How Much Trouble's Too Much?

Oy vey. Here’s a doozy. The short of this reader’s question is:
“How much trouble is one guy worth?”
The long of the question is, she’s your typical non-religious “Christian” whose religious extent is the putting up of a Christmas tree. It doesn’t matter much to her at all. She’s educated, though, and knows a little about world faiths and is a polisci kinda gal. She’s hip.
And she’s fallen for a Jew. This isn’t your standard-edition Jew, either, who likes bagels and matzoh balls. He’s a lived-in-Jerusalem, goes-to-temple-on-Sabbaths, I-can’t-marry-a-Gentile kind of Jew.
SPLAT. Hear that? That’s the sound of our non-religious girl falling painfully for this Yiddish Loverman.
So let’s get back to her question. See, she’s thinking she could convert to Judaism. As a religion, she thinks it’s beautiful. (As do I.) It’s their politics that bother her. An independent Israel? Never shoulda happened. (I agree. Yeah, here’s an idea: Let’s take a bunch of Westerners who have always misunderstood the “Islamic infidels” and have THEM divvy up the land. Fuckin’ brilliant. Oh, hey, just add water! Instant ongoing war! SMART-like. “Paradise Now” is a movie that’ll make you think twice about this whole Israel issue. In every situation there are two sides. Pity we only hear one.)
So, can she swallow her politics, digest a new relationship, and keep this man she’s head-over-heels for? Sure she can. But should she?
Like she says, How much trouble is one guy worth?
Let’s visit my friends at Websters for that one, okay?

Function: verb
Inflected Form(s): trou`bled; trou`bling /’trou-b(le-)li[ng]/
Etymology: Middle English, from Anglo-French trubler, from Vulgar Latin *turbulare, from *turbulus agitated, alteration of Latin turbulentus — more at TURBULENT
transitive verb
1 a : to agitate mentally or spiritually : WORRY, DISTURB; b (1) archaic : MISTREAT, OPPRESS (2) : to produce physical disorder in : AFFLICT; c : to put to exertion or inconvenience eg: I’m sorry to trouble you
2 : to put into confused motion eg: the wind troubled the sea
intransitive verb
1 : to become mentally agitated : WORRY eg: refused to trouble over trifles
2 : to make an effort : be at pains eg: did not trouble to come

Oh, hey, trouble. That sounds like a bitch. Something like adversity, then, is it? Or (gasp) grief? How do you measure trouble? Does it come with a specially-marked cup? Is it metric or imperial? Is it the same in any language?
Trouble is not fun. This we know. It’s filled with challenges, adversity, and more. That’s not the question. We know what trouble is. What none of us wants to admit is, it’s a standard add-on feature in each of our lives. Okay, so the question is, how much trouble is too much?
Depends on the trouble, then, I’d say. And the guy.
What’s the “trouble?”
Well, here it’s accepting a religion you need to buy into as an adult, with all those lifelong skepticisms and questions and moments of doubt. You need to put aside your logician’s mind and swallow a bunch of beliefs for the man you love. Not that hard to do, but it might be difficult to make your peace with down the line. Does it involve compromising who you are?
If not, great. If so, then proceed with caution.
Two, it’s ignoring your strong politics about something you feel is being unfairly portrayed in the media and misunderstood by the common man. Can you do that? Hell, I do that every time I go to my dad’s house. Not too hard. Politics aren’t a conversation one should ever enter into lightly. I generally try to avoid discussions about politics. Everyone’s a pundit, man.
Three, it’s the guy. Does he treat you with respect? Is he honest with you? Is he a shoulder for you when you need one? Does he know how to make you smile? Can you trust him? Do you want to wake up by his side? Can you see a future with him? Is he the first person you want to share good news with? Sounds like a catch.
If he treats you like shit or lies to you or makes you cry and not smile, well, then your answer’s pretty simple: Worth no trouble. Ever. At all.
I’ll go through a lot of grief for a good man. If he’s having troubles, and things are challenging, or things need to be overcome, I’ll try my hardest to ride them out. Good people are hard to find. Good lovers are even harder. I’ve been through hurts, I’ve had my heart broken, and I’ll still do everything I can to make sure a relationship’s not being thrown away for insignificant reasons… like my being too weak to stick out a difficult time. Sometimes it gets real fucking hard, too, having that patience, but I find having regrets a harder load to bear down the road.
We live in a society where everything is instant, and everything is easy.
Need to go to France? That’s an eight-hour plane trip! See you for wine and dessert this evening! Craving a some supper? Two minutes and twenty seconds on high heat in your microwave. Oh, don’t wash your dishes, just throw them out! Here’s new Royal Chinette! You’ll save three minutes of your precious life!
We don’t like adversity. We do fucking speed-dating, for god’s sake, as if 2 minutes is all you need to find the love of your life. We don’t want to go through challenges. We don’t want to take the hard road. When it comes to love and relationships, it’s too easy to walk away and not be there for someone.
The reader asked me about my relationship and said she assumed things have worked out and I’ve decided to stay private about things. Guess what? There’s still some things we’re working on together. Know why? We’re two people on PLANET EARTH, and we don’t live in a fairy tale. Adversities happen. Good relationships can overcome them. And yes, I’m being more private about things. I’m preferring to keep a lid on it these days, but at least the balls are in the air for the moment.
I think girlie, if she’s really in it for this man, needs to decide if she can live with the faith and can handle stifling her politics. I think the price we pay for regrets is too high, and I’d say take a chance and follow your heart.
But I’m a romantic pragmatist, and I’m constantly in conflict with myself. Kinda like the Middle East, I guess.

