From the minute we start to understand our world, we know that couples are all around. Whether it''s our parents, grandparents or family friends, most of us are surrounded by married people as we grow up. It makes sense for us to play house with a mom and dad figure, and it''s only natural for us to actually want to be parents later in life.
During our awkward years, we wish for a boyfriend, and after we''ve dated more seriously, we start thinking long-term and asking ourselves, when am I going to meet "the one"? The questions get more intense and scary as we get older. What if I don''t kiss a boy before beginning college? What if I don''t have a boyfriend before college ends? What if I''m not married by a certain age? What if I don''t ever get married?
We all have a certain age in our heads when we''d like to have certain things accomplished. What happens if we arrive at that age and we''re still not married and there''s no glimpse of a boyfriend?
It''s not only women who feel the pressure. Even though most men don''t feel the biological clock as strongly as women, many single men want to at least get the process rolling by the time they are in their 30s or 40s. The pressure comes from all angles, such as from a dating column, any Jewish mother who crosses your path or even your friends. They ask: "Why hasn''t he proposed after three years" or "If you''re married, where are the children?"
Every couple has a different pace. Many times, one person wants to cross the finish line ahead of the other. In a healthy relationship, it''s important to know where the other person stands. If you are madly in love with your boyfriend and you know he is "the one," why not give him a few years more if he needs the time - as long as you''re continuing to live the life you want as an individual.
My friend, Abraham, was not able to convince his girlfriend Sarah to wait. He was madly in love with her. They met in college and from the minute they got serious, Sarah was talking to all of his friends as if she was trying to get them to convince Abraham to give her a ring.
She had a goal and she wasn''t going to stop until she got what she wanted. He knew he wanted to marry her, eventually, and he knew he didn''t want to lose her, but he just wasn''t ready to tie the knot.
Her pressure worked well because two years after college they were wed. It''s been about two years, and she''s now pressuring him to have kids. Abraham says he doesn''t need to be first at everything, but the pressure persists. What would have happened if Abraham called the shots? Would they have broken up? Would he have gotten into a more balanced relationship down the road?
Will the pressure ever stop?
No matter our next step in life, it appears there is always some sort of pressure. There''s pressure to have the first wedding among your friends and pressure not to be the last. There is pressure to become a good parent, to have the best job, a huge house and the beautiful vacation home.
Why can''t we just go at our own pace, especially in the privacy of your own relationship? It is nobody''s business but your own if you''re ready to marry or have children. However, the pressure from society makes it almost impossible to keep all your business your own. These pressures can become so great that otherwise healthy relationships wind up coming to an end.
It''s time to erase that "if I''m not married by this age, then …" line from our heads. Who cares what the Jewish mothers are saying? It doesn''t matter. It would be nice to have it all, but sometimes finding and keeping a man we love is harder than we ever thought. It''s definitely harder than we imagined at age 15 when we still believed in happy endings.
So what can we do? The most important thing is not to mope around and wear desperation like an old suit of clothes, if you aren''t married or in a relationship. Instead figure out what makes you happiest and what your major goals are - independent of anyone and anything else.
For example, if you love to travel and you''ve never been to Israel, it''s time to save up for your plane fare. If you want to learn to ski, it''s time to hit the slopes. If you want children and you''ve already passed the age I just told you to forget about, it''s time to adopt or use artificial insemination.
Most importantly, it''s time to take risks that are for your own personal development. It doesn''t matter how old you are or what physical condition you''re in; learning to do anything new or achieving a goal by yourself is the most satisfying of all accomplishments.
There is a Jewish idea that a person''s spouse might not appear in her life until she completes certain tasks towards her personal development. Perhaps you have already done many things and completed many goals. Then again, perhaps you still have a little more to do - and there''s absolutely nothing wrong with that.