Advice please(17 Posts)
I have name-changed. Am a regular lurker on MN, but am a very private person so would not like this to be able to be traced back to me.
Basically, when I was younger, my parents (who are christian) became involved in Jews for Jesus and started celebrating a lot of Jewish festivals. As I was relatively young, they took me along. Having never really "got" christianity, I started reading more and more about Judaism and got more and more involved. It felt so natural and made so much sense. We have some distant ancestors, but nothing that could conclusively prove me to be halachically (legally) Jewish. For years I was involved in Jewish societies and what not, started attending a synagogue, spoke to the Rabbi who directed me to the Beth Din. I first contacted them about this three years ago, and in between have gone for a couple of meetings with them, to discuss the process for the full conversion process. In the meantime, through another rabbi and going to synagogue, I met my current boyfriend. He never explicitly asked, and being the chicken that I am, I never told him about my uncertain status as a Jew, and the process that I am going through. He's never had Jewish girlfriends, and never introduced a girl to his parents until he met me. This weekend, we were discussing something with a friend and he said "My parents wanted to meet X because she's Jewish. They don't care about anything else: she could be ugly and stupid and they wouldn't care". I know (hopefully) that he was joking, but I still felt so ill. I've been meaning to tell him for ages, but have not been able to bring up the courage, and so many excuses not to came up.
Please help. This is making me so miserable. I'm afraid that after I tell him he will be so angry and my life as it is now will fall apart
Another thing, is that he spent ages pursuing me. I was reluctant to go out with him, mostly because of this, but there were other reasons at the time.
Hewas referring to his parents' views, not necessarily his own. He may well love you for yourself, not your religious affiliations - how devout is he, for instance?
It's also true that if his parents are devout they may well be totally accepting of you as you are in the process of converting: they might only object to potential partners who are going to refuse to convert...
He is to some extent. He does things like follow the kosher laws, puts in tefillin every morning and is very strict about the super important holidays (but not lesser ones). But then, he doesn't follow the shabbat laws, so he's kind of halfway in between. We did discuss me following the shabbat laws, and he got really upset, saying that this isn't what his family does, he's not going to do it etc etc. His family aren't that religious (his parents eat shellfish, for example).
he has obviously cherry picked the bits of the religion he likes and wants to observe, to me , it seems odd not to keep shabbat, but to put on tefillin.. but then i light candles, but don't keep kosher! !
he should love you for you, and not for what level of observance you might or might not have
surely the fact you are considering converting should show him you are serious
being born Jewish does not neccesarily make you a better Jewish person. plenty of people born jewish don;t keep anything at all, as it were.. you are observant and understand a lot about the religion and are happy to follow it by choice. i thikn that is great!
I think the only answer is for you to talk to him about your journey so far, and where you see yourself going in terms of religious observance. That way, you can start to understand to what extent your attitudes are going to go well together and whether any of it is likely to be a major issue. That doesn't mean you can't work it out, but at the moment you seem to be assuming it's going to be a terrible problem and not giving him the chance to be open and honest about things. That's not a good basis for a relationship, and as you're already finding out, it only gets trickier the more opportunities you "avoid" telling him the truth.
I agree with SGB. If I was you I would tell him, you'll have to tell him sooner or later anyway or end up tieing yourself in knots lying and hiding things from him. Hopefully it won't be half as bad as you think.
I can understand why you feel unhappy. It's very hard to tell someone you care about something that you think may turn them against you or make them angry. It's going to be hard and to do it you will have to be brave. However, it sounds to me as if you know that it needs to be done, and now you just need to find the inner strength to do it.
If you are wavering, ask yourself:
- Would you rather go on having this ill, miserable feeling inside, or put a stop to it by being open?
- Would you rather he loved you because you are YOU, or because you are of a certain nationality, religion or creed?
Although I can imagine that talking to him about this is a terrifying prospect, imagine how much worse it would be to hug this to yourself.
- You would never feel completely relaxed when talking to him about what is obviously an important part of your life - your religion.
- You might never feel unconditionally loved.
- In all likelihood he would find out the truth from someone else and be hurt and confused.
- How would you feel if he had a great secret that he was scared to tell you? Wouldn't you want the chance to show him how much you care about him?
TBH I think that if telling him this would make your life as it is fall apart, then your relationship with him is built on uncertain foundations.
You sound like a thoughtful, loving person. Have the courage to believe in yourself - if he is worth his salt, he will know that he would be a fool to get angry or let you go.
Thank you so much everyone. This has been bothering me for ages, and I haven't really spoken about it with anyone in real life, and I do tend to get more stressed about things than I should. For example, the first time I went to see the Beth Din I was absolutely terrified, but it was fine. I just chatted to a nice, friendly old rabbi for an hour.