7 thoughts on “How Much Trouble's Too Much?

  1. RoyB

    This sounds like a recipe for disaster.

    I’m glad things are working out for you, Steff. 🙂

  2. me

    As Desdemona once said …

    “You’re actually at the best stage of your relationship when you’re past all that storybook-ending mumbojumbo. Too many people waste too much time trying to make the reality of their lives conform to the unreality of the myth of romantic love. Happily ever after, now and then, is what you’re looking for, and that takes work.”

    Desdemona, alas, is a character in a Jimmy Buffett novel, but Lord, she speaks the truth. So many people forget that a good relationship isn’t easy all the time. Love takes work.

  3. "L'état, c’est moi."

    There’s a fundamental flaw in your reader’s question which is her linkage of the Jewish faith and the politics (or perhaps realpolitik) of the state of Israel.

    Wondering if she should convert to Judaism for this guy based on the politics of Israel makes as much sense as debating conversion to Catholicism based on what happening in Ireland (ok, so things have been relatively peaceful in Ireland for a while now, but that’s not the point).

  4. Lat/Long 1981

    I hate using formulas and packaging life in little boxes but I’ve found the following helpful in understanding my past relationship woes and how to work on my present one. This is about the only thing I remember from pre-marital counseling six years ago.

    There are three types of love that I think are required for a lasting relationship which I present in no particular order (they’re all equally important):

    Philadelphia, the Greek word for brotherly love, is the love of friendship. You should be able to treat your partner like a best friend; sharing, caring and walking to the ends of the earth for them. Friends argue and annoy each other sometimes but as Steff mentioned in her earlier post it’s usually the people we love the most that we’re comfortable enough to do those “annoying” things around i.e. being ourselves!

    Then there is Eros the common Greek noun for sexual desire. Straight forward isn’t it? No need to discuss this right? We’re all “sexual beings” after all. Wrong! Sexual desire is one of the most overlooked and under-discussed aspects of relationships and one of the greatest causes of strife and strain in relationships if unbalanced. Having common sexual desires is paramount. Finding out you differ from your partner on these issues after you get into a relationship and an unwillingness to change can be devastating. A prerequisite to any relationship should be each partner reading and discussing all posts on the cunting linguist!

    Finally there is Agape love. Often times referred to as Christian love, I am speaking of it more in the Greek sense of divine, unconditional, self-sacrificing, active, volitional, thoughtful love. It is the type of love that directs us as human beings, the love with which we make our conscious choices or decisions. It’s like “The Force”, it surrounds us, penetrates us, binds the galaxy together.

    For couples, this is not as simple as being of the same religion, or sharing the same moral views. Agape love, by its very nature, allows for differences in the individuals making up a couple. We’ve all heard the phrase “opposites attract”. This may be true in the beginning of a relationship but if a common Agape love is not present in EACH partner there will always be conflict.

