Another broken engagement

I sat down to do homework, but here I am typing out another post.

Another broken engagement. What’s there to say? It makes me wonder.

Let me try to put my thoughts in order.


Why? Why do people commit and then break up? Do they think they know what they want, and then discover otherwise? It’s a troubling thought. Should you set exact specifications for a spouse, to ensure that you never falls for a charmer? I mean, if you don’t know ‘what your looking for’, how do you know when someone nice and likable is definitely and absolutely not what you’re looking for?

How do you know which things are really important and which you can let slide?

How can you tell, based on a date, whether the guy would make a good husband?

“He/she is not for me.” At which point in the process does this suddenly become sharply, glaringly, obvious?

Does something happen during the engagement process specifically that highlights this for people?

How on earth can lil’ ol’ me, with very little experience dealing with the opposite gender (give or take a few brothers) know, based on a handful of dates, what kind of guy I’m getting involved with?

As someone commented on an earlier post, maybe we should date longer? Seriously, I have friends I’ve known for years and they’re still surprising me. Can someone honestly know, after 6-9 dates, that they want to spend the rest of their life with this person?

Some praise the chassidish way, saying you’ll never know anyway, so just dive in head first and decide to stick with it. That the commitment to marriage is more important than any amount of similarity between the two parties. Maybe there’s something to that. After six months of quarreling, at least you can’t blame yourself for falling for a jerk. And yet… two people sharing a roof and unified by a marriage contract doth not a couple make.

I admit I’m biased. I’ve only ever witnessed one chassidish couple at work, but they were horrid. She despised him and he ignored her. Openly. In front of me, a total stranger. I wonder how they relate in private. I wonder what their kids think marriage is about.

The other option is to go the modern route, and date longer. You get to know the person as a friend, and then you can decide if you want to spend the rest of your life with them. This has drawbacks too: you may get to know the person too well to screw up the courage to take the jump. I wouldn’t marry any of my friends if they were male. I know them too well.

But if I had to choose, I’d go this way. Just glancing around at my married friends, I believe the ones who dated longer are happier. There was no whirlwind romance based on some incomplete first impressions. They knew what they were getting, and they were committed to living with it. If you don’t marry the person you became engaged to, why bother trying to keep the relationship alive?

So why don’t people date longer? The pressure to get hitched is overwhelming, or so I’m told. By date number 5, sisters are choosing gowns. Parents greet the girl afterward with an impatient, “Well?” The dating process has been so accelerated that if you get to date 6 your parents begin choosing a hall for the vort. If you get to 8, they’re buying lottery tickets to finance your wedding. At a rate of a date a week, you’re being expected to make a lifetime, almost irreversible decision after a grand total of two months. Is that not freakin’ nuts?! Think about how long it took you to really get to know your seminary roommates. And that’s people you lived with 24/7—people who weren’t putting on their best suit and behavior for you. ‘Nuff said, I think.

…Or is it that some essential information suddenly arises to render the match unsuitable? What sort of information could it be, I wonder. Abusiveness? Serious health issues? What other deep dark secrets might be kept hidden until the last minute?


I think this is long enough. Does anyone have any answers to the questions? I admit, I don’t know any gory details about break-ups and divorces. If I did, would I be reassured or more nervous?

17 thoughts on “Another broken engagement

  1. Coming from a more “modern” background, I must say that it boggles my mind that people can make a lifelong commitment after just a few dates–a total of what, maybe 24 cumulative hours together? However, dating longer does not necessarily protect you from breakups. I have friends who dated for longer and still ended up with broken engagements and divorces. Granted, there was usually a *very* good reason for it–because face it, even if you date for three or four or six months, there is still a whole lot that you don’t know about a person. You have more exposure than someone who only went on five or six dates, to be sure, but there’s a lifetime of learning ahead of you! Heck, I have friends who have known me for years, and some of them think they know me very well, and there’s still plenty they don’t know about me–kal vachomer a guy who I dated for a couple of months!

    Personally, I think that different people need different things out of a relationship, and the short dating period works fine for some people. What bothers me is the attitude that it’s not okay to need more time than what’s “normal” to the community. Not everyone is ready to make a lifelong commitment after such a short amount of time! I think the pressure to wrap things up quickly puts needless pressure on both parties that pushes some to get engaged before they’re ready (sometimes leading to broken engagements and divorces once they get to know each other better) and some to break off potentially promising relationships because they’re not moving “fast enough”. And I think that both of those are tragedies.

