Latest update: November 15th, 2013
In my previous column I wrote about the growing phenomenon in the western world of couples opting out of having children. An increasing number of fertile women and men are deliberately choosing to be childless. While their reasons may vary, and could be viewed as being selfish or immature, I do applaud their decision to “stick to their guns” and not give in to the grinding pressure they undoubtedly are subjected to by their families and society at large to produce children. Thus they will not have offspring they do not want, who very possibly, would have been at risk for being physically, verbally or emotionally abused by their resentful or emotionally distant parents.
Our community has a very different mindset – we live to have children. Each child is considered a bracha – a priceless commodity to cherish and nurture.
Thus, it cannot be over-emphasized that everybody and anybody involved in the shidduch parsha – parents; shadchanim; references; roshei yeshiva; teachers; co-workers; neighbors – has a moral obligation to ensure, to the best of their ability and awareness, that the boy or girl being set up are emotionally and mentally sound enough to be competent and loving mothers and fathers.
I remember being privy to a conversation during which a young wife mentioned her husband’s friend who had gotten divorced a few months into his marriage. His wife was crazy he insisted – he had to get away from her. Tragically, she had been expecting and now he had a child he would never know as he had cut off any connection with his ex-wife.
I couldn’t help feel horrified at the thought that if his perception of his ex-wife was true – that she was mentally ill – then this child had been dealt two destructive blows: no father, and being raised by an emotionally unstable mother.
The fact that this man would walk away from his child speaks volumes in terms of how “normal” he is – but the fact remains that this child is likely to have mental health issues being raised by a “crazy” mother.
We all know the kids who are growing up in a mentally unhealthy environment. Often, they are the outsiders in school – the ones their classmates avoid. No one wants a play date with an “oddball” or someone who keeps to him/herself, or who never invites back. I remember several of my sons’ classmates’ mothers – some constantly yelled at and belittled their child, others were super controlling, not letting their child speak but answering questions directed to their son. Others were “nice” but once you befriended them, they would want your company all the time, calling dozens of times a day to get together.
Often friendships were undermined by a parent’s distorted perception of reality. A mother I know would scold her son’s playmates if she felt they didn’t pass the ball often enough to him. Didn’t they like him? Was he not good enough to catch the ball, she would shout from the porch as she watched them play? This child grew up to be socially isolated and inept because of unrealistic expectations.
Sadly, due to circumstances out of their control, there are hapless people with what are called personality disorders. While doing some research, I came across a fascinating website called “out of the FOG.” (outofthefog.net)
Out of the FOG is “an information site and support group offering help to family members and loved-ones of people who suffer from personality disorders… Personality Disorders negatively affect the quality of life not only of the people who suffer from them, but also their family members, spouses, partners, friends, colleagues and acquaintances…The acronym FOG stands for Fear, Obligation & Guilt – feelings that often result from being in a relationship with a person who suffers from a Personality Disorder.”
Various personality disorders include: APD – Antisocial Personality Disorder; AVPD – Avoidant Personality Disorder; BPD – Borderline Personality Disorder; DPD – Dependent Personality Disorder; HPD -Histrionic Personality Disorder; NPD – Narcissistic Personality Disorder and OCPD -Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder, among others.
A statistic posted by Out of the Fog, states that about 75% of people with personality disorders were in some way abused as children.
The website, among other things, lists 100 common traits of personality disordered individuals. It is an eye-opening read.
Here is a very small sampling of them:
Avoidance – The practice of withdrawing from relationships with other people as a defensive measure to reduce the risk of rejection, accountability, criticism or exposure.
That might explain why some people cannot commit despite being set up with “top” boys or girls or they work at low-level jobs that they are over-qualified for. They reject the date or the responsibility of a challenging job because of deep-rooted feelings of unworthiness or inadequacy.
Blaming – The practice of identifying a person or people responsible for creating a problem, rather than identifying ways of dealing with the problem.
It is so much easier to fault someone else than admit your shortcomings and take responsibility. As individuals and as Jews – we know all too well the horrific situation of being the scapegoat.
Triggering -Small, insignificant, or minor actions, statements or events that produce a dramatic or inappropriate response.
For example, a husband goes ballistic because his wife baked the potatoes instead of frying them.
Tunnel Vision – A tendency to focus on a single concern, while neglecting or ignoring other important priorities.
Dependency – An inappropriate and chronic reliance by an adult individual on another individual for their health, subsistence, decision making or personal and emotional well-being.
Invalidation – The creation or promotion of an environment that encourages an individual to believe that their thoughts, beliefs, values or physical presence are inferior, flawed, problematic or worthless.
The website strongly makes clear that anyone exhibiting certain behaviors and traits does not necessarily have a personality disorder, however, I urge that those in the parsha not to summarily dismiss or rationalize behavior they find problematic – no matter how badly they want the shidduch to take place.
All of Yisrael is responsible for one another. To all people involved in shidduchim - know that you are halachically forbidden to “put a stumbling block in front of a blind person.” If you are aware that the young man or woman being suggested has mental health issues (that are not being treated – as there are therapies and medications that can help) do not try to fob a personality-disordered individual onto a normal person in the hopes that marriage will straighten him or her out.
What it will likely do is place an innocent neshama in Gehennom, and generate new neshamot who will suffer terribly from the day they are born.
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