I was scared, after I brought up shabbos observance and he got so angry about it (but I think there's a lot of other stuff behind it). I'm planning on bringing it up this week sometime.
i;d be more concerned that he gets angry about stuff that is important to you and find discussing his level of observance annoying
Hmm, I would be worried about the getting angry. Why should he get angry? Does he not like you to disagree with him? That would be more of a problem than religious differences IMO.
Like others, I'd be concerned about him being angry - it's not a good thing for a relationship when you're worried about telling your partner things in case they get angry. It may be that part of his anger is about his parents - he does seem to have an issue with their reaction to his girlfriends if he hasn't introduced them because of the religious element, and he thinks that's the only thing they are interested in about his choice of girlfriend.
But he shouldn't be taking that out on you when you say that you want to observe things which his family don't. It sounds (on my limited experience of Judaism) like his parents take a very pick & mix approach to what they observe, and the same goes for him. Does he expect you to do and omit the exact same things just because they do? It doesn't sound like there's any theology behind his/their choices, so why should you be expected to do things their way?
You don't say why else you had doubts while he was pursuing you, but if you have other doubts about the relationship, or his anger is something which is an issue, then it might be better to ease back on the relationship while you're still so unclear about where you stand from a religious point of view - once you're clearer what you believe and want to do, you'll perhaps feel less pushed to fit in with this one person.
You certainly need to start being honest with him about your status and plans. If he has a problem with that, then frankly he's a person with a problem, and it's not your job to fix it or him.
Well, to answer the two questions.
For my reservations: when we first started going out, I was in the final few months of part-time study (while working full-time) so had quite a lot of stress and things to cope with, so thought starting a new relationship would be a bit much. I don't think it really had anything to do with him, rather it was to do with trying to cope for the last few months of my course.
As for him getting angry; it did shock me. But again, there's history behind it. We have a mutual friend who is very religious, but in (to a degree) hypocritical way. He twists things so that it suits him, rather than doing things properly. I have encountered with many friends who are Jewish but not religious, that there antagonism (at times) against people who are more observant than they are. I think part of it is guilt, they feel they should do more, but don't necessarily want to. However, recently we were just chatting with a friend who asked him: why don't you keep more of the laws, particularly for shabbat? You put on tefillin, you keep kosher, you keep the holidays, why not shabbat? And the best answer he could come up with was "because it is every week" (very lame). I could tell afterwards that he was pondering this, as he discussed around some of the requirements.
For keeping shabbat, it can be difficult when you're not used to it (you're not supposed to do things like use electrical equipment, travel, use lifts, cook etc.). I have been "easing" myself into it, doing things like not using my phone or computer over shabbat, focussing on having it as a day to spend with friends and family (which is actually really nice; it's one day when you know that you cannot work, and should not work, and that it is about being with people you care for, relaxing and having a break).
I guess I am scared of losing him. I do love him a lot. (sorry for long post).
Well, it sounds like he's still working through the religious issues himself, and working out how observant he wants to be, which is fine. But it still doesn't mean its ok for him to get angry at you for being different from him - you may need to agree to disagree if he doesn't want to keep shabbat. Depending of course on whether you feel you could be happy with a partner who doesn't. Lots of couples (probably most!) don't have exactly the same views on religion, and find ways to accept each other's position without a problem.
But please don't be so scared of losing him that you are prepared to lose yourself to keep him - that's really not a worthwhile bargain.
Forgive another question, but are you both quite young still? (I'm ancient, so "quite young" means under about 25 to me...). It sounds like he is still deciding where he stands, and struggling to separate his own views from those of his parents and friends. Which is fine if he's 18, but a problem if he's 30. If he's under about 25, then there's still hope that he's in the process of growing up and will improve naturally with age. Older than that, most people have their personality and behaviour pretty much set, and I'd be more worried about the way he behaves.
We're both late 20s (only four weeks apart in age), but I do think that I'm more mature than him (more life experience). I really hope that his behaviour is not set yet! If we stay together, I do hope to do much improvement work.
Hmmm.... well, up to you, but I would have some reservations based on what you've described. But he no doubt has many other good qualities which balance out these ones. I'm just always concerned by people in relationships where they don't feel they can be honest because the other will be angry, or alternatively be too "sensitive" to cope with honesty. Or, tbh, think they're going to be the one to change him. It's just a bit one-sided when you have to be the only strong grownup in a relationship.
Just as an update to everyone who offered advice:
We ended up discussing this, and he was fine. We had a long talk, he said that he loved me for who I am, not for my family or background or for anything else. He also said that he would like to learn more; he went to five years of Torah classes, but that was a long time ago, and he would like to get back to it, and learn as much as he can.
Your advice was greatly appreciated and honestly, it helped sort things out in my mind and give me the strength to talk to him.
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