    In the case of the reader’s question about changing religion for her man, the problem seems to lie mainly in the Agape side of things. Like I said, this is not as simlpe as being of the same religion, rather, the partners having the same core beliefs. If we take religion out of the picture what we see is a girl willing to self-sacrifice and love unconditionally, the makings of a solid Agape love.

    If you buy into my tripartite definition of love and believe that both you and your man can equalize on these three areas then I am positive you will be fine.

    Just remember, you have had the opportunity early on to show him your willingness to sacrifice by adopting his religion. You may not see this type of sacrifice from him now or ever. But there are many facets to Agape love (including unconditional love) which have countless opportunities to grow and bear fruit.

    It took me six years to finally learn this and we have a lot more to learn. But things are looking great and i want to see everybody this happy!

    Steff: thanks for this great site. I’ve been composing an email to you for the last month! It’s ended up being more of a lifestory than a letter. I’ve learned a lot about myself just from reading your posts and writing to you over the last month. Maybe one day I will send it!

  5. scribe called steff

    Royb — Really depends, doesn’t it? Might really work, too.

    TGiC — Ahh, Jimmy Buffett, that master of sage wisdom. 😉 Say, if you were a margarita, what flavour would YOU be?

    L’Etat — Yeah, you’d think, huh? But apparently there’s a staunch opinion regarding the Israeli politik among the more fundamental / orthodox Jews.

    Lat/Long — Awesome points about Eros. I really believe STRONGLY that equal sex drives and equal sexual interests are very important, and yeah, far too overlooked. Far too many marriages and relationships dissolve because they’ve never been on the same sexual page. Too bad.

    Interesting comment, though. Good insights. I’m glad you’ve been learning through them and having a great journey. It’s always nice to hear things along those lines from people who LEARN to make love work. It takes pain and sacrifice and ain’t all sunshine and roses.

    Hit me with that email! I love emails. If it gets too long, my ADHD will prevent me from reading the damned thing, so be warned! 🙂

  6. Anonymous


    There’s a fundamental flaw in your reader’s question which is her linkage of the Jewish faith and the politics (or perhaps realpolitik) of the state of Israel.

    Wondering if she should convert to Judaism for this guy based on the politics of Israel makes as much sense as debating conversion to Catholicism based on what happening in Ireland (ok, so things have been relatively peaceful in Ireland for a while now, but that’s not the point).

    As a lifelong Jew, I disagree with the above comment. Israel has much traditional and religious significance for Jews today… as well as a practical role in our lives. Should an aspiring Hitler II come to power suddenly, the Law of Return would provide us a safe haven from such a crazy bastard in Israel. No other country would likely be willing to serve that purpose. Such is the situation out of which our Jewish politics grow. And, personally, I’m glad that we have Israel to run to. I’m short two Grandparents because it didn’t exist as an official Jewish state sooner.

    As for the girl… people make compromises in relationships all the time. In my world, politics rank under getting to marry the love of your life, but hey, that’s just me. If this guy really is the best thing since sliced bread, and this girl is fond of his religion, what’s your beef?

    She isn’t wondering if she should convert “based on the politics,” she’s thinking about converting because a strict Jew cannot marry a Gentile. That isn’t political; it is considered part of a covenant with God. The politics are holding her back. But the key here is that she could become a Jew without the political aspects being a problem. Simple. Don’t adopt the viewpoint, and don’t discuss it in Shul.

    If a Democrat can be happily married to a Republican, (and they can) then a Zionist Jew can be happily married to a non-Zionist, newly-converted Jew. The only problem? What Rabbi and synagogue will host such a ceremony?


  7. Neil

    I also agree with the reader that said you’re confusing the Israel-Jewish issue. There’s no Jewish law saying you have to be gung-ho for Israeli politics. There are Israelis who are on the left. She’s going to have a much harder time dealing with the religious issues than the political ones.

    Of course there is strong support for Israel among religious Jews. And there probably isn’t much sympathy for Hamas and Hezbollah with that community, but then again, this is common among most Americans of all religions, not just Orthodox Jews. Would you tell her not to marry 80% of the population?

    But great post. I love controversial blog posts!

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