web analytics
July 24, 2014 / 26 Tammuz, 5774
Israel at War: Operation Protective Edge
 
 
At a Glance
Sections
Sponsored Post
IDC Advocacy Room IDC Fights War on Another Front

Student Union opens ‘hasbara’ room in effort to fill public diplomacy vacuum.



Caged In A Box Of Others’ Values And Expectations

(*Names and circumstances changed)


 


In my interviews with well spouses, the theme of being caged in a box of expectations has repeated itself often. Many well spouses feel that there are values and expectations that are applied to them, as caregivers that are unique to them and not to other members of our community. They have shared with me that they feel others have assigned to them the role of taking care of their spouses, no matter what. It doesn’t seem to allow for how sad they are, if they are ill themselves or even if they are abused by the person they are caring for. The community expectation is that they must remain as their spouse’s caregiver. No alternative is allowed.

 

Chavie* was a former well spouse. She was also an agunah. It was not that her husband refused to give her a Get (Jewish divorce). It was because he could not. Chavie’s husband had been in a nursing home for the last 15 years. He did not know who she was. He could not stand, walk, feed himself or in any way care for himself. For 15 years, Chavie had come daily to feed him and visit with him even though it was as if she was invisible to him. Her adult children saw Chavie become more and more depressed over time. She was still young, in her 40s, and could make a life for herself. But, she could not obtain a Get because her husband was in a mental vacuum. Without a Get, Chavie could not remarry.

 

Chavie told me she has an acquaintance, Jenny, who was in the middle of divorcing her husband. They had tried counseling but it had not been successful enough to keep Jenny from seeking a divorce despite her young children. Life with her husband had just been too painful and sad for Jenny to continue in the marriage.

 

One day Chavie found herself with a group of women, one of them was Jenny, when the topic of conversation turned to marriages. Chavie talked about her own situation as well as women like her who were, basically “agunot” in waiting. As caregivers, they continued to stay married and were there for their husbands, all the while knowing their husband’s illness could progress to the point of loss of mental faculties. At that point, they would be bound in the marriage till his death.

 

Jenny’s response was to ask Chavie what had happened to the concept of “in sickness and health, till death do us part.” Chavie was speechless. Jenny obviously thought divorce appropriate for herself, as a way to deal with her unhappiness. But this same alternative, in Jenny’s mind, was not one she allowed a caregiver.

 

Hadassah* was another well spouse. Her rav had been very helpful in getting their community to be there for her, her two children and her chronically ill husband. It had made her life as a well spouse easier. But now, as Hadassah’s husband’s illness worsened he began to get very controlling and abusive. Her husband’s frustration at his physical deterioration and his loss of control over his own body led to verbal abuse of those around him and a desire to control everyone he could. Hadassah was afraid that physical abuse of her and the children were next. But when she went to talk to her rav about divorce, a man who often spoke out against abuse, it was made clear to her that that was not an alternative for her as a caregiver, as it might have been for other members of the congregation.

 

When she spoke on issues of control, the rav countered with, “but he’s sick.” She got the same response when she spoke of her fear of the escalating abuse. It was as if illness made the behavior acceptable, at least to a well spouse. The rav also reminded Hadassah how divorce might affect future shidduchim for her children and intimated that support for her, as a single mother might be difficult to find.

 

It is very clear to most well spouses that a double standard exists. There are the values and expectations that we have for most marriages that include acceptable ways of dealing with marital strife. And then, there are the rules for marriages involving caregivers. They bear no resemblance to each other. Most people in the healthy world feel the well spouses should not be allowed an “out.” It doesn’t matter how difficult their life is, how miserable he or she may be or even if there is abuse in the marriage. Caregivers must adhere to a different set of standards. Ones that we decided apply to them. And we do all we can, whether by clear or subtle messages, to make sure they do.