  2. The amount of broken engagement lately really boggles my mind. Sometimes things come out that might not have before or could have been prevented had things been properly discussed before. I know of someone whose chosson made a whole big deal and threw a temper tantrum when he heard that his Kallah wanted to make the wedding in a very simple hall..He knew they don’t have money so I can’t understand what he was thinking beforehand. He ignored his Kallah for a week until I think they broke it. But it is so pathetic. The world out there is mixed up completely in priorities and in how to deal with disappointment..

  3. Yes, that was my comment about dating longer. To be honest, I think the chassidim are at least honest about the fact that they aren’t looking for marital bliss – just a functioning home where he does his responsibilities and she does hers and they produce children at regular intervals. I think it’s an awful way to live, but if that’s all you are looking for a bashow will do fine. And the MO are open about the fact that they are looking for love. It doesn’t always work, of course, but you would never hear an MO person say what I heard a yeshivish girl say recently – that she fell in love with her chassan after the engagement.

    The confused people here are the yeshivish. On the one hand, yeshivish values certainly suggest that the less male/female interaction the better, like the chassidim do. On the other hand, even if the words ‘romance’ and ‘love’ are avoided or considered too “modern” to use, yeshivish people are generally looking for more than mere functionality in a marriage. And so they’ve convinced themselves that if they do really good research that the emotional part can be done in a nice tznua 5 to 6 dates. It obviously can’t, but no one wants to admit this because no one wants to be seen as more modern.

    I have a good yeshivish friend who got engaged to a girl 3 weeks after he met her. 5 dates or so, total. After 5 dates with a girl I’m willing to start thinking about the word ‘relationship’, but only barely. The idea of marrying someone I’ve met only a handful of times is just abhorrent to me.

  4. Firstly, “A total of two months”?! Most people I know date more than once a week and I’ve seen people get engaged in 2-3 weeks. Yikes.

    But yes, your concerns are very real and you’re not the only one wondering about this. It takes a lot of faith, especially with all the broken engagements and marriages we’re seeing. But if you truly are trying your best, seeking and following advice from people who are more experienced, the rest is truly in HaShem’s hands.

    As HS said, the journey towards the wedding can be very revealing as the first time you’re really seeing him in action, which may be why so many things only show up then.

    I definitely agree that the “frum” world needs to be more open-minded about dating styles. Not everything different is “modern” or bad. It’s unfair to put pressure on everyone to follow a specific “recipe.” Not just unfair, it’s sabotaging.

  5. I agree with you, at least I did. And for years I vowed I’d never get married to someone unless I know them very well first. But then I met this guy and we first started emailing and IMing and than talking on the phone and finally dating. And what can I say? It just didn’t take long for us to both realize we were in love with each other (something I had never felt before) and wanted to spend our lives together. After about 5 dates and 3 weeks we had said all we needed to say and been open and honest about any difficult or challenging things that one should make sure to ‘OK’ with their future spouse before the ring goes on.

    Now there were bumps along the road, in engagement and than later marriage. But I never felt that ‘if I had only dated him longer, I would have seen this or that and not married him’. No way. Every marriage, and many engagements has bumps and it doesn’t mean one needs to break it off or run away just becasue things get difficult. Unless a really big problem surfaces that was totally hidden under the carpet, I also can’t understand why an engagement would be broken.

  6. I deleted this comment like six times before I figured out what I really wanted to say. The obvious fact is that dating is very different in each circle; minhagim, what’s accepted, considered right or wrong, and what actually happens changes where ever you turn.

    Does dating longer work? Think about it for a minute. The idea that dating longer gives you more time to really get to know the boy isn’t a guarantee that the engagement or the marriage will actually last; and it is necessarily true that dating shorter is asking for disaster. How many people that dated for months and months and dated because they were in “love” with each other have ended up breaking it off at some point? Many. Ask yourself – how many of your friends dated shorter and are now happily married?

