Monday, March 27, 2023

Our daughter Miriam has a friend named Naomi who was always considered the class queen. I know that might sound bad, but let’s face it. Every grade has a queen. It’s the way it is. Naomi was and is today very beautiful. She’s smart, sweet and comes from a well-known, affluent family. There’s nothing wrong with our daughter Miriam. I think she’s pretty terrific, but Naomi was always the queen.

Anyway, Naomi was set up with Mendy and they dated seven times. Naomi was absolutely crazy about Mendy and told her close friends, including our daughter, that he was the one for her and that she believed they would be getting engaged soon. For some reason, though, Mendy decided Naomi wasn’t for him and stopped dating her.

A few months later someone wanted to set Mendy up with our daughter. Miriam was reluctant to go out with him, for obvious reasons, but by then Naomi was (and is) dating someone else pretty seriously, and we all convinced her to give it a try. From the first time we met Mendy we were less than impressed and didn’t know what all the fuss was about. Yes, he is very handsome and comes from a wealthy family and seems friendly and nice and well-rounded—but it became clear to my husband and myself that he is not very smart. We were sure that after one date Miriam would realize that he was not a good fit for her, since Miriam is extremely smart. But she was thrilled that he wanted to go out with her again (and again).

When we tried to gently discuss with Miriam our concerns over Mendy not coming off as particularly smart, her answer was something along the lines of “if he was good enough for Naomi, he must be a great catch.” Frankly, we feel that Miriam is being motivated by the idea of “getting” the guy who dumped Naomi. I know it sounds crazy, but too many conversations we’ve had with Miriam seem to point to that conclusion on our part.

We’re very concerned because we believe that once the thrill of landing the jackpot is over (and it looks like there’s a good shot that he’ll be proposing shortly), Miriam will find herself very unhappily married to someone who isn’t very smart and not someone who she can have an intelligent conversation with. And Miriam is definitely someone who has always prided herself on her “smart talk.”

What can we do?

The Navidaters respond:

Miriam is dating the perfect package, except you think he is lacking in the intelligence department. Since Miriam has always prided herself on her intellect, you are concerned that once the fairy dust wears off and reality hits, Miriam will not feel fulfilled in her marriage. Your second apprehension is that Miriam’s relationship with Mendy is driven in large part by his ex, Naomi, the class queen. In Miriam’s mind, Mendy somehow elevates her status and self-worth because he dated Naomi. I think you have two reasonable concerns.

Before I proceed, I want to throw out the idea that everyone has different definitions of “smart.” It’s important that we have a working definition of “smart.” You and I may use it in different ways. What is he lacking? You mentioned that he is well rounded. When I hear “well rounded,” I conjure up a Renaissance Man and I associate that quality with being “smart.” So, what is it that Mendy is missing in your opinion? Can you put your finger on it? Is he uninformed about the world, does he sit quietly when you talk about medical breakthroughs? Or, does he have difficulty constructing a sentence? This is very unclear to me. There are different types of intelligences. I’m also wondering if you and your family have always considered yourselves very smart and have viewed others as “not as smart.” You’ll decide if any of the aforementioned is applicable.

Let’s talk about your confidence in your daughter’s priorities and values for a moment. Is Miriam someone who has made sound or questionable decisions in the past? Do you feel she has had always had a good head on her shoulders? Is she someone who is easily influenced by social pressure or status? While getting caught up with the fact that Mendy dated the beauty queen can be fun and exciting in the beginning, as her relationship with Mendy progresses I would find it immature if she was still hung up on that. And that would speak to a larger issue. Is Miriam ready to get married? When the bills start pouring in and they have their first fight, the queen won’t be there whipping out her checkbook and playing referee.

There’s another possibility. Is this family stuck in a cyclical conversation, i.e., “We don’t think Mendy is particularly smart” “But Naomi dated him.” “But we don’t think Mendy is particularly smart, honey.” “But he has to be because Naomi dated him.” See what I mean? I wonder what would happen if you were to open up a new dialogue. You and Mendy are getting pretty serious. We’re so excited for you! We’d love to hear all about Mendy and your feelings for him. Tell us what you love about him. I am wondering if Miriam would respond differently. I am wondering if Miriam is responding almost defensively to your “dig” about Mendy’s lack of smarts.

I hope that this gentle yet powerful tweak in your approach would open the door to a more meaningful dialogue about Miriam’s feelings for Mendy. If all she comes up with is Naomi this and Naomi that, you can open a new dialogue about your concerns that Miriam’s focus is off target. You can offer to send her to therapy or to speak with a mentor, if need be. Miriam will need professional help to evaluate her priorities in her relationships with men.

Now… if Miriam’s new response to your new dialogue about her feelings for Mendy is mature and on target, i.e., He treats me respectfully. He is kind hearted. We have similar values and priorities. He excites me. We have great conversations. He has great relationships with his family. We have great chemistry. I’m so happy with him. We share the same non-negotiables and the same goals. We are a great match hashkafically… then you and your husband may want to swallow your concerns about Mendy’s intelligence. Not everyone is highly intellectual, and that is OK. Say your child had a favorite puzzle that excited her and stimulated her but it was missing one piece… would you tell her to throw it out because you couldn’t stand to see her putting in all her effort only to have an incomplete puzzle?

Open up that new dialogue and get to learn about Miriam’s deeper feelings for Mendy. If everything adds up and they have a mature relationship, you may want to consider dropping this for good. Try to get to know Mendy and see him through Miriam’s eyes. In my experience, when Mom and Dad are hyper focused on a perceived flaw in their child’s beloved, the child tends to withdraw from her parents and begins to slowly exclude them from her life. No parent or child wants this. Let’s try to create some new, positive and constructive interactions between you and Miriam. If, by chance, that is something that has been challenging for you and/or your husband in the past, you may want to consider speaking with a professional for one or two sessions to help guide you. Best of luck.


Jennifer Mann, LCSW

Disclaimer: This column is not intended to diagnose or otherwise conclude resolutions to any questions. Our intention is not to offer any definitive conclusions to any particular question, rather offer areas of exploration for the author and reader. Due to the nature of the column receiving only a short snapshot of an issue, without the benefit of an actual discussion, its role is merely to offer possibilities. We hope to open up meaningful dialogue and individual exploration.

Esther Mann, LCSW, and Jennifer Mann, LCSW, are licensed psychotherapists working with individuals, couples and families in Hewlett, New York. As The Navidaters, they specialize in dating and relationship coaching. To set up an appointment, please call 516.224.7779. Sessions are held in the office or via Skype. If you would like to submit a dating or relationship question anonymously, please email [email protected] Visit their website, thenavidaters.com, for dating and relationship advice and to learn more about their services. Follow The Navidaters on Facebook and Instagram. Check out the hit web series “Soon By You,” and be sure to tune into the Navidaters After Show!


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