Dear Rabbi and Shira,
I’m dating a really great girl. We started right before Covid- 19 and Baruch Hashem have continued to date despite the challenges that social distancing presented. Things are finally calming down and we are now dating in person more regularly. The problem is my family goes to the bungalows each summer and I usually spend my summer upstate with them. I would consider staying in Brooklyn where she lives but I have a job waiting for me in the country that I really need to take since jobs are so scarce. As our relationship continues to get more serious, I am concerned how we are going to keep the momentum going while I am away for the summer. While we are both in agreement that I should keep the job, what can we do as a couple to keep our relationship growing and strong?
Wish I wasn’t going to White Lake
Dear Wish I wasn’t going to White Lake,
Thanks for writing. It’s common that life takes two people in different geographical directions during the summer. The challenge is to move forward with your relationship, even with physical distance between the two of you.
We advise you to make sure you see each other once a week. One week you can drive to her and one week she can go to see you. White Lake isn’t so far from Brooklyn and having the opportunity to spend some real face time together after all of the facetime will be important. If you end up dreading your trips to visit her, this will be a strong indicator that she may not be the right match for you. On the other end, seeing her with her family in the country may give you much needed insight into her family’s dynamic and how they work.
It is important to strike the balance between both consistency and spontaneity, as well as giving each other some time to miss one and other. Schedule phone calls, but also “plan” to surprise her, with unexpected calls and even a gift or two, when it’s appropriate. Discuss with each other what works for the general frequency and length of time you will spend texting, talking, or video chatting in a day or week. While some couples want to feel connected every hour, some find it tedious to talk every day. Be open to modifying your communication tendencies as life creates new and unexpected demands.
While we often say when planning the end of an OU- JLIC event for Brooklyn College, “always leave them wanting more,” we find it true about conversations as well. It is better to finish a conversation and wait for the next one, rather than be bored of each other and hang up after longer uncomfortable periods of silence.
In terms of WhatsApp and texting, try not to use it for more than a brief conversation. It is a poor substitute for conversation, missing emotional nuance, and often leading to misunderstandings. Ending your calls on the earlier part of the night is also advisable as people tend to say things, they may not mean at 12:00 am.
Communication is key and asking about her life and interests are critical. Make question-asking a habit. Learning more about each other will help your relationship continue to grow. Open-ended questions include. Who was your best friend in childhood? What was your favorite vacation? What kind of books do you most like to read? Do you have a secret ambition? What is it? For more ideas to understand her needs and her inner world refer to Gottman’s Love Map.
This relationship can absolutely succeed. Mapping the course of your relationship for the summer in advance will Bezrat Hashem lead to a successful ride.
Wishing you much Hatzlacha on this journey
Rabbi Reuven and Shira Boshnack