I am going out with a boy and things are going very well. Barring any disappointments, our dating will likely end in engagement.
I am petrified of an extravagant proposal. I know that it’s in style and some even anticipate it, but I don’t. I would appreciate a quiet, simple proposal, nothing fancy or noisy or attention-grabbing.
How do I get this message across to the boy? My parents suggest that we do so through the shadchan, but I don’t want to be viewed as a neb or a party pooper. This boy is creative, full of personality, and a ball of fun. I am afraid of how the “request” will come across.
What do I do?
While there are certainly divergences which are best handled through shadchanim, I believe the most prudent and beneficial route to addressing one’s unease related to the boisterousness of an imminent proposal would be to broach the matter with the young man himself, and endeavor to come to a conclusion that is conjointly copasetic, as opposed to delivering a definitive directive, which may effectively eliminate any emotional equanimity from the equation. Indeed, I would strongly posit that a couple on the brink of engagement should be fully qualified to enter into direct dialogue on these sorts of topics, and that communicating the concern through an intermediary would be tantamount to being deprived of an invaluable opening with which to commence the process of working through dissimilarities together; courteously, with solicitude, and with deference towards each other’s perspectives.
Furthermore, based on the albeit limited information supplied, it would appear that there is a noteworthy discrepancy in the levels of extroversion and conviviality between the soon-to-be affianced. This is absolutely fine and may even prove to provide essential balance in the future marriage. Nevertheless, if there is a notable variance in disposition in this regard, it is likely to arise in other areas, as well, as the years go by. It may surface when it is time to plan and prepare for a child’s first birthday party, a bar-mitzvah, an anniversary celebration, or the making of a chasunah, b’ezras Hashem.
Again, that is fine. It is perfectly normal, and to be expected, that couples will not see eye-to-eye on everything, and being aware of such differences – rather than remaining blissfully ignorant of them or willfully ignoring them – affords an integral invitation to attend to these differentiations before they fester and grow out of proportion. However, this consciousness demands a purposeful navigating of the terrain, and the scouting out of common ground, so that outcomes which are suitable to both parties can be revealed.
Accordingly, the prospect of an unwanted, grandiose proposal may be just the occasion to delve into that exploration. Especially given the relatively limited scope of the particular issue in the here and now, as compared to disagreements on more fundamental items, and those with greater import, that are bound to emerge throughout the course of a lifetime spent together. There is no substitute for practice.
Employing a straightforward discussion of this disparity in preferences, I imagine it highly probable that a middle-of-the-road arrangement which satisfies the need for refinement and privacy on the one hand, along with the penchant for creativity and effervescence on the other, can be reached. And, perhaps most importantly, achieving concordance together, and with the exertion of meaningful effort, will generate far more emotional connection, and cultivate a far deeper sense of accomplishment, than could ever be attained via an emissary.
That said, and not to detract from the veracity of the above, I would consider it unfair to discount the reality that many couples approach the precipice of engagement after but a few dates, and despite the fact that very little has been established in the way of a relationship, if at all. Such determinations are generally rooted in a firm belief and confidence that there is true potential to the match, and are founded primarily on shared ideologies and life goals, along with a sufficient degree of comfort vis-a-vis the compatibility of their personalities. This is also perfectly fine, and for many, it is a recipe for success.
In such circumstances, there may not be an adequate backdrop of familiarity to allow for this incongruence – relatively diminutive as it may be – to be faced head on. If that is the case, I would acquiesce that it is likely better to retain a representative for the passing on of the message, and any subsequent parleys. Although this is sub-optimal, by my estimation, and may even come at the expense of harnessing an opportunity to bolster the budding relationship, it may simply be infeasible to travel the uninterrupted path in these scenarios.
Nonetheless, I would maintain that the objective is the same – namely, utilizing the security of an interceder in order to productively unearth a healthy conciliation, wherein both sides can experience an equitable meeting of their needs. A young woman should not have to sit in trepidation at the door of betrothal. And, commensurately, a young man should not be plainly and unequivocally told what he can or cannot do when proposing, and thereby perceive that he was forced or manipulated into doing so in a manner which is wholly underwhelming to him. Either way, such eristic delimitations produce a clear winner and loser, and no one should be left with feelings akin to defeat at that momentous moment of engagement.
Rather, reciprocity and mutuality must be sought after and discovered. In this way, both daters can delight in sheer joy and full gratification, in concert, at that unique and special time in their lives, and look back on it with shared sensations of rhapsodic elation.
May the M’vorach Es Amo Bashalom see that mutual respect and congeniality flow through all the homes of Klal Yisroel, and may the resultant tranquility allow for all areas of conceivable discord to be resolved with compassion and understanding.