Dear Rabbi Bernath,
I have been dating for several years now and I have learned a lot about myself and what I want. The problem is, the past two relationships I’ve been in, the guy has given up as soon as there was conflict.
I was dating a guy I met through your website, JMontreal. Things started off great. For the first time ever I felt like a relationship had potential for marriage, and that my feelings weren’t one sided. Anyway, one evening he said something mean to me and I was deeply hurt. The following day I called him ready to resolve everything and move on, but he said he needed time to think. Then he called to say it wasn’t going to work.
I met another guy on Jswipe. This relationship got serious relatively quickly – we even went on vacation together after two months. I felt like I was really becoming part of someone else’s world and I was so happy. Eventually, he started to pull away. We had a long talk about what was bothering us and what we were going to work on, until one day he said “I think you deserve to be with someone who is more excited about you.”
As you teach, relationships need rupture and repair. In both of these relationships there was rupture, but I felt as though the repair was one-sided. My question: since relationships take two people to be successful, what do you do when the other person won’t make it work?
Thank you for your question, and for taking my lectures on relationships seriously. Rupture and repair are really key concepts to making a relationship work.
So what went wrong?
Rupture and repair are needed for “relationships.” I believe the mistake you’ve made is not realizing that with these two guys at least, you weren’t in a “relationship.”
I’ll explain what I mean. We’ll need to define what a relationship is – and what it isn’t.
If you meet someone on the train and chat for a few minutes, you don’t have a real relationship.
But if you’re (somewhat closely) related to someone, then you do have a relationship, even if you’ve never met.
Likewise, you have relationships with your co-workers, and with many of the people you call your friends. You even have a relationship with me.
In order to be in a relationship, you have to have something that binds you together. In the case of family, it’s shared blood. But most relationships are built on something else: commitment.
You and your co-workers have a shared commitment (literally, a contract) to get a certain job done. The people you’ve been friends with for a long time are committed because of the law of reciprocity.
Even you and I have some level of commitment, because of my duty to you as a rabbi – it’s a commitment I took on.
Now, here’s the shocker: the people you date, absent some sort of commitment, are not in a relationship with you at all. They are literally nothing to you: here one day, gone tomorrow.
Dating, at the outset, is an inherently selfish process. You’re looking for what “you” like – it is totally not about the other person yet. And if things rupture, you don’t have a commitment to each other yet to try and repair it.
I think you’re diving into these relationships too quickly. Before you make someone part of your life, you need to make sure that your selfish needs (and theirs) are fulfilled. Like your ex said, is the guy excited about you?
Don’t drop your boundaries and go on vacation after just two months. And don’t date just because he hasn’t left yet. Are you actually excited about him? If so, then let every step come with a new commitment. Only then can you deepen your relationship with rupture, and unselfish repair.
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