Dating Dealbreakers That You Can’t Ignore

Last time I discussed dealbreakers that need to be carefully evaluated to determine if they’re realistic. In most cases, they are not, and should be pushed aside to allow you to move forward in your search for happiness and soulmate bliss. Now I need to tell you about dealbreakers that I believe are very real, and if ignored, will almost always lead to break-up and major heartache.

Potential soulmates need to share core religious values and beliefs. This applies to all religions, but for this blog, I will focus on what I know best: Judaism. When both partners share a common fervor or ambivalence for religion, there’s no problem. The problem arises when one person is, or wants to be more, or less, religiously observant or engaged than the other. I don’t believe that differences regarding particular details that fall within the broadly accepted requirements of traditional Jewish religious observance (halachah) are deal-breakers. As long as both partners share the same core beliefs, these issues can be worked out through openness, acceptance, and compromise. When you love someone, you often make adjustments to your behavior to make them happy and avoid conflict. However, when it comes to core beliefs and values, I strongly believe that you cannot, and should not, change for someone else. If you choose to change your beliefs, it must be a decision that comes from your heart and soul. If you do it for someone else, you will eventually come to resent that person. More importantly, you will not feel spiritually whole or fulfilled, which will negatively affect every aspect of your life.

Someone who wants to be religiously observant (shabbat, kosher, and Family Purity are the ones that have the greatest effect on everyday life) can almost never be happily married to someone who doesn’t. I would say “never be happily married”, but there are a handful of isolated cases where it does happen that prevent me from doing so, even though I believe that those cases shouldn’t be looked to as examples and the use of “never” is, in reality, justified. I also use the wording “someone who wants to be religiously observant”, because if someone sincerely wants it, although they might need some time to fully realize their objective, I believe that they will fulfill their intentions. If that is the case, and you are sure that the will to be observant is there, you can depend on that and pursue the relationship. However, if you want to be (or remain) observant, and the person you are thinking of getting involved with doesn’t, do not pursue. It is a deal-breaker, whether you realize it as such or not. The same is true in the opposite situation. If you are, or want to be, nonobservant, and you have your sights set on someone who is or wants to be, move on. It is a deal-breaker.

I’ve seen it happen too many times. A religiously observant guy (everything I’m saying in this post applies for gals too) meets a nonobservant gal at a party. She’s cute, friendly, smart, fun, successful, and worldly in a way that is less common in the observant circles he travels in. She’s a nice Jewish girl, connected to her family, aware of her Jewish identity, and curious about religion, at least in theory. Although she’s made it pretty clear that she has no interest in becoming observant, religious guy is drawn to her, and figures that a few dates and a little fun can’t hurt anyone. After a few dates and a little fun, feelings begin to develop. He starts thinking that their religious differences might be a deal-breaker, but he’s feeling so great and having so much fun in the relationship that he pushes his warning signals aside and continues full force into the relationship. When she brings up the problem and reiterates her disinterest in becoming observant, he reassures her not to worry, that things will work themselves out. He doesn’t want to ruin the best thing that’s happened to him in a long time, even though he knows that there’s trouble ahead, and she doesn’t realize the true importance of observance in his life and that it is something he will really never compromise on, so they continue deeper into their relationship. After a few months, or sometimes years, the relationship comes to the point where it must progress to engagement and marriage, or break-up. Everything in the relationship is wonderful, except for the difference in core religious values and beliefs. She still doesn’t want to be observant and he won’t marry someone who isn’t. He kept thinking and hoping that if she experienced warm shabbat dinners or inspiring services and classes she’d change and become observant, but although she enjoyed the experiences, she still doesn’t want to be observant.

They love each other, so they keep discussing, trying, hoping, crying. He keeps praying that she’ll come to realize the beauty he sees in his observance and willingly accept it. She simply can’t understand why he can’t be more flexible and meet her halfway. She’s willing to compromise, why can’t he? He agrees to compromise, but not on the core parts of his observance like shabbat, kashrut, family purity, and raising their children as observant Jews. She can’t understand why he ever got involved with her, and kept on with the relationship for so long, if he knew all along that he could never compromise his observance. They finally part ways, terrible hurt and broken, vowing to never make the same mistake again.

This is not a made up story. It repeats itself over and over again, and the ending is never happy. If the gal in our story was truly interested in pursuing observance, she would be open about it and it would be obvious from her actions. It must be clarified before a relationship is allowed to develop. If the person is not interested or willing to pursue the path to observance, and you want to be observant, you must recognize that as a deal-breaker and move on immediately, regardless of how great and wonderful that person is. If you break this rule and ignore this dealbreaker, you are setting up a situation that will cause harm, pain, and heartbreak. Please don’t do it.

Guys, gals, observant, and nonobservant, if you’re already involved in a situation similar to what I’ve outlined or you feel you might be close to getting into one, don’t be hesitant to talk to someone about it who you feel can help you clarify the situation, make the right decision, and avoid experiencing and causing pain and heartache. As the sages in the Ethics of the Fathers teach, a wise person is someone who has the foresight to see the future results of his actions.

Final Word: Only date people who share your core religious beliefs and values. If you’re not interested in being observant, say NO to the observant guy who asks you out, even if he says it doesn’t matter to him that you’re not observant. If you are the observant guy, do not pursue gals who aren’t, no matter how attractive or appealing you find them. It’s wrong. It’s a deal-breaker. Respect that.

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