Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Terrible Means to What End?

I recently heard this story, and it left me chilled. 

There is a couple out there, who were, until now, happily married with two children. Except that the wife has just discovered that her husband has a debilitating, degenerative, eventually fatal, disease. 

If that isn't horrible enough, it turns out that he was diagnosed . . . before they married.

This tale had me break out into a cold sweat. Never mind the halachic consequences (the kesubah can be rendered void) but the emotional toll, how so many people's lives are shattered. 

So many steps to get to this point - parents hearing the news their child will suffer and die, and how that tears them up inside, but then to marry him off while withholding that information, knowing what havoc this will eventually cause, but being so frightened and wanting a normal life for their child while it is still possible. 

One can feel the family's pain. But that doesn't make it okay. 

I am not going to blame "society" for this; I have always found the argument for peer-pressure to be a weak one.  In the end, we are all, every individual, responsible for our own behavior. 

A few years back a woman wrote into Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis in The Jewish Press; her son has bipolar disorder and was dating someone seriously. The girl did not know about the illness. Her husband told her not to tell the potential daughter-in-law. 

I found the fact that the mother had to consult someone to begin with was disturbing. Despite all we are taught - morals, the evils of gneivas daas, the prohibition of lying, it is now acceptably thought of  by some that the ends justify the means. 

But here, the ends are merely transitory! It is a band-aid, a temporary measure. Eventually the truth will out and harm many more. 

It is at times like these when the training we have had as Jews should begin to kick in. It is about doing what is right in painful situations such as these. The choice should be clear.


SternGrad said...

I just don't understand why anyone would want a relationship that is not based on trust and honestly? Don't they realize that by not telling their significant other important information they are creating a dishonest relationship? Why is having any relationship more important than having a trusting, honest relationship? Very upsetting.

PL said...

In times of pain like this, people seem to focus on one thing: getting their child married. That is the focus. Not a happy or complete marriage, but a marriage to ensure "normalcy."

Whatever normal is.

N said...

It is absolutely wrong for anyone to withhold such information from their potential spouse. To try to "trap" someone into a lifetime commitment is a horrible thing. It is obviously not the correct foundation for ANY relationship.

I was actually speak to one of my professors and I mentioned to her that two fears are that (G-dforbid) the person I marry will not tell me ahead of time if they have some sort of mental illness or if they are homosexual. As an aside: I have nothing against people who are homosexuals, I recently wrote about that, but I think it would be horrible to get into a marriage, unknowingly, with someone that will never desire you. If he tells you before hand and you decide together to proceed, that is a different matter.

Our conversation basically led to her making the point, playing the devil's advocate, that if people with mental disorders don't hide it initially, people might not give them a chance and will automatically say no. But if then they open up right before they are about to get engaged or when they are engaged, the person might feel betrayed and as if they were lied to (because they were) and break off the engagement. (One of my good friends from a different country broke off an engagement because she found out he was bipolar after they got engaged).

Basically, what is the solution for people who have mental disorders? Who should they marry (if presumably no one who is "normal" will)?Also, if we were to say that they should marry each other--that might actually be worse because some mental disorders are genetic. And medicine DOES hide SYMPTOMS but it doesn't cure the disorder.

So for them, it can be seen a bit like a "catch 22", not that it makes withholding information okay. If it gets out that they have a mental disorder, no one will date/marry them. If they hide it and then get married, things will only be worse.

BTW It is actually a more serious danger for women because when they are pregnant they can't take their medications which control erratic behavior. For example, if a woman is bipolar, she can't take medication which means she can go into states of mania or depression while pregnant.

I don't know WHAT the solution is. But I DO know that trapping someone else into a marriage is NOT being yashar. Being an honest person and having integrity is key.

There is a funny quote with a lot of wisdom: "Those who think it is permissible to tell white lies soon grow color-blind" ~Austin O'Malley

PL said...

Very true!

This is something so big, I don't think humans can come up with a solution. This is one of those things where it should be left in God's hands . . . after doing the right thing.

%Shocked% said...

Scary.... But I think society can be blamed for this. Of course the person had the responsibility to inform his, now wife, of what he had. And in his situation even more so because it will kill him eventually. But for "smaller" things, people don't waste any time saying no when they hear the word "mental" or "disease." Whatever follows next, all the reassurances that it was dealt with, isn't going to lead to an early death, isn't genetic, etc. etc. is completely ignored. I don't think it's so hard to understand why people would keep it to themselves when they'll lose so much because of it. Should they? Definitely. Is it so easy? Not at all.

I agree with what you said about bipolar being something that has to be revealed, but there are other things that don't. If a girl had anorexia when she was younger and worked it all out, does she have to say anything? You have to ask a posek about these things. I'd say bipolar is fairly easy to answer, but there are plenty of other disorders and diseases where the answer is far from obvious. It probably also depends on whether it's ongoing or not.

Great quote ZP!

PL said...

"I don't think it's so hard to understand why people would keep it to themselves when they'll lose so much because of it. Should they? Definitely. Is it so easy? Not at all."

So it is individual, rather than societal; people want themselves or their children married and will do anything to get it. Would anyone be jumping for joy if their are redd someone with a mental issues or chronic illness? It's a lot to take on.

I was on the train once and I overheard two Jewish kids talking about the people they seriously dated; the guy was talking about a girl he dated who would get crippling migraines, the girl with a guy who had epileptic seizures.

They both had the same conclusion: how would these conditions affect their vacations?

THAT was their main problem.