Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Date Long and Prosper

While walking on a Shabbos afternoon last year, I came across my neighbor, a sweet girl of about 21, with a boy. We smiled and wished each other Gut Shabbos, and continued on our ways.
I figured, if the two are "walking out" together, then the engagement must be imminent. Time passed, to the point I thought maybe it wasn't my neighbor I had come across. But three months later, the engagement was made official. 

The family didn't do the usual three-months-or-less wedding; the invitations were for six months from the vort.

Since a couple wouldn't stroll about in public unless they had already reached an "understanding," I calculated that altogether, they would have been a courting or engaged couple for a year.

Her older sister had the same time frame. And it was by her wedding that I saw, probably for the first time ever, a couple having the commune of souls.

I did not see, as I usually do, any of the worries that often surface on the couple' faces under the chuppah. No rigid stances, darting eyes, nervous twitching, hand-wringing, clinging to the mother, or prostrate sobbing.

In her eagerness, the kallah took the aisle at a dead run. The chosson kept gazing at her, and her alone. They  smiled and laughed. I had never seen before such certainty in a chosson and kallah; they were free of any doubts. 

They really knew each other. 

(To clarify, I am not a romantic.)

Despite the family's financial comfort, they felt no need to rush the dating or wedding proceedings, and their daughters went to the chuppah knowing everything about their grooms, their likes, dislikes, their personalities, through and through. 

It is very possible that by the third date, they were definite: this guy is for me. Yet they still dated, holding off the inevitable; I think, for the better. 

It was their chuppah that made me think very differently of weddings. These two experiences remain the golden standard, in my view. 

Dating for some is like ticking off a box on a checklist, as though getting married should be done as quickly as possible to prove efficiency.

Perhaps I will be so bold as to say that some really want a party as soon as possible, and don't even think about  the fact that they will be spending the rest of their lives with this person. 

The party will happen; if they were willing to wait a little, how can that hurt?

I don't know what the future will bring, or how long my own courtship will take. But I would love to be able to achieve with my future significant other, before marriage, that true sense of friendship, ease in each other's company, and that definite assurance, to the point of casualness, that he is my bashert. 


Yedid Nefesh said...

I am a romantic,and I do believe in lengthy courting for the beauty of it :) I also believe that it adds a lot of healthy benefit for the new life of a couple who is well acquainted with each other.
However, I know that for many (including my mother) long courting and long engagement are a source of worry. As in if you've found the one, then why wait? why be exposed to the temptation of touching, to his defaults that might make you hesitate?
My brother was engaged a week after he met his wife. They are a happy couple with two kids, but that's a story you hear once in a while.
No one should even be pressured into getting engaged or married to soon (and courting and dating is fun!!!)

Princess Lea said...

That's what I'm saying - just because you KNOW this is the one doesn't mean one should marry right away. Enjoy being wooed, in being in each other's company without the worries of maintaining a home, make fond memories of outings.

I heard one rabbi say - date long, but have short engagements. As for temptation, I should think any mature adult will be able to see things long term.

While of course marriages can happen quickly, and still be happy, it should be an option to date for longer than a prescribed number of dates.

Anonymous said...

I used to agree with you PL, but after my own dating, engagment and marriage, I say do what works for you.

I dated my husband for 2 1/2 weeks before we got engaged, comprising of 6 1/2 dates. I knew I was going to marry him after the 1st (not in an omg, I'm in love with him, but just a knowledge that this was it).

On our 6th date we ran out of things to talk about, we were ready to move on in our relationship, and even if we were only dating two weeks, dating longer just to say we did, would stagnate our relationship.

I was VERY happy at my wedding, not anxious, not nervous, just excitement, happiness, anticipation...I think it's a personality thing, not a hard and fast rule of dating.

%Shocked% said...

Personally, I think it's very naive to say that someone knows all of their fiancees faults before they get married. I have a friend who dated for a significant period of time, got engaged, then broke it off a few weeks before the wedding- after they "knew everything about one another." Gentiles court for 2 years before getting engaged and then wait another year or two before getting married. Yet, the divorce rate is at 50% and climbing. You'd think after knowing each other for 4 years they'd know everything about them, no? Well, no. Not until you're living with that person will you truly know them. Even after you're married I think it takes a lot of time.

I'm afraid I have to contend with your comment about temptation. I don't think it matters how mature you are, but how strong-willed you are. If you're with the person you love, then it's a very difficult nisayon to be constantly around them, feel extremely close to them and not be able to express it in any way aside from words (and words are dangerous because it can lead to more).

