Ask Miriam | Old Dating Dilemma Arises in New Arena

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Dear Miriam,

Since the pandemic started, I’ve been “seeing” several guys I met on dating apps through video chat. There’s one guy in particular who has been great to talk to, and I am really starting to like him.

He identifies as Orthodox, while I identify as a Conservative Jew. I can imagine that if we were seeing each other out in the real world, this would be an issue we’d have to deal with as we navigated Shabbat meals, weekend plans and restaurant choices. As it is now, we can just talk and enjoy each other’s company. We’ve talked about our religious differences a few times, but I want to have a more serious conversation about it before investing a lot more time on video chats with him.

How can I bring this up again without nagging him and making it into a bigger issue than he seems to think it is?

Signed,

Video Date Dilemma

 

Dear Dilemma,

On the one hand, this falls into a category of questions I couldn’t have dreamed up in January. On the other hand, religious differences and dating is such a mainstay of advice columns as to make this hardly a surprise at all. You like someone, he seems to like you, you practice religion differently.

The backdrop of pandemic and video chats is a wild card, sure, but otherwise, you’re solidly in classic new relationship/long distance potential relationship territory. That’s not to minimize your question, but there are some frameworks for thinking through your question that have been around long before this virus. 

First, you need to determine your own comfort with his religious practices and if and how you might be willing to compromise on your own practices.

Would you be comfortable having your partner attend a different synagogue than you do? Are you willing to go to a synagogue where the men and women sit separately? Are you able to imagine not being able to reach him by phone for 25 hours every Shabbat? What are the parts of your own Jewish practice that you most value and would want to be able to share with your boyfriend?

Next, you need to know more about his priorities. You can learn a lot without asking directly or putting him on the defensive.

Ask him to describe what Shabbat was like with his family growing up as a way to learn more about his childhood. Ask him about his friends and current social life. Ask about favorite restaurants and activities. All of these are normal getting-to-know-you conversations. When the opportunity arises to learn more about how religion is part of his life now, ask. If he’s reluctant to talk about it or blows off your questions, you’re learning as much about his religious life as you are about his personality.

Finally, it’s important for you to decide how much time you’re willing to spend video chatting with someone in these most unusual circumstances without being able to meet in person. (This has nothing to do with religion and everything to do with these crazy circumstances.)

I wonder if you might be able to send him an email in between chats that says something like, “I’m having such a great time getting to know you. I don’t want to dwell on our religious differences, but I do want to know if, when this is all over, we’ll feel like our lives are compatible. I know there’s no way to know, but it would be a bummer to realize later that it just can’t work out because of something we could have addressed sooner. I wanted to bring it up over email instead of while chatting to give you more time to think about it.”

If you can’t imagine saying any of these things to him or bringing up your totally valid concerns over email, it may just be too early in this virtual relationship to be thinking about the future, or the current circumstances might just be too strange. Just like there’s no productivity contest for how we handle this time period, there’s also no road map for how relationships should form or function when we can’t see or interact with people in 3-D. 

Sticking to your values and priorities, about religion and life in general, are important for any relationship. But also, companionship and company are crucial when we are all so isolated.

If you’re enjoying yourself, then try not to put too much pressure on yourself or this new guy to have your gradually forming pseudo relationship fit into any pattern you could have recognized pre-pandemic. These are unusual times, and it’s totally understandable for relationships to be unusual, too. 

Be well,

Miriam

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