| Family Diary |

Ring Me: Chapter 4 

“Thursday?” She sounded appalled. “What’s wrong with Monday or Tuesday? I’ll never survive until Thursday!”


Shani Leiman with Zivia Reischer

"It was amaaazing,” Chaya breathed into the phone. “The first date was soooo amazing, but this was even better. I’m, like, on a high.”

She certainly sounded like it.

“I’m so glad,” I told her. “Yossi said the same thing. He also wants to go out again.”

She giggled. “Great. How about tomorrow night?”

I looked at the calendar. “Let’s see, you went out on Motzaei Shabbos, today is Sunday… How about Thursday?”

“Thursday?” She sounded appalled. “What’s wrong with Monday or Tuesday? I’ll never survive until Thursday!”

I know there’s this unofficial rule that people like to follow: three dates in ten days. It keeps the momentum going and allows the relationship to progress. But I’d seen enough couples like Chaya and Yossi to create my own rule: the five-day rule. When emotions skyrocket too quickly, it’s important to slow things down.

Chaya was not too happy about the wait, so I told her about Zahava.

When I set up Zahava with Levi, they clicked immediately.

“It was awesome,” Levi told me after the first date. “I’m really excited about this.”

That was nice to hear, but I’ve been doing this long enough to know that first dates (drive, lounge, drinks, family, weather, Israel) are not really conducive to “awesomeness” or “excitement.” I’m used to hearing things like, “I really enjoyed it,” not, “I’m really excited.” What was the big thrill? I told him to take it slow.

They went out a second time. The date was six hours, and the response was the same. “We totally get each other, it’s amazing.”

I reminded Levi that he was dating Zahava in order to get to know her.

“You have to ask her questions, discuss things,” I said. “Work through some hashkafah issues that are important to you. Make sure you’re in the same place.” I even gave him some ideas of topics to discuss.

“We’re totally in the same place,” he assured me after the next date. “She agrees with me about everything. I really think this is it.”

They dated seven times in two and a half weeks, and I was nervous. “You need to slow down,” I kept saying. I wanted them to date for at least another week or two, with a good five days between dates. But it was clear that they didn’t really hear me, because although they agreed to give it more time, they used the dates to meet each other’s parents. They were driven by momentum, flying high. By the end of the week, they were engaged.

I went to the vort, where I was hailed as a hero. The chassan and kallah were over the moon, the parents thrilled, it was a beautiful simchah.

Three weeks later, Levi called. “I don’t know what to do,” he said. “I’m in shock.”

“What happened?”

He was so upset, he could hardly articulate his thoughts. “I was at my sister’s house with Zahava,” he said, “and there was this book on the couch. Zahava picked it up and said, ‘Hey, I’ve been searching for this book!’ She asked my sister if she could borrow it.”

“Oookay,” I said.

“Okay?” He was beside himself. “It’s not the kind of book I’d want my kallah reading! It’s not the kind of book I’d want in my house!”

“Did you try talking to Zahava about this?” I asked.

“Yes, of course, as soon as we left. I don’t know what to say. We are totally in different places on this issue. She can’t understand my objection to this kind of thing. And I can’t stomach the thought of this kind of stuff in my house.” He paused to collect himself. “The longer we talked about it, the more obvious our differences became. And it’s not only about this book, or books in general.” He told me a little more about what they had discussed. “We’re in totally different places.”

I couldn’t restrain myself.

“This is exactly what I was concerned about while you were dating!” I said. “That’s why I gave you very specific questions to ask her about her hashkafos. And you kept telling me you’re on the same page! Remember?”

“I remember.” He sounded bewildered. “You did suggest conversation topics — very specific ones. And I remember discussing them with Zahava. We talked about secular books. We discussed this series we’d both loved when we were kids. It was like finding a kindred spirit, she totally got me and what I’d liked about it. But I’ve moved on since then. I’d never want my kids to read those books. I didn’t realize she’s still there.”

Levi taught me that reminders to talk tachlis are not enough. He and Zahava had connected so strongly, and thought they understood each other so well, but the pace of their dates hadn’t allowed Levi time to reflect. He was blinded by excitement.

It’s crucial for a relationship to have processing time. It allows for the excitement to mellow and become more real. It makes room for the logical thinking that often gets pushed aside when emotions are high and people are very excited.

Poor Levi and Zahava. They tried talking it out, tried speaking to their mentors, even visited a counselor together.

“Everything was so amazing when we were dating,” they kept repeating. “We went out nine times in three weeks, and we had no issues. We don’t know what went wrong.”

What went wrong was that they never stopped to think or process. They were excited, they felt special, they were with someone special, they never paused to process all the angles.

Five days later, Chaya came home from her third date. “It was good,” she said. “But it was normal good, not like wow-amazing.”

I reminded Chaya about Zahava, and Laykie, and Adina, and many other couples where I’d seen this pattern.

“Zahava didn’t have a happy ending,” I told her gently, remembering the devastation when Levi had broken the engagement. “But you still can. Just take it slow.”

to be continued…

Shani Leiman is a teacher and shadchan in Silver Spring, Maryland.

(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 697)

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