I don't understand the hand-wringing, sobbing, etc. If they're confident, why are they freaking out? If not, why the heck are they getting married? I'd like to believe (perhaps naively), that a lot of these nerves have more to do with the sanctity of the day (it's like Yom Kippur for them, etc.) than being petrified of getting married. Even then I can't fully wrap my head around it, but I guess I'll understand it when I get there :P

SternGrad said...

Wow, what kind of weddings have you been to? I am very glad that I have never seen the "worries that often surface on the couple' faces under the chuppah...rigid stances, darting eyes, nervous twitching, hand-wringing, clinging to the mother, or prostrate sobbing." Even in cases where the time span from when the couple met until the wedding was less than 3 months, the couple was never nervous like that.

I think each couple is different and some people need or prefer more time than others, though in general I am think it is best to take your time, and I personally would want to take things slow, and date for a "longer" time and not rush into anything. But "long" and "short" periods of time are very subjective, and what one person thinks is a long time and dragging things out is really short for someone else.

The most important thing is that you're as sure as you possibly can be (though it seems that there is always that slight doubt). A person should realize how big a commitment they are making, and take as long or as short as they need to be comfortable. If a couple isn't sure, then they should definitely wait longer.

Princess Lea said...

While everyone should do what works for them, it is that there should at least be an option to date for longer than a few dates. These neighbors of mine were the first I came across that took their time.

If one wants to date for longer, it shouldn't be viewed as weird.

Shocked: I didn't mention divorce, because I was focusing on the beginning, rather than the end. Of course someone can date "forever" and divorce or break an engagement.

But when two people hang out together for longer rather than shorter, there is more of a chance for "Shabbos Face" to slip (by "Shabbos Face," I mean a demeanor reserved for when going on dates, for instance) and more of of the real person to shine through.

As for the Yom Kippur theory, how many people do you know act like that on Yom Kippur?

SG: I must be going to the wrong weddings.

lawschooldrunk said...

This topic is interesting because almost every yeshivish wedding I've been to (way too many), the couple getting married are soulless. I call it the march of the wooden soldiers (title of a Laurel and Hardy movie). The bride and groom are nervous and move like un-oiled robots. Yet, every non-yeshivish wedding is the opposite: laughing, smiling, deep gazes into the others' eyes...

There is something to bashing the concept of 3-6 dates and then engagement, then marriage 2-3 months later.

And Lea, if you're not a romantic, why do you like pride and prejudice so much?

Princess Lea said...

LSD: I hope the differentiation is not so obvious between the yeshivish and non, generally.

Perhaps I am a modified romantic. I can't stand terms like "in love" or proclamations of love. I like romance stories that are believable, not "I saw her and knew she was the one."

Darcy and Lizzie couldn't stand each other initially. And then they got to know each other, and realized they were more alike than not.

When a tale details the interaction between two individuals and how they come to marry, then I am a romantic, I suppose.

SiBaW said...

Princess Lea, I think you’re making a fundamental mistake (as most people do) that one’s engagement period is actually a “good time.” Also, I take it you don’t know why that particular couple was so happy at the wedding. For all you know they were thrilled to no longer be engaged after such a long engagement! ;-) :-P

Arguably, the only real benefit of “long engagements” is that it makes planning a wedding and setting up house much easier. However, I don’t think the benefits outweigh the disadvantages and I can assure you the list of disadvantages is a lot longer than you’d think. Granted, too short of an engagement can lead to undue stress and hardships. Personally, I don’t see why this topic is a significant issue since an engagement period and wedding date is usually a negotiable item, so why worry?

I agree to what you’re saying about dating though; people should do what works for them. No one should be pressured to get engaged if they aren’t truly ready. I think me and my wife went on something like 15 or more dates before I proposed, even though we were pressured to get engaged earlier. That being said, at some point there is only so much information that can be gleaned from dating. The relationship has to progress if either party in the couple intends on learning more about the other. If not, there is a very high probability that the relationship will falter or stagnate. It’s not unheard of for one party to request to date a little longer, as long as the request is within reason and done in a manner which is considerate to the other person.

At the end of the day, there is a lot of truth to what %Shocked% wrote; you don’t really know some until you’ve lived with them. Sorry to disappoint you, but you’re not going to see the complete “shabbos face” removed until after marriage although you might see a portion of it after getting engaged…

lawschooldrunk, Hey, I personally resent that! Soulless?! :-/

Nah, just kidding. :-) I know what you mean. ;-) A lot of these couples are rather nervous because they really don’t know each other and they’re playing Russian roulette with a loaded-marriage. On the flipside, I’ve been to many yeshivish weddings were the couple exudes happiness.

