone who challenges you and someone who is challenging. While it’s often energizing to date someone who is all spark, that can get old really quickly once you are married. Make sure that what you’re missing here is some personality and that you’re not unconsciously looking for someone who will prove to be difficult. There’s a lot to be said for someone who is even-keeled.
So, sort through those thoughts. Hatzlachah making the right decision!
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 669)