    Then again, we hear the stories, we see it happen, we’ve had that embarrassing moment when we’ve excitedly asked a friend “so when’s the big day?” only to learn that the ‘big day isn’t.’ So, what’s the cause of this problem, and more importantly what’s the solution…

    Again, I can only talk about the dating world in which I live, because I cannot rightfully give an opinion on a way of life that I don’t know first hand. But let’s be honest with ourselves, let’s be real. The major difference between our dating and dating in the rest of the world is the underlying reason. We look at dating as a means to the end. The end is that we want to get married, the means- dating until we find the right one. Life is not a romance novel. It is almost unheard of to honestly say that you dated a guy 5 times and now you are in love. It isn’t about ‘falling in love.’ It is about finding someone who you respect and admire (yes admire – a wise person once told me “a person has to be PROUD to walk down the street with her husband and if she isn’t then there is already a problem!”), someone who you enjoy spending time with, and of course you have to be attracted to him. There isn’t anything wrong with someone saying that she fell in love with her chosson only after she got engaged, if anything that is the start of a strong and solid relationship, that’s the girl who most likely will NOT break her engagement even though she admitted that she wasn’t ‘in love’ when she got engaged. Firey, starry eyed infatuation does not last. Period. True love lasts a liftime. True love is built through work on both parts and get’s stronger with time. The more and the longer you respect each other, admire each other, enjoy each other’s company, care for each other and put the other before yourself, the more your love will grow, and the longer it will last.

    I truly think that the problem lies with the pressure from outside parties more than in the actual dating, regardless of style. I have always been told, if there is no meshichas halev by the 5th date, either take a break and give yourself time and space to decide if this is really what you want, or call it off completely. Meshichas Halev is attraction – NOT love. Most parents, shadchanim, siblings, etc. don’t want to hear that it’s ending without a mazel tov, and we the daters end up in this mode of subconsciously trying not to dissapoint anyone. There is waaaaaaaaaaay too much pressure put on a girl or a boy in the shidduch parsha. The stress of ‘is this the one’ is too great, and the emphasis of marriage being the ultimate is too pronounced, therefore, we have seen happen too many times, that a girl and boy will jump into the engagement even if one of them thinks that maybe, just maybe something isn’t right. It isn’t uncommon for a girl to be convinced that a certain concern is ‘nothing to worry about, or overreacting. Girls and bochurim have to be aware that they need to speak up. It is important to have someone you trust and who’s opinion you respect to talk to while you are dating. Someone who can give you and honest and objective opinion, and can differentiate between valid concerns and unnecessary worries.

    There will always be incidents where things come up after the engagement or even marriage that were lying dormant beforehand, all nicely covered up by super politeness, glitzy jewelry, fancy gifts, lots of attention and good old dating etiquette. Many times however, these things can be picked up, not by dating longer, but by listening to and acknowledging our concerns, using our intellect not just our emotions.

    Just my opinion on the matter…

  7. It’s the commitment factor, I suspect. How hard are you willing to work to stay with this person? If you’re looking for love but don’t know what it looks like, that could get complicated. And what is love anyway? I’d say it’s the willingness to stick with someone through thick and thin.

    Interesting article. It’s like the medrash that says that in the end of days Hashem will slay the yetzer hara and the tzadikim will say: “What a huge obstacle we overcame!” while the resha’im will say, “I can’t believe we caved in to so little!” Because the taboo always seems more wonderful when you can’t have it.

  8. Wow. Just stumbled upon this blog. I have so much to say; don’t know where to start.

    How bout starting with this:
    I’m in a place now where I never thought I’d ever be. A broken marriage. Scary, I know. But it’s where life has led me. Of course it’s a bracha, but it’s still a difficult place to be.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is, one never knows. you can date your heart out, but when it’s right it’s right. You know, my mom always said “every pot has its cover.” I guess mine was just the wrong size?


  9. Bottom line? Date for as long as you feel comfortable and DONT let anyone pressure you into it.

    And its better to break an egagement then get a divorce.

  10. Pingback: Breaking off the Engagement: Would you give the ring back? » Keep Up With Me

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  12. I dated someone for two years, was engaged for 14 months and two weeks before our wedding, he called me and said he wasn’t coming home and the wedding was off. I think it’s a crap shoot either way. Even if you’re married 50 years, no one ever really knows the other person completely or what they’re about or what they are capable of. In the end, you just have to take the risk that things may not work out….dating for 6 dates before an engagement seems crazy to me but I had three years of knowing someone intimately, knowing their family, and planning a life together and that didn’t work out….I think you can never ever really be sure and you must ultimately have faith in Hashem that he will make the right decisions.

  13. balebusta-so true! Hashem blinds people because it it just meant to be. Of course, you have to do your hishtadlus but, ultimately we are only human, and things escape us.

  14. It’s been said that being a child of a BT is bad for shiddichim. Is that so? Then why did I become frum? My beautiful daughters did get married- both boys are from divorced parents. Is that a coincidence?

  15. Moish, no it is not a coincidence. Sadly, the Jewish community is not so open to BTs regardless of their efforts to mekarev them.

  16. Pingback: Broken Engagements « Bad for Shidduchim

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