04 Feb Dating and Relationship Advice
Dear Rabbi and Shira,
Hi, thank you for your column. When I was 15, my parents who did fight a lot made the decision to get a divorced. Due to the predicament my father was in, my mother obtained full custody of her children and moved back to her home state to have the support of her family. My life as I knew it was shattered. New state, new community, new friends, new family. Nothing was familiar and I never felt more alone. Baruch Hashem, I have mostly recovered having spent years in therapy and I’m now engaged to a wonderful, kind, sensitive individual. I want to make sure that I will not follow in the same footsteps as my parents. I don’t want to get a divorce. The problem is that I think I’m overreacting to anything that my fiancé says and find myself thinking that any disagreement will lead us to divorce.
-Not me too in Madison
Dear Not Me too,
Thanks for writing in. We are lifelong learners, and experiences which we have lived through, shape how we look at things in our present. Based on our past we carry hopes and fears which color our present. Our hopes include that all of the things we dream will materialize in our lives, and all the scary things that happened in our past will not happen in our future. However, while we are affected by our past, it is not our future. We can choose how to act differently, and we can choose to view things differently.
Let’s begin with when you are arguing with your fiancé. Everybody argues. Two people, with two different experiences, backgrounds, and points of view, will absolutely disagree. You are not having an authentic relationship if you never have a conflict.
The question is how will you disagree? A disagreement can be an opportunity for understanding or it can create greater distance. How you choose to contextualize the disagreement, can make all the difference. While the initial response might be out of your hands, “oh no, here we go again, down that scary fighting path.” The subsequent thoughts, of how to frame the disagreement, “Ok, two different people can have two different points of view and two different reactions,” is in your hands.
You see it as an opportunity to collaborate and solve a problem together. Ask yourselves, what is causing the argument? What is your side? Your fiance’s side?
Can you explain your fiance’s side? Can they explain yours? Can you explain what is upsetting you?
There will be missteps regarding how to handle these conflicts. It’s going to be imperfect as you learn to navigate each other’s personalities, disagreement styles, likes and dislikes. You must give yourselves permission to be imperfect. Failure does not mean catastrophe. It means experience, learning how to start over, and do something differently.
If you find yourself worrying constantly, having trouble disagreeing and communicating, or finding yourself stuck on any of these points, a professional counselor or therapist can help.
Good luck on building the future of your choice,
Rabbi Reuven and Shira Boshnack