Hello Daniel Lapin and Susan Lapin! I am a young 22-year-old Christian girl and entrepreneur from Seattle, WA and a regular listener to your podcasts and audio books. I am in awe of the wisdom I gain in your material.
I wish there was more relationship advice for young people. When do you know if you should continue a relationship into marriage or break it off?
I am in a relationship with a God-loving, Christian man with whom I have a 9-year age gap. (This doesn’t bother me and we are on the same level spiritually/intellectually)
I come from a Russian household and my dad is really pushing on marriage because we have been seeing each other for a year now. It seems to me like there are things stopping me in going forward like our often fights (he is more emotional than I am), I also want him to focus on his real estate investment business in order for me to know that he is someone who is ambitious and will lead me as someone who is an ambitious entrepreneur fully providing for myself, and lastly this one is kind of funny but he is shorter than me and my friends often judge me for going for a man like him. I try not to think about this but it still comes up. (Maybe because in the day of social media looks is something young people pay attention too.)
Along with all of this I feel like I will not find someone who shares the same biblical values as me, connects and is a virgin in our culture (which is important to me).
I know you aren’t obligated to answer this:) But your opinion would be great guidance for my life right know. Or if you can recommend some kind of premarital counselors that are Christian I would be super grateful.
You sound like a wise 22-year-old. You have given us a lot to unpack, so let us start with the easiest issue, your boyfriend’s height.
Looks are certainly something that young people (and older people too) pay attention to, but there is nothing new about that. Social media does, however, lead to more concern today about being judged by our friends. You may worry that it is shallow of you to care about this man’s height, but there is an important reality of needing to be physically attracted to the person you marry. If after knowing him as long as you do, you are still not physically attracted to him, that is a problem.
However, if the height isn’t an issue for you but only for your friends (or you think it’s an issue for your friends) you have some internal work to do. True friends want your happiness. They want you to find a spouse who will cherish you and share good times and bad with you. Your spouse’s height should be irrelevant to them. Caring what they think is a huge mistake. There will be many times in marriage that you and your husband will need to make your own decisions and not be dependent on what your friends think. Being able to do so is a level of maturity that is necessary for adult life. Regardless of what happens with this man, that is an important idea for you to absorb into your heart.
Finally, in the context of this man’s height, listen to this scintillating insight from ancient Jewish wisdom. One day, two sisters, Rachel and Leah, both wives of Jacob, were sitting contentedly in the park while their children played around. Reuven brought his mother, Leah, some kind of fruit he’d picked. Innocuously, Rachel said, “Ooh, can I have some of the mandrakes your son picked?” Her sister Leah erupted with a totally unexpected burst of anger. (Genesis 30:15) Ancient Jewish wisdom explains that it wasn’t about the mandrake fruit. Leah had subconsciously been festering over her belief that their husband loved Rachel more. Since that disturbing thought nagged at her from beneath her awareness, Leah reacted emotionally about something else altogether, the unimportant mandrake fruit. We ask you to think about whether your concern about his height is your mandrake fruit. Is it possible that in your heart you are not sure about this match but don’t want to confront it consciously because you have one whole year already invested in the relationship? But remember, that is only 4% of your life today and keeping on a course only because of ‘sunken costs’ is nearly always a mistake.
Now, on to the next issue. You are an entrepreneur and in order to respect a man, you need to feel secure in his desire and ability to care for you and the family you build together. If you worry that he is not focused enough on his business, that is a real red flag. At 31, he has been an adult long enough to have a track record of hard work and achievement. One of the important distinctions between men and boys is that men know that only performance counts, not excuses. And you, Val, want a man, not a boy.
This man may have had failures along the way, but you should be able to see a pattern of resilience, responsibility and resolve. We agree with you that the nine-year age gap isn’t a problem (We have a ten-year gap between us). One of the advantages is that since he is a bit older, you have a longer period to look at in order to see his track record and assess his makeup and character. The fact that you don’t observe a work ethic that matches your expectations is deeply troubling.
Troubling as well, is the frequent fighting you mention. While his being more emotional than you isn’t automatically a problem, it is a serious flaw if after a year together you haven’t discovered how to disagree without fighting and how to solve problems peacefully. In the first few years after marriage, contentious issues will arise quite frequently. This may well be an area where both of you need to improve, whether or not you stay together.
It is, of course, important that you share an intellectual, religious, and spiritual compatibility. And we agree with your father that endless dating isn’t healthy. However, jumping into the wrong marriage because you worry that you will not meet a man who is better suited for you is also unhealthy. You have enough information to make a decision now. So does he. At 31, he had enough information to propose six months ago.
We see two possible paths, Val. Continuing to date in the hope that things will just improve isn’t a good option. If you truly believe that you can build a wonderful future with this man, we would recommend pre-engagement counseling with a well-recommended and wise counselor. Three or four sessions should make clear to you whether you need better relationship tools to help a relationship that is basically solid thrive, or whether each of you has good traits that intersect but there are too many problematic areas to make a good future as a couple together.
I (RDL) have had the honor of speaking at more than a dozen excellent churches in the Puget Sound region and I’m sure the pastors of any of those would be trustworthy resources for counseling. I am sure there are many other outstanding churches that could equally well advise on a pre-engagement counselor. (Unfortunately, we ourselves are not able to recommend any particular individuals.)
The other path open to you is to make the difficult decision to end things now. You are way less likely to meet a better man while you are still in a relationship with someone. Breaking up after a year is certainly painful and can leave you feeling vulnerable to loneliness and uncertainty. However, doing so allows you to work on becoming more prepared for marriage while staying open to God’s plan for your future.
Wishing you much future happiness,
Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin
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