July 23, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Two Hashkafot, One Relationship: Can a Compromise Be Reached?

Hi, I’m 28 years old, and around six months ago I moved into my sister and brother-in-law’s home so that I could be in New York and hopefully have a better opportunity of meeting someone. I’m very grateful that they’ve taken me in and so I try to help out as much as possible in order to make my stay less of a burden. I help around the house and also babysit when I can for their three small children.

On Shabbat, I often take their children to the park so they can take a nice long nap or just relax. The kids love it there and I also enjoy being outside and watching all the children have a great time. Around three months ago, I noticed a man there at the park pretty regularly with a young boy, who I assumed could be his son. I admired how attentive and loving he appeared with the boy, and also felt attracted to him in general. Eventually, I found myself standing near him and managed to strike up a conversation. It turns out that he is divorced and this little boy is, in fact, his son.

After a number of weeks of chatting, he asked me out for coffee and we’ve been speaking on the phone constantly since then and also going out. He’s such a nice guy, so comfortable to be around, and we seem to have a great connection. Though he is divorced with a child, that doesn’t bother me. I could easily see myself taking on such a responsibility. The problem is that we have very different backgrounds and “hashkafot.” He is a Young Israel type of guy. He grew up in such a family and remains that way today, and so does his entire family. He sounds very sincere and very comfortable with his status quo. I, on the other hand, grew up in a yeshivish type of family, davening my whole life in a shteibel and living a much more restrictive lifestyle in many ways.

We are both very honest about our differences and neither of us is interested in changing our hashkafot in any way. On the other hand, we really get along beautifully, connect in so many important ways and have a deep respect for each other. I’m curious whether you think that a marriage can be happy and successful when two people have such differences in this most important area of their lives? Can such a marriage work? Can there be a mutual respect but separation along these lines and still be a great marriage?

The Navidaters respond:

I encourage clients who are dating to have five “non-negotiables.” For most people, hashkafa makes it onto the list. Completely understandable, whether you are right wing or left or somewhere in the middle. Your hashkafa sets the tone of your home. It is the stage on which you will raise your children, how you will conduct the most intimate areas of your life, and even how you may spend Sunday mornings (will your son be in morning seder, or will you be apple picking as a family at 10 a.m.?).

So, what happens when hashkafa has always been a non-negotiable, but then life happens and you meet the most wonderful man who does not share your hashkafa, with whom you are falling in love? Does love really conquer all, or is love not enough?

Often times, people do marry with different hashkafot. I have worked with some of these married couples. I have seen those relationships that have figured out how to compromise and work around such differences. I have also worked with a handful of couples for whom the hashkafic differences caused tension and strife in the home, which, of course, affects the children, not only with regard to which shul to attend and which school to go to, but with regard to seeing their parents fight or keep each other at arm’s length. And then I have also worked with those couples who entered their relationship with the same hashkafic values, but over time grew and evolved their identities. Furthermore, I have seen firsthand the beautiful but often difficult compromises spouses make with each other in order to keep the family unit intact, sometimes for the couple’s sake but sometimes only for the children’s benefit. Sometimes, the evolution of one spouse is simply too much to bear and the couple decides to go their separate ways.

You may decide to go to couples’ therapy with your boyfriend to help you talk about your differences and help each of you figure out if you are comfortable moving forward. You will talk about your future: raising children, finances, etc. As an aside, I know that you are mature and ready to take on this man’s son, but you must remember that you would be his step-mother and therefore have absolutely no right or input as a stepmother as to the hashkafa of his child. Will his child be in a co-ed school and your children be in a Bais Yaakov/yeshiva school? You will see if compromises can be reached.

As with any couple experiencing any differences, you want to be on the lookout for his and your ability to:

  • compromise
  • be respectful
  • speak honestly and openly about feelings
  • be willing to do the work, i.e., have these difficult conversations

Do not delay. Often, the answer to our questions is found in the communication we have with our significant other. If you do take the therapy route, please make sure your therapist is neutral and is not “siding” with either one of you or “pushing” (encouraging) compromises or has any personal agenda to make it work or otherwise. Your therapist is there strictly to help the two of you figure it out for yourselves. This is very important. You must make this decision for yourself. He/she is there to give you the appropriate tools to make the decision. The time is now to have these conversations.

All the best,

Jennifer

By Jennifer Mann

 Esther Mann, LCSW, and Jennifer Mann, LCSW, are licensed, clinical psychotherapists and dating and relationship coaches working with individuals, couples and families in private practice in Hewlett, New York. To set up an appointment, please call 516.224.7779. Press 1 for Esther, 2 for Jennifer. To learn more about their services, please visit thenavidaters.com. If you would like to submit a dating or relationship question anonymously, please email [email protected]. You can follow The Navidaters on Facebook and Instagram for dating and relationship advice.

 

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