Sunday, December 27, 2009

Re: Maxed Out And Honesty In Shidduchim

This started as a reply to "(not) The Girl Next Door's" response to my previous post about the YU event from Tuesday, but it ended up being so long I figured: why not upgrade this to a blog entry? She was concerned about the possibility of dating a closeted homosexual who viewed her as his "salvation." She also expressed a personal belief that cultural exposure can lead people toward a homosexual lifestyle.

Here is my response:

I don't think you have as much cause for concern as you might think - and I apologize for alarming you. The gist of my point was: although we heterosexuals think we have problems in shidduchim, take to heart the lesson of Koheles and be thankful for your G-d-given portion in life, since the life of people with homosexual tendencies is obviously a lot more difficult, and in many ways, unfair.

It is true that some men who have homosexual tendencies think they can, or try to fix themselves by dating women - and in fact, two of the panelists attempted this with no success. But, not everyone with these issues goes through that phase.

Dr. Pelcovitz, a well-known psychologist at who teaches at YU (and lectures worldwide) was at YU this past Shabbos and talked about these current events at the Friday night oneg. He said that there are different sub-groups of people with homosexual tendencies, and some indeed are influenced by the media. It gives them a sense that it is okay to push forward with the feelings they have, which may be better described as being "one the fence," and the cultural aspects of acceptance within society propel them further.

There are also several subsets that indeed, according to several respected colleagues of his, can be "converted" into living a heterosexual lifestyle (which includes getting married). Yet, others recommend pursuing a life dedicated to helping the Jewish community unencumbered by the burden of having a family. He cited cases from these colleagues where both occurred with success.

I doubt that you should be worried about encountering and/or potentially marrying such a person. As it happened with the panelists, they "came out" to the girl they were dating (or merely ended the relationship) because they realized that it wasn't going to work in the long run. With proper "research," and really getting to know a person, I would hope if your date were indeed affected in this fashion that he would be honest and forthcoming. In the case of one of the speakers - his yearlong "girlfriend" had already figured out he was gay. So unless you are dating someone more to the right (IE: yeshivish) where hiding secrets is a sort of modus operandi.

I personally know of an innocent woman who married someone who was later found out to be involved in child pornography and child molestation - but he came from such a background where these things are kept under wraps because of shidduchim. They were married for several years, had children, and he lived a secret, sick double-life. He was eventually arrested in a government sting that lured him into another state, whereupon he was tried, convicted, and currently sits in jail for a multi-decade sentence.

I admit that reality can be scary; these things DO happen. But, the most significant thing is to make sure you date honest people and work with shadchanim who are open and don't hide information that could be horribly damaging to your future relationship. Everyone's family has health problems of some sort (see my post about a recent date where this came up), and no one's family is perfect. With G-d's help, you will find someone whose imperfections and family history you can accept with love and live with for the rest of your life.

It is one thing not to tell me that my date has mild allergies (who cares) or diabetes (which can be dealt with, and I believe the halachic position is that she must tell the the guy a few dates into the courtship). It is an entirely different matter to refrain from informing me that her parents have a bad marriage, or that her father is abusive toward her mother, her, or her siblings. Stuff like that should NOT be swept under the carpet for the sake of shidduchim, especially when the act of doing this cover-up will never get the family the help they need.

Admittedly, GOOD, upstanding people can come from terrible family situations - and they deserve to be evaluated on their own during the dating process. But, this sort of impression should also be able to be gleaned from the people you talk to when you're doing research into their background. Someone from a divorced home, whose parents had a terrible relationship, could end up being the nicest, most dedicated spouse. Or not. But you have a right to know these sorts of things, since they have to be approached with proper consideration and sensitivity, should you decide to go out with such a person.

It is true that Chazal tell us in many places that G-d is the One behind our eventual choice of a spouse (see the beginning of Sotah for one source) - but that does not absolve you, or anyone else, from putting in the best effort possible to get to know as much as you can (either before the first date, after a first date, even after a few dates) to help you make the most informed decision possible. This is probably the most important decision you'll ever make, so do your utmost to help things proceed from your end, and let G-d do the rest.

In summary: be careful who you go out with, and do your best to work with/go out with honest people in your quest to find your future husband. If something seems fishy, talk to more people and don't be satisfied with one report if you've heard things that sound potentially problematic.

May you, and everyone else wading through the vast ocean of shidduchim find their true beloved in the proper time and place, with G-d's help.

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