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Sivan 5766 – Extending Our Boundaries in Dating, or Not?

13 Sivan 5766
Extending our Boundaries in Dating, or Not?
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Dear Chana,
This question might seem kind of odd, but I have started to date so now it is no longer theoretical, but a practical issue/question, that I thought I could bring up. I was wondering if you think that it is appropriate for a girl to dafka want a boy who does not have a “past.” I know that is a relative word, but I mean any serious things that one would then say he/she later “flipped out”,etc. I do not mean that I am chas v’shalom judging anyone who has had a “past”, or that I do not believe that today they could be tremendous yirai shamayim. My point is that if for most of my high school years, I held myself back from many things that friends around me were doing, and I know it is Hashem who gave me the strength and sense about things (earlier on than most people, I guess), is it ok for me to only want a boy who held himself to that high standard as well? I just know too many people who in high school had the mentality of, oh, I’ll party now, and get frum after yeshiva/sem., and there is something about that mentality, that does not sit right with me. I do not mean to say that I don’t truly believe that they could have come a long way, and if Hashem forgives us, than of course, who am I to judge them, but is it ok for me to not want a boy who did have a “past”?

Name & Seminary withheld upon request

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Dear Jemsem Reader,

The question that you bring up is an interesting and important one. The answer is that it is a very private and personal matter and each individual person will come up with something different. It really depends on you and how you feel about it. There is no right or wrong answer here. Some girls may be highly sensitive about a boys’ past, and wondering what they did, or finding out about it, may bother them alot. Others, may be just fine with it. It hinges on several things. What your background is and how you feel about it, what your attitude is about such things, and if you can respect the person and see them as they are right now, moving on in your mind from what they were.

This is not only a question that comes up concerning people who ‘flipped out’ after their teenage years, but this is very much a question that involves dating ba’alei t’shuvah as well. I know girls who had somewhat sheltered backgrounds who were ok with all this, and others that it bothered greatly. I also know girls who had ‘pasts’ themselves, who were ok with all this, and others that it bothered greatly. So the answer is really dependent on you. You have to get in touch with how you really feel about it, and then you will know where you stand. Whatever you come up with is valid. It is your life and you have to be incredibly comfortable with the person you marry!!

Here are two true stories that might give you some sense of perspective.
[names have been changed]

Dassy was herself a ba’alas teshuvah. However, she was an extremely refined and sensitive person. She actually had quite a sheltered upbringing, and hadn’t gotten involved in any relationship things. In general she was on the naive side of things. The transition to Torah was not a difficult one for her, she just needed to find the emes. She was in the process of making herself into something quite special when she started dating Yonason. At the point in time that they were dating, he had been learning for five years, and from the progression of the yeshivos that he was in, it was quite clear that he certainly did have a ‘past’. It was even hard for her to imagine what he was before, because the person in front of her was a budding ben torah, a refined and middosdik young man, and a truly amazing person.. She had a dilemma on her hands, if she wanted to find out exactly what that ‘past’ was she could have, but she was such a sensitive soul she was afraid that she would no longer respect him. She asked Shaiylos, but at the end of the day, it was really her decision to make, and it wasn’t an easy one for her. She really grappled with it. In the end she decided not to ask about it at all. She fully respected him now and didn’t want to know who he was before this, in essence she just closed her mind off in this area. Today, they are happily married, raising a beautiful family, and her focus is continuing to build him into that Talmid Chacham that they both know he can be. This was certainly the right decision for her.

Chavi had become frum in her early highschool years and by-passed all the guy things that can happen in those years. She is a put together, worldly, with it, bright, cultered, and eclectic person. The typical frum yeshiva boy just didn’t seem to be fitting the bill. So she started to date ba’alei teshuvah. For her, this was a great idea, given some of the components of her personality and background. Her take on the matter was, that whatever they were and whatever they did is part of how they came to be the wonderfully frum people that they are now, and that they are thinking people who are searching for reality. She honestly admired them for this. If they were exposed to things that she wasn’t, so be it, she could accept it and move on, it truly didn’t bother her. Chavi in fact married a ba’al teshuvah that became frum in his 20’s and they are also doing great and building a gorgeous Bayis Ne’eman.

These two young women reached deep within themselves and came up with what was right for them. You need to do the same. Of course, as always, it may help to shmooze it over with someone who is older than you and may be able to help you clarify your thoughts and feelings about this topic. As we have seen, there are different ways of looking at this issue, and you have to find the way that is most comfortable for you.

With Warmest Wishes,
Chana

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AND ANOTHER THING TO THINK ABOUT…
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Dear Chana,

First of all, thank you for your insightful column, I really enjoy and appreciate it!

Lately I have been suggested to boys who are a bit older than me (between 5-6 years older) and I was wondering what is the ideal age difference that should exist between the boy and girl? Is it wrong to say no to a shidduch because I feel that a boy who is 27 may be too old for a 22 year old? Also, is there something to be said about a boy who is 27/28 and still not married?

Thank you for your advice!

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Dear Jemsem Reader,

There is really no ideal age difference. It all depends on how you both feel about it. It is a very individual and specific thing. There are happy marriages that I know of where the couple are more that 10 years apart. This wouldn’t be for everyone, but if it doesn’t bother the both of you, so be it! I also know of quite of few marriages where the girl is 2-3 years older than the boy. The point is, if you are comfortable with it, it’s fine.

If you are a bit flexible with age, this can also open up other possibilites in terms of dating opportunities. An interesting thought, something to consider.

About a boy being older and not married, every situation is different and needs to be checked into case by case. Sometimes the boy didn’t start going out until he was older, or he just hasn’t found the right one yet, [because you weren’t finished growing up!] Other times there could be a serious reason for it. Don’t assume anything, but do check into it.

So, if a few years older doesn’t bother you, try it…… he could be the one you’ve been waiting for! I mean, you could be the one he’s been waiting for!! You get the idea!!

With Warmest Wishes,
Chana