Rabbi, do you give romance guidance?
I am in a serious relationship with a great guy. We have been together for a while now and I have very strong feelings for him. He is ready to get married, and is getting a bit impatient with me. But I'm just not sure. Something is holding me back, and I can't put my finger on it. Sometimes I think, if he's my soul-mate, why do I have doubts? I don't want to hurt him but I just don't know what to do. Any advice?
Finding your soul-mate is almost as hard as finding your soul. Seeking advice is vital, whether it be from a counselor, a rabbi or a mentor. Not that I can tell you if he is your soul-mate; I know of no magical test to find that out. But G‑d knows, and I suggest that you pray for guidance. All I can do is try to help you reach some clarity, so you can find an answer on your own.
Something is holding you back. The question you should be asking yourself is this: Is the problem in me, in him or in us (i.e.. the relationship)?
Maybe he is indeed your soul-mate, and there is something within you that is making you hesitate. Are you scared of commitment? Have you been scarred by past relationships? Did you grow up without good role models to know what a healthy marriage looks like? If so, what is holding you back is fear. It could be that he is the one for you, but you are paralyzed by fear which makes you unable to see it. But remember - fear never introduces itself by its own name. Fear disguises itself in all types of very reasonable statements - "I'm not ready to get married", "He isn't the type of guy I dreamed of", "I want to establish my career first" - when the real issue is simple: you're scared. If that's the only issue, then you have to work on opening yourself up to a real commitment.
Maybe the problem is him. Nobody's perfect, so there must be things about him that you don't really like, but over time you have learnt to overlook them. What are they? Are they minor issues, like the way he cuts his toenails or that he can't play tennis? Then you should forgive him. Or are they bigger ones, like his temper or the way he treats people? In marriage we come to overlook (and sometimes even love) the flaws in our spouse. But we will probably never change them. When married, turning a blind eye to imperfections is great. When dating, it's dangerous. If you are overlooking parts of his personality that you will not be able to live with, then the problem is him and you should get out of there.
On the other hand, perhaps he is a great guy, and his flaws are minor. Perhaps the problem is not him, and not you, but "us" - the two of you together. You are two fantastic people, but the relationship is not so fantastic. Do you communicate well? Does he understand you when you share with him your feelings? Do you share similar values and beliefs? Do you respect him? Are you heading in similar directions in life? Is he willing to put your needs in front of his? Would you do that for him?
If you are not connecting, then maybe you are two lovely individuals that have some things in common, but are just not on the same page. Or maybe the relationship needs more work. This means not only learning how to communicate better, but also knowing what each other's values and priorities are. I have seen couples that have been together for years but never actually discussed values. It may not be very romantic, but ask yourself: If I would ask my partner, "What are the five most important things in life?", do I know what his answer would be? Am I comfortable with that answer?
Perhaps you need more time. Perhaps there are a combination of issues that are complicating things. But if you can ascertain where the main issue lies, you will have an answer.
If it's him - there are things about him that won't change and you can't live with - move on.
If it's us - you are not connecting - then the relationship needs some attention to see if it can flourish.
But if the problem is not in him, and not in your relationship, but in you - your fears and past experiences - then you need to liberate yourself from them. It may take a leap of faith, but you will feel light, you will be free to love, and most of all, you will find your soul-mate. And maybe your soul too.