Ask Helen: Relationships

Dear Helen:
I’m a nice Jewish guy in my 40s, only divorced once, with one adult son in med school. I teach college math (tenured at a decent school), am decent looking (not Hollywood handsome but reasonably featured), in decent shape (neither gym buff nor overtly puffy). I own my own home, have savings, can cook a decent meal and am a person of good character. All I want is to meet a nice Jewish woman who’s serious about a possible relationship. I know it shouldn’t be hard, and I definitely don’t have any problem meeting women. I have a problem liking the women I meet. So many have low self-esteem, or are willing to bend over backwards to accommodate what they think I want, that I end up not respecting them. I don’t want to be “in charge” or an emotional bully. I want to be with someone who is as comfortable with herself as I am with myself, not an overly willing doormat. I’m even willing to do personal ads, but I’m not sure how to communicate this aspect of what I am looking for.

Good Catch

Dear Good Catch:
You certainly don’t appear to lack self-confidence, but I’ll assume your self-assessment is accurate and comprehensive. Everyone, man or woman, deserves to be with someone who likes, appreciates and respects them. You don’t say how much time and energy you invest in potential dates before you decide they don’t meet your high standard. But for the sake of the rejected women, I’ll assume that you communicate gently about why you don’t think it’s a good fit. At a minimum, try to explain what you’re looking for in simple, nonjudgmental terms. Though I’ve always thought speed dating a strangely compressed and highly stressful version of reality, you might be exactly the kind of person it was designed for.
I’d write a personal ad that summarizes who you are very simply, enough to state the obvious: college prof, owns home, mid-40s, decent looking, fiscally sound, wants to meet a woman who likes herself and the way she looks. Friendship, relationship, see what happens. No doormats need apply, please. I want to meet someone who likes herself as much as I do. Sound like you?
PS to readers: No, I won’t give you this writer’s email address. Read your J-Date or local personals.

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Dear Helen:
My fiancée and I are getting married in three weeks. We’ve been together for two years and are devoted to one another. We’re adults (29 and 30) and professionals (chiropractor and speech therapist). We have a nice home, are both very active in our synagogue and have a committed yoga/meditation practice. The wedding details and all the hullaballoo around it (much of the fussing instigated by the opinions of close and even more distant relatives) is taking its toll. We’re getting snappy with one another, which has literally only happened once before in two years. I know we’ll recover but do you have any sage advice to get us through the next month. BTW, we’re deferring our honeymoon to a cold winter month, so all the non-work respite we’ll get is two hectic days before the ceremony and three after in a beach cabin.

Grinchy Groom

Dear Grinchy:
Don’t take out on one another the frustrations you feel towards the mespochah. You need a united front and some ground rules for solving areas of contention. You’ll probably like phase one of my advice more than you think you’ll like phase two, but trust me: it works.

Phase One: Take a 24-hour respite from all things wedding. Go out to a nice dinner, come home and put on romantic music, then cuddle, smooch and snuggle.

Phase Two: Make a list of each category where a final decision will be needed: flowers, seating, food, etc. Talk through each one and say whatever matters to you. Then divvy up the list, either by who cares more about the issue, or by drawing from a hat and horse-trading until you’re each equally happy or sad. Then agree to sleep in separate rooms from then until the wedding. No sex, though occasional cuddling is permitted. Allow the longing and romance to come back. You’ll also remember that you rely on the other person, and don’t want to solve problems on your own. It’ll also cut out arguments.
Note: Usually people compromise toward the other’s priorities rather than being selfish, but yes, there is the risk of decisions you (or your uncle) won’t like. On your wedding night, say and show the “I love you” as you’ll really mean it. Mazel tov!
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A resident of Eugene since 1981, Helen is a member of Temple Beth Israel, where she studies and speaks on Torah. She claims to have black belts in schmoozing, problem-solving and chutzpah as well as academic degrees in everything from history to math. Please email your questions to

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