Similarly, I know many messaders who won’t marry a couple off unless the couple has dated and been engaged for a significant amount of time. Regardless, I think the way a couple looks under the chupah is more of a function of personality, age, and demeanor rather than how long the couple has been dating. Besides, as was pointed out above, how two people look at that junction in time is not indicative of what their marriage will be like…

ZP said...

Though I agree that some people are more infatuated with the idea of marriage, the ring and the wedding, I do not necessarily agree that dating longer will mean they know each other better. Its not really the time but how you've spent that time and the depth in which you've gotten to know the person. For that reason, I don't think there is a time frame that works for everyone.

I strongly believe that what is more important is to go in with the commitment and emotional maturity to make this marriage/friendship/relationship/goal-ship, work.

%Shocked% said...

I never heard the phrase "Shabbos Face" before but it's a great way to describe the facade that everyone paints on while dating. Ya, I agree with you that there is more opportunity for the face to slip, however, I don't think a couple is absolutely and completely comfortable with each other until they're married. Even then I'd think/hope they bend over backwards for each other for awhile. One has to hope and pray that the qualities that they both show each other while dating and during the engagement period are the most prominent ones.

A couple being 100% comfortable with each other does happen, and I've seen it, but I don't think it's the norm at all... far from it.

Lol, fair question. 1) The easy answer is, I have seen people act that way. 2) For some crazy reason, I think the chosson/kallah teachers hammer in the concept of this being their own Yom Kippur a lot more than the education system teaches us about Yom Kippur. As well, when everyone is going through the same thing that you are (Yom Kippur), I think the "shock" value is lessened, but here, they have their their very own Yom Kippur! There's nothing for them to look around at to weaken the day for them.

Oh, and I, like every other commenter agree completely that every couple has to take their own time and that there is no set amount of time before they "should" get engaged. But, long engagements? Eh, from what I've heard and seen, the chosson/kallah are usually forced into the long engagement by others (extenuating circumstances, pregnant relatives, etc.)- not of their own volition.

Princess Lea said...

As I mentioned before, a rabbi said date long and be engaged for a short time. I mentioned in the post this couple's long engagement because I found it novel, not necessarily advocating it.

And I say again (rather wearily) just that dating long should be an available option.

Joseph said...

What makes you think that just because they walked together they had an "understanding" that they would get engaged?

Princess Lea said...

I know the people. A young couple wouldn't take a walk together in broad daylight on a Shabbos afternoon unless they had been seeing each other for a while. Plus, he's not even a local.

And their mother said so.

Shades of Grey said...

Wonderful post!

Knowing quite a few people who had broken engagements (and a few divorces) because they didn't date long enough, or have a long enough engagement - and found out terrible things or things that were simply incompatable that led to the end of their relationship - I strongly advocate dating as long as possible.

Really getting to know the person does NOT mean you spend all your time with him/her and suddenly you just know. Everyone really, truly needs to get out there and have exposure as a couple, meeting each other's friends, families, and rabbeim. If these important people get to know your significant other, and they can see what you see, agree that he/she is wonderful, then you are far more likely to be seeing the truth in the other person instead of seeing things through rosy colored glasses.

Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE is totally biased when it comes to dating the person who is potentially their spouse. There is NO WAY to know or see everything, but that does not mean you shouldn't make every effort to do so, and that includes getting the opinions of those near and dear to you who can objectively view the relationship and give you an honest opinion. If someone, like a parent, close friend or teacher/rebbe says they see something that is a cause for concern - don't freak out, but don't ignore it either. They are probably looking at things from a much more neutral perspective and only care about what is best for you. So if someone says something, take it with a small grain of salt, but check it out - it could save you.

I recently had to watch someone I know go through a broken engagement because they went too fast and put on a show of happiness the whole time. They refused to be seen in public and wouldn't let anyone voice their honest opinion, instead forcing them to "be happy" for them. It ended badly, but thankfully it ended before a wedding happened.

It is 100% true that everyone has their own personal dating and engagement length. No one should knock the other, but EVERYONE needs to do whatever they can to really get to know the person, and that means talking to others and not trusted your judgment alone. Yes, it is your final decision, but none of us are experts at what makes a good husband/wife anyway. So go out there and see if you really make a good couple or not before you stand under the chupah together.

Princess Lea said...

I know someone who dated for a long time - a year - and divorced. But his anger management issues were obvious during dating, and she decided to overlook them.

You have a point - in times of lovey-doveyness, one is more likely to overlook potentially damaging issues, and having near and dear ones give their objective view could be beneficial.