 

You can contact me at annnovick@hotmail.com

About the Author:


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Caged In A Box Of Others’ Values And Expectations”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
UNRWA bags once had wheat -- Hamas now uses them to hide evidence of digging. Where did they get them ... Friends of the IDF photo - FB
Netanyahu Regrets Gaza Casualties, But Operation Continues
Latest Sections Stories
book-Family-Frayda

Written entirely through Frayda’s eyes, the reader is drawn by her unassuming personality.

book-I-Kings

Adopting an ancient exegetical approach that is based on midrashic readings of the text, thematic connections that span between various books of the Bible are revealed.

book-Unify-A-Nation

While Lipman comes from an ultra-Orthodox background and is an Orthodox rabbi, he offers a breath of fresh air when he suggests that “polarization caused by extremism and isolationism in the religious community may be the greatest internal threat to the future of the Jewish people”

The Joys of Yiddish, Leo Rosten defines a mentch as “someone to admire and emulate, someone of noble character.”

Certainly today’s communication via e-mail, Facebook, Twitter and the like, including the ubiquitous Whatsapp, has reduced the need to talk with people and communicate at length.

These two special women utilized their incredibly painful experience as an opportunity to assist others.

Maybe we don’t have to lose that growth and unity that we have achieved, especially with the situation in Eretz Yisrael right now.

Sleepily, I watched him kissing Mai’s chubby thighs.

I have always insisted that everything that happens to anyone or anything is min Shamayim.

My teachers like me and they tell my parents that I am a great girl with good middos.

The chicken and waffle nuggets were fabulous and were like chicken in a dessert form.

“Have you forgotten your dreams?” The Hope Merchant asks a defeated and hopeless Lily when she “happens” upon his shop.

The universe was created by God out of nothing; it has not always existed.

More Articles from Ann Novick

When one is blind one learns to use Braille to read. When one cannot walk, a wheelchair gives mobility. Sign language allows a mute person to speak and ocular implants assist in hearing when one is deaf. These are all compensatory strategies that help a person function despite his disability. But compensatory strategies are not just for physical problems. Understanding our psychological weaknesses and setting up our lives to ensure that we are not tempted to repeat our past mistakes, is as necessary as any aid to the disabled.

Well spouses have often discovered that their friends and relatives, despite their closeness to the situation, often don’t realize the tremendous emotional impact living with chronic illness has on the family. With the best intentions, suggestions, ideas and criticism are offered, based on the non-experience of those with healthy families. Even when the good intentioned get a taste of the difficulties, it is sometimes not enough for them to then identify and understand what the family of the chronically ill must face on a constant basis.

Over the past two weeks I have shared letters from a therapist and a well spouse. Both of the letters gave personal insights into the process of losing hope, how we react when that happens and some ways of coping when test scores, diagnosis and just simple repetitive behavior indicate that change for the better is impossible.

Dear Ann,

I’ve read your last few articles on psycho-neurological testing (Oct.8-22) with interest. As a therapist who has counseled couples dealing with chronic illness, I’d like to give you another perspective.

Dear Ann,

Your articles on the Neuro-Psychological Testing were right on (October 8-22). My husband underwent testing twice and your articles explained it things exactly the way they were. Besides the test, we also tried therapy.

Very often when we can’t face our big hurts or big loses we focus on the little ones. We can discuss those. We can cry over the small loses, be angry at the smaller hurts even though it may look trite and sound ridiculous to others.

Over the last two weeks we have been discussing one way in which well spouses can determine whether behavior displayed by their ill partners is caused by their illness or is a way they have chosen to act. We have focused on Psycho-Neurological testing, what it can tell us, as well as its pros and cons.

Last week I discussed a question that haunts many well spouses: not knowing if the difficult and often inappropriate behavior frequently displayed by their partners are caused by the disease and therefore not-controllable, or if the behavior is a choice the spouse makes and can therefore be changed. This doubt can be the source of much frustration and many marital disagreements. One way of alleviating this doubt is by having a psycho- neurological work up done. But that path is not so simple.

    Latest Poll

    Do you think the FAA ban on US flights to Israel is political?






    View Results

    Loading ... Loading ...

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/caged-in-a-box-of-others-values-and-expectations/2008/